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November 16, 2010

1:59
P.M.

Sex study: Sexual behavior, habits, and enjoyment

Total Responses: 46

About the hosts

About the host

About the topic

The Kinsey Institute's Debby Herbenick will be online Tuesday, Nov. 16, at 2 p.m. ET to discuss a new national study on sexual behavior.

Last month, researchers from Indiana University's Center for Sexual Health Promotion published what they said was the most comprehensive new national study on sex in nearly 20 years. Their findings on sexual behavior, habits, and enjoyment disproved some accepted beliefs on Americans and sex. Read the Washington Post story on the survey here.
Q.

Female orgasm vs male

How often (percentage of times) do women experience orgasm when having intercourse? How often for men? ( I expect near 100 percent).

A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

We did not ask individuals to estimate the proportion of the time that they experience orgasm from intercourse. It would have given us an estimate, I suppose, but people's memories and "rough approximations" don't always match their experiences. However, we did ask men and women whether or not they experienced an orgasm during their most recent event (something that is often easier to recall).

Looking at adults ages 18 to 59, we found that 91.3% of men and 64.4% of women reported experiencing an orgasm during their most recent sexual event. For adults ages 50+, these rates were 86.9% of men and 70.7% of women. You can find more details in the full report at www.nationalsexstudy.indiana.edu.

– November 16, 2010 2:00 PM
Q.

Indiana Uni. Sex Study

Does the study address where "sex culture" is headed in the future? When will the gay/straight binary be passe?
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

This is a very interesting question. The data we collected provide information about contemporary sexual behavior in the US. However, we are not able to use it to project out into the future in terms of "sex culture." Certainly there has long been evidence that people's sexual behavior and their self-identified sexual orientation do not always match up - that is, some people who identify as heterosexual sometimes or often have sex with people of their same gender, and some people who identify as homosexual sometimes or often have sex with people of another gender. And certainly the label of a certain sexual orientation is more important to some people than it is to others. For some, having a label helps them to feel part of a community whereas for others it feels confining.

– November 16, 2010 2:03 PM
Q.

Promiscuity

I once was told sex is more addictive for men than heroin. Is there any basis to this claim and if so does this help to explain promiscuous behavior?

A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

Many things are said about sex and sexual drive however I know of no evidence to suggest that sex is physically addictive. However, that's not to say that human body chemistry and hormones don't change in response to sexual interest, drive and experience. Scientists have a great deal to learn and understand about the human sex drive including why some people are able to manage their sexual behavior and others find it challenging to do so. The whole concept of "sex addiction" is quite controversial among scientists who study sex. Those who are interested in the topic might find it of interest to read scientific research published by Dr. John Bancroft and/or Dr. Eli Coleman.

– November 16, 2010 2:05 PM
Q.

Masturbation, pornography

The research seems to put a whole lot of emphasis on condom usage while at the same time seemingly diminishing the importance of other contraceptives. Unwanted pregnancy, pregnancy and childbirth are, of course, all of sexual import, but from the outsider it appears that the researchers focus was biased by one of the funders- Trojan. And, of course, all stds are not prevented by Trojans and do not relate to vaginal intercourse, eg, the increase in cunnilingus rates appears to be related to the increase in oral cancers experienced by men. More generally, the authors seems to focus on behavior and not on the subjective experience of those who engage in said behavior. For example, behaviorally and phenomenologically study is lacking in the area of masturbation, eg,guilt, context, use of pornography, ideation, etc. AND there appears to be nothing on pornography which just about all observers agree has played a major role in American life over the last 30 years. Having no questions on porn usage, if such was the case, is shocking!!
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

Thank you for your question. Given that several members of our team (including me) work in the area of public health, and condoms remain our only device that can greatly reduce the risk of some STIs including HIV, we have a particular interest in the factors that influence condom usage.

I absolutely agree that other forms of contraception use are important to study and we included questions about those as well. Some of these data are available in the current study (see www.nationalsexstudy.indiana.edu) and others will be coming out in future papers, as the special issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine only highlights the first nine papers to come from the study.

