Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Sex

Font Size

Most Young Adults: Oral Sex Is Not Sex

80% of Young Adults Surveyed Believe Oral-Genital Contact Doesn't Count as Sex
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

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 think.

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 “Clinton-Lewinsky” effect.

“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 behaviors:

  • 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%).

Today on WebMD

couple not communicating
How to tell when you're in one.
couple face to face
Get your love life back on track.
couple having an argument
Turn spats into solutions
couple in argument
When to call it quits.
Life Cycle of a Penis
HIV Myth Facts
How Healthy is Your Sex Life
Couple in bed
6 Tips For Teens
Close-up of young man
screening tests for men
HPV Vaccine Future