50 Shades of Left and Right: Sex and Politics in Britain

Joe TwymanHead of Political and Social Research (EMEA)
February 13, 2015, 9:07 AM UTC

Warning: The article explores adult themes and is not suitable for children, the faint-hearted or the easily offended.

Across the world sex and politics so often go hand in hand and Britain is certainly no exception. For example, any lay person who has had the unbridled pleasure of attending a party conference might very well conclude that that such events exist largely to provide multiple opportunities for members of the political class to effectively engage in sexual congress with one another.

And while not all political figures can expect to command the kind of animal magnetism of a Roy Hattersley, the sheer sexual gravitas of a Lembit Opik, or the virginal allure of an Ann Widdecombe, many have let their sexual desires overcome them during the course of their political lives.

However, despite sex being such an important part of political life, and, indeed, life in general, relatively little substantive research has been conducted in this area. Anecdotal evidence suggests that on those occasions when such work has been slipped into funding applications, it is often then withdrawn at the last minute.

One instance when this area has been explored was with YouGov’s work for the chapters in the recently published Sex, Lies and the Ballot Box.

Valentine’s Day and the release of the film version 50 Shades of Grey provide the perfect opportunity to open up that data again and gently explore things.



To investigate the many nuanced relationships between sex and politics, YouGov asked a nationally-representative sample of British adults about, among other things, their own sexual behaviour and fantasies. In each case this was then cross-referenced against their party support. The different socio-demographic profile of supporters of each party means it is necessary to control for the age, gender, marital status, and sexual orientation of the respondents in order to identify the differences between the groups of different party supporters that are statistically significant and therefore truly important.

The data on specific sexual fantasies and actual behaviour, chosen from a list of popular sexual activities, highlights interesting differences between the parties. Once you control for the variables listed above, generally speaking, those on the right of the political spectrum have far fewer sexual fantasies that are statistically significantly more popular than those who support parties on the left. In contrast, the Conservatives were alone in having a relatively long list of fantasies that are significantly less popular when compared to supporters of the other parties.

In terms of the sexual fantasies and activities particularly explored in 50 Shades of Grey, Labour supporters are statistically more likely than supporters of other parties to enjoy oral sex (both giving and receiving), passionate kissing, role-play, spanking and wearing sexy outfits.

In the same way, Liberal Democrat supporters favour bondage and watching someone masturbate, but UKIP supporters disproportionately focus solely on using vibrators or dildos.

Only the Conservatives do not have anything from 50 Shades of Grey that they are statistically more likely to enjoy in realm of sex – it would appear on this evidence that they are indeed conservative on such matters.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

If you are interested in reading more, Sex, Lies and the Ballot Box (edited by Rob Ford and Phil Cowley) is published by Biteback and available from all good book shops.

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