THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Sex survey sheds some light

Results suggest more teens are picking abstinence

By David Brown
Washington Post / March 4, 2011

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WASHINGTON — The federal government’s latest survey on sexual behavior in the United States contains evidence for just about every theory, supposition, and hope that people hold about the secret world of Americans’ sex lives.

Most adults are monogamous. Lots of teenagers are having sex. Lots are also heeding abstinence messages. Oral sex may be a gateway — and for some teens also a stopping point — on the way to sexual intercourse. Women have more same-sex liaisons than men. Or at least are more comfortable talking about them.

Those findings and more came from interviews with 13,495 men and women in the latest round of the National Survey of Family Growth, conducted from 2006 to 2008 and released yesterday.

Among the notable findings was that in the 15 to 24 age group, 29 percent of females and 27 percent of males report never having had sexual contact with another person.

Across the entire age-span surveyed — age 15 through age 44 — 13 percent of women reported some same-sex sexual behavior in their lifetime, compared with 5 percent of men.

The purpose of the survey, conducted seven times since 1973, is to provide basic information for public health policy. It is especially useful in charting behaviors that affect risk of sexually transmitted diseases and family planning.

There is no overarching message from the myriad findings. However, Anjani Chandra, the demographer who authored the analysis released by the National Center for Health Statistics, said that “for some people, it may be news that these behaviors exist at all in the general population.’’

That nearly one-third of people in their late teens or early 20s report no sexual activity leaps out of the findings, said Bill Albert, chief program officer of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, a Washington advocacy group.

“The public’s general perception is that when it comes to young people and sex, the news is bad and likely to get worse,’’ he said. The new report, however, provides at least indirect evidence that “many, many young people have been very receptive to the message of delaying sexual activity.’’

Notable findings
▸In the 15 to 24 age group, 29 percent of females and 27 percent of males report never having had sexual contact with another person — higher percentages in both cases than in 2002, when the survey was last conducted. In the older 25-44 age group, however, 98 percent of females and 97 percent of males report having had vaginal intercourse, with approximately 90 percent having oral sex as well. Slightly more than one-third (36 percent) of women and 44 percent of men report having had anal sex.
▸Across the entire age-span surveyed — age 15 through age 44 — 13 percent of women reported some same-sex sexual behavior in their lifetime, compared to 5 percent of men.
▸Many more men (21 percent) than women (8 percent) report having at least 15 sex partners in their lifetime.

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