Letter from Prague

There's a never-ending debate as to which nation can claim to be the greatest lovers in the world. Traditionally, the French and the Italians have laid claim to be the most highly sexed and the most dynamic between the sheets. The Brits, on the other hand, are reputed to be the erotic equivalent of the Skoda 100 car. They shake and bang a lot but at the end of it all they get you to your destination.

The Americans are never really cited in international arguments over sex. They just keep quiet, as if doesn't really exist, and when it evidently does, it's all Bill Clinton's fault. There's obviously something to be said for keeping quiet, though; in a survey conducted by the condom manufacturers Durex released this week, our friends over the Atlantic have the most active libidos on the planet.

The survey revealed that the average American does it--very sorry, makes love--132 times a year. Their old rivals Russia were runners up, getting down between the sheets on average 122 times a year. Obviously the real action during the Cold War lay elsewhere. The French were just behind the Russians with 121. But where were the Czechs? Nowhere, it seems, and certainly not in the bedroom as much as some of the other nationalities. The average Czech, Durex revealed, has sex less than 100 times a year.

Why then? Why are some nationalities more likely to have sex than others? Some of the reasons are quite obvious. Some of the lowest rates on the planet were scored by Muslim nations, for example, where there are taboos over making public ones sexual activities. The Czech Republic does not have that excuse. 40 percent of Czechs are non-believers and 40 percent describe themselves as being Roman Catholic. Not that religion should make any difference at all once the vow of marriage has been made. As the priest tells the Irish schoolgirls in the Mary O'Mally play Once a Catholic "after that, you can bang away to your heart's content."

It is diet, maybe? I've often wondered whether it's a reason. After a filling evening meal of Czech gulas and dumplings, washed down with a couple of glasses of beer, there's nothing better than, well, simply plonking down in front of the TV and falling fast asleep. It's just a thought! Perhaps it's stress. Now I'm not saying that the Russians and Americans are not stressed, but maybe what with the Czech Republic being a relatively new democracy, the pace of change may well be too much for lovers to handle. Think of poor Honza: spends his whole day behind the counter at the newly privatized bank. Spends the day wondering if the boss likes him or not and then in the evening heads off to night school to study for his banking exams. He comes home to Eva at about 9 o'clock but there's no food waiting for him. Eva has just got back from her English class over the other side of the city. After they've prepared something, it's almost 11 o'clock, and both of them, naturally, are shattered.

Maybe it is understandable. Perhaps relaxation isn't given sufficient emphasis in the modern-day Czech Republic.

Has anybody ever considered, though, that the results could simply be revealing which country has the highest opinion of itself? Do Americans really have sex more often that Czechs, or do they just like to believe that they do? If so, it might explain why the larger and more politically powerful nations of the world have--to coin a phrase--outscored the smaller, less powerful ones.

Maybe Czech people, far from being irregular or, God forbid, bad lovers, just have a lower self-esteem in general than say the Americans, Russians and the French. They certainly are not a country of boasters.

There is one area where the Czechs do score very highly, though, and that's in the number of sexual partners that they have during a lifetime. Czech men can boast an average 10 different partners during their lives and women five and a half (which half, I don't know). We already know that religious belief is one of the strongest factors determining the number of sexual relationships that people have during a lifetime. The Czech Republic, with 40 percent of the population, has the highest number of non-believers in Europe.