Given the length of the study, we were quite limited in the number of questions we were able to ask of participants. I agree that more scientific study of pornography use and its effects on individuals are needed; however, this study was not set up to answer that question. Due to space and financial limitations, we were not able to ask questions about a number of topics we were interested in but perhaps in the future we and other scientists will be able to do so.

– November 16, 2010 2:10 PM
Q.

Sexual Behavior in Varying Age Groups

Is there made any part of this study regarding sexual behavior between couples of varying age groups? Some insights into the attraction and behavior of men to women or women to men of ages between 21 and 65, for example? Or, in between? I notice a very high number of couples, of educated men and women with half of the couple in their twenties, the other half in their forties. I think this is interesting.

A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

I agree that intergenerational adult couples are quite interesting. However, that was not the topic of this particular study. There has been strinkingly little research on this topic even though adult couples with large differences are quite common. That's certainly a study I would love to conduct one day!

– November 16, 2010 2:11 PM
Q.

Did the sex study investigate circumcision?

Like many in my generation I was circumcised as an infant. As a young man it was no big deal, but I never understood premature ejaculation. Generally reaching climax when having intercourse required some speed up. Condoms were always a deal killer; there isn't enough sensation with a condom. Now in my 50s I find my penis very insensitive. Maintaining a hard erection while masturbating is possible because you can squeeze hard. Having intercourse seems doomed to failure. I blame circumcision, however, admittedly it is impossible to compare with being uncircumcised. I wish it had never happened. What right do doctors have to push this unnecessary procedure? What do American men think today? What do women think? Is it true that an uncircumcised man needs less artificial lube because the foreskin is a buffer in movement?
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

You raise some very good (and timely) points. As you may know, the topic of routine male circumcision is quite controversial these days. Fewer male babies are being circumcised in recent years compared to earlier generations. In addition, some individuals and advocacy groups make comparisons between genital circumcision of male babies and female genital circumcision that occurs to varying degrees in many African and some Middle Eastern countries.

We don't have a good understanding of how male circumcision affects penile sensation, sexual practices or sexual behavior - in large part because one can never know how life would have turned out the other way. It's the problem of experimental study. There are a few very small scientific studies of sensation and sexual behavior of men who were circumcised as adults, and the data are conflicting. And of course many of these men have been circumcised as an adult for medical reasons, so there may be other factors affecting their sexual behavior. 

All that said, there are a few things that at least anecdotally seem to suggest that men (circumcised or not) may sometimes prefer artificial lubricant, just as some women do, as it can make sex more comfortable or pleasure. I am not aware of any reason why an uncircumcised man would "need" lubricant, however.

If you've noticed changes to your penile sensation, I would encourage you to mention this to your healthcare provider as occasionally such changes may be early signs of diabetes. Some newer condom types, such as those that are roomier on the head of the penis, sometimes help to provide more sensation during sex. Also, adding lubricant to the outside of the condom once it's already on can be helpful. These and other tips/techniques for more pleasurable sex, condom or no condom, are described in my book "Because It Feels Good."

– November 16, 2010 2:17 PM
Q.

female desire for sex

Is it true that women need an ulterior motive to enjoy sex, that sex merely for the sake of it isn't enough and there has to be at least a possibility of them receiving something extra?
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

Women vary as do men. Certainly some people have ulterior motives for having sex (e.g., to win a boyfriend/girlfriend, to get revenge, to feel better about themselves). Others enjoy sex just for the sake of physical pleasure or emotional connection.

– November 16, 2010 2:19 PM
Q.

Kinsey Dishonesty

Wasn't Albert Kinsey dishonest as a researcher and a deviant in his personal life? Why should we give credence to anything coming out of his institute?
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

Thank you for your question. First, I should clarify that this is NOT a Kinsey Institute study. This study comes from The Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University (The Kinsey Institute is also at Indiana University and in addition to working as a research scientist at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion, I also work as a sexual health educator for The Kinsey Institute, where I write and record the Kinsey Confidential podcasts - www.kinseyconfidential.org).

