Sexual Behavior in

German-Speaking Switzerland


Dania Schiftan


Short version of thesis


Invigilated by Dr. D. Regli

Handed to Prof. Dr. H. J. Znoj

October 2006


Philosophisch-humanwissenschaftliche Fakultät der Universität Bern

Department of Psychology

Chair of Clinical Psychology


University of Bern

Philosophisch-humanwissenschaftliche Fakultät

Table of contents

Table of contents
    Sampling description
    Sexual wellbeing and sexual problems
    Sexual orientation
    Sexual behavior
    Love and partnership relationships
    Singles and the search for partners on the Internet
    Risk behavior and protective motivation
    Punishable actions against sexual integrity
    Methological remarks



The objects of the study was to acquire and describe the facets of the sexual behavior of the German-speaking Swiss by means of an online questionnaire. Until then no comparable study of this type had been carried out. The present study is therefore oriented towards a German research project by Gunther Schmidt (1996, 2000) on the sexual behavior of students.

6393 Swiss filled out the questionnaire completely. Questions asked concerned sexual well-being, and sexual problems, the sexual orientation (homosexual or heterosexual), the sexual behavior as regards love and partner relationships, singles and partner-search on the Internet, risk behavior and protective motivation as well as punishable dealings against sexual integrity. The vast majority of those questioned were satisfied with their partnership, their sexual life and with the evaluation of their mental and physical health. Whereas women seemed to be more flexible in their sexual orientation, men were clearly polarized on hetero or homo sexuality. More than 80% of the participants were of the opinion that homosexuality is permissible while 20% had reservations. Whereas homosexuals mostly acted out their sexuality outside their fixed relationships. Both heterosexuals and lesbians favored fixed relationships. Around 70% of those polled felt themselves satisfied in their relationship whereby women more often wished for loyalty than men and heterosexuals more often than homosexuals. Almost all persons satisfied themselves, women in fixed relationships in the least. As most singles are not in a fixed relationship due to lack of suitable partners, they also had fewer sexual contacts as pairs. Almost 17% of those polled did not use preventative measures on their first sexual encounter and 23% in their latest sexual encounter but yet often evaluated their sexual behavior as not risky. Finally the questionnaire showed that around 50% practiced sexual stimulation by means of drugs. Approximately 25% of the women and more than 6% of the men have been forced to sexual acts.




The aim of the present study was primarily to obtain as broad an overview as possible of the sexual behavior of the population of German-speaking Switzerland. The Author would like to remark personally in such a wide ranging area that one cannot avoid being drawn into a subjective weighting of individual subjects and aspects, meaning that no claim is made on the completeness of the individual research results. In the knowledge that this is a very intimate and personal subject, it should be mentioned, that according to the best of the authors knowledge, attempts have been made to process the latest research results in an objective manner and to reserve value comments as much as possible. The use of male terminology in the following is meant purely for purposes of achieving textual economy.


1.          Sampling description

Only completely filled-in questionnaire forms (N = 6393) were included in the evaluation, which, according to the jumps in the questionnaire applied to between 34 -81% of all questions. They were received in the time period between the 6th of June and the 1st of August 2006. As shown in Table 1 somewhat more men than women participated in the questionnaire.


                                                Table 1: Gender distribution of the sample














Most of the people lived in the Cantons of Bern and Zurich as can be seen in Table 2

                                                Table 2:Cantonal-distribution in the sample

In which Canton do you live?







Appenzell Innerrhoden



Appenzell Ausserrhoden









Basel City



























St. Gallen

































I do not live in Switzerland







Chart 1 shows the age distribution 77% of the respondents were between 20 – 49 years old and the age average was 31.5 years.

                                           Chart 1: Percentage (%) of age distribution (in years)


Chart 2 shows the religious distribution

Chart 2: Percentage (%) of the distribution of religions


Most of the persons (71%) of those taking part had no children, 8% had one, 14% had two, 5% had three, and 2% had four children.


Chart 3 shows the highest level of education of those taking part. More than 50% gave their highest educational level as professional training or a high school diploma or a trade diploma


    Chart 3: Percentage information (%) of the highest level of education


For the question of the level of activity, it was possible to provide several answers. Men were more often fully employed or were pensioners, in the military or in civilian service. Women were significantly more often part-time employed or in training, had completed their training, an education, an internship or were housewives.


