No Sex Please, We're Civilised


by Nina Gan

In the developed world, sex is not just for making babies, it’s also recreational. Sexual behavior has certainly changed over the ages – in the old days, talk of sex was confined to the bedroom; today, we are constantly exposed to sex in the media (50 Shades, Game of Thrones, FHM) and with the internet, access to all things erotic has never been easier. Yet, with all this stuffed down our throats, it may come as a surprise that, statistically, people are doing a lot less of it.


Just you, me and the smartphone

In the old days, going on a date meant having a conversation over dinner, and the end goal was usually, well, some hanky panky.

These days, dates are often accompanied – and dominated – by smartphones (ever noticed couples who look busier on their phones than with their partners?). Let’s face it: in today’s world, we’re hooked on the internet. A recent survey showed that Singapore is the second most internet-addicted nation in the world; the average Singaporean believes they can only survive 7.3 hours without internet access.

With smartphone addiction, it’s no surprise that face-to-face interaction is getting rare. This is ironic, because 82% of Singaporeans rank connecting people globally as the most important use for the internet – social networking accounts for 28% of all time spent online (maybe more).

It’s no stretch to say that checking your social media is probably the last thing you do just before sleeping and the first thing you do when you wake up. So, who has time for anything else?

Sex not “sexy” anymore

Increased online connectivity means that no matter where you are, you have access to a zillion things on the world wide web.

The first thing that shoots to mind is probably porn. However, in terms of search results, gaming comes in a close second in terms of popularity. Gaming – from online games to PS4s – is now a serious enough addiction that 2 counselling centres in Singapore are equipped to handle this niche issue which predominantly affects youths.

Then comes the insane popularity of Korean dramas – video sites like KDrama and DramaFever are hot commodities thanks to their fiercely loyal viewers. Recently, the drama titled “My Love from the Star” became so popular it impacted national productivity in China. In Singapore, it’s not difficult to find someone watching a K-drama on your daily commute.

Let’s not forget the ever-growing trend of #selfies and #foodporn – we are a nation addicted to Instagram as well. Photos of your next dessert or #ootd will always trump #thathottieyoubagged.

Finally, there are also asexuals who are simply not interested in sex at all – but this doesn’t mean they don’t feel any attraction. In Japan, a quarter of both genders aged between 16-24 shun sex. Maybe it’s because there’s a chunk of otaku male population who are more interested in a relationship with their anime and manga idols than the opposite sex.

Paradox of porn

According to Google, there are over 22 million searches a month for porn. While a lot of people watch the stuff, they’re either curious, need the occasional ‘release’, or have an addiction (which brings about a boatload of problems including rape or, paradoxically, inability to perform in bed in real life).

A lot of porn caters to very specific tastes (google ‘Rule 34’). According to research by a pair of neuroscientists, transgender porn is the 4th most popular genre globally with a mainly hetero male audience, who also have a penchant for searching out ‘male genitalia’. For most women, they found that erotic fan fiction seems to float their boat, suggesting that emotional connection is a dominant mode of erotica. This seems to mean men and women don’t quite see eye to eye on what titillates them online.

Kinsey’s kinks

Ironically, while it seems that people are exposed to more sex today (ie. movies), they seem to ‘do it’ less than folks in the 20th century – just ask researcher Alfred Kinsey who surveyed thousands of subjects for 25 years. The famous Kinsey Reports (1948 & 1953) revealed how married couples had more sex than singles, and that they have sex 2-3 times per week. This is compared to 30% of Singaporean couples these days who have sex less than once a month.

It seems that the rich, civilised populations of East Asia and the West have given up reproducing as well. Singapore’s TFR (Total Fertility Rate) is at 1.2 – way below the ideal of 2.1 – which translates to one ‘replacement’ adult for every two.

While more can be done to address this issue, there are social and political constraints that prevent the study of sexuality from advancing. No wonder we aren’t getting enough if we can’t even talk about it.