Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

IU study finds no consensus in definitions of 'had sex'

04.03.2010
When people say they "had sex," what transpired is anyone's guess. A new study from the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University found that no uniform consensus existed when a representative sample of 18- to 96-year-olds was asked what the term meant to them.

Is oral sex considered sex? It wasn't to around 30 percent of the study participants. How about anal sex? For around 20 percent of the participants, no. A surprising number of older men did not consider penile-vaginal intercourse to be sex. More than idle gossip, the answers to questions about sex can inform -- or misinform -- research, medical advice and health education efforts.

"Researchers, doctors, parents, sex educators should all be very careful and not assume that their own definition of sex is shared by the person they're talking to, be it a patient, a student, a child or study participant," said Brandon Hill, research associate at the Kinsey Institute.

The study, conducted in conjunction with the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention in IU's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, delves deeper into a question first examined in 1999 -- in the midst of a presidential sex scandal where the definition of sex was an issue. Researchers from The Kinsey Institute asked college students what "had sex" meant to them, taking the approach, which was unique then, of polling the students on specific behaviors.

No consensus was found then, either. The new study, published in the international health journal "Sexual Health" in February, examined whether more information helped clarify matters -- study participants were asked about specific sexual behaviors and such qualifiers as whether orgasm was reached -- and researchers also wanted to involve a more representative audience, not just college students.

"Throwing the net wider, with a more representative sample, only made it more confusing and complicated," Hill said. "People were even less consistent across the board."

The study involved responses from 486 Indiana residents who took part in a telephone survey conducted by the Center for Survey Research at IU. Participants, mostly heterosexual, were asked, "Would you say you 'had sex' with someone if the most intimate behavior you engaged in was ...," followed by 14 behaviorally specific items. Here are some of the results:

Responses did not differ significantly overall for men and women. The study involved 204 men and 282 women.

95 percent of respondents would consider penile-vaginal intercourse (PVI) having had sex, but this rate drops to 89 percent if there is no ejaculation.

81 percent considered penile-anal intercourse having had sex, with the rate dropping to 77 percent for men in the youngest age group (18-29), 50 percent for men in the oldest age group (65 and up) and 67 percent for women in the oldest age group.

71 percent and 73 percent considered oral contact with a partner's genitals (OG), either performing or receiving, as having had sex.

Men in the youngest and oldest age groups were less likely to answer "yes" compared with the middle two age groups for when they performed OG.

Significantly fewer men in the oldest age group answered "yes" for PVI (77 percent).

Hill said it is common for a doctor, when seeing a patient with symptoms of sexually transmitted infections, to ask how many sexual partners the patient has or has had. The number will differ according to the patients' definitions of sex.

William L. Yarber, RCAP's senior director and co-author of the study, said its findings reaffirm the need to be specific about behaviors when talking about sex

"There's a vagueness of what sex is in our culture and media," Yarber said. "If people don't consider certain behaviors sex, they might not think sexual health messages about risk pertain to them. The AIDS epidemic has forced us to be much more specific about behaviors, as far as identifying specific behaviors that put people at risk instead of just sex in general. But there's still room for improvement."

Co-authors include lead author Stephanie A. Sanders, Kinsey Institute, Department of Gender Studies and RCAP at IU; Cynthia A. Graham, Kinsey Institute and RCAP at IU, Doctoral Course in Clinical Psychology at the University of Oxford; Richard A. Crosby, Kinsey Institute and RCAP at IU, Department of Health Behavior at the University of Kentucky; and Robin R. Milhausen, Kinsey Institute and RCAP at IU, Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition at the University of Guelph.

Yarber is professor in the departments of Applied Health Science and Gender Studies at IU and is a senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute. Hill also is a researcher in the Department of Gender Studies at IU.

Hill can be reached at 812-855-7686 and brjhill@indiana.edu and 812-855-7686. Yarber can be reached at 812-855-7974 and yarber@indiana.edu. For a copy of the study, contact Jennifer Bass at jbass@indiana.edu.

Sanders, S., Hill, B., Yarber, W., Graham, C., Crosby, R., Milhausen, R., (2010) "Misclassification bias: diversity in conceptualisations about having 'had sex,'" Sexual Health. 7(1), 31-34.

Brandon Hill | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.indiana.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Real-time feedback helps save energy and water
08.02.2017 | Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg

nachricht The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA's fermi finds possible dark matter ties in andromeda galaxy

22.02.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Wintering ducks connect isolated wetlands by dispersing plant seeds

22.02.2017 | Life Sciences

Impacts of mass coral die-off on Indian Ocean reefs revealed

21.02.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>