Almost half of those polled were in receipt of a monthly income of CHF 0-3,000.00 (Swiss Franks), 23% received 3,000.00-5,000.00, 27% received 5,000.00 – 10,000.00 and 6% more than 10,000.00.


Those taking part were then asked mainly where they grew up, up to the age of 18 years. 37% of the paeticipamts grew up in a town, 63% in the country, whereby it should be noted that the persons were allowed to make the distribution themselves without effective distribution between town or country.


A further question was whether the parents were separated/divorced. In those taking part, 23% reported the parents as separated or divorced and 77% not.


For the composition of the household, the result was that 24% were living in an apartment/house, 20% were living alone in an apartment/house, 1% as sub-lessees, 11% in a commune, 25% with their parents, 14% with children and partners in an apartment/house, 3% with children in an apartment/house. 2% had other living arrangements.


Figure 4 shows that more than 50% of the sample were single, whereby a majority were in a relationship.

   Chart 4: Percentage information (%) of the composition of the household


2.          Sexual wellbeing and sexual problems


The results of the questionnaire confirmed those of Maier (2002): Men fell physically and mentally significantly healthier, even significantly less tired and more satisfied with their viewpoint and sexual life. However, the question arises, whether men actually have better health than women. Possibly men admit less often that they are not feeling physically and mentally well. This would correspond to the traditional understanding of the fact that men must not show weakness. Contrary to this, men see themselves more shy than women It is feasible that this is a new development of the past years, that men feel less secure in their traditional roles or can nowadays show weaknesses more often.


Interesting in the polling of sexual problems seems to be the differences of the genders. Women mentioned as their most common problem that they cannot have an orgasm but for men this was in second-last place. Possibly women place too high a value on the orgasm and see the lack of it as a problem. Possibly the circumstances of lack of orgasm has a direct connection with the fact that women’s second most common complaint was sexual listlessness, which was down in place five for men. It is feasible that women make a cognitive link with the fact that they did not have sufficient desire when the orgasm was absent. As regards the appearance of sexual problems, the results of the study showed similarly high point prevalences as with Laumann et al (1999). With Laumann et all. (1999), as with this study, it is not clear whether this problem is a clinically relevant sexual dysfunction.

A fifth of those polled admitted to often having sexual problems. These problems caused 12% of those taking part to suffer strongly or very strongly. Possibly these 12% had thought of seeking help, yet only a few had actually sought help or were being treated. If need be, with information campaigns one could institute public discussion and offer persons with problems a platform for talks.


3.          Sexual orientation


In accordance with the term Monosexuality by Schmidt (2000), I have assessed sexuality on a five-step scale (exclusively heterosexual, mainly heterosexual, bisexual, mainly homosexual, exclusively homosexual), whereby 68% of those taking part saw themselves as “exclusively hetero or homo sexual”). Men polarized stronger than women, who selected the category “mainly hetero or homo sexual”. According to Schmidt et al (2000), “mainly hetero or homo sexual” is selected in order to express the view that there is no such thing as “exclusively hetero or homo sexual”. Primarily heterosexual men felt a weaker same-gender sexual attraction and were more sure of the stability of their sexual orientation than heterosexual women.


Of those taking part, 8% of the men and 2% of the women saw themselves as mainly or exclusively homosexual. These figures are higher than the figures of Kockott and Fahrner (2000),who showed a prevalence of 4-5% for men and 1-2% for women. It is notable that in both studies clearly more men than women stated being homosexual. It is open to speculation whether homosexuals and lesbians are more liable to take part in studies on sexuality, such as for instance this study, in order to form a counterweight to the heterosexual majority.


