The first question that most of us have about our sexuality and often one that follows us through life is “Am I normal?” Throughout the short history of sexual studies, mostly what has been uncovered is that “normal” encompasses an incredibly wide range of sexual preferences and behaviors. In the most recent comprehensive study of human sexuality conducted by researchers at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University- (think Kinsey Institute), the results from a survey of close to 6000 participants ages 14-94 confirm what we already know–that the variability of sexual behaviors in adulthood is still enormous, with more than 40 combinations of sexual activity described.
Moreover, rarely do adults engage in only one sexual act when they are having sex. Although vaginal intercourse is still the most popular act, now oral sex and partnered masturbation are also common behaviors. Still even with this reported variety, the orgasm question remains an open one, as 85% of men reported their partner’s having orgasm, while the only 64% of the female partners reported orgasms themselves. (The differences are not attributable to homosexual sex).
Some of the findings support what we have long known; like that men are more likely to orgasm when sex includes vaginal intercourse, whereas women are more likely to orgasm with a variety of sexual acts, especially oral sex. Similar discrepancies showed up in the reporting of homosexual identification, where the percentage of people who have reported participating in same gender sexual interactions was higher than those who identified as gay, lesbian and bisexual.
Also of interest in this new study is the inclusion of adolescents.“Many surveys of adolescent sexual behavior create an impression that adolescents are becoming sexually active at younger ages, and that most teens are sexually active,” Fortenberry said. “Our data show that partnered sexual behaviors are important but by no means pervasive aspects of adolescents’ lives. In fact, many contemporary adolescents are being responsible by abstaining or by using condoms when having sex.” Although the data is not crystal clear on this point as 40% of 17 –year-old males reported having sexual intercourse in the last year, but only 27% in the last 90 days.
One of the most striking results was that according to the study’s findings, only 1 of 4 acts of vaginal intercourse are condom protected in the U.S. (1 in 3 among singles). The study also showed that condoms are used twice as often with casual sexual partners as with relationship partners, a trend that is consistent for both men and women across age groups that span 50 years. Adults over the age of 40 report the lowest rate of condom use, although those who did use condoms were just as likely to rate the sexual experience positively as those who didn’t. Clearly the continued need for sexual health education, especially in terms of protection from STDs and HIV remains an issue.
Still curious about what everyone else is doing? Check out the sexual behavior graph. I bet you come away from it feeling pretty normal.