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The Big Sexy O-Town Survey results, part one!

By Katie Marsh on February 14, 2011

Photo courtesy of TaniaSaiz on Flickr.

In the immortal words of either A.J. McLean or Swami X (the internet is having trouble deciding), “Sex isn’t the answer. Sex is the question. ‘Yes’ is the answer.”

But yes to what? Threesomes, foursomes, twentysomes? Do you like to watch? Does your cat? Are plugs, clamps and rope things you store in your toolbox or your nightstand?

We, the voyeuristic inquiring minds at Apartment613, wanted to know – and seriously, what’s the point in running a blog if you can’t use it to ask hundreds of strangers the most intimate details of their private lives?

More than 700 people took part in the first ever Apartment613/Venus Envy Big Sexy O-Town Survey. The purpose? Your entertainment, dear reader, and if a little sex positive dialogue comes out of it, so much the better. The survey was conceived of and designed by Nadine Thornhill, a sexual health educator at Planned Parenthood Ottawa and Apartment613’s very own sex columnist. Shelley Taylor, the brains behind Ottawa’s favorite sex store, Venus Envy, provided some useful feedback, as well as a prize for one lucky survey respondent – a top notch Lelo sex toy (congrats to our winners!).

The 28 survey questions were grouped into three basic topics – sex partners, sex education and sexual practices – plus one question on sexual assault. We originally intended to release all the results in one fell swoop, but due to the amount of great material you all gave us, we decided to break it up into two segments. Today, we’ll focus on your answers to our questions on sex partners and sexual assault. A big thank you to everyone who took the time to take the survey.

Needless to say, viewer discretion is advised!

Disclaimer and note on methodology

Apartment613’s Big Sexy O-Town survey is intended for kicks and giggles. No fancy statistical techniques were harmed in the creation of this survey. Consequently, our results are in no way presumed to give definitive scientific results on the sexual behaviour of any group of Ottawans. While we may refer to “Ottawans” during the survey for style reasons, we are using this term as a synonym for the respondents of the survey, and do not mean to imply that these results apply to the city as a whole.

To avoid being completely off base, we will not report on questions that received less than five per cent of the total number of responses (733), which works out to about 36. This means that we have sometimes grouped responses into larger categories to reach the 36 response threshold.

Quotes from the write-in questions have been edited for spelling and punctuation, but are otherwise unchanged.

So, who responded?

There were 733 people who took the survey, though not everyone answered every question. Eighty per cent of the respondents were between the ages of nineteen and thirty-five, 58 per cent were female, and 66 per cent identified themselves as heterosexual. Only seven people said they were outside of traditional gender categories, so we didn’t have enough data to analyse the trans or two-spirited community. For the same reason, we also decided to group people who identified as queer, gay or lesbian into one category: together they accounted for six per cent of respondents. Another 20 per cent admitted to being bisexual or having a touch of the bi (that is, they said they were heteroflexible or homoflexible). Six respondents identified as pansexual (lovers of all gender identities), but none as omnisexual (same thing).

Also, almost everyone lives in Centretown. Nearly three in four respondents said they were from central Ottawa – so next time, we’re definitely asking for people to share their neighbourhoods.

Who are – or aren’t – Ottawans having sex with?

In the words of one respondent, Ottawans “take it when it comes; otherwise it’s me on me.” Sixty-six per cent of respondents are sleeping with one partner, with another 23 per cent getting it on with the man (or woman) in the mirror (or flying solo, if you need an additional euphemism). Only 15 per cent of respondents said they were getting it on with no one at all. The loneliest age group were the 19-to-25-year-olds, with 22 per cent reporting they were having sex with no one (not even themselves), compared with only 13 per cent of those 25 and older.

A quarter of masturbators said they go at it more than once per month, almost a half more than once per week, and 14 per cent daily. True to the stereotype, men reported more daily self-love than women:  nearly a quarter said they masturbated daily, compared to eight per cent of the ladies. Of the 26 respondents (four per cent) who told us they never masturbated, all but two were women.

When asked how they would describe their current sexual situation, most (60 per cent) said they were monogamous. An additional 14 per cent of respondents identified as non-monogamous, while 23 per cent told us they were abstaining due to either choice or (mostly) circumstance.

Who’s having a hard time getting laid?

Women and straight folk, apparently. One in five women said they were abstinent due to circumstance, compared to only 15 per cent of men. Similarly, one in five straight people also told us that sexy circumstances were conspiring against them, compared to just 10 per cent of those who identified as gay/lesbian/queer and 17 per cent of bisexuals. This might not be the most scientific study ever undertaken, but these stats do seem to support the conviction held by many of my straight female friends that Ottawa is a tough town for the single gal.

