Home page > Writing and publishing in Africa > Not tonight darling, I’m on Facebook: How the mobile revolution could be (...)
| More

Not tonight darling, I’m on Facebook: How the mobile revolution could be killing passion

Saturday 4 April 2015

By John Bingham, Social Affairs Editor

02 Apr 2015

It has brought continents together, helped bring down dictators and transformed the way we shop, keep abreast of world events and even check the weather or hail a taxi.

But, according to researchers, one – presumably unintended – consequence of the digital revolution could be a marked deterioration in the average British couple’s sex life.

New figures published by Prof David Spiegelhalter, a Cambridge University statistician, point to a sharp but unexplained decline in the regularity with which couples have sex in the years since the birth of the World Wide Web.

According research conducted for Prof Spiegelhalter’s newly published book, Sex By Numbers, a typical heterosexual British couple has sex just three times a month on average.

That compares with a figure of four times a month according to similar research conducted in 2000 while in 1990 the figure stood at five times a month.

Read: Sex by numbers: how do you measure up? Read: Sex in later life boosts memory and brain power

Prof Spiegelhalter said it was clear the figures concealed wide variations between couples but nevertheless pointed to a possible downward trend.

He said that while it was difficult to ascribe a clear reason for the apparent national passion drought, one possibility is the increasing encroachment of work into private life made possible by the mobile revolution.

Explaining the figures on BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour he said: “That’s the median, of course there is enormous variation around that in terms of numbers.

“Averages [on their own] don’t really express what’s going on.”

He added: “The researchers who carried out the survey, when forced to give an answer they think it is busyness – connectivity.

“We used to have a very big separation between our public lives and our private lives now they are so mixed up and integrated.

“People are checking their emails all the time, you do not have this same sort of quiet empty time that there used to be.”

The programme’s respected presenter Dame Jenni Murray expressed incredulity at the lack of sex in modern life, exclaiming: “But three times a month?”

It follows a series of studies by academics into how mobile phones and tablet devices have transformed family life.

Two years ago a paper by researchers at the Cologne Institute for Economic Research argued that mobile devices had become a virtual “extension of the body” which people take with them everywhere, enabling it to invade time with family and close friends more than almost any previous invention.

Dr Aric Sigman, a psychologist and expert on family dynamics, has also argued that parents who constantly check their mobile phones or iPads at home are guilty of a form of “neglect” and could be engendering a lifelong dependency on screens in their children.

Prof Spiegelhalter’s book also examines the striking disparity between the average the number of sexual partners men claim to have – 14 – and those women cite – just seven.

He said this was clearly mathematically impossible but that the explanation could be more to do with poor maths than deliberate exaggeration.

“More plausible reasons people put forward may actually be that some women may, when thinking about their history, actually not want to count some relationships that they’ve had as sexual partners – they just would rather forget it, they don’t want to consider that,” he said.

“When you look at the data and people are counting up, when people start getting to 10 or 15 they always start getting a bit vague frankly ... they start getting round numbers – 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 – 500.

“So people are making vague stabs and there is a suggestion that men make a vague stab upwards and women might make a vague stab downwards.”

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2015

See online: Not tonight darling, I’m on Facebook: How the mobile revolution could be killing passion