Much has been written about pioneering sex researcher Dr. Alfred Kinsey, and unfortunately much that has been written has been untrue, as is the case with many public figures. Dr. Kinsey died in the 1950s and the Institute has carried on for decades, with its researchers doing quite interesting work. You can read the Institute's response to controversies related to Dr. Kinsey on their web site:http://www.kinseyinstitute.org/about/controversy2.html

You can find our entire report of the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior online at www.nationalsexstudy.indiana.edu

– November 16, 2010 2:23 PM
Q.

Survey Size

Is it true that only 5,865 people participated in your survey? That seems like a very small sample to extrapolate to the behavior of all adult Americans. How do you ensure that your result are reliable using such a small survey? Pardon the pun, but size seems to matter.
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

There is an entire science behind nationally representative probability sampling and as strange as it may seem, even fewer people are needed than we sampled. (We consulted with scientists who study sampling issues to be certain.)

Knowledge Networks (who we partnered with on the data collection) specializes in national studies, often partnering with other organizations for political polls, health surveys and various studies with assorted government agencies. You can read more about the strategies on their web site or in our report (nationalsexstudy.indiana.edu).

– November 16, 2010 2:25 PM
Q.

How Often is Normal?

I was wondering how often the average couple has sex and/or engages in other sexual activities, i.e. oral sex. What do you think the ideal should be (granted, it's different for everyone...)?
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

We tried to stay away from "averages" in this regard as some people look to averages for direction in their personal life and it takes some people to bring the average up and others to bring an average down. So, I think it's probably preferable to see what feels right to you and your partner, if you have one.

That said, you can get a sense of what people are up to in terms of frequencies of masturbation, vaginal sex and anal sex by looking in the men's paper (See pages 299-301 of the special issue) and women's paper (See pages 286-287). These are available through nationalsexstudy.indiana.edu. 

– November 16, 2010 2:28 PM
Q.

Sex

Does becoming sexually active have any influence on how a woman's period affects her body?
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

Not that I am aware of. Can you be more specific about your question?

– November 16, 2010 2:28 PM
Q.

Homosexuality

Kinsey found homosexuality to be a relatively widespread sexual preference. Do your findings confirm or extend that observation?
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

Kinsey's data are often misinterpreted. He was more focused on sexual behavior than how people identified and this was probably a good idea given that at the time he was working (1930s-1950s until his death), homosexuality was less accepted in the US and thus far fewer men and women identified as homosexual.

That said, Kinsey found that far more people engaged in same-sex sex than was believed at the time and that sexual behavior was not always consistent with how people portrayed themselves publicly. In our study, the NSSHB, we found that more men and women engage in same-sex sex than identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual. Detailed findings are available at www.nationalsexstudy.indiana.edu

– November 16, 2010 2:33 PM
Q.

Infidelity

Hi. I'm wondering if the researchers examined the variable of infidelity and its relation to sexual behavior, habits and enjoyment.
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

We didn't have as much room to ask about sex outside of one's relationship or marriage as we would have liked (whether the sex was part of an open relationship agreement or otherwise), but we did ask about it. We'll be releasing additional papers over the coming year or two, and these data will be presented there.

– November 16, 2010 2:34 PM
Q.

Sexual habits as we age

Have studies show whether people become more sexually adventurous as they grow older? That is: Will they try things with their partners that they wouldn't try when they were younger (say, from their 20s to the 40s, 50s and beyond)?
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

Thank you for your very interesting question. I am not aware of a study that has examined this specific question. That said, I think it varies for people. And more often than not, I think it's the context of a relationship that allows people to feel that they can or cannot explore sexually with their partner. When a person feels safe, and that they won't be betrayed or judged, they may be more likely to explore sexually whether that means sexting, oral sex, spanking, sex in public, trying a sex toy, or whatever else. If a person happens to find such a safe-feeling relationship when they are younger, they  may explore then. If they don't find such a relationship until they are older, then more exploration may take place then. I think a lovely thing about sexuality is that it can unfold at any point in time (or age) given supportive circumstances.