Ah, the multitaskers.

We also asked respondents whether they’d ever had sex with more than one person at a time – and while we meant simultaneously, some of you wondered if we meant sequentially. Regardless, however you choose to interpret it, 74 per cent of Ottawans said they’ve never done it with more then one person. Eighteen per cent said they’d had sex with two people at a time, and eight per cent with three. But at least we’re an ambitious group: many vowed that they would one day (although some of you did say, in the words of one respondent, that multiples are “fun but overrated”).  Oh, and here’s some advice for the aspiring threesome, courtesy of another respondent:  “Post-sex multiple partner spoons are the best!”

Who’s sitting it out?

Why would anyone abstain from sex? We gave our survey takers eight possible choices to choose from, and the top three reasons (aside from not having an available partner) that people had taken a sex timeout at one point were that they were ill (60 per cent), tired (53 per cent) and busy (47 per cent). Interestingly, abstaining for ethical/moral/spiritual reasons wasn’t a big concern: only 17 per cent of respondents said that was a reason they’d chosen not to have sex, making it the least chosen option. Other reasons for abstinence submitted by our respondents included pregnancy, kids, an unwilling partner, the “crimson tide” (probably not the 1995 Denzel Washington submarine flick), death, drunkenness, having a mother move in, and I quote, “no sex while preparing for a boxing bout.”

In a separate question, we asked if people had ever avoided sex because of an embarrassing personal situation. Six out of ten said yes,  mostly due to hygiene or grooming related issues. Women were more likely to opt out of sex due to embarrassment (44 per cent) than men (34 per cent).

Turns out sex IS a laughing matter

Despite the flak we get for being a grim government town, it appears that Ottawans have a sense of humour about their sexual exploits: 91 per cent say they’ve laughed out loud during sex. Thankfully, many of you shared your stories about what set you off.

Noises caused by the passage of air through various orifices, including but not limited to “poorly thought-out phrases in the heat of passion,” were often to blame. Sometimes the noises were actually educational, as one person told us:

“Well, we refuted the existence of the “queef” for a long time… and then? We wondered no more.”

Pratfalls in the sack gave a number of you a good chuckle, even at the cost of a few bloody noses:

“We were both extremely drunk and kept trying to one-up each other and, at one point, he pushed me off the bed and I hit his bedside table. He then proceeded to jump on me but hit his head. Pretty damn funny.”

Setting the mood is always important, and costumes are sometimes a good idea:

“There were these underwear that were ‘sposed to look like an elephant’s face…..”

But be sure to pay attention to what’s coming up on your playlist:

“I had my iPod on shuffle and the most ridiculous songs kept coming on (insert whitney houston, spice girls). Then at his house, Hootie and the Blowfish… I which point I said it goes off or the clothes come on.”

“My then-boyfriend and I were just about to get it on when his roommate downstairs started playing his accordion, polka style.”

“Mr. Rogers theme song in huge random playlist = instant mood kill.”

The sex trade

Few respondents said they’d been involved with the sex trade, with only seven per cent having engaged the services of a sex worker, including strippers and lap dancing. Many wrote in to say that they might be willing to try, however. Even fewer (four per cent) said they’d offered sex services to others.

Sexual assault – Trigger Warning

While the survey was meant to be lighthearted, we wanted to ask about sexual assault in order to give some attention to this serious issue. Twenty per cent of survey respondents – one in five – told us they’d been assaulted.  And of those who said they’d been assaulted, 86 per cent were women. Here are some of the things we learned from the people who were gracious enough to go into details with us:

  • Not surprisingly, those who reported being assaulted were often (but definitely not always) victimized by people in a position of trust. Spouses, partners, family members, babysitters, and bosses were each mentioned multiple times.
  • Locations weren’t just limited to the bedroom. We received stories of assaults or attempted assaults occurring on the bus, in a library, at house parties, in a bar, on a bike path, and at a tennis club.
  • Of the 43 people who shared their stories with us, about one-quarter said they were abused as a child.
  • Excessive drinking – either by the victim, the assaulter, or both – was mentioned as a factor in a number of assaults.
  • Types of incidents included rape, coerced sex, molestation, unwanted groping,  phone sex initiated by someone impersonating a boyfriend, and an unexpected encounter with a mass transit masturbator.
  • Finally, some good news. A number of brave souls reported fighting off their attackers, while others told us they ended up leaving their abusive relationships. One respondent even said that the support she received after her assault convinced her to stay in Ottawa for good.

Part two of the survey delves deeper into Ottawans’ kinky habits between the sheets (and other places!) and finds out more about how you all came to learn about the birds and the bees. Click here for Part 2!