New research into Kiwi attitudes towards sex and technology has revealed some surprising insights into our sexual preferences and approach to dating.
The Durex Invisible study, a survey of 1,000 New Zealanders, showed 52% of the population say they enjoy sex more if they are practising safe sex. Surprisingly, 27% say they wouldn’t enjoy sex more if they are practising it safely. This is largely driven by males (33%) vs females (22%).
When it comes to safe sex, 49% of Kiwis say meeting sexual partners online or through dating apps is less safe than other ways, 47% say it is no different than any other way, and just 4% say it is safer. Females (57%) in particular are more likely to believe digital dating is less safe (vs males 41%).
Despite concerns around safety 22% of Kiwis say they have met a sexual partner online or through a dating app. The research also suggests the apps are a successful way of meeting a long-term partner with large proportions of those having met a sexual partner through a dating service currently in a civil union (48%) or de facto relationship (47%).
When asked who is primarily responsible for preventing unwanted pregnancy, 17% answered it is the role of the female partner, while 8% of those surveyed say it is the role of the male partner.
The research also showed that the majority of Kiwis want more sex with 57% of those participating in the study saying they would prefer to have sex more frequently – which is higher among males (70% vs 46% of females) and those aged 25-34 (73%).
The key barriers to having more frequent sex are a busy lifestyle (31%), their partner’s sex drive (23%), their own sex drive (21%), stress (19%), children (16%), health issues (14%), distracted by technology (11%), difficulty meeting suitable sexual partners (11%) and performance anxiety (10%).
Despite large numbers of us wanting more sex, 51% would rather give it up for three months than sacrifice technology such as Netflix, TV or their phones. This result was higher in females with 64% prioritising technology over sex.
Males (45% vs 22% of females) and those aged 45-54 (36%), however, are more heavily represented in the 33% of Kiwis that prefer sex over technology.
When it comes to choosing between a good night’s sleep and sex, 57% of Kiwis will choose sleep. This is higher among females with 64% opting for a good night’s sleep compared to males (49%).
Perhaps surprisingly, couples with no children are more likely to state they would rather have a good night’s sleep (65%) compared to singles/couples with children.
While the awareness of #MeToo, a movement that began to inspire broad changes around the world is high, 61% of Kiwis familiar with the movement. Seven in ten (70%) say it hasn’t changed their attitude towards consensual sex at all – with just 7% saying it has completely changed their attitude. For the 7% who state that it has completely changed their attitude this is driven by the younger demographic of 18-24 year’s (20%).
Kiwi sexologist Morgan Penn says sex is part of a strategy we use to meet our psychological needs for connection and dating apps have become an efficient way of doing this.
“I believe people are more desperate for connection and they find that through sex, and are willing to do something perceived as more risky like using dating apps to get their needs met,” she says.
Penn says dating apps are convenient, cost-effective and users get to see a diverse range of people, ages, races, occupations who they might not normally be exposed to.
“You’re able to scroll through hundreds of potential lovers in your pyjamas from the comfort of your home, without having to head out on the town, so it tends to outweigh the potential risk,” she says.
Penn says its saddening to see how many of us would rather give up sex than technology and believes Kiwis are looking to escape because authentic connection can be difficult.
“What we consume via technology has a direct effect on the nervous systems. We’re starting to find that a lot of people are spending more time in their sympathetic nervous system (flight or fight mode) due to perceived stress. What we need to do is connect on a physically intimate level which helps release oxytocin (the love drug) and co-regulate our nervous systems which relax us and bring us back to our parasympathetic nervous system,” she says.
When it comes to unsafe sex Penn says many are “scared to ruin” the moment.
“Porn plays a huge part in modelling sex and unfortunately it’s usually unhealthy. It’s not very often you will witness a condom being put on or at the very least being used in these scenarios.
“I think if it was a given that a condom is needed to have sex it can be incorporated into the experience. Many people think sex has to be spontaneous without interruptions. We need to have a strong sense of self-worth especially with a new partner, where a condom is non-negotiable.”
Psychologist Sara Chatwin agrees that women are often seen as the “gatekeepers” when it comes to sex and so the responsibility for safe sex often lies with them.
“Females may be coerced/pressured into sex to impress or appeal to a male they like. There is also a degree of peer group pressure which they feel which may propel them into this kind of behaviour. There is also a belief that to be ‘cool’ you need to take risks and subsequently taking risks becomes ok,” she says.
Chatwin says social media also plays a role in the way we approach sex and our sexual health.
“There are still stereotypes about how men and women should act in a relationship and what is also happening in your social niche. Often the behaviours are fantasy based and false due to the unrealistic nature of social media,” she says.
Chatwin says young people are clearly also attracted to the anonymity and ‘perceived edginess” of online dating apps.
“Youth today seem to keep clear of engaging in long-term intimacy preferring to shop around and not connect seriously. This may also be because of issues around intimacy due to negative parental relationships, where mothers and fathers are fighting or divorced or negative relationship role models and practices that friends are adhering to,” she says.