America's Changing Sex Habits

A new study pulls the covers off Americans' sex lives

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In the most extensive study on the subject in over a decade, Indiana University has published a new report on the sexual behaviors of Americans. Soliciting interviews from 5,865 people between ages 14 and 94, the report has a number of surprising findings related to condom use and sexual experimentation. It should be noted that the study was financed by Church & Dwight, the manufacturer of Trojan condoms.

  • Lots of Experimentation Going On, notes Katie Drummon at AOL News: "From teenagers to senior citizens, Americans across the country are getting frisky... The study indicates that 'normal' includes a vast array of sexual positions and practices. A grand total of 41 different activities, from oral sex to partner masturbation, were cited by participants as their most recent sexual experience. We're also experimenting between the sheets (or on the coffee table, or the kitchen floor) with same-sex partners. Around 7 percent of respondents identified as "other than heterosexual," but around 15 percent of adults had a sexual history that included oral sex with a same-sex partner."

  • The Downside of Experimentation  Brian Alexander at MSNBC writes: "All this can be fun, of course, but as our repertoire has expanded, we’ve created more disease pathways. HPV, the cause of cervical cancer and genital warts, can be transmitted to the anus and mouth. In fact, the rise in oral sex corresponds with a rise in the rate of oropharyngeal cancer. Infection goes the other way, too. There are more cases of genitals being infected with herpes type 1, the cold sore type. There is also a rise in the rate of anal cancers which can also be caused by HPV."
  • Some "Interesting Cocktail-Party Tidbits," writes Jen Doll at The Village Voice: "Most men said the'd had an orgasm the last time they had sex, and 85 percent believed their partner had; but only two-thirds of the women said they had. So who's misleading whom?"
  • Strange Behavior Regarding Masturbation, notes Judy McGuire at The Seattle Weekly: "The only thing I found vaguely surprising is that adult men in their mid/late twenties are more likely to jerk it (84%) than teenagers (62 - 81%). Not a huge gap, but a gap nonetheless. Then again, maybe the older guys are less embarrassed about copping to it."
  • Condom Use Is Becoming the Norm for Teens, writes Roni Caryn Rabin at The New York Times:  "Indeed, they are more responsible than adults about using condoms, the researchers report in a study coming out on Monday. A vast majority of sexually active 14- to 17-year-olds — 80 percent of boys and 69 percent of girls — said they had used a condom the last time they had intercourse, compared with well under half of adults involved in casual liaisons."
  • I Doubt Respondents Answered Truthfully, writes Alexandra Petri at The Washington Post:

I read the methodology. I got the impression that this methodology consisted essentially of "Asking people questions about their sex lives over the phone." I once answered a questionnaire about my sex life, but it was over the phone, so I limited all my responses to vague things like "yes," "no," "eighteen to thirty-six times," and "Rob Lowe," and when I hung up I told my roommate that it was about Breast Cancer Awareness. I would just love to have been in the room with those more than 5,000 scientifically and randomly selected individuals as they answered the questions. Do you realize the amount of overreporting that might have happened if the fraternity brothers of Kevin (participant, say, 582) realized what he was doing? "Two," he would say, then glance nervously around the room, "...hundred times a week!"

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.