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2010 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior

It’s been sixty years since Alfred Kinsey’s groundbreaking reports on male sexuality. And another on female sexuality, opened the lid on the hidden sexual lives of Americans. It caused discomfort in many circles, but allowed for discussions that were off-limits in social circles, and probably even academic circles.

On October 1, a new was report was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, 130 pages of graphs and interpretations of data, plus commentaries on the information gleaned. It’s the most comprehensive survey since a similar, but smaller one, in 1994.

The survey was conducted from March to May of 2009 by the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University, Alfred Kinsey’s alma mater, and home to his study. The interviews were conducted in person, and included 5,865 participants from ages 14 to 94.

Unlike the 1994 study, it included questions on condom use; the study was funded by Church & Dwight Co. Inc., maker of Trojan brand sexual health products, and conducted by Michael Reese and three others from the Center for Sexual Health Promotion, and Stephanie Sanders of the Kinsey Institute.  . . .

There are some interesting results, including these teasers. You’ll read a section that has to do with sexual perceptions; in this case, the difference noted when men and women were asked if they had experienced orgasm in their most recent sexual event. 85% of men reported that their partners had achieved orgasm, as opposed to the 64% of women who reported experiencing them. I just thought I’d point out the…er…perceptual variations by males; 21% may not be enormous, but it’s significant, nonetheless. Please feel free to write your own jokes; I’ll desist for now, but it will cost me.

Please note that safe sex with condom use is practiced at higher rates among blacks and Hispanics than other groups; I’d imagine that is counter-intuitive among the public at large.

• There is enormous variability in the sexual repertoires of U.S. adults, with more than 40 combinations of sexual activity described at adults’ most recent sexual event.

• Many older adults continue to have active pleasurable sex lives, reporting a range of different behaviors and partner types, however adults over the age of 40 have the lowest rates of condom use. Although these individuals may not be as concerned about pregnancy, this suggests the need to enhance education efforts for older individuals regarding STI risks and prevention.

• About 85% of men report that their partner had an orgasm at the most recent sexual event; this compares to the 64% of women who report having had an orgasm at their most recent sexual event. (A difference that is too large to be accounted for by some of the men having had male partners at their most recent event.)

• Men are more likely to orgasm when sex includes vaginal intercourse; women are more likely to orgasm when they engage in a variety of sex acts and when oral sex or vaginal intercourse is included.

• While about 7% of adult women and 8% of men identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual, the proportion of individuals in the U.S. who have had same-gender sexual interactions at some point in their lives is higher.

• At any given point in time, most U.S. adolescents are not engaging in partnered sexual behavior. While 40% of 17 year-old males reported vaginal intercourse in the past year, only 27% reported the same in the past 90 days.

• Adults using a condom for intercourse were just as likely to rate the sexual extent positively in terms of arousal, pleasure and orgasm than when having intercourse without one.

Here is the Master Chart; it’s pretty interesting. You can click on the site’s main page to find interpretations and comments on the report by luminaries in the field.

I was interested in the numbers on masturbation; especially that the numbers only decline much after aged 60 or so.

What do you see? What surprises you? Are you glad to know these things about your fellow humans’ sexuality? Is it peculiarly American that the subject is still a source of embarrassment or shame? I know my eyes went blink-blink just considering so many sexual variants…

[Photo: Señor Codo via Flickr; Crossposted at]

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