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Is sex for women just another household chore?

July 25th, 2006

Dr Petra

If you’ve been reading the papers over the past couple of days you may have seen the claim that 7 million UK women are dissatisfied with their sex lives.

It’s from a new ‘national relationships survey’ for a company who make sex arousal oils for women. The survey was completed online in June last month by 1941 UK adults who were reportedly ‘representative’ of the wider population. Strange that, since online surveys aren’t always representative of a wider population – specifically those without internet access. And worrying that this piece of research was run, analysed and released in a space of less than a month. According to the press release the aim of the research was to address ‘issues and concerns women and men face when it comes to sex’. Or to sell arousal oil. You decide.

Why take the approach of ‘sex is a chore’ if you want to sell a product? It’s quite simple. If you’re promoting sex products for women it’s in your interest to make women aware that lots of women don’t want sex but that this is a big problem – because then you can offer your product as the solution.

That said some of their findings did ring true with other existing data. They found women enjoy sex less than men, younger women are frequently coerced into sex, and as women age they initiate sex less often.

It’s a shame that this fit with existing evidence didn’t extend to emulating other research approaches – specifically transparency. Although it was great to see this survey supposedly challenging media stereotypes of ‘frisky older women’, the focus of the press coverage was really to convince 50-something women that many women their age didn’t have sex or saw it as a chore – and that this was a big problem.

This was apparent from the headline for the survey’s press release ‘New ________ Relationship Survey Reveals UK Sex Lives in Sorry State of Affairs’ through to the language used when presenting findings: “Disturbingly 25% of women in the 25-34 year old age bracket say they find it difficult to get aroused even though they find their partner attractive”. What to do if you fancy your man but can’t get aroused? Well the company behind the survey have a product to ‘fix’ you.

More worryingly was the subtext in the press release linked to the male participants answers “they say they would consider separation after 6 months of no sex, with 25% considering an affair. Sadly for men, 25% have their sexual advances turned down 50% of the time. 10% of men in the 45-54 yr old age bracket are being sexually rejected every time”.

A common theme within self-help advice for women and sex features in women’s magazines is ‘if you don’t provide sex he’ll leave you’. Within this press release – despite highlighting women seeing sex as a chore or something they may be coerced into, the data also is used to imply if you’re not initiating or providing sex then your partner will look elsewhere.

At no point in the press release did they tackle the problems of female dissatisfaction (for example addressing the coercion they’d identified, or discussing reasons why women feel that sex is a chore).

So the release posed as a thoughtful piece but slipped into the all too typical pattern of stating we all should be enjoying lots of sex but women aren’t and as a result they could risk their relationship.

However, if they buy arousal oil all will be fine.

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