There’s nothing like an editorial on a sex survey to brighten up your Saturday. Not unlike the Sachar Committee report that you must have enjoyed reading about above, the findings of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine are also an empirical confirmation of a popular notion. Researchers have found that people in Western countries tend to have more sexual partners than those in the developing world. Gathering data from 59 countries, the study also finds that sexually transmitted diseases are more prevalent in poorer countries than in rich nations. Poverty and mobility, it seems, are to blame more for, say, HIV, than promiscuity is. And to round it all up, the Bond movies, the music videos and the TV ads aren’t wrong: single Westerners do have a more sexually active life than people elsewhere. Although whether the British still consider sleeping with a hot water bottle in bed as ‘sex’ is left unsaid in the survey.
The one genuine surprise in the report that has been published in the latest edition of the medical journal Lancet is that contrary to popular belief and to the disturbing fantasies of many guardians of behaviour, people are not having sex earlier in their lives but later. The report states that almost everywhere in the world, sexual activity for both men and women begins between 15 and 19 years. One guesses that this includes the youngsters that Censor Board Chairperson Sharmila Tagore considers as being “raunchy teenagers” being targeted by companies selling flavoured condoms.
Surveys, of course, like innocuous remarks made at a bar, can let out dangerous messages. To know that Westerners are less fussy than us about ‘sleeping around’ could lead to the unsavoury notion of every Westerner visiting India being mistaken for being ‘easy’. We cannot enter the heads of the people who think in that manner, but all we can say is the golden rule applies to all: a yes is a yes, and a no is a no. And no, there is no option that says, “Can’t say”.