Why do single-sex services matter?

In February 2022 Sex Matters undertook a survey to find out why single-sex services matter to people. The response was astonishing. In a little over a week we received over 7,000 replies, nine out of ten of them from women. Many included details about how the loss of everyday single-sex spaces is affecting their lives in ways that are profound and devastating.

The loss of everyday single-sex spaces with the erosion of clear rules takes away comfort and security from many women. It makes every part of public life feel like a dark alley. It is the opposite of inclusion. Our survey provides evidence to support a call for simple, clear, statutory guidance which takes the fear out of providing single-sex services.

We will send a copy of the report to every MP, and every member of the devolved administration parliaments.

The report is available to download in three versions:

Thank you to everyone whose data and quotes are included in the report and all those whose photos are in the video.

More about the survey: The survey was designed to collect qualitative experiences and perspectives from people who value single sex services. It was hosted on Sex Matters’ website from 12 to 21 February 2022 and promoted on social media. It received 7,062 responses, and 97% of the people who responded stated that single-sex services were important to them. We analysed in detail the responses from people in the UK who said single sex services are important to them. There were 10 times as many UK women (5,559) as men (554).

It is not a representative survey, although, as we set out in the report our findings chime with what is found in representative surveys, which is that the majority of people prefer separate sex facilities for washing, changing and using the toilet, and do not expect access to these to be through gender self-identification.

This is not an issue for majority voting. Each individual should be able to know and consent to sharing single sex or mixed facilities. The message to service providers, regulators and politicians is not that every person is uncomfortable with sharing facilities and services with members of the opposite sex, but many are. If service providers ignore or dismiss their preference for single sex spaces they may be excluding them altogether.