Sex survey a let down in bed

A ‘saucy sex survey’ has been doing the rounds in the media that claims to be one of the largest studies on the sex lives of UK citizens. Unfortunately, it seems to be a bit of a let down in bed.

The study has been carried out by an unholy alliance between one of the country’s most respected relationship counselling charities, Relate, and the Ann Summers chain of sex shops but, sadly, it seems the commercial fluff has won out over the genuine insight.

I’m a big fan of Relate. They provide sex and relationship counselling regardless of status, sexuality or income and do an important and often thankless task.

In fact, my mum was a counsellor for them, years ago, when they were still called ‘Marriage Guidance’, and it was one of the things that got me interested in psychology.

The charity also runs a training and research institute for psychologists, psychotherapists and the like, and have built up a reputation for an evidence-based, down-to-earth approach.

Which makes it all the more surprising that they’d get involved with a survey that is clearly designed as a marketing gimmick rather than genuinely useful research.

How do I know it was a marketing gimmick? Because it was discussed in Marketing Week magazine as an example of Ann Summer’s ongoing ‘brand overhaul’ aimed at appealing to ‘a more mature audience’.

“Both parties”, says the article, “hope to make the dual branded survey an annual census”. Lovely.

Now, I’m not necessarily against commercial-academic double teaming, if you’ll excuse the turn of phrase, but you’d better produce something of quality if you want to keep your head held high.

But in this case, the whole thing looks dodgy. The full report, available online as a pdf, is just a bunch of good typesetting, poor graphics and lists of percentages.

What’s more worrying is that Relate won’t release their questions or how they went about asking them. Sex ninja Dr Petra Boynton [not quite her official title] has been trying to get hold of them, in part, because the way questions about a sensitive subject like sex are asked can greatly affect the answers you get.

And of course, which questions you ask is also key. A critical article in today’s Guardian raises some uncomfortable issues about the survey noting that “It sets up a model of the normal libido as frisky and adventurous, looking to try threesomes, bondage and toys – and those things are normal, but so too is not wanting to try them”.

Except, of course, if you’re a massive retailer with an interest in selling people ‘frisky and adventurous’ accessories.

Link to article ‘Ann Summers and Relate ought to be unlikely bedfellows’

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