Trends in sexual behavior

Are people having sex earlier now than they used to?

bedroomThat is the sexual behavior trend, though it’s more gradual than most people think. For men and women born between 1933 and 1942, average age at first intercourse was 18. For those born 20 years later, average age at first intercourse had fallen by only about six months. Looked at another way, however, teenage sexual activity is on the increase. Between 1971 and 1988, the number of high school seniors who’d had more than one sexual partner increased by nearly 60%.

Why is the average age at first intercourse declining?

In reality, there are biological as well as cultural factors at play in this trend. Due to improved health and nutrition, children reach puberty at earlier ages than they used to. At the turn of the century, the average age for onset of puberty for girls in the U.S. was 17; today, it’s 11. Meanwhile, the average age at which people marry has risen. Some 80% of those born between 1933 and 1942 had married by age 27 versus 50% of those born 20 years later. This makes it more likely today for people to have had several sexual partners before they settle into a marriage or another long-term relationship.

Whatever happened to the value that you wait until you’re married to have sex?

Values change, and not everyone has the same values. With all we hear about our promiscuous society, it’s noteworthy that some 16% of men and 20% of women still remain virgins until marriage. Whether it is better to remain sexually abstinent before entering a lifelong sexual commitment is debatable. Often the decision is based more on religious and cultural values than medical fact. There is no question that abstinence is the surest way to avoid sexually transmitted disease (STDs), but it’s also possible to enjoy an active and rewarding sex life and still maintain high degree protection from STDs. Being sexual healthy, however, is not just a matter of avoiding STDs. Equally important is the ability to appreciate one’s body, feel secure and comfortable within one’s own sexuality, and express love and intimacy in ways that are mutually satisfying.

Is having sex as a teenager harmful?

Not necessarily, but there are obvious risks. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and teen pregnancy are the most obvious potential problems, but there are psychological issues as well. The motivation to start having sex is not always straightforward. In some surveys, more than half of adolescent girls report that they did not really want to have intercourse the first time but went along with it anyway. And some studies suggest that a growing number of boys feel the same way.

Are we, as a society, overly concerned with sex?

That point is often made in reference to the entertainment industry and the disproportionate amount of sexual content in movies, TV, and advertising. Sex is used to sell everything from cosmetics to cars, and sex is often the key to the story line as well. One study showed that a viewer will encounter an average of 22 sexual references in an hour of prime-time TV for every one reference to birth control or disease prevention. Another showed that there were more than eight sexual interactions on average in TV’s “family hour.”

All of this creates the impression that everyone is having lots of fun with sex and very few problems–especially very few health problems. However, the definitive National Health and Social Life Survey (1994) tells a different story: Sexual relationships in real life don’t much resemble sex on TV. People in the U.S. average fewer than five sexual partners in a lifetime, and they must contend with issues like sexually transmitted disease and unintended or ill-timed pregnancy, as well as problems of sexual function and fertility, which can keep people from enjoying sex or being able to conceive a child. Far from being overly concerned about these problems, the entertainment industry has failed to give them sufficient attention.

What is the peak age for sexual drive?

Even though both sexes become biologically prepared for sexual activity during adolescence, men tend to be most orgasmic during adolescence and in their early 20s. Women tend to be most orgasmic between their mid-20s and mid-40s.

How often do most people have sexual intercourse?

Rates vary tremendously. The National Health and Social Life Survey found that about 35% of respondents had sex more than two times per week; about 35% had sex one or several times a month; and the remaining 30% had sex only a few times a year or not at all.

Overall, about a third of married couples have sex two or three times a week. Interestingly, this is higher than the rate among singles who don’t live with a partner and lower than the rate among singles with a live-in mate. Couples who identify themselves as gay or bisexual, according to the researchers, engage in sexual activity at roughly the same rates as heterosexuals, though gay and bisexual singles tend to have a greater number of different partners.

Is the frequency of sex with a partner an important indicator of sexual health?

Frequency is an issue for many couples. One of the most common reasons couples see a sex therapist is a mismatch of sexual desire. On the other hand, frequency is not nearly as meaningful an index of satisfaction as one might think. Sexual drive and expression are probably as unique as the proverbial fingerprint, and a person having sex once a week may be as happy and healthy as someone who has sex five times a week. The important thing is to make sure both partners agree on the frequency of intercourse and talk it over if they don’t.

Does sexual activity decline markedly as people age?

Contrary to popular belief, people can continue to have satisfying sexual relationships for as long as they want, provided they are not physically incapacitated. In studies of sexual activity among those over 60, researchers find, not surprisingly, that those who enjoy sex in their 30s and 40s tend to continue to have satisfying sex into their 70s and 80s. Those who find sex distasteful in their younger years or have sexual health problems often see old age as a way of closing this chapter of their lives or relationships.

Sexual drive, on the other hand, does lessen with age, and both men and women can experience a loss of sexual function, including problems associated with changing levels of hormones. Medical science, however, has devised a growing array of treatments for problems of sexual function.

For the most part, those over age 60, whether single or in couples, continue to have an interest in sex and often become more comfortable and more open with one another.

Is oral sex normal?

Yes. At some time in their lives, about three-quarters of women and men have both given and received oral sex. Not everyone enjoys it, however. While 45% of men find receiving oral sex “very appealing,” only 17% of women say the same about giving it. And 29% of women say that receiving oral sex is “very appealing,” while 34% of men say the same about giving it.

What percentage of people have anal intercourse?

Roughly one-quarter of men and one-fifth of women say they have experimented with anal sex at some point. Far fewer – less than 10% – report having had anal intercourse in the last year.

How many people masturbate?

More than 60% of men and nearly half of all women masturbate. Women tend to start masturbating at a later age than men, and they masturbate less often: 27% of men masturbate once a week, compared with only 8% of women.

It’s important to note that masturbation is not a singles-only phenomenon: A large percentage of those who live with a partner – 85% of men and 45% of women–say they masturbate. Married people, in fact, are significantly more likely to masturbate than those living alone. About half of those surveyed felt guilty about masturbation.

Does masturbation desensitize the sexual organs or have other ill effects?

This is a question that many people pose, apparently out of worries that self-pleasuring is either psychologically or physically unhealthy. The fact is that most of us grow up with the idea that masturbation is at least embarrassing or possibly morally wrong in some way. Some religions frown on it. Yet, as evidenced by the number of people who do it, masturbation is a normal part of sexual discovery, exploration, and expression.

Masturbation can be beneficial physiologically: As one ages, for example, it can help keep pelvic muscles toned. It can also be extremely useful in helping men and women learn more about their patterns of arousal so that they can relax and enjoy sex with a partner.

Occasionally, masturbation can become compulsive and have detrimental effects on a relationship. Frequent masturbation may interfere with a person’s ability to be aroused by a partner, leaving both with unsatisfactory sexual experiences. In addition, a small number of people may develop habitual ways of masturbating and become dependent on these for orgasm. This may lead to problems adapting their “style” to sex with a partner.

How many people use vibrators? Are they harmful?

In the largest survey to date, an estimated 2% of sexually active American adults use vibrators either for partnered sex or masturbation, and 1% say they use other sex toys.

While many types of vibrators are not made for insertion into the vagina or anus, some are, and these devices can cause internal damage if they are used improperly. Shared sex toys also represent a means of spreading of sexually transmitted infection, so care must be taken to observe rules of good hygiene and principles of safer sex.

November 6th, 2016 by