David Spiegelhalter (Profile) 2015, 368pp, RRP $27.99

Renowned statistician, author and academic Spiegelhalter, in a lengthy attempt to draw conclusions regarding human sexuality from what seems endless sources, wisely notes here that statistics are a perennially tricky business, especially when you’re dealing with sex, a for-some-shameful subject about which everyone misremembers, exaggerates, romanticises and lies. Sex By Numbers - David Spiegelhalter - Profile Books - The Clothesline

Devoting chapters to sexual practices, heterosexual sex, homosexual sex, masturbation, questions of when people (supposedly) have their ‘first time’, ‘The Dark Side’ (rape, prostitution and more) and issues of sexual behaviour in an age of advancing technology, Spiegelhalter compares and contrasts the findings of sexologists of the past (Alfred Kinsey, Shere Hite and lesser-known names), however dubious, with more trustworthy modern studies. And (sometimes hesitantly) he does manage some actual genuine claims: people are more sexually daring than they will admit, and, well, gayer; everybody apparently auto-eroticises, and often; sex work brings massive amounts of money into every country’s economy; the children of same-sex couples are not damaged but thriving (sorry conservatives); and the advent of technology means that not only are we too distracted or exhausted by all those damn screens to get some carnal fun in, but that online pornography does have a negative influence on our sex drives and perceptions (sorry boffins).

It’s also worth mentioning that this is one of the most entertaining books on statistics available, as Spiegelhalter works in several pleasing gags, especially in the footnotes: one memorable giggle suggests that anal sex is something couples might try once out of curiosity and then never attempt again – like “swimming at Blackpool”!

Dave Bradley

This title is available through the Allen & Unwin website. Click HERE to purchase your copy.

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