Four-fifth of those taking part were of the opinion that a homosexual orientation is permissible. However, this means that one fifth had reservations against homosexuals. With Schmidt et al (2000) only a tenth of the subjects were shown as having reservations. This tendency could mean, on the one hand that, against expectations, people in the past ten years have not become more open and tolerant but are more closed and intolerant. On the other hand, this could be a cultural difference between the Germans and the Swiss. Both possibilities, however, seem to be rather unfeasible. Despite attempts at explanations, the question of the different results of both studies remains open and there is a need for further research. Obviously there is a need for further reduction of prejudice, whereby various projects and programs (see, for instance, ABQ - Schulprojekt für gleichgeschlechtliche Liebe Bern and GLL – Gleichgeschlechtliche Liebe leben) [ABQ – School Project for Same-Gender Love, Bern and GLL – Same-Gender Love Life] are available.The contact hypothesis states that prejudices against outside groups are reduced by direct contact with members of the affected groups.


4.          Sexual behavior


Two-fifths (45%) of the men and half (54%) of the women had their first sexual experience between the ages of 14 and 16 years. This result is consistent with Schmidt, Klusmann und Zeitzschel (1992) who state that between 50% and 70% of the heterosexuals have their first experience at 17years of age or earlier. According to the result of Schupp (1999), a third of the men and a quarter of the women had their first homosexual experience also between 14 and 16 years. More than two-thirds of the homosexual men and four-fifths of the homosexual women had also already had heterosexual contacts. In contrast to this, only approximately a sixth of the heterosexual men and almost a fifth of the heterosexual women had already had homosexual contacts.


To summarize, it can be established that women seem to be more open, flexible and experimental to same-gender sexual experiences because they mentioned correspondingly more contacts, which could mean that the construct of Monosexuality (Schmidt et al. 2000) affects men more.


As regards the frequency of sexual contact, the results show that heterosexual men, as well as women and homosexuals report a similarly high frequency of sexual contact (25% of heterosexual men, 29% of the heterosexual women and 30% of the homosexual men had sexual contact 2-3 times per week). Lesbians, on the other hand had a lower frequency on average. Homosexual women had in equal proportions (18%) sexual contact 2-3 times, 1 time and every 2 weeks.


Heterosexual men and women as well as lesbians lived their sexuality primarily within the framework of a fixed relationship, but homosexual primarily outside it. Various speculations can be made on the occurrence of these differences. Homosexual men possibly separate sexuality and emotional links more than the other groups. Heterosexuals and lesbians apparently link sexuality mainly to partnerships. Homosexuals apparently follow other ideals and live their sexuality independently of their actual partnership. When one looks at the media or on the Internet, it seems that for homosexual there are also more opportunities (e.g. organized events) with the concrete aim of making sexual contacts. Also, homosexual seem to define loyalty differently and to live differently from other studied groups.


5.          Love and partnership relationships


Almost three quarters of those taking part lived in a fixed relationship. According to those taking part, the proportion increased with increased age. Half (49%) of the 16 to 19 years-olds had a fixed relationship, for the 30 to 49 years-olds it was already four-fifths (78%) and for the 65 to 79 year olds it was nearly 90%. These findings are in agreement with the results of Schmidt and Dekker (2000) whose students and thus younger participants were in a fixed relationship only in a proportion of two-thirds. Schmidt and Dekker (2000) also mention that, today, relationships are shorter and more serial. This circumstance can be explained by the theory of “pure relationship” of Giddens (2004) whereby, today, longer-term relationships are replaced by timed relationships. These tendencies can be confirmed by the study. For the 16 to 64 year-olds, a third to a half had three to five relationships, whereas, in contrast, the 65 to 79 year age group had primarily (80%) only one or two relationships.


Three-fifths of the heterosexual men and women and more than two-thirds of the homosexual man and women said that a deep link to their partner was their highest ideal in a relationship.. More than two-thirds of the men and almost three-quarters of the women were very happy in their relationship and said that they loved their partners. Half of those polled were of the opinion that their partner was equally strongly bound to the relationship as they were. From these facts it can be said that the requirements for an affective and binding relationship are present for most of them (see Schmidt et al. 2000). It is notable that the majority declared that they were happy in their current relationship, yet only half of all those polled said that they were as strongly involved in the relationship as their partner. It is possible that for one’s own self-worth feeling it is conductive to think that the partner is more strongly bound in order to feel more autonomous oneself. This would be consistent with the result that men more often state that the partner is more strongly bound, which could correspond to the traditional role understanding of the male.


