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Image: Joshua Soucie.

The Big O-Town sex survey (pandemic edition) results are in

By Joshua Soucie on March 2, 2021


Once again, we invited readers to take The Big O-Town Sex Survey to shed some light on what happens behind Ottawa’s closed doors. For the pleasure of our readers, we’re now sharing the anonymous results. 679 people participated in this year’s edition of the Apt613 sex survey.

Consensual sex—most of us derive much pleasure from it, and yet many of us cannot imagine openly discussing it.

Shame is a painful, social emotion we humans are conditioned to associate with, frankly, far too many facets of our inner world. Without plunging too deeply into the causes and implications of sexual shame, let’s explore just the tip… of the iceberg, that is. A 2020 study conducted by Denisa Marcinechová and Lucia Záhorcová found that an individual’s sexual shame can “manifest into his/her [or their] current sexual perception, experience, and hence – sexual satisfaction.”

So, in the interest of maintaining or improving our degree of sexual satisfaction, why don’t we leave shame at the figurative door and let the data pillow-talk for itself?

Before diving into said data, it is this contributor’s duty to remind you—in true Big O-Town Sex Survey spirit—that no actual statistics were harmed in the making of this survey. Now, in the prophetic words of Hurby Azor and Al Bell, “Let’s talk about sex, baby.”

Image: Joshua Soucie.

Readers up to 74 years of age participated in this year’s survey.

This year, the age of our respondents ranged from under 18 to our eldest respondent, who said they are between 70 and 74. The majority of respondents (63.1 per cent) were between 25 and 39 years old.

To our surprise, youth aged 19 to 24 represented over 10 per cent of responses, and adults aged 45 to 49 represented 7.9 per cent of respondents. Thanks for finally telling your parents about Apt613!

Once again, Centretown had the greatest representation amongst survey participants.

Almost 16 per cent of this year’s survey participants live in Centretown. Representing just over seven per cent of respondents, the Glebe was a far-from-close second, while Hintonburg came in third, at just over six per cent. Heck, even Hull saw more participation than certain neighbourhoods in Ottawa. We love Centretown as much as the next kid, but we would like the rest of Ottawa’s neighbourhoods to get their acts together. Are you really willing to let Centretown take the cake another year in a row? Judging by this survey, we know how much you like cake.

Gender identity varied greatly, and we made a blunder.

Correction: An earlier version of this post quoted a survey response that critiqued the survey’s treatment of sex and gender as one and the same; a reader then flagged that response as transphobic. We apologize to our readers for this mistake, and for any harm to our community members who read this as a trans-exclusionary message from Apt613. The text has since been deleted and removed from a screenshot of survey results.

Sexual orientation was, unsurprisingly, more diverse than census data would suggest.

Whereas 2014 census data would have us believe that only 1.7 per cent of Canadians between 18 and 59 years old identify as gay or lesbian, 7.4 per cent of this survey’s respondents identify as gay or lesbian. In fact, only 67.1 per cent of our respondents identify as heterosexual. That either means our readership is, like, really gay, or people don’t feel comfortable self-identifying when responding to a census.

For those of you who answered “mostly straight,” “straight/queer,” and “straight probably, but I’ve never experimented so who knows, ” we highly suggest you reach out to your school guidance councillor or hit up The Lookout (depending on your situation). All jokes aside, we’ve listed some resources down below to assist those who are questioning their sexuality.

Some other answers that had us chuckling:

  • “Horizontal”
  • “Open to all except cis men”
  • “Whoever I think is hot”

Lots of you seem to be abstaining from sex.

Roughly 22.5 per cent of survey respondents are currently abstinent for one reason or another, whether by choice or by circumstance (pandemic, j’accuse!). That said, the majority (66.3 per cent) of you are in a monogamous relationship, while 11.2 per cent of you are in a/multiple non-monogamous relationship(s).

Relationships take many different forms.

It appears that 42.2 per cent of you are married or common-law, over 20 per cent of you are single, and slightly less than three per cent of survey participants are in an open relationship. Most of the “other” answers were variations of the existing selections, such as “long-term monogamous relationship” in lieu of “serial monogamist.”

We’ve still listed some of our favourite answers below:

  • “I hardly know you”
  • “Situationship”
  • “In a semi-open relationship” (What? Do you keep the door ajar?)

