A fifth of Swiss have slept with more than 20 people

'Partners come and go. Safer sex stays' is the slogan of the latest government health campaign against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections Keystone

People in French-speaking Switzerland have “significantly more” sexual partners than in the German- and Italian-speaking parts of the country, according to a study carried out as part of a safe sex campaign. Notable differences also exist between men and women, hetero- and homosexuals, and cities and villages.

This content was published on November 21, 2016 - 15:16 and agencies, and agencies

“Sex in Switzerland”, part of the government’s LOVE LIFE campaignExternal link, questioned almost 30,000 people aged 18 to 64 in a representative online survey.

The average man had had sex with seven people and the average Swiss woman one fewer, the studyExternal link found. Over the past year, men had on average 2.1 partners and women had 1.5.

Almost a quarter (23%) of men said they had slept with more than 20 people in their lifetime, whereas 14% of women said they had done the same.

The study, published on Monday by the Sotomo research centre, said the difference in figures between the sexes was explained by the almost exclusively male phenomenon of paying for sex: although only 14% of men said they had paid for sex, this had a significant impact on the average.

Some 13% of respondents said they had only ever had one partner.

Men aged 25-34 seem to change their partners very often, the researchers found. This is followed by a “calmer” period when family is the focus of attention, until partner-switching starts up again in the 56-64 age range.

Sexual orientation

Sexual orientation also has a notable effect on the number of sexual partners.

Heterosexual men said they had slept with an average of seven people, half the figure of gay men. There was no great difference between straight women and lesbians (5.6 and 6.1 partners respectively), but the number more than doubled to 13.5 for bisexual women. Bisexual men had 11.3 partners.

Similar differences were seen between urban and rural areas. While the average number of partners was 8.1 in cities, it falls to 5.6 in rural villages. Canton Basel City, the only completely urban canton, had an average figure of 12.3.

The average French-speaking Swiss had slept with 7.1 partners – “significantly more”, according to the researchers, than the 6.1 in German-speaking Switzerland and the 5.8 in Ticino.

When it comes to fidelity, 31% of men in a stable relationship said they had been unfaithful. Only 24% of women admitted the same. Almost half of people in this group said they had had unprotected sex. 

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