Most Young Adults: Oral Sex Is Not Sex
80% of Young Adults Surveyed Believe Oral-Genital Contact Doesn't Count as Sex
WebMD News Archive
April 8, 2010 -- What is sex? Think you have that answer down pat? Well, if
you have a teen or college-aged child, you might want to ask them what they
Most young adults agree penile-vaginal intercourse is sex, but less than one
in five think that oral-genital contact counts as “having sex,” according to a
2007 survey of undergraduate college students.
This attitude toward oral sex represents a dramatic and sudden shift in
thinking since 1991, when a similar survey found that nearly twice as many
young adults (about 40%) would classify oral-genital contact as sex.
Researchers point to former President Clinton’s infamous statement, “I did
not have sexual relations with that woman,” as the pivotal turning point in
society’s changing views about oral sex. The attitude shift has been dubbed the
“Like President Clinton, adolescents and young adults often interpret these
words with a degree of latitude, depending on whether they want to maintain an
image of being sexually experienced or inexperienced,” Jason D. Hans and
colleagues at the University of Kentucky, Lexington write in their report, “Sex
Redefined: The Reclassification of Oral-Genital Contact.”
A surge in abstinence-only education and sex education programs that focus
primarily on vaginal-penile intercourse also may play a role in the
disassociation of oral-genital stimulation from sex, the authors say.
Would You Say You Had Sex If ...?
The survey involved 477 undergraduate students, mostly white heterosexual
females, enrolled in a human sexuality class. The majority (98%) of
participants was age 24 or younger; the average age was 20.7 years.
The participants answered the following question:
“Would you say you ‘had sex’ with someone if the most intimate behavior
you engaged in was ...”
- Penile-vaginal intercourse?
- Penile-anal intercourse?
- Oral contact with partner’s genitals?
- Partner’s oral contact with your genitals?
- Partner touches your genitals?
- You touch partner’s genitals?
- Oral contact with partner’s breasts/nipples?
- You touch partner’s breasts/nipples?
- Deep kissing?
- Partner’s oral contact with your breasts/nipples?
- Partner touches your breasts/nipples?
Among the survey’s notable findings:
- Only 20% of those surveyed said oral contact with their partner’s genitals
would constitute sex.
- Almost 80% of participants considered penile-anal intercourse as sex.
Males were much more likely than females to say sex included the following
- Their partner touched their genitals (13% vs. 7%).
- Orally stimulating a partner’s breasts or nipples (9% vs. 4%).
- Touching a partner’s breast or nipples (8% vs. 3%).