To the person who answered “married is not the same as common-law. You shouldn’t put those together. I’m married, obvi”: Do not post this on your Facebook timeline. Start by reading an article about the institution of marriage, preferably not on 4chan.

Lots of you are sexually dissatisfied.

We feel the frustration. Pent-up. Ready to burst at any moment. COVID is hard.

Over 77 per cent of you are currently dissatisfied with your sex life, while just 7.7 per cent of you answered that your sex life is “the best ever.” I am equally happy for and envious of you thriving sexual beings.

More than half of respondents are not content with the amount of sex they’re having.

It looks like 18.6 percent of you are having “the perfect amount” of sex. More concerning, though, is that seven of you answered that you are having “too much” sex. This pandemic is a particularly dangerous time for those in our communities who experience domestic violence. Statistics Canada reported in July of 2020 that “over half … of the responding victim services reported an increase in the number of victims they served during this time.” If you or someone you know has experienced a sexual assault, know that you can seek assistance from the Sexual Assault Support Centre. And if you are experiencing domestic violence, we encourage you to reach out to the Victim Service Crisis Unit.

Your monogamous partners seem to be hitting your spot.

More than half of respondents (58.4 per cent) answered that their best sex has historically been with a monogamous partner. Still, 23.6 per cent answered that their best sex had been with a fuck buddy or friend with benefits, and a scandalous 7.2 per cent of you answered that your ex had been your best lay. Our advice? Sleep around until someone serves it to you better than your ex. Or keep your hangups; Scott Helman is banking on those royalties.

Some other favourites:

  • “Sample size too small”
  • “An Apt613 contributor” (you’re welcome)
  • “With partners in the first 6 to 12 months” (at which point we assume you turn into Shrek)

Most of you have either had sex in public or wish you had.

When asked if you’ve had sex in a public place in Ottawa, 42.5 per cent of you answered “yes,” and 17.4 per cent answered “I wish.” We have been following this story for weeks now. The 613TV team will be releasing their footage in the coming days.

That was a joke. We are committed to ensuring your privacy as well as the anonymity of this survey data.

Parks are Ottawa’s most common locations for public sex.

We’re not sure if it’s the dirt on your knees or the blades of grass between your butt cheeks, but among those who have had sex in public in Ottawa, parks seem to be the most common fornication spot for 24.7 per cent of you—with cars (10.3 per cent) and “a parking lot” (9.23 per cent) coming in second.

Popular responses where folks claim to have had public sex: A park (67); a car (28); a parking lot (25); a parking garage (10); a beach (10); a forest (10); Gatineau Park (9); the Rideau Centre rooftop (8); Parliament Hill (7); Carleton University campus (6); by the Rideau Canal (6); University of Ottawa campus (6); in a bathroom (5); at a bar (5); Hog’s Back Park (4); Strathcona Park (4); at a nightclub (3); the Arboretum (3); Mooney’s Bay (3); National Arts Centre (3); Experimental Farm (3); Rideau Centre (3); Lansdowne Park (3); Major’s Hill Park (3); Vincent Massey Park (3).

And a handful of oddly specific responses: Up against the National Gallery; behind the Cirque du Soleil tent; a downtown bar in a dark corner; empty classroom at Carleton University; City Hall parking lot; graveyard; okay, no, but i did once have my bare ass slapped with a Beavertail in that weird alley where Planet Coffee is in the middle of November; parked by the airport watching planes take off and had sex outside; benches near Maman the spider.

Ottawans have had varying numbers of sexual partners.

The majority (72.9 per cent) of Ottawans have had somewhere between two and 30 sexual partners, while 13.5 per cent of you have had between 31 and 100 sexual partners.

Over the last year, most of you have only had a single sexual partner.

While 61.2 per cent of you only had one sexual partner last year, 11.1 per cent of you have not had a single sexual partner this past year.

Most of you masturbate more than once a week.

As many as 3.6 per cent of respondents masturbate more than once a day. More power to you! We are sending our compassion, encouragement, and sensual vibrations to the 8 per cent of respondents that answered “more than once a year” and the 3 per cent that answered “never.”

Some of you have not had a one-night stand.

Nearly 30 per cent of respondents have never had a one-night stand.

