How often do people have sex and what do they actually do when they have sex? In the context of AIDS and STD, these issues are of great importance, since people’s sexual behaviour is one of the most important determinants of the AIDS epidemic’s further development. In this chapter we shall answer these questions as they pertain to people in various countries in Europe and explore differences between countries as well as identify patterns these countries have in common. The focus of this chapter is not on risk behaviour, but on the way sexuality in general is structured by social and demographic factors such as gender, age, and educational level. These insights are essential if one wants to promote the adoption of safer sexual practices effectively.
The emergence of AIDS is not the first time that interest arose as to how people behave sexually. People’s sexual practices have been of interest for ages, for a variety of reasons and from different perspectives, such as art and literature, religion, scientific disciplines such as anthropology and psychoanalysis, and sexual education. Before presenting the results of our analyses, we shall sketch some of these perspectives to put our topic in a broader context. In doing so we do not claim to present an exhaustive overview of each perspective. From the perspectives of religion and psychoanalysis, for instance, a lot more has been written about people’s sexual practices than can be presented here.
*The authors would like to thank Ernest de Vroome, Jeffrey Weiss and the group of researchers collaborating in the EU Concerted Action for their support in preparing and writing this chapter.