Where do people meet their first sexual partner and their first life partner?

Population and Societies

496, January 2013

In the rural France of former times, marriages were often between neighbours. Public dances then became the most popular meeting place, but their role declined with the rural exodus. Michel Bozon and Wilfried Rault describe the places, both new and traditional, where people meet their first life partner today. But for most, their first sexual relations are no longer with the first life partner; so where do they meet their first sexual partner?
In France, people no longer find their first life partner as they did in the 1960s. Public dances and the neighbourhood are now much less frequent meeting places, while parties with friends (18%), the place of study 15%), public places (15%) and nightclubs and discotheques (11%) have grown in popularity. Despite the development of the electronic media in the 2000s, the Internet does not appear to play a major role in young people’s search for their first life partner. Moreover, the first sexual partner today is generally not the first life partner. The place of study is the most frequent setting for meeting the first sexual partner, more often for men than for women (39% versus 25%). However, more women than men meet their first sexual partner at a party with friends (15% versus 10%). The settings of daily living (school, work, public places and neighbourhood) account for more than 60% of encounters for men, versus less than 50% for women.
The higher a person’s level of education, the greater the likelihood that he or she will meet the first sexual partner in a place of study (generally at school). For the low educated, meetings in public places and at places that offer dancing are more common.

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