New Study Unveils Sex Habits of Americans

By Lauren Horton

Did you know that there are over 40 different combinations of sexual acts?  Or that the rate of condom use is significantly higher in black and Hispanic Americans compared to whites and other racial identities?

A new study by the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB) conducted by Indiana University sexual health researchers, highlights the sexual behaviors of almost 6,000 adolescents and adults ranging in ages 14 to 94.  This study, presented in nine papers published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, is being delineated as one of the most comprehensive sexual studies in almost two decades.

One key finding of the study was that only 1 in 4 acts of vaginal intercourse were condom protected in the United States.  This statistic was only 1 in 3 amongst sexually active singles.  However, adolescent teens were at the highest of condom use rates with over 70% reporting condom use on their last sexual encounter.

Although vaginal intercourse was still noted as the most common sexual act, the variety at which many Americans are engaging in sexual expression is exponential.  In fact, many sexual events do not include intercourse at all but are circumnavigated through oral sex and partnered masturbation.  According to the research, engaging in added sexual variety equals more orgasms for both men and women.  With only 64% of the women claiming to have achieved full orgasm on their last sexual encounter the need for a wider variety of sexual activity is applicable.

Other key findings highlighted from the study include:

  • There is enormous variability in the sexual repertoires of U.S. adults, with more than 40 combinations of sexual activity described as 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.
  • 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.

With sexual curiosity on the rise, researchers have noted that the information ascertained is important in keeping the public and health officials up-to-date on safe sexual behavior and condom use.  The goal of revealing the data is to assist in reinforcing better public health programs conceptualized to enhance the sexual health of our country.