Are New Zealanders a Bit Crap at Sex?

We don't stack up particularly well when it comes to performance or protection.
September 22, 2017, 1:42am
Illustration by Ben Thomson

This article is supported by Durex's Sexual Health Education Month. In this series, we explore Kiwi sexual behaviour.

All statistics quoted are from the Durex Global Sex Survey. The Durex Global Sex Survey 2017 was conducted between December 2016 - January 2017. There were 29,735 respondents globally, and 503 NZ respondents.

We're a country full of people who fell in love because we hooked up with someone at a house party. We make our decisions with a drink in one hand and the rugby on the TV in the background. Romance has always taken something of a backseat.


What does this mean for our sex lives? We looked at this year's Durex Global Sex Survey to find out.


Dating apps allow us to have minimal interactions with people before we sleep with them. "It's easy to hook up and easy to ditch. The ultimate in no-strings," says Jake, a young gay New Zealander who, like 41% of Kiwis, uses apps for casual sex.

For Gretchen, who is in her early 20s and has had relationships with men and women, apps mean you can be "as blunt as you want about what you want." If you just want sex, you can have just that.

We're clearly enthusiastic, or at least willing to give new partners a go, but maybe we're not actually that good at sex.

The average time we spend on foreplay and the intercourse itself are well below global averages.

Jake agrees, saying that his experience as a gay man in New Zealand is of "more men, but less sex and less time in bed."

Kiwis who see themselves as sexually active mostly do it once a week or more (57%), but that's well below the 69% of the rest of world who get it on multiple times within a seven day period.


These are all things that education, or at least open communication would help to deal with. There are a couple of problems with that though.

Teens globally are given remarkably little information on how to do well at sex, rather than just how to do it safely. Most of the population is still learning more about sex from the internet—and pornography—than anywhere else, so we aren't entirely alone.


Not a single Kiwi aged between 18-24 reported receiving any education about how to make sex pleasurable.

Even when looking at all age groups in NZ, that number only rises to 3%. In what's probably true for most of us, Gretchen describes her sex ed as "literally just learning how to use a condom."


Despite the focus of sex education in New Zealand being on safe sex and STI prevention, Kiwis have some of the lowest rates of condom use in the survey.

Overall, 8% of us have never used any form of contraception.

We see condoms as the best, cheapest, and most effective protection against STIs, but their use is undermined by our ingrained 'she'll be right' attitude. This is emphasized in the survey where 25% of Kiwis told Durex that their best reasons for sex without a condom was because 'I didn't think about it'.

Another 45% said 'I was confident they didn't have an STI and thought it'd be OK' and 31% were so 'lost in the heat of the moment' that they simply weren't able to think about protection.


A useful snapshot of the Kiwi sexual experience is losing your virginity. It's pretty telling about the way we seem to operate in the larger picture. A full quarter of us didn't use contraception when we lost our virginity, significantly higher when compared to a global 19%.

Unlike 53% of Kiwis who said it just happened, Tom and his girlfriend were unusual in that they planned their first time. They knew they were supposed to use a condom, but their lack of experience and education around how to have good sex meant neither of them considered lube.


The result? "It was pretty awkward," he says.

"She broke up with me before we could try it again. She clearly hated it."

Ashleigh's experience is more typically Kiwi; she lost her virginity at 14 and was "absolutely off-my-face drunk."

About 15% of New Zealanders are drunk when they have sex for the first time and 7% of us can't remember if we were or not.


41% of us have tried to improve our sex lives by talking to our partners. This might sound low, but it's higher than the world average of 31%.

Jake routinely builds communication into his sex life. "It makes it all better being open, because then you have awareness about how the other person is feeling," he tells VICE. But for many Kiwis, it can be a hard conversation—and seeing as we don't give young people many tools on how to navigate this rocky terrain, it's great anyone is even trying.

Like a lot of women, Lucy was unhappy with her lack of orgasm but avoided talking to her first long-term partner about it out of embarrassment.

The data shows this too. More people have tried to improve their sex life by using lube (44% of Kiwis, vs 30% globally) than by talking to the person they're having sex with.

Given that comfort with a partner is so vital in these conversations, it seems that our preference for more partners and less sex may be harming our sex lives.


We don't stack up especially well in the performance stakes or in the safety stakes, but we can at least take solace in the fact that we've recognised we're a bit crap—and we'd like to change.

We know we need to try harder with contraception. 31% of Kiwi respondents said they would use condoms more if they knew where to access them for free (although, they would still need to overcome the 'heat of the moment' issue).

The Durex Global Sex Survey might have found our weak spots, but like any great sporting nation this just gives us a chance to optimise our performance.

All statistics quoted are from the Durex Global Sex Survey. The Durex Global Sex Survey 2017 was conducted between December 2016 - January 2017. There were 29,735 respondents globally, and 503 NZ respondents.

This article is supported by Durex's Sexual Health Education Month. You can find out more info about it here.

Reckitt Benckiser, Auckland.