At the beginning of October 2010, the Center of Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University released the results of their National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB). This survey is the most comprehensive study of sexual behavior in the United States since 1994 and Alfred Kinsey’s research of the 1940’s and 1950’s before that. The results shed light on the sexual behavior of Americans through the life span, from age 14 through 94.

This information gathered about our sexual behavior does have some limitations. Most namely, the representative sample of those self-identifying as gay, lesbian and bisexual is too small to extrapolate. And, of course, the self-reporting of sexual behavior is fraught with the cultural baggage we are all subject to as living in the deeply sexually repressed culture that is the United States. With that said, the NSSHB used Internet-based surveys instead of personal interviews, which can alleviate some of the bias of underreporting that can happen when respondents feel judged due to their reported behavior.

Along with detailed information about the use of condoms, the NSSHB also ascertained a snapshot of Americans’ behavior behind the closed bedroom door. Some of these snapshots are what we might expect to see. However, a few of these snapshots are novel or have a bit of an edge. Maybe there is hope for America’s sexual coming of age yet!

Here are a few of those snapshots (with a bit of color commentary):

  • Half of all women between the ages of 18 and 60 masturbated in the past year despite what they might like you to believe.
  • While 7% of adult men report as gay and 8% of adult women report as lesbian, more people than who report as gay or lesbian have had same-sex experiences at some time in their lives demonstrating that self-reported sexuality labels are independent of actual sexual behavior. Not sure where the bisexuals, omnisexuals, pansexuals, transgendered, intersexed, heteroflexible and all other folks fit into this paradigm.
  • At least one-third and, for some ages close to half, of women and men between 18 and 50 masturbated with a partner. What sexy fun! Besides the foreplay angle, masturbating together can be an excellent time to show a partner exactly what gets you off.
  • More than 1 in 5 women and men between ages 20 and 40 engaged in anal sex in the last year trending up from the reporting in the last survey in 1994. Next time you are somewhere in public, look around, one of every five people you see had anal sex in the past year…unless that person is you. If not, maybe it’s time to give it a try.
  • Vaginal intercourse remains the most reported act of the acts reported by the NSSHB with at least half of all people between 18 and 60 having had vaginal intercourse in the last year with the 25 through 29 year-olds getting luckiest.
  • Overall, we are pretty creative in our sexy sessions with over 40 separate sexual behaviors reported at American adults’ most recent sexy session. Yummy!

This NSSHB does shed light on Americans sexual behavior. Perhaps this type of survey should be something that happens more than three times in over a century, just a humble suggestion. If the insights from the NSSHB and other future similar surveys normalize various sexual behaviors, maybe we can all let our sexual guards down a bit and enjoy our sexy sessions with a smaller helping of good old American sexual repression, guilt and shame.

2 Comments. Leave new

  • I think human sexuality is one of the most important facets of human life, and to have such little information and so few facts readily available about it is doing a disservice to humankind. Making this sort of survey an annual event would go a long way toward removing the stigma and mystery from common (and uncommon) sexual practices and mores in this puritanical nation—in other words, a good thing.

  • Agreed! Here's to sexuality education!


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