Are We Really in a “Sex Recession?”

Are We Really in a “Sex Recession?”

A recent study suggests that Americans are having less sex today than they were a quarter-century ago. These findings have received a lot of attention—I covered them on the blog when they were published in 2017, and they’ve been discussed in countless media articles around the world since, culminating in a widely read piece in The Atlantic last month, which took the results to mean that we’re in the midst of a “sex recession.”

But is that really the case?

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Sexlessness: How Many Americans Didn’t Have Sex Last Year?

Sexlessness: How Many Americans Didn’t Have Sex Last Year?

Most people have sex at least once in their lives. For example, in a longitudinal study of over 20,000 American adolescents who were surveyed repeatedly over a 15-year period, just 3% of them reported never having had vaginal, anal, or oral sex at any point. However, just because someone does it once, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they will remain sexually active throughout their lives.

For a variety of reasons, many people go through long periods of sexlessness, and a new study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior offers some insight into just how common this is.

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Monogamy Can’t Be Assumed—It Needs To Be Negotiated And Defined

Monogamy Can’t Be Assumed—It Needs To Be Negotiated And Defined

What does it mean to be in a monogamous relationship? It depends who you ask. In the modern world, it has become increasingly difficult to define “monogamy” in any kind of universally agreed upon way. Just think about it: what “counts” as infidelity to you? For example, does sexting someone other than your romantic partner constitute cheating? What about using an interactive pornography site?

It turns out that different people answer these questions in very different ways.

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Shifting Standards Of Sex: Whether A Given Behavior “Counts” As Sex Depends On Who Does It

Shifting Standards Of Sex: Whether A Given Behavior “Counts” As Sex Depends On Who Does It

You might think that it would be easy to define a term like sex—but it’s not. It turns out that different people have very different definitions, and they make all kinds of interesting distinctions. For example, some people only think that intercourse “counts” as sex if they have an orgasm. Further complicating matters is the fact that who’s participating in a given behavior influences what counts. Specifically, we seem to hold ourselves to different standards compared to other people.

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What “Counts” As Sex To Gay, Lesbian, And Bisexual Adults?

What “Counts” As Sex To Gay, Lesbian, And Bisexual Adults?

Research has found that there’s a lot of variability when it comes to what people define as “sex.” Perhaps not surprisingly, this means there’s a lot of variability when it comes to how they define “abstinence,” too. This only makes sense because, after all, these things go hand in hand: when people don’t think a certain intimate activity “counts” as having sex, they may consider themselves to be abstinent no matter how many times they’ve done it. For example, a lot of people don’t think oral sex counts, so they may say they’re abstinent despite the fact that it’s something they regularly do.

Though several studies have looked at people’s definitions of sex and abstinence, pretty much all of them to date have focused exclusively on heterosexual persons. This begs the question of how gay, lesbian, and bisexual adults define these terms.

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How Do College Students Define Sex?

How Do College Students Define Sex?

What does it actually mean to "have sex?" It depends who you ask. According to a new study published in the Journal of Sex Research, there is some pretty incredible variability in how college students personally define the term sex. There certainly seems to be a lot of agreement that things like vaginal and anal intercourse count as sex; however, students appear to be very split on whether things like oral sex and mutual masturbation count. It's also important to note that even behaviors such as breast stimulation and cybersex are viewed as sex by some folks. Check out the infographic below to learn more.

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