According to the current cliché, men would like to have more sexual contacts. Women were basically satisfied with the frequency of the sexual contacts. This is also supported by the fact that women see the partnership sexuality in a more positive light than men. Only a total of ten percent of those taking part saw the sexuality with the partner as shadowed by conflicts or unsatisfactory. This frequency is also found by Klusmann (2000). The duration of the partnership was not taken into account in the current study. However this would be necessary in order to make differentiated statements.


Women demanded sexual loyalty more often than men. The latter stated more often that they had outside relationships (escapades, affairs, simultaneous fixed relationships, paid sex, other). With men it was almost two fifths and with women one fifth who had lived with one or more outside relationships. Similar results were also found in earlier studies by Laumann et al (1994) and Johnson et al (1994). Heterosexuals demanded loyalty more often than homosexual whereby the homosexual had the same gender differences as for the heterosexuals. Schmidt et al. (1990) determined that heterosexuals and lesbians demanded more loyalty that homosexuals. Congruent with the results of Schäfer and Schmidt (2000), homosexual men had outside relationships more often that the other three groups. There was a current outside relationship with a fifth of the heterosexual as well as a third of the homosexual men and with a tenth of the homosexual women. Two-fifths of the heterosexuals and even a third of the homosexual men evaluated their outside relationship as correct. With women it was on average somewhat more than a third. With only one-third of the men and somewhat more than two-fifths of the women, the partner knew of the outside relationship. This could possibly stem from the fact that outside relationships can be threatening for the relationship, whereby moral considerations could play a role, which was not measured. An outside relationship can be seen as a infringement of the loyalty, as a disturbance to the intimacy of partnership and/or as a hurt to the partner. However it could also be that an outside relationship is not declared in order not to unnecessarily complicate own relationship arrangements. All the tendencies on the subject of loyalty correspond to the study by Schäfer and Schmidt (2000).


In summary, it can be stated that there is congruency between the attitude and behavior between the two genders: Who demands loyalty is also prepared to be loyal and in the case of disloyalty will have more negative feelings as regards the escapade. It is an assumption that those persons will also be likely to report on the outside relationship, in this way to salve their consciences.


Self satisfaction is practiced by almost all those taking part, which also corresponds to Schmidt (2000). He mentions that self satisfaction has more and more become an independent sexual practice and is no longer an alternative method. Men satisfy themselves significantly more often than women whereby women in partnerships satisfy themselves least of all. Only in somewhat more than half those taking part who were in a relationship did the partner know of the masturbation behavior of the other, whereby women were significantly quieter about it. Also these results are congruent with those of Schmidt et al. (2000) as alo with American studies of Laumann et al. (1994). Why this is so is open to speculation and should be studied.


6.          Singles and the search for partners on the Internet


Most of the singles are not without partners through conviction, but because they have not found a suitable one. More than half stated that something is missing and therefore almost two thirds of them wished for a fixed relationship. As Bachmann (1992) also states, most of the singles have nothing against a partnership. According to Steinlin, Glause and Tschirren (1999) they also have nothing against sexual contacts but have less sexual contact than persons in a relationship. The results of the study confirm this in that two thirds of the single men and three quarters of the single women stated having too few sexual contacts.


Although women found it significantly easier than men to get to know a partner, single women have picked as their latest sexual contacts rather somebody they have already known for a longer period. In second position were contacts with a former partner. Possibly for women, trust and emotional closeness are important aspects of sexuality and they have picked a well-known person as sexual partner for this reason. Men, besides picking a known person, also often picked an unknown one. In how far men here have a different role understanding remains open. Singles search less for One-Night stands, but rather longer lasting, purely sexual relationships. This supports the assumption by Schmidt et al. (2000) that singles select mostly known sexual partners.


For a sexual contact, single men more often selected an unknown person although they stated that they were more shy and could not find a new partner that easily. It may be that unknown persons are a lesser “danger” for them when it was “only” about sexual contacts. Possibly this may be in connection with the result that significantly more men found someone on the Internet with the object of a sexual contact. In total half of those taking part had already found someone on the Internet, whereby younger persons more often took up Internet contact than older ones. Homosexuals used the Internet for sexual contacts more often than other groups.


