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HONG KONG: Fanny has just finished washing up after yet another evening spent cooking dinner for her two children, making sure they do their homework, and tucking them into bed before cleaning up the kitchen and preparing the next day's lunch for her and her husband. When she finishes, she collapses into bed, knowing she'll be up early the next morning, when the whole day will start again.
Fanny is not alone in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, where life pace is so hectic that many people do not have the opportunity to take part in one of the most important aspects of modern life: sex.
According to a survey by condom maker Durex on sexual habits of people around the globe, Hong Kong locals are, for the fourth year in a row, having much less sex than the global average.
Hong Kong people engage in sex 78 times a year, well behind those on the mainland and miles away from the lusty Greeks who are amorous on 138 occasions. The global average is 103, the survey said.
Coupled with a lack of a quality education on the matter and prevailing social values that encourage restraint, many in Hong Kong wind up with troubled sex lives. And it is a situation that has some local experts worried.
"Regular and good sex is part of normal healthy lifestyle," says Angela Ng, one of the city's most well-known sex therapists, a medical practitioner and host of her own radio talk show.
"People need to understand that having a satisfactory sex life is important to their well being."
According to Ng, people in general have a much more fulfilling life when they are having regular sex. They are happier, have less stress, have fewer health problems and perform better in the workplace.
Ng says the benefits apply to both sexes, offering advantages like stress relief and lower blood pressure, chemicals released during sex add to a sense of well being. This can lead to a more cheerful disposition and help smooth over relationship difficulties.
Ng has over the years counselled thousands of people with sex problems both on the air and in the offices of her private clinics.
And while medical problems or sexual dysfunction are the primary reasons why many of her patients call or walk through her doors, she believes the most widespread problem affecting Hong Kong sex lives is a hectic lifestyle, or rather, a lack of time.
"Hong Kong is a crowded, busy place and people live such busy lives. They just don't devote enough time to having sex," says Ng. While not entirely convinced about the survey's findings, she does admit there is room for more bedroom action.
If sufficient effort is put into adjusting lifestyles, she says she believes "at least once a week" is an achievable target. But with 52 weeks in a year and the city's average of 78 times, the likelihood that some local couples are exceeding that rate means that many others are getting intimate less than this or perhaps not at all.
And in the case of Fanny and her husband, trying to cram too many things in the day is typical of the reasons why the couple puts sex off.
As Ng put it, "if you don't allow enough time for sex, then you'll never do it."
The city's prior economic troubles, which left many people in doing jobs that were previously spread among two or more people, only exacerbated a problem that already exists in what is, under the surface, a conservative city, says Ng.
"Yes, the economy has improved, but companies have not replaced staff (levels), so people are still busy."
For most couples, it comes down to scheduling. A husband that works till late at night, or an evening shift, to his spouses' daytime work finds her tired or sleeping when he gets home, and neither of them in the mood for sex.
It's a belief shared by both Matthew Yau, sex therapist, chairman of the Hong Kong Association for Sexual Educators, Researchers and Therapists, and Ng Man-lun, professor of psychiatry at Hong Kong University and the city's sex guru. Both specialists are executives of the recently formed Sex Culture Society, organizers of the city's first-ever Sex Culture Festival held in February.
While Yau also has some reservations about the Durex survey, he doesn't doubt that some Hong Kong sex lives are on life support.
"In a busy city like Hong Kong, people place a low priority on sex. Before they get married, during the courtship stage, there is probably more sex happening the couple is falling in love, they are getting intimate, there is more affection.
"But once they get married and are in a stable relationship, their minds turn to other things."
In a modern marriage, "people focus on goals. They want to boost their careers, make more money, buy more things."
And with all the focus on outside matters, couples begin to drift apart, says Yau. "There is no intimacy. No expressions of affection."
Then when fights occur, "there are no close feelings to bring the couples together again, and this can cause a breakdown in the relationship. If there is intimacy, you have a way of mending the problem.
"If a couple comes to me and says they are fighting, I tell them to go home, discuss the problem and spend time having sex. After that, the relationship gets better. It is not the only solution, but a good sexual relationship helps smooth over differences and reduces the number of fights couples have."
Ng Man-lun, dubbed Hong Kong's "Doctor Sex," says the city's overworked population combined with child raising, leaves couples with little interest in lovemaking.
He believes outside pressures increase mood problems, while anxiety, depression or separation from a spouse will all see couples having sex less often and in worse cases, stop all together.
"The people in most danger are married couples in their early 30s, who might have young children."
With an upbringing that makes people to avoid talking about the problem, "this can go on for years. Some couples may wait five or 10 years before they seek help."
Yau and Angela Ng both believe an inhibited atmosphere exists in the city with regards to sex.
The city's prior links with British colonialism, its culture and values harking back to chaste Victorian times may have laid the groundwork for a more conservative outlook when it comes to sex.
Yau also believes Hong Kong's strong association with Christian teachings plays a part.
"There are a large number of people in Hong Kong who are deeply religious and follow Christian values. And these values forbid sex outside of marriage or sex only in relations to having children," Yau said.
In this case, "some couples are having sex rarely, if at all. And there are a significant number of people, many of them women, who abstain from sex until they are married. So if they are not married, they may not be having sex."
Indeed, in the most recent survey on family planning by the Hong Kong Family Planning Association, more males (59 per cent) than females (31.2 per cent) showed an interest in sexual activity, while 5.7 per cent of females reported no interest at all. Both men and women said the most influential factor affecting their sex lives was work.
And in last May's report on Chinese attitudes to sex, by the Journal of Sex Research it was found that it is still Hong Kong men that take the initiative when it comes to sex, with wives rarely taking the initiative. At the same time, traditional values that expect the female to remain chaste still prevail.
Professor Ng Man-lun's observations seem to bear this out. After putting up with a sexual wasteland for an extended length of time, "normally it is the men who come to me complaining," he says. Of his patients, "around 80 per cent are men and 20 per cent women. I believe it is because women are less demanding regarding sex and if there is a problem, or they are not having sex, they will tolerate it longer before they say anything."
Education, or a lack of it, doesn't help, says Angela Ng. With a previous culture of "don't ask, don't tell," many locals grew up with inadequate sex education or the feeling that they could not discuss their problems, even with their doctor.
But the doctor holds out hope that things will improve, with the recent drive to bring sex and talk about sex to the fore, throuprogrammes like hers, greater attention devoted to the topic in the media, and better sex education for the young "who need to grow up, knowledgeable about sex and comfortable discussing sex matters."
Despite the city's poor scorecard, good sex is just around the corner she says, all it takes is a little planning. "If you want to have good sex, you have to set aside time for it," said Angela Ng.
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Last updated: October 08, 2010