Most Ottawans have not participated in group sex.

Almost 70 per cent of you have not tried group sex. We get it. Too many appendages. The mere thought can be overwhelming.

Some of you are kinky, and we like it.

A whole 25.3 per cent of you are completely unimaginative. You mean to say you really have no fetishes or fantasies? Maybe we truly are the city that fun forgot.

The most common fetish or fantasy, swaying 41.5 per cent of respondents, was “Lingerie/Underwear,” which is still pretty vanilla.

Some of the more adventurous favourites are bondage (37.8 per cent) and submission (37.2 per cent). Some honourable mentions include domination (27 per cent), role play (26.9 per cent), and voyeurism (24.1 per cent).

Some of your sex props are pretty innovative.

We were not astounded to find out that the top responses to props used for sex were lube at 89 per cent and vibrators at 81.3 per cent. Other common responses were dildos (55.5 per cent), handcuffs (56.3 per cent), costumes (25.4 per cent), sensation gels (38.3 per cent), and crops, floggers, paddles, or something similar (22.2 per cent). However, we did not see “2005 Nissan” coming. That must have been quite a fender-bender.

Apparently, over 1 in 6 respondents used lube for the first time this past year.

The use of vibrators (9.8 per cent tried for the first time this past year) and dildos (12.5 per cent) is also on the rise, perhaps due to pandemic isolation?

Nearly one in 10 of you have engaged the services of a sex worker.

It appears that 7.4 per cent of respondents have engaged the services of a sex worker, and 4.3 per cent of respondents identify as sex workers.

Most of you do not believe that Ottawa is a sexy city.

Are we really that surprised? Ottawa is not a sexy city. You said it, not us.

Aside from doing the deed in your bed, many of you enjoy having sex on the couch.

It seems that, for 42.3 per cent of you, the couch is where you Snapchat and tap that. Other popular spots include the shower (representing 18.9 per cent of responses) and the kitchen (8.2 per cent of responses).

Here are some other responses we enjoyed:

  • “In my sex swing”
  • “My ex’s bed”
  • “On top of the washing machine”

Centretown was voted the sexiest neighbourhood in Ottawa.

Sorry Hintonburg (17.9 per cent) and the Glebe (9.5 per cent), it seems Centretown was voted the sexiest neighbourhood this year with 23.1 per cent of the votes. Westboro who?

A bar might be the best place to pick up in Ottawa.

Bars, accounting for 17.5 per cent of responses, and the ByWard Market, with 12.5 per cent of responses, are the best spots to pick up without using a dating app.

We hand-picked some of our favourite other responses for you:

  • “Literally nowhere I have anxiety”
  • “Coffee shop? Idk where the lesbians are”
  • “Before? A bar. Now? A socially distanced grocery line.”

Many of you agreed that the ByWard Market is the best spot for a first date.

A total of 68 respondents agree that the ByWard Market is the ideal place for a first date. I mean, sure? That could be nice, so long as you avoid eye contact with strangers and bring lots of hand sanitizer.

Popular responses: ByWard Market (68); a walk along the Rideau Canal (24); Gatineau Park (17); the Arboretum (13); The Moonroom (11); The Manx (10); Tavern on the Hill (9); Ottawa Art Gallery (7); Chez Lucien (6); Ministry of Coffee (6); Major’s Hill Park (5); Black Squirrel Books (4); Happy Goat (4); The Loft (4); Union 613 (4); Andaz (3); El Camino (3); National Gallery of Canada (3); Rideau Falls (3).

Gatineau Park. We get it. Photo: Bust It Away Photography (Apt613 Flickr Pool).

Gatineau Park was voted best hookup spot.

So, if your date brings you to a quiet little quarry where the birds seem to whisper sweet nothings, you know what they’re getting at… Craggy, fumbly, cargo-short-constricted hiker sex. Duh.

Popular responses: Gatineau Park (41); along the Ottawa River (24); the Arboretum (22); along the Rideau Canal (20); Nepean Point (16); Major’s Hill Park (11); the Lookout (6); Britannia Beach (5); Greenbelt walking trails (5); the airport (4); behind the airport (3); Bate Island (3); behind the Supreme Court (3); Dow’s Lake (3); Wakefield Mill (3); Westboro Beach (3); behind Parliament (2); Experimental Farm (2); Le Nordik (2); Obsession (2); under a bridge (2).