7.          Risk behavior and protective motivation


Almost half of those taking part made use of condoms in their first sexual act as a protective measure, but a fifth did not use protection. With a view of the risk behavior the question arises why protection was not used. In the latest sexual act only a quarter used the pill or condoms. A further quarter of those taking part did not take protective measures in their latest sexual act and the other half used other protective means such as the hormone spiral. Also here the question arises of a risk consciously taken. Further data would have to be evaluated to obtain a clear picture and to be correlated with these results. Basically women and men use protective measures almost linearly less with advancing age. This must not mean persons take greater risks with increasing age. The probability is that these persons are more often in a fixed partnership and that sexually transmitted diseases therefore play only a smaller role. In addition, the desire for children, sterility following menopause or sterilization can also be taken as grounds.


Almost half of those taking part have once had worries of an infection with HIV and this is comparable with the results of Klusmann und Loens-Messtorff (2000). More than a fifth of the participants were of the opinion that one should always use a condom as protection against an HIV infection when having coitus for the first time with a new partner. With Klusmann und Loens-Messtorff (2000) this was two thirds. The difference can be due to cultural causes ot it could be a group effect which could mean that students are more consistent in the use of condoms. Perhaps “one” has become less careful in dealing with this subject since the study by Schmidt et al. (2000).


Almost half of those polled had already had a test for HIV. The number of HIV tests among those taking part was higher than for Klusmann und Loens-Messtorff (2000) and could be connected to the inconsistent use of condoms of those taking part, which could mean that the people wanted to be certain after the fact. Almost a quarter of those taking part personally knew someone who was HIV positive, had Aids or had died of Aids. Three-quarters of those taking part were of the opinion that their sexual lives were not risky with a view to an infection with HIV. Here further evaluation would be necessary in order to obtain a more accurate picture of how this estimate was arrived at.


Further risk factors are alcohol and drugs. Alcohol was the most (80%) frequently used substance of all age groups. The consumption of Marijuana/Hashish reached a peak (72%) in the 20 to 29 age group. Men consumed LSD, alcohol and mushrooms and other drugs significantly more often than women. Half of those asked never stimulated their sexuality with drugs, a quarter seldom, a further quarter sometimes and 4% of men and 6% of women, often. Also here it is seen that this occurs more frequently in the ages between 20 and 29 that in other age groups. Possibly the motivation is the hope of a more intensive sexual experience. It is possible that there is a connection with sexual problems or with unsatisfactory sexuality. Further questions arise whether the consumption of drugs has an influence on the protective behavior (see Bengel, 1993, 1996).


8.          Punishable actions against sexual integrity


Approximately a quarter of the women and more than 7% of the men have been forced into sexual actions. These figures correspond exactly those of Schmidt et al. (2000). From this it follows that this is general and stable information. With two-thirds of the affected men and women an existing power relationship was practiced. Almost as many were subjected to mental pressure and a quarter to a third were threatened with bodily force (25%) had experienced bodily force (31%) were raped (29%) or had to suffer a different type of sexual force (21%). These figures are high and it is unclear whether the Internet study, with its associated anonymity had influenced the answers more positively. However a more darker number can be inferred. In any case, this points to the necessity of reducing these abuses by means of targeted prevention and education


9.          Methological remarks


As this is a random sampling with self-selection, it is questionable whether the results can be generalized over the whole population. However, because of the direct comparison with Schmidt et al. (2000), one can assume a certain degree of representativeness. This study was carried out using an On-Line questionnaire, that of Schmidt et al. (2000) using a normal (paper) questionnaire. Because this study on the subject of sexuality addressed many taboos it was necessary to assume, independently of the type of data acquisition, that some persons may not always have answered truthfully but rather according to those desired by society. As filling out the questionnaire took at least 20 minutes it can generally be assumed that subjects who would give untruthful answers only for fun would nor take the trouble and would “fall away”.

Various subject matter of the acquired data will be used, on the one hand, in more detail by the author for her doctorate thesis and, on the other hand, will be processed and analyzed by Bachelors and Masters students.

At this point, the author, lic. phil. Dania Schiftan would like to thank her mentors Dr. Daniel Regli and Prof. Dr. Hansjörg Znoj very heartily for their great interest, their sincerity and their great assistance with the study.




