Forget being attractive or rich, driving a Porsche, even being thin - the one area we all want to excel in is sex. Because sex is so damn pleasurable. Good sex eats drugs, power - even chocolate! And there are people out there having mind-blowing sex every day of their lives. Is it any wonder what most of us are obsessed with finding out how they do it? In the words of the envious onlooker who watched Meg Ryan faked it in When Harry Met Sally, "I'll have what she's having." There are two types of sex: manufactured sex and real sex. Manufactured sex is what's dished up on TV, in erotic movies and books. You can get your fill of it just about anywhere, anytime, any place. Real sex is what real people do - and it's much more of a turn-on because we rarely get to see it. This is why eavesdropping on your neighbours, desperately trying to boost a flagging sex life by having sex on the kitchen table, is so much more interesting than watchig triple X porn. Sex Gets Real
Says British sexpert Susan Quillam: "Even if we have watched soft-core movies, which attempt to show the real thing, they rarely achieve the actual blend of intense pleasure and intimacy that makes real-life sex so compulsive." So says sex therapist and clinical psychologist Janet Hall: "There's a strong drive within us to be the same as everyone else. It's the need to survive within the pack. It's easier to survive if we're like everyone else." Sex: What's normal?
Quilliam believes we all like to measure ourselves against the norm to find our place in the sexual pecking order - particularly at different stages in our lives. What do most of us do if our sex life alters dramatically? Ask our best friend if she's ever experienced the same. "If our sex life becomes spasmodic, we compare ourselves to 'Jane' to see how we're doing," says Quilliam. "We may not like the answer, but at least we've now placed ourselves in the pecking order." Another reason we compare: wishful thinking. If our sex life is awful and we suspect it's got a lot to do with monogamy or age, we want to hear that others out there are still sizzling. If 'Jane' is still doing it twice a night then there may still be hope. If she can get it right then maybe, one day, with the right man or the right sex toy, our desire will come flooding back." Sex Lies And Tall Tales
Of course, the big question is: will 'Jane' tell the truth? Who hasn't gone home after confessional with "the girls" secretly thinking (or hoping) that the wine let loose imaginations as well as tongues? (And felt guilty for exaggerating ourselves because everyone else's sex lives sound so interesting...) The trick to telling if someone's exaggerating or really does have sex with travelling salesman, seems to be how well you know them. According to the experts, we overplay our sexual prowess when we first meet people, out of a desire not to seem inferior. Once we become fast friends, we then overexaggerate how bad things are. "Once the barriers are down and we're to the point of admitting problems, we can tend to overplay those too because everyone likes to confess," says Quilliam. Another dead giveaway of a not-so-hot sex life is silence. "There are two types of women out there," says Hall. "Those who enjoy sex and those who are still being the good girls. Women who don't enjoy sex tend to invalidate it and pretend that it's not important. The ones who get drunk and go into great detail are the ones who are orgasmic. They may be naturally more outrageous anyway - or they may need to get drunk in order to admit that Hey, I enjoy sex. Will you still like me if I say so?" Halls feel strongly that some women who don't like sex, don't like - and even pick on - women who do. If the rest of your friends are moaning about hating to give fellatio, it takes a lot of confidence to admit you enjoy it. Never mind if a good sex life is the right of all women and the rest are jealous. No-one enjoys knowing that, the minute her back is turned, someone's going to say "I knew she was a slut". Sex Gets Competitive
The fact is, for a variety of reasons, people tell lies about sex. And anyone looking for truly objective sex advice and information finds that it's hard to come by. "In the UK," says Quilliam, "we get our basic information from our parents and occasionally from teachers." The media, she says, presents an ideal - which we usually find hard to live up to - while friends teach us "how to": how to kiss, how to flirt, how to make out. The only problem is, our peers tend to suffer from "one-up-personship". Often they'll say it was wonderful, when in fact it was awful. Then when we try it and, though embarrassment or lack of knowledge, also find it awful, we think we're getting it wrong..." While we're embarrassed to admit to gaping at the couple cuddling in the bar, our enthusiasm knows no bounds when it comes to the sex lives of the rich and famous: we're positive that the Sharon Stones and Cameron Diazs of the world set the sheets on fire. "We believe that the image is the reality," says Quilliam. "In fact, extraordinary sex has to be underpinned by a mixture of emotion, sensitivity, knowledge, imagination and a willingness to learn. There's no reason why winning an Oscar or being a millionaire makes one any more likely to have these personality traits than being a bus driver." She's right, of course. But emotionally, I just can't imagine Sharon being a dud; or my warm but staid girlfriend Pat bonking on her mum's washing machine, despite her vivid description. It's sad but true that even if we do discover what other people do in bed, we don't believe them anyway.
How Do You Measure Up?
While we're the first to admit you shouldn't concern yourself with averages of who does what, where and with whom, we couldn't resist a peek at the very latest sex stats. Here, compliments of the world's sex researchers, the facts and figures on men, relationships and all things sexual... » 75% of men masturbate once a week but only 35% of women join them. Most women masturbate only once a month. » A study which compared stay-at-home couples with those who party all night long, found those who stayed in had better sex, more often. »The average penis is 12cm - 15cm long. When American can were asked to estimate the average length, they put it at 25cm; women estimated it at 10cm. »The official average of 2.5 bonks per week has dropped to less than twice a week. Most Western married or defacto couple have sex just over sex times a month. Men aged 16-24 were the most amorous, clocking up 10 sessions a month. Only women aged 35-44 had sex that often. » 75% of British women have cheated - and 83% of them aren't sorry. The Kinsey institute claims 30-40% of married men have affairs, but other researchers claim the figure is much higher. »56% of Australians have had sex at work - the most popular place is on the boss' desk. » 13% of American women aged 18-26 never had an orgasm. » Most Brits would rather sleep-in, chat with friends or read a good book than have sex. Only one in 10 would bonk more often if they could. » One-third of German women refuse to have sex after an argument - most "strikes" last three days. » Toyboys are officially good for you. US doctors found women over 50 with partners more than nine years younger than them were three times less prone to an early death. »If you want to know how many people your girlfriend's slept with, multiply what she says by three. English sex expert Dr Colin Francombe claims women only remember significant relationships.