– November 16, 2010 2:37 PM
Q.

Quality versus quantity

Is it possible that researchers and reporters focus too much on quantity and not enough on quality? I'm a male. In my 15 year marriage, it's taken a long time to come to terms with my wife's biological cycle, and that cycle's impact on our sex life. I don't want a passive, dutiful partner -- I want a full participant. My wife, though, is unavailable as a full participant (because of hormonal variations) for a portion of the month (10 days maybe). When she's on, though, she's on. Yet I don't read enough about this. I've had to figure out for myself how to gear our lives (and my needs) so that I simply take care of myself w/ no expectations when she's on the down side of her cycle, then make more time to take advantage of the up side of her cycle. Our numbers won't compare, but the time we make is truly outstanding!
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

You make an excellent point. This particular study, the NSSHB, is very quantity-focused but it's not the entirety of our work. This study is meant to be a contemporary snapshot of sexual behavior in the US and, on a large scale, quantity often makes a lot of sense to capture. However, we did also ask about pleasure, arousal and orgasm (not just how many, how often).

Our team engages in a great deal of other work. Right now, I'm working on a study of women who experience pleasure and/or orgasm during exercise (see more: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/womenandexercise ) and another study on women's experiences of desire during long-term relationships (this study will soon be posted on MySexProfessor.com, which is my blog, though you can also keep track of our work at sexualhealth.indiana.edu).

Researchers on our team study a wide range of issues including condom use, adolescent sexual behavior, the experiences of bisexual men and women, and much more. We agree that quality is very important - not just quantity - and thank you for raising this.

– November 16, 2010 2:40 PM
Q.

Study Results

Were there any significant findings about the use and effect of pornography on sexual behavior?
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

We did not study this particular question, although there are many scientists who study sex and the media. You may be interested in the work of our colleague Dr. Bryant Paul at Indiana University who conducts related work.

– November 16, 2010 2:41 PM
Q.

Norms of sexual behavior by age

Does the study provide insight into the types of sexual activities engaged in by couples (hetero- or homo-sexual) by age. We often hear that at age Y, couples have sex X number of times/week. That always seemed a little dubious because of the tendency to exaggerate. By delving a little more deeply -- frequency of use of toys, oral sex, anal sex, etc. -- the response might be closer to the truth. Does the study lend itself to detailed estimates of particular sexual activities?
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

Yes, it does! You can find all sorts of details by age and also by relationship status in the full report at nationalsexstudy.indiana.edu. We will be releasing more details about gay, lesbian and bisexual sexual behavior in the near future so stay tuned to our web site, www.sexualhealth.indiana.edu, for more information.

– November 16, 2010 2:42 PM
Q.

Sexual behavior and family structure

Are there any corelations to sexual behavior and family structure, and if so, does this cross racial and socio economic lines?
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

We didn't look at family structure per se in this study.

– November 16, 2010 2:43 PM
Q.

Results

Two questions. First, it seems there are constantly new studies about sexual behavior (women's magazines certainly seem to have an endless supply of exciting sex-related statistics.) What makes this particular study unique? Second, how were subjects found and the data collected? Thanks for your time.
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

Yes, the popular media often conduct their own online polls and magazine polls. However, these are quite different from scientific studies that are carried out differently. Scientists who study sex spend a great deal of time, and have significant training, to write questions that help people to report honesty and with clarity about their sexual lives. We also worked with a group called Knowledge Networks that specializes in national sampling so that those who answer the survey end up being representative of people living in the US at the time of the study. It's a very careful, strategie and scientific process. Once the data are collected, they are analyzed in more nuanced ways than one finds in magazines. The papers are then subject to scientific peer review, which is when a scientific journal asks other scientists to blindly review the articles and to critique the studies to improve the papers. By the time the papers are released, they have been vetted by our team of scientists at Indiana University as well as other scientists who served as anonymous reviewers.