Most of those dating throughout the pandemic are doing it in person.

It appears that we did not give respondents the option to state that they are not dating, but 85.6 per cent of those that are dating seem to be doing it in person.

The majority of respondents have not started a new sexual relationship during COVID-19.

Listen, for those that answered “a single one-night stand” and “yes but only until Oct 2020 when cases started rising again,” we want to know why you are justifying your actions to an anonymous survey. We don’t judge.

You seem torn about whether or not Ottawa is a good city for singledom.

If Ottawa’s not sexy, is it at least a good city for singles? Survey respondents were fairly torn about this one: 40.6 per cent of you answered “no,” 32.4 per cent answered “yes,” and 26.9 per cent answered “don’t know.” This might come down to a matter of perspective.

Over 20 per cent of you have never even used a dating app… Must be nice.

Though most survey respondents (67 per cent) have never used or are currently not using dating apps, the most popular dating apps are Tinder (41.1 per cent), Bumble (19.7 per cent), and Hinge (13.1 per cent).

Tinder is the best app for scoring yourself a date.

No surprise here: Tinder seems to get people the most dates. Oddly enough, though 13.1 per cent of respondents have a Hinge profile, the app was outperformed by OkCupid and Plenty of Fish when it came to landing its users a date.

“Blind dates” aren’t really a thing anymore.

Although 22.6 per cent of survey participants have been on a date with an unknown person, most of the respondents seem to be over 30. As we are certain they have heard at recent job interviews, “Your experience is now obsolete.”

The majority of you seem to be proactive when it comes to dating.

With 51.9 per cent of you stating that you are proactive in your approach to dating, the rest of us feel relieved. That’s a good thing for us pillow princesses.

Almost half of you would consider dating someone 10 years older than you.

This might or might not shock you, but respondents were not as enthusiastic about dating younger. Though 26.8 per cent of respondents would consider dating someone up to five years younger and 14.9 per cent would consider dating someone up to 10 years younger, 38.2 per cent of respondents answered that they would only date someone around their age.

You are not an easy lot to impress.

What’s the best thing your date can do to impress you? Most of you (68.5 per cent) are impressed when a potential lover shows interest in getting to know you. The second most popular answer, which accounted for 6.1 per cent of responses, was “smell nice.”

Some of the other responses left a lasting impression on us:

  • “Signal they have goals and boundaries”
  • “Be kind to service workers”
  • “Be yourself”

When asked what you would most like to discuss on a first date, your responses varied widely.

This question received the largest number of custom responses. Fun facts, jobs/studies, and relationship expectations were among the most popular conversation topics for first dates, but they only had a marginal lead on the other topics.

Take a look at some of the more interesting (and questionable) other responses we received:

  • “Weather”
  • “Rates of COVID vaccination”
  • “Relationship to trauma” (On a first date? See: boundaries)

A lack of curiosity seems to be your biggest turnoff.

For many of you (28.6 per cent), the most common mistake your dates have made was not asking questions. Talking too much about oneself represented 13.8 per cent of responses, talking about an ex represented 12.4 per cent of responses, and rudeness represented 12.1 per cent of responses.

Many of you seem to want a partner/partners that make you laugh.

At 21.6 per cent of responses, the most common dealbreaker among survey respondents was having no sense of humour. Another 19.8 per cent answered “intelligence or lack thereof,” while 17.9 per cent answered “no common interests.”

Here are some other responses that made us smile:

  • “General creepiness”
  • “Morals” (Meh. With a sample pool of 679 survey respondents, we suppose at least one had to be a psychopath.)
  • Doesn’t love

Now that last one is a dealbreaker all of us at Apt613 can get behind.

In any case, we hope you enjoyed this year’s analysis of the Big O-Town Sex Survey, and we hope we did not come off as too saucy. Actually, that’s exactly what we were going for. Carry on and get it on, Ottawa.

For a list of local sexual health resources, check out this page on Ottawa Public Health’s website. To seek professional guidance for matters related to shame and identity, we suggest you consult Ottawa Public Health’s Mental Health and Substance Use Resource List to find a local therapist or safe space. For assistance with sexual shame related to religiosity, we invite you to reach out to Generous Space Ministries.