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Teens aren’t as sexually active as adults might think, survey suggests

A new study of the sexual behavior of Americans — the first nationally representative survey of its kind since 1992 — has some good news for parents.

Teenagers, especially males, are getting the message about protective sex. Of the 820 teenagers, aged 14 through 17, who participated in the survey (with the permission of their parents), almost 80 percent of the boys and 58 percent of the girls who reported being sexually active also reported that they had used condoms during their 10 most recent sexual encounters.

That compares with about 47 percent of unmarried adults.

More good news for worried parents: The survey also found that teens aren’t particularly sexually active. Although 40 percent of the 17-year-old males surveyed reported engaging in vaginal intercourse during the past year, only 27 percent said they had done so during the past 90 days

As for us adults, the survey, whose findings appear in nine separate articles in a supplement to the Journal of Sexual Medicine, reports the following:

  • Americans are sexually creative. When asked to describe their most recent sexual encounter, the 5,865 survey participants, who ranged in age from 14 to 94, reported 41 different combinations of sexual activity.
  • The gender gap in sexual satisfaction continues. Although about 85 percent of men believed their partners had an orgasm the last time they had sex, only 64 percent of women reported experiencing an orgasm at their most recent sexual encounter. (Some, but certainly not all, of this difference may be accounted for by men having had male partners, say the survey’s authors.)
  • Sex is physically painful for a surprising number of women. About a third (30 percent) of women surveyed said they had experienced pain during the last time they had sex. This compares with about 5 percent for men.
  • More people report having same-gender sexual encounters than report being gay, lesbian or bisexual. In the survey, about 7 percent of adult women and 8 percent of adult men identified themselves as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. But the percentage of adults who reported having had same-gender sexual encounters at some point in their lives was higher — 10 percent of men aged 18 to 59, for example.
  • The efforts of Christine O’Donnell (Republican candidate for senator in Delaware) to stamp out masturbation haven’t worked. More than half of women aged 18 to 49 and more than 60 percent of men aged 18 to 59 in the survey reported masturbation as one of their sexual activities during the previous 90 days.

The survey was funded by Church and Dwight, Inc., which makes and sells condoms. The Indiana University researchers who conducted the survey insist that the company did not participate in the analysis of the data or in the writing of the journal articles. Although Church and Dwight will undoubtedly use the survey’s findings to encourage more use of condoms, the condom data itself is, as MedPage reporter Michael Smith points out, unlikely to be controversial.

You can download and wade through the entire nine articles here.

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