Sex by Numbers

As of the 23rd May 2022 this website is archived and will receive no further updates. was produced by the Winton programme for the public understanding of risk based in the Statistical Laboratory in the University of Cambridge. The aim was to help improve the way that uncertainty and risk are discussed in society, and show how probability and statistics can be both useful and entertaining.

Many of the animations were produced using Flash and will no longer work.

sex by numbers cover
Sex by Numbers is published by Profile Books and the Wellcome Collection, and accompanies the Wellcome's excellent Institute of Sexology exhibition which runs until September 20th 2015.

There is a rather neat animation that features some of the stats.

The book may look like a light chat about sex, and it does contain some extraordinary stats and studies, but in fact it is primarily concerned with the challenges of taking a scientific approach to this tricky area.

You can order it from Blackwells, although I would encourage Hive, but there is always Amazon.


The Times [paywall] and the Sunday Times [paywall] gave it very good reviews, and Craig Brown in the Daily Mail liked it, but thought "In many ways, Sex By Numbers is more about numbers than about sex", which is reasonable.

Danny Dorling did a fine, innuendo-filled review for the Times Higher Educational Supplement.


The Daily Mail did a 5-part serialisation that, in spite of some lurid headlines that have little relation to the content, managed to pack in a vast amount of material.

  1. Average couple has sex three times a month
  2. How middle class women have had more sexual partners
  3. The women who have become so dissatisfied in the bedroom
  4. The more sex you have the more likely you'll have a boy
  5. Why nearly half of women regret their first time

I did an article in the Observer on 'Is 10% of the population really gay'. There have been many articles from around the world - here is a good one from La Parisien, and also one in Indonesian. The Daily Star managed to get just about everything wrong.

GQ magazine went into an amazing amount of detail.

Bits and pieces

The book is a natural source of the kind of lists beloved by websites, but it's not always clear which are the more reliable ones. Here's examples from Buzzfeed and the Telegraph.


The Telegraph carried rather a good interview by Rowan Pelling that featured my dog Daisy in the pictures.

I was also interviewed by Jenni Murray for Woman's Hour (00:43 to 8:03), which was terrifying, Radio 3's Free Thinking (1:09 to 20:38) , in which Matthew Sweet suggested the 'Spiegelhalter' sounded like a piece of Austrian bondage equipment, World Service's Health Check (18:40 to 24:32), and numerous other radio shows.

Statsview carries an interview and a webinar of a talk I gave in Cambridge[registration needed].



  • page 61 fig 14. Labels for oral sex graph are wrong: the black line represents '2010: of those sexually active', the light grey line represents '2010', and the dashed line represents '1990'
  • page 353: index entry for ‘health benefits of sex’ should be 218-222
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