Allport, G. W. (1954). The Nature of Prejudice (Kapitel 1-4). Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books Publishers.

Bachmann, R. (1992). Singles. Zum Selbstverständnis und zum Selbsterleben von 30- bis 40jährigen partnerlos alleinlebenden Männern und Frauen. Frankfurt/a. M.: Peter Lang.

Bengel, J. (1993). Gesundheit, Risikowahrnehmung und Vorsorgeverhalten. Göttingen: Hogrefe.

Bengel, J. (Hrsg.). (1996). Risikoverhalten und Schutz vor Aids. Wahrnehmung und Abwehr des HIV-Risikos. Situationen, Partnerinteraktionen, Schutzverhalten. Berlin: Ed. Sigma.

Giddens, A. (2004). The transformation of intimacy: sexuality, love and eroticism in modern societies (5. Aufl.). Cambridge: Polity Press.

Johnson, A. M. Wadsworth, J. Wellings, K. Field, J. & Bradshaw, S. (1994). Sexual attitudes and lifestyles. Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publications.

Klusmann, D. & Loens-Messtorff C. (2000). Die Wahrnehmung der Bedrohung durch AIDS. In G. Schmidt (Hrsg.). Kinder der sexuellen Revolution. Kontinuität und Wandel studentischer Sexualität 1966-1996. Eine empirische Untersuchung (Beiträge zur Sexualforschung, Bd. 77). Giessen: Psychosozial.

Klusmann, D. (2000). Sexuelle Wünsche und die Dauer der Beziehungen. In G. Schmidt (Hrsg.). Kinder der sexuellen Revolution. Kontinuität und Wandel studentischer Sexualität 1966-1996. Eine empirische Untersuchung (Beiträge zur Sexualforschung, Bd. 77). Giessen: Psychosozial.

Kockott, G. & Fahrner, E. M. (2000). Sexualstörungen des Mannes. Bern: Hogrefe.

Laumann, E. O. Paik, A. & Rosen, R. C. (1999). Sexual dysfunction in the United States. Prevalence and predictors. Journal of the American Medical Association, 281, 537-544.

Maier, H. (2002). Männergesundheit. In R. Schwarzer, M. Jerusalem & H. Weber (Hrsg.). Gesundheitspsychologie von A bis Z. 353-356. Bern: Hogrefe.

Schäfer, S. & Schmidt, G. (2000). Gleich- und gegengeschlechtliche Beziehungen. In G. Schmidt (Hrsg.). Kinder der sexuellen Revolution. Kontinuität und Wandel studentischer Sexualität 1966-1996. Eine empirische Untersuchung (Beiträge zur Sexualforschung, Bd. 77). Giessen: Psychosozial.

Schmidt, G. & Dekker, A. (2000). Seriell monogam, seriell allein. Beziehungsbiografien im dritten Lebensjahrzehnt. Kinder der sexuellen Revolution. Kontinuität und Wandel studentischer Sexualität 1966-1996. Eine empirische Untersuchung (Beiträge zur Sexualforschung, Bd. 77). Giessen: Psychosozial.

Schmidt, G. (1996). Hamburger Studie: Studentisches Sexualverhalten im sozialen Wandel, 1966-1996. Universität Hamburg: Abteilung für Sexualforschung.

Schmidt, G. (2000). Kinder der sexuellen Revolution. Kontinuität und Wandel studentischer Sexualität 1966-1996. Eine empirische Untersuchung (Beiträge zur Sexualforschung, Bd. 77). Giessen: Psychosozial.

Schmidt, G. Klusmann, D. & Zeitschel, U. (1992). Veränderungen der Jugendsexualität zwischen 1970 und 1990. Zeitschrift für Sexualforschung, 5, 191-218.

Schupp, K. (1999). „Sie liebt sie“ – „Er liebt ihn“: Eine Befragung von lesbischen, schwulen und bisexuellen Jugendlichen. In T. Hofsäss (Hrsg.). Jugendhilfe und gleichgeschlechtliche Orientierung. Berlin: VWB.

Steinlin, G. Glauser, A. & Tschirren, K. (1999). Singles über Lust und Frust. Seminararbeit. Institut für Soziologie der Universität Bern.