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Modern Life and Sex

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

It’s 10:30 p.m. You and your partner are getting ready to retire for the night. Each of you has a tablet or smartphone. One of them beeps. “Was that you or me?” you ask.

You notice an email from an overseas client, who says he knows it’s late where you live, but if you could just answer one question, he could get on with the project that’s due this week. You respond, even though you have to look through some files to find the answer. You feel that if you don’t, your boss will be upset and you want to make sure you keep your job and your income.

In the meantime, your partner is texting with a friend from work, playing an online game, and watching funny videos. An hour passes before you finally turn out the light, but you keep the TV on. You and your partner are too tired to even talk, let alone have sex.

Or, imagine it’s midday. You have lunch with someone you’re dating, but you both check your phones multiple times before the meal is over. If you’re single and eating alone, you could be so involved with your phone that you don’t notice the prospective partner at the next table, who is trying to catch your eye.

These examples may be exaggerated. And, of course, it’s not just technology that consumes us. People have busy lives, with increased work expectations, child-rearing, caring for elderly relatives, and other daily responsibilities.

However, while technology keeps us connected to the world around us, does it physically disconnect us from our partner or from the opportunity to meet a new partner? What effect does that have on our sex lives?

It’s hard to measure and can vary from place to place, but a recent survey in Britain can give us some ideas.

In November 2013, the results of the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles were announced. This survey takes place every ten years. The most recent survey covered the period of 2010 to 2012 and included men and women between the ages of 16 and 74.

The results showed that both genders are having sex less frequently than before. In previous surveys, which covered 1990-1991 and 1999-2001, both men and women were having sex over six times a month, on average. In the 2010-2012 survey, these rates dropped to fewer than five times per month.

Why did this happen? There could be many reasons, but recession and the Internet could be to blame, at least partially.

In an interview with the BBC, Dr. Cath Mercer of University College London explained, “People are worried about their jobs, worried about money. They are not in the mood for sex.”

She added, "But we also think modern technologies are behind the trend too. People have tablets and smartphones and they are taking them into the bedroom, using Twitter and Facebook, answering emails."

What can couples do? A reader named Elizabeth offered one solution in her comment to the BBC website:

We are first time parents and have a beautiful (unplanned) three-month-old daughter. She was a love child - the result of what was once an incredibly active sex life. Now, we haven't had sex in about five months. It hasn't impacted too much on our relationship - we are still happy and in love, but it's concerning. Neither of us are interested, for various reasons (mainly having a baby constantly attached to me!) but recently we've made an agreement that we need to spend less time on social media sites. We don't like the fact that our daughter has started to stare gormlessly into the screens of our lap tops and phones, and we hate the fact that we can spend almost a whole evening sat beside each other but interacting only with our computers. Maybe this change will help us to re-ignite our life between the sheets, who knows. But I can relate to what this article is saying about technology affecting peoples sex lives.

It’s important to remember that many factors influence how much we have sex. Health conditions, such as diabetes and arthritis, can take a toll on our sex lives. So can menopause and erectile dysfunction. Stress, anxiety, and fatigue cannot be ignored either. If you think a health condition may be contributing to sexual problems, be sure to see your doctor.

Also, one couple’s typical sexual frequency might be low for another. That does not necessarily signal a problem. It just means that each couple has different preferences. They need different amounts of sex to be happy.

What do you think? Has technology ever interfered with your sex life? Is there more to the story? Why do you think sexual frequency rates have dropped in Britain? Do you think rates have dropped in other parts of the world? Feel free to leave us a comment and share your view.

Print this article or view it as a PDF file here: Modern Life and Sex


BBC News

Triggle, Nick

“Modern life 'turning people off sex'”

(November 26, 2013)

The Independent

Withnall, Adam

“National sex survey: Distractions of modern life mean people have less sex”

(November 26, 2013)

The Lancet

“The Third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles”

(November 26, 2013)

The Mirror

Adams, Sam

“Study finds Brits are 'too busy using Facebook and Twitter' or worrying about money to have sex”

(November 26, 2013)

National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles


The Telegraph

Collins, Nick

“Britons having less sex in 21st Century”

(November 26, 2013)