Feature Articles

FPAHK Survey on Marriage and Sex

Ref Number: ESEAOR200812

  • Date1 Dec 2008
  • Category FPA Message
  • Targets Couple Public
  • AuthorFPAHK
  • Topic Sexual Life, Marriage and Family

Hong Kong couples have sex only 3.9 times a month on average and are just fairly interested in sex, but most are satisfied with their sex life and marriage, according to findings of the Survey of Family Planning Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (KAP) in Hong Kong 2007 released by the Family Planning Association of Hong Kong (FPAHK) during the open air carnival of the Hong Kong Sex Cultural Festival 2008. This is the second KAP survey since 2002 to include specific questions on “Marriage and Sex”. 770 couples were interviewed through home visits.

Over 80% of the couples polled were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their marriage at the time of the Survey. Women who were married for 4-5 years had the greatest proportion of satisfaction of marriage, which gradually decreased as the duration of marriage lengthened. Almost 60% of the men and about 40% of the women said they were “interested” or “very interested” in sex life at the time of the Survey. Nevertheless, the majority of respondents expressed satisfaction with their sex life. Those who were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” represented over 70% of the men and more than 65% of the women. Satisfaction with sex life among those married for longer than 10 years declined for both genders, but more markedly among women.

The couples had sex for 3.9 times on average during the 30 days prior to their interview. About a quarter of them had sex for 3-4 times, 19% 1-2 times and 23% had no sex at all during that time. The frequency of sex appeared to correlate inversely with the respondents’ age and duration of marriage. “Work pressure” was cited by most men and women (25% and 30% respectively) as the key factor affecting their sex life. Other unfavourable factors “living with children”, “incompatible work schedules”, and “health problems”.

The Survey findings showed good awareness among both the women and men of “women’s right to request for or reject sex” (about 90%). However, only about 40% of the women could actually practice what they believed in requesting for sex while only about 70% of the men could actually accept their spouse’s sexual requests. Only about 53% of the women could actually reject their spouses’ sexual requests while 63% of the men could accept their spouses’ rejection of their sexual requests.

The Survey found that despite many couples having sex problems, few sought treatment or help. Within the year, over 40% of the women and more than half the men polled had encountered one or more sex problems which persisted for three consecutive months. The problems encountered by most women included “vaginal dryness”, “lack of arousal”, “having orgasm after sexual intercourse” and “no organism”. The main sex problem affecting men was “low sexual interest”, experienced by 10% of men.

Only 4% of women and 3% of men had sought medical care for sex problems. Less than 15% had sought advice from friends, medical professionals, and the FPAHK. While 70% of men and women said they did not need any help or advice, the rest said they wanted to have professional help or advice on “conflict with spouse” and “conflict between work and family”, and other matters such as “new contraceptive methods” and “sexual harmony”.

Dr Susan Fan, Executive Director of FPAHK, commented that various other surveys had highlighted the low frequency of Hong Kong people’s sex life compared with other countries. She pointed out that there were no prescribed standards for the frequency of sex, which depended largely on the need and preference of individual couples and should not be taken as the only indicator of the quality of sex life. However, a happy sex life can add to the closeness of a couple’s relationship and augment marital harmony.

Dr Fan said that stress from work and daily life together with restricted living space hampered couples’ intimacy and communication and could be lead to detachment in their relationship. She encouraged couples to maintain their affection for each other through dating, spending time together, expressing care through e-mails and text messages etc. They can support each other emotionally and spiritually amid life and work pressures.

The Survey also showed that interest and satisfaction in sex life declined with the duration of marriage. Dr Fan said the physiological changes of ageing caused many couples to reduce their sex life. Yet older couples can still enjoy sexual satisfaction through intimate touch such as embraces, kisses and caresses. She reminded couples that besides physical attributes, a quality marital relationship, good communication and mutual support in daily life will help to make them feel more sexually attractive and responsive to their partner.

Dr Fan pointed out that most people considered sexual matters too personal and embarrassing to discuss. But actually sex problems are not necessarily due to illness or physical defect, but could be caused by lack of sexual knowledge, skills, or compatibility. In most cases, professional assistance can help resolve difficulties and couples should seek help early before their problems become persistent.