You can learn more about the methods and sampling in our report at  nationalsexstudy.indiana.edu.

– November 16, 2010 2:48 PM
Q.

NY Girl

Did your survey discuss female ejaculation and the proportion of woman who do?

A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

I wish we'd had the time, space and funding to do so! This is an understudied area of human sexuality. I wrote about the topic, and what we do and do not know, in my book Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure & Satisfaction.

– November 16, 2010 2:49 PM
Q.

The Effect of the Internet

With all kinds of sexual content freely available on the internet, are people becoming more  open to experimentation into things that were previously less common (exhibitionism, etc), or are those things holding steady?

A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

Unforunately, we don't know the answer to this question. The last nationally representative study of sexual behavior in the US, which was conducted in 1992, did not ask about too many less common (or at least less commonly talked about) sexual practices. We did not have the time, space or funding to do so either. I would be very interested in conducting such a study in the future. I would imagine that, with increased access to information through books, the Internet and even travel (and meeting new people/learning about other cultural practices) that there is greater experimentation compared to 50 or 100 years ago but I don't have the data to prove it one way or the other.

– November 16, 2010 2:51 PM
Q.

Sex Study

Did the study reveal any differences in sexual practices, preferences, etc. based upon region of the country lived in or educational levels?
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

We have data related to region and education, but have not looked at the data in this way (yet). We will be releasing additional data over the next year or two, so stay tuned for more through our web site www.sexualhealth.indiana.edu or my blog, MySexProfessor.com.

– November 16, 2010 2:52 PM
Q.

How many gays

Did your study determine what fraction of each gender primarily prefers same-sex mating?
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

We didn't ask the question in that way. However, we did ask how people identify (e.g., gay, lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual) and also we have reports that demonstrate what proportion of men and women have engaged in various types of same-sex or other-sex sex. These details are in nationalsexstudy.indiana.edu

– November 16, 2010 2:53 PM
Q.

Geography

Do sexual habits differ based on geography in the U.S.? If so, can you provide some examples?
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

We haven't analysed the data in this way yet, but will soon, and will report on it when we do.

– November 16, 2010 2:57 PM
Q.

anal sex

The study indicates that 40% of adult men and women have engaged in anal sex. I was surprised the percentage is this high. Does this mean that anal sex is entering the mainstream and becoming a more accepted practice for heterosexual couples?
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

Several smaller scale studies in different communities in the US have found increases in anal sex as well, in recent years. Our study confirmed this to be the case on a national level. Although anal sex has become a more common practice in the US, it remains infrequent. As such, I would hope that those who engage in it "sometimes" keep things on hand that might make for a safer and more pleasurable experience, such as water-based lubricant and latex condoms. I've written in greater detail about anal sex for women in Because It Feels Good. There are also several good anal sex-specific books that provided detailed information (a particularly good one is Anal Pleasure & Health: A Guide for Men and Women).

– November 16, 2010 2:57 PM
Q.

Dr. Kinsey

As one of Dr. Kinsey's granddaughter's ...I have to say I think he would find the comment about his being a "deviant" in his personal life quite interesting. Seems we are still trying to equate someone's personal preferences in their sexual life, and the commonality of those preferences, with their intellect and honesty.
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

Thank you for adding this to the discussion!

– November 16, 2010 2:58 PM
Q.

surveymonkey

Do you have a webpage that consolidates all of your surveymonkey links, so that we can follow along with your work?
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

I have a blog (MySexProfessor.com) that I update in regard to my current work - research, education, columns and books. However, our Center's work is centralized through www.sexualhealth.indiana.edu and I would also recommend keeping up to date with The Kinsey Institute at www.kinseyinstitute.org and our Kinsey Confidential site (www.kinