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Sex and Sacrifice for Russian Women

Russian women: Who knew they were this giving? But according to the results of a surprisingly frank sex survey conducted by Russian Cosmopolitan magazine, it is one of the most selfless aspects of carnal embrace that women rank above all others: their partner's orgasm.

Not their own orgasm, which ranks a mere sixth among 15 possibilities, including everything from "tenderness" to "talking dirty." But the survey -- the first of its kind in a country where sexual matters have always been kept almost painfully private -- shows that women in fact want more than to simply please their husbands and lovers. Much more.

The survey, which comprised 39 questions published in the November/December issue of Cosmopolitan, introduces a Russian Cosmo girl who is educated, urbane and financially secure. The majority of the survey's 1,700 respondents were between the ages of 20 and 30, holders of a college degree, lived in big cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg and were either married or involved in serious, steady relationships. One-third had a monthly family income of $75 to $125 per member, while another third earned between $125 and $300 per member.

The survey pool is a fairly select group, but the survey results could seemingly be those of nearly any country. The average age at which most of the magazine's readers began their sex lives is just over 18, the survey reports. Most respondents have had no more than five sexual partners, and 75 percent use a regular form of birth control, whether condoms, the pill or coil method. A majority of women have sex more than once a week -- and 57 percent say they would like to have sex even more often.

"The biggest surprise is that Russian women are not as different from everyone else as we thought they would be," Cosmopolitan co-editor Ellen Verbeek said Tuesday at a press conference simultaneously announcing the survey results, the magazine's one-year anniversary and the launching of the Russian edition of Good Housekeeping. "We compared our results to similar surveys in France, England and Holland, and they were practically the same."

In fact, the biggest differences lay between Russian and American women, Verbeek added. Wryly commending Russian "liberalism," she noted that nearly 55 percent of Russian women report being unfaithful to their husbands or regular partners, while in America the number is much lower.

Cosmo co-editor Yelena Myasnikova added that a second, standard sex survey will be published in all of Cosmopolitan's 28 versions in July, allowing for truly international comparisons to be drawn.

"The best part was that so many people responded. 1,700 is an extremely concrete number," said Sergei Agarkov, a doctor and sexopathologist who helped the magazine's editorial staff organize the survey and analyze its results. The last sex survey of such breadth in this country, he added, was conducted in the 1920s. "It's also interesting to confirm that in fact Russian women are a varied and independent group -- they like sex, they like variety and they often have a number of partners."

Another interesting result of the survey, Agarkov added, was perhaps the most arresting: 65 percent of the respondents admitted that they occasionally fake orgasm. Reasons published in the May article accompanying the survey results were numerous: "I approach sexual relations with men like theater, in which I play the leading role. I am sure that not one of my partners knows that I get no satisfaction with them," wrote one woman. "I have been married for two years," wrote another. "My husband is certain that I am always satisfied. I am scared to tell him the truth."

"The numbers we've always come up with in the past with regards to women faking orgasm have been around 15-17 percent," said Agarkov. "This 65 percent is truly shocking."

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