The 2018 Sunday Times Lifestyle Sex Survey

68% of South Africans want to have kinkier sex: survey

With over 3,500 respondents, the 2018 Sunday Times Lifestyle Sex Survey is now one of the biggest in the country. Here's what we found out about what goes on behind Mzansi's bedroom doors

02 December 2018 - 00:13
The 2018 Sunday Times Lifestyle Sex Survey shows that 74% of South Africans are having 'vanilla' sex, but that 68% would prefer to have kinkier sex.
The 2018 Sunday Times Lifestyle Sex Survey shows that 74% of South Africans are having 'vanilla' sex, but that 68% would prefer to have kinkier sex.
Image: 123RF/kopitinphoto

With over 3,500 respondents, the Sunday Times Lifestyle Sex Survey is now one of the biggest in the country. What we’ve discovered is that South Africans are a funny bunch when it comes to sex.

As a nation with conservative underpinnings we tend to approach talk of bumping uglies the same way naughty teenagers would. We get nuggets of information, mix them with myths we’ve learnt in our repressed youths, sprinkle a healthy dose of hyperbole and then skinner about it to our friends.

Anecdotal evidence will tell you that, for the most part, we’re pretty reserved when it comes to making the beast with two backs. But the problem with anecdotal evidence is that it tends to come from unreliable sources.

For the second year in a row, we have polled South Africans to find out the truth behind our horizontal tango sessions.


Despite what all your friends, wine bottles and post break-up love songs will tell you, the single life is not all it's cracked up to be. People in relationships are genital jousting a lot more than their unencumbered counterparts.

Of those who responded, 45% of people in a relationship reported having sex at least two to three times a week compared to 19% of singles.

In fact 10% of couples have enough energy, somehow, to knock boots on a daily basis. Only 4% of singles have the time and opportunity to get some that often.

Also, it turns out that it's not the hormonal youths getting all the play, it's their older siblings and parents. South Africans aged 31-40 are doing the most bumping and grinding with 67% of them having sex once a week or more. They're followed by 41-50 year olds. Traditionally, 31-40 is the age at which people settle down and get married, so this could be motivation for some of you to pop the question and lock down some frequent "sexy- time miles" - but not so fast: though married people are having a lot of sex, its not necessarily good sex.

Singles have the worst sex lives with their average enjoyment between 1 and 10 coming in at a 5.3, but they're followed by married folk who rate their sex lives at 6.4. People in unmarried relationships, however, come the closest to continuous exploding fireworks rating their sex lives at a commendable 7.1.

This suggests that there is a happy medium between single and married, a place where you are not so interned in bachelorhood that human contact causes you to pop like a champagne cork and not so rooted in the monotony of married life that the idea of your partner's genitals has connotations of "duty". 


We are fast approaching the time of the year when people start prepping their New Year resolutions, bracing themselves to go after what they want in 2019.

Apparently 68% of us would like to have kinkier sex. The vast majority of us (74%) are having some variety of vanilla sex, which is anything from missionary to light kink. A little more than two thirds of us are keen to see what's over the horizon and that number works no matter how you slice it.

Heterosexuals were the most prudish in this regard with 66% of them wanting to venture into naughtier territory. That number came in at 87% of bisexuals and 73% for respondents identifying as homosexual.

Kink is not the only thing people seem to be curious about. While 55% of people confessed to not owning a sex toy, less than half of them said it was because they were not interested in them. Of that 55% of people who do not own groin gadgets 52% said that the only reason they didn't was because of price, a lack of knowledge or embarrassment.

All three of those are surmountable obstacles and suggest that under the right circumstances, curiosity would make for a lot of very happy cats. Surprisingly nearly one in three men report using sex toys regularly though women are still more comfortable using them, with 34% of the fairer sex indicating regular usage.


(Because we're South African and it's our favourite subject.)

Now for the fun bit, but before we start read this disclaimer: Thanks to all kinds of historical sensitivities, issues of race can get prickly. If you are concerned that you may be prickled uncomfortably then best turn back now. Furthermore, please bear in mind that we're simply summarising the data we received from those who responded, no one is trying to make any sweeping generalisations about anyone.

Now back to business.

We have an interesting relationship with race in this country. It's one in which we are all outwardly not racist and feel most comfortable thinking of South Africa as a unicorn park with a crime problem. Only 10% of us think of ourselves as being either conservative or very conservative when it comes to sex and sexuality.

