Professor Kaye Wellings, co-lead the study which reveals women are having an average of eight partners and indulging in more lesbian sex
It is a revealing glimpse into what goes on between the nation’s sheets – and how dramatically it has changed.
Women’s sex lives have become more adventurous and they have relationships with twice as many men as they did 20 years ago, a major study has revealed.
The average female now has eight partners during her lifetime, up from four in the 1990s – and catching up with men, whose average is 12.
They are also four times more likely to experiment with other women than they were two decades ago, and those who are better educated and better off tend to be the most adventurous.
Researchers from University College London – who surveyed 15,000 adults – say recent ‘radical changes’ to women’s status have had a profound effect on their sex lives.
But overall, they found that adults are now having sex less frequently than they were ten years ago, possibly due to busy working lives.
On average, men and women aged 16 to 44 now have sex just three times a month compared to five in the 1990s, which may be because they are taking work home with them.
The study, published today in The Lancet, found that women are catching up with men in terms of the number of partners during their lives and the age they start having sex.
And women who are better educated and more well-off tend to be more adventurous, the researchers found.
Professor Kaye Wellings, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, believes the changes in women’s behaviour over the past 20 years have been ‘remarkable’.
She said: ‘In some areas of sexual behaviour we have seen a narrowing of the gender gap but in others we have seen women overtaking men in the diversity of their behaviour.
The study also showed that educated women are among the most likely to be adventurous in the bedroom
‘We need to set these changes in the context of the radical changes in women’s status over the past decade.
‘It’s interesting that the changes are more marked amongst the highly educated and better off.
‘With respect to women the greatest changes really began in the last century, with the changing women’s role in society, education, being in workplace more and being able to control their fertility.’
The study asked 15,162 men and women aged 16 to 74 a series of highly detailed questions about their sex lives.
Similar surveys had been carried out in 2001 and 1991 and the results were compared.
Shockingly, the latest study also revealed that one in ten women have been forced to have sex against their will at some point during their lives.
The average age at which this occurred was 18, and for 85 per cent it was with a former partner, friend or someone else they know.
Yet just 44 per cent ever told anyone and 13 per cent reported it to the police – even though it may be classified as rape, according to the study.
The latest figures showed that women have 7.7 partners during their lifetime, with 20 per cent having more than ten. Although this is still fewer than the average man’s 12 – up from eight during the 1990s – women are fast catching up.
And 16 per cent have had same-sex dalliances with other women – kissing, hugging or sex – compared with just 5 per cent of men.
It also found that women and men are losing their virginity at a much younger age compared to previous generations.
Average woman now has sex three times a week, down from five in the 90s, blamed on a busier lifestyle
The average age they first have sex is 16, whereas those now in their 60s did not typically lose their virginity until the age of 19.
Referring to the trend for adults having sex less frequently, Professor Wellings said: ‘Work comes into our home now there is no strict divide. People are taking laptops and iPads to bed.
‘People are working very, very hard. They are very busy.’
The scientists also said fewer people are living with their partners now so there is less opportunity to have sex.
And one in six pregnancies are unplanned, rising to 21.2 per cent amongst those between 16 and 19.