Background Current information about numbers of other-sex partners, experiences of different heterosexual behaviours and the recent heterosexual experiences among a representative sample of Australian adults is needed. It is not known whether these practices have changed between 2001-02 and 2012-13.
Methods: Computer-assisted telephone interviews were completed by a representative sample of 9963 men and 10131 women aged 16-69 years from all states and territories. The overall participation rate among eligible people was 66.2%.
Results: Men reported more sexual partners than women, although the lifetime number of heterosexual partners reported by women increased significantly between 2001-02 and 2012-13. In 2012-13, 14.7% of men and 8.6% of women reported two or more sexual partners in the last year. Reporting multiple partners was significantly associated with being younger, being bisexual, living in major cities, having a lower income, having a blue-collar occupation and not being married. The proportion of respondents reporting ever having had oral sex or anal intercourse increased significantly since the last survey. At the last heterosexual encounter, 91.9% of men and 66.2% of women had an orgasm, oral sex was reported in only approximately one in four encounters and anal intercourse was uncommon.
Conclusion: There were increases between 2001-02 and 2012-13 in partner numbers among women and in the lifetime experience of oral and anal sex. The patterns of heterosexual experience in Australia are similar to those found in studies of representative samples in other countries.