Moreover, 90% of us are comfortable discussing matters of the boudoir and only 9% of respondents have an issue with interracial dating. But don't start toasting the ghost of Mandela just yet. 

A full 60% of the people who participated in our sex survey have never tasted another flavour of the rainbow. Among that number 64% say it's because they have never had a chance, while 33% say it is because they are not attracted to people of other races.

Of those that said no, 82% of Africans said they had never had the chance as opposed to 47% of white people. Coloured and Indian/East Asian people reported the highest rates of cross pollination with 66% and 67% of them having crossed the racial Rubicon.

Only 33% of Africans and 34% of whites that responded said that they'd had sex with someone of another race. Those who identified as heterosexual were also far less likely to have picked a flower from a different garden than those who identified as homosexual with only 37% of the straights saying they had tried a bit of interracial lovemaking compared to half of the homosexual respondents.

Digging a little deeper we found that of the Africans who had sampled other fruits only 7% of them reported having had biblical knowledge with someone of Indian or East Asian descent while only 19% of the whites who responded yes, indicated that they had gone black. We are yet to confirm whether or not they have come back.

Aside from people with whom we are swapping bodily fluids we discovered that Africans were significantly less likely to own sex toys with 74% having never owned or used one. Coloured and Indian/Asian people are the keenest on stepping up their bedroom shenanigans with 75% and 76% of respondents in those groups indicating that they would like kinkier sex as opposed to 66% of Africans and 69% of whites. People of European descent, however, are currently having the kinkiest sex with 34% reporting that their sexual habits range from the use of implements to high-level kink.


For a long time our problems with sex and our views on it have revolved around trying to extract meaning from it. Depending on your school of thought, sex can be either some kind of sacred experience to be shared between you, your partner and your deity or a way to get that person on Tinder to like you more. In a general sense sex, like life, means whatever you want it to mean. It can be nothing or everything depending on the people involved. That said it is 2018 and nothing has a point if opinions aren't shared and inferences are not drawn - even if that makes everybody mad.

As much as certain sectors of the population cringe at the idea of bringing it into conversations (unless they want to make questionable jokes) race is so ubiquitous that it even filters into what we do with our happy bits.

The fact that such a large number of South Africans have never had interracial sex because "they haven't had a chance to" smells suspiciously like it has to do with the spaces we inhabit and the unspoken messages they convey. It boggles the mind that in a country that is so overwhelmingly black, there are still spaces where the majority of the guests will be white and that the white people who patronise those spaces tend to flee to new ones as soon as the ratio gets a little too dark.

Conversely, it's interesting that Indian/Asian and coloured people seem to mix so readily. Groups that regularly interact with one another invariably end up rubbing their genitals against one another. That's why interracial dating and sex among middle and working class Brits is so commonplace whereas the aristocracy tend to get their knickers in a bunch about it.

Sex and one's ability to explore sexuality has as much to do with socioeconomics as it does with genitals. Are black people really just more closed off to the idea of sex toys than white people because of genetics? No. The answer probably has much more to do with access to information, cost and acclimatisation than anything else.

Are black people really just more closed off to the idea of sex toys than white people because of genetics? No

As for our conservatism, one thing that popped up again and again was how straight people and men tend to err on the side of conservatism. You'd imagine that a smart person can or has already written an academic piece on patriarchy and why it tends towards conservatism rather than progressiveness.

The most important takeaway from this year's survey, however, is that we are a curious bunch. South Africans are not as closed-minded as we would have ourselves believe and may be much closer to a sexual revolution than we think. For the most part our hearts, and parts, are in the right place. Its our environmentally induced skaam that isn't.

So to all those who did this survey and wondered about sex toys, go buy one. To those who "never got the chance", remember that fortune favours the bold and to all of those who need a bit more nastiness in their sex lives, go visit Club Poison or download Kink'D and discover exactly what it is that you like. Sex is far too much fun for us to walk around unfulfilled. Go get you some of that good good!

• The Sunday Times Lifestyle Sex Survey was conducted in association with local research house Ratepop, using its proprietary chatbot technology. Over 3,500 individual South Africans answered the survey, which was hosted on Facebook Messenger. The respondents' identities were kept strictly confidential.