CanWest News Service

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A global Sonar survey made public yesterday reports 36 per cent of Canadians agree with the statement that sex is overrated, the highest of any country polled.

From the bedroom to the boardroom, Canadian relationships can be an unfulfilling, hands-off affair, new research suggests.

A global Sonar survey made public yesterday reports 36 per cent of Canadians agree with the statement that sex is overrated, the highest of any country polled. Fully 43 per cent of Canadian women agreed with the statement, compared with 29 per cent of men.

The United States ranked second at 34 per cent, followed by the Netherlands and Britain at 28 per cent each.

The survey was commissioned by ad agency JWT International.

It identifies gender roles as the main barrier to pleasurable interaction - particularly when it comes to sex.

Nearly half of Canadians (49 per cent) believe women are becoming more like men, while 54 per cent of men say there is too much emphasis on men getting in touch with their feminine sides - a notion also held by 38 per cent of women.

The survey of 1,054 Canadians is considered accurate within three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

"Men and women are not in a place where they're particularly well synchronized," said Marian Salzman, executive vice-president of JWT. Her new book, The Future of Men, explores how the balance of power between the sexes is influencing physical and social interaction.

"Men have been told they can't touch one another because that would be gay; men and women don't touch one another because it's not politically correct," she said. "I think the only things you can touch are your children, your animals and your siblings."

Coincidentally, a separate study by Leger Marketing, also made public yesterday, reveals nearly one-third of us suffer from "touch deficit," regularly going an entire day without any human contact.

Experts say an increased focus on social boundaries, changes in gender roles and greater reliance on electronic communication are making it harder to reach out and touch someone.

"There has been a radical decrease in the amount of touch and, obviously, an increase in the touch deficit," said Patti Wood, an authority on non-verbal communication and spokesperson for Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion. "There's fear or concern about what's an appropriate touch."

According to the Leger Marketing survey, conducted on behalf of Vaseline, 44 per cent of Canadians say they want more physical contact in their lives. But on average, most of us spend five times longer each day on electronic communication (33.5 minutes) than touching other people (7.4 minutes).

The national survey of 1,500 adults is considered accurate within 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

"We need touch equally," Wood said of the gender divide. "But what's interesting is that we're not getting it equally."

She notes that women are more likely to touch other women while men are more likely to go a full day without touching anyone. Canadians overall spend more time on non-verbal communication with their pets than they do with friends, co-workers and acquaintances.

The survey found the biggest contributors to the problem are time constraints (16 per cent), societal pressures and having nobody to touch (both at 14 per cent).

According to Vaseline's research, one-third of Canadians are comfortable touching someone at first meeting; 28 per cent need to know someone a few days before first contact; 15 per cent need to know someone a few weeks; 11 per cent require a few months; three per cent need to know someone a few years; four per cent say they never feel comfortable touching.

Stephanie Mitelman, a certified sexuality educator in Montreal, said the key message of both reports is that Canadians need to adjust their priorities, both socially and romantically.

"There's a lot more interaction that happens online these days," Mitelman observed. "We spend a lot more time touching our keyboards than each other."

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© The Gazette (Montreal) 2005