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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Why Our Sexual Identities and Sexual Behaviors Don’t Always Line Up

Why Our Sexual Identities and Sexual Behaviors Don’t Always Line Up

What percentage of the population is gay or bisexual? This is a surprisingly difficult question to answer because depending on the definition of sexual orientation you use—sexual identity, sexual attraction, or sexual behavior—you’ll come up with drastically different answers. For instance, in a recent nationally representative survey conducted in the United Kingdom, researchers found that about 2.5% of men and women reported an LGB identity; however, more than twice as many reported having had same-sex attractions and behaviors.

So why is that? Why is there often a discrepancy between someone’s sexual identity and their sexual behavior?

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What Percentage of the Population is Lesbian, Gay, or Bisexual? (Infographic)

What Percentage of the Population is Lesbian, Gay, or Bisexual? (Infographic)

How many people are lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB)? For one answer, check out the infographic below, which summarizes recent data from Britain's National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles. As you'll see, the researchers asked about sexual orientation in three different ways: sexual identity, sexual attraction, and sexual behavior--and each one yielded quite different numbers. It might be tempting to think that people's responses to these questions would line up, but they don't for several reasons including the fact that sexuality can be fluid and some people with same-sex attractions are uncomfortable with them and choose not to identify as a sexual minority. 

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Are You Asexual? Here’s How Scientists Measure Asexuality

Are You Asexual? Here’s How Scientists Measure Asexuality

Sex scientists have become increasingly interested in the topic of asexuality in the last few years. For example, they’ve published studies on everything from the genital arousal patterns of asexual individuals, to the biological correlates of asexuality, to the masturbation practices of asexuals. However, all of this research has generated some controversy over how best to measure asexuality because different researchers have used different definitions and measurement techniques. For example, some have focused on self-identification as asexual, while others have focused on a self-reported lack of attraction and/or behavior. If the broader literature on sexual orientation has taught us anything, it’s that identity, attraction, and behavior don’t always line up in the way that you might expect and shouldn’t be used interchangeably.

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Changes in Americans' Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors Since the 1980s (Infographic)

Changes in Americans' Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors Since the 1980s (Infographic)

In what ways have the sexual attitudes and behaviors of American adults changed in the last thirty or so years? For a look at the answer, check out the infographic below, which reviews selected data from the General Social Survey, including information on number of partners, how many people have had casual sex in the last year, and attitudes toward sex outside of marriage. To learn more about other changes that have occurred in Americans' sexual attitudes, check out this article for a look at how Americans' views on sexual morality have evolved.

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How Are “Wet Dreams” Related To Men’s Waking Sexual Behavior?

How Are “Wet Dreams” Related To Men’s Waking Sexual Behavior?

A male reader submitted the following question:

“Are wet dreams a sign that you aren’t ejaculating very much when you’re awake?”

Thanks for this very interesting question! So-called “wet dreams”—known among sex researchers as nocturnal emissions—are indeed related to men’s sexual behaviors during waking hours.

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Infographic: Sexual Behavior in the United States Today

Infographic: Sexual Behavior in the United States Today

How many American adults have ever had sex? And what kind(s) of sex have they had? For a look at the answers, check out the infographic below, which summarizes findings from the most recent wave of the National Survey of Family Growth. The prevalence of each sexual behavior assessed is reported separately for men and women. The numbers were very similar across the sexes, with one exception: reports of having ever engaged in same-sex behavior. Women were almost three times as likely to report this as men. See below for a closer look at the numbers.

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Infographic: Changes In Americans' Sexual Behavior In The Past 20 Years

Infographic: Changes In Americans' Sexual Behavior In The Past 20 Years

How have American adults' sexual attitudes and behaviors changed in the last two decades? Check out the infographic below for a look at what data from the General Social Survey has revealed. For a look at some additional ways that Americans' views on sex have changed in recent years, check out this article.

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Sex Question Friday: Is Bisexuality More Common In Women Or Men?

Sex Question Friday: Is Bisexuality More Common In Women Or Men?

Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week’s question comes from a reader who wanted to know more about the topic of bisexuality:

“I have always heard that there are more bi females than there are bi males. Is this true and, if so, why?”

Great questions! As for whether there are more bisexual females than males, the answer depends what you mean by “bisexual.”

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Facts About Orgasm (Infographic)

Facts About Orgasm (Infographic)

How many people had an orgasm the last time they had sex? Are certain sexual activities linked to a greater likelihood of orgasm than others? Check out the infographic below for the answers to these questions and more based on data from the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, the largest and most recent nationally representative study of Americans' sexual attitudes and behaviors.

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Sex Question Friday: Can A Man Fantasize About Another Man And Still Be “Straight?”

Sex Question Friday: Can A Man Fantasize About Another Man And Still Be “Straight?”

Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week’s question comes from a reader who wanted to know whether a guy can still be straight if he watches gay porn and fantasizes about being with other men.

If a boyfriend (of a female, so a "straight guy") appears to prefer gay male porn, gets incredibly turned on by it and fantasizes about anal sex (both giving and receiving) and oral sex (both giving and receiving) with a guy, is he really straight or is this a sign of something he's not sharing?

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Celebrating 60 Years Of Kinsey's "Sexual Behavior In The Human Female"

Celebrating 60 Years Of Kinsey's "Sexual Behavior In The Human Female"

Sixty years ago today (August 20, 1953), the media first reported on the findings of Alfred Kinsey's classic book Sexual Behavior in the Human Female.  It was the first book of its kind to explore women's sexual attitudes and behaviors from a scientific perspective. Although this book shocked the world at the time and many people considered it to be obscene, we look back on it now as one of the most important publications ever on human sexuality because it debunked numerous myths and revealed that women are much more sexual than previously assumed. For example, Kinsey found that women were masturbating, having sex before marriage, and engaging in same-sex behavior, among other things. Men aren't the only ones with sexual needs and desires? Who knew?

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What Are Americans Doing Beneath The Sheets These Days?

Although “sex” is a small word, it has quite a big meaning. Sexual behavior comprises a wide range of activities, and there is huge variation in the activities people practice and enjoy. In this post, I thought it would be worth taking a quick peek beneath the sheets to see what Americans today are actually doing in bed and how sexual behaviors differ across certain groups. In order to accomplish this, we will consider some of the key findings from the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB).1
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What Percentage of the Population is Gay?

What Percentage of the Population is Gay?
Every semester, students in my Human Sexuality course ask me what percentage of the population is gay or lesbian. Before answering this question, I usually give the class an opportunity to guess. Although this invariably leads to a wide range of responses, the most frequent number that comes up is 10%, and many students who cite this statistic are convinced that it is a fact. But are they right? Probably not. The 10% statistic comes from research conducted by Alfred Kinsey in the 1940s, in which he found that 10% of the men in his sample were gay. However, Kinsey’s participants were not representative of the overall population (for one thing, they were all White and most lived in big cities). He also oversampled from the gay community. Thus, we have to view his findings with a bit of caution. More recent research employing better sampling methods has reliably found that the number of sexual minorities in the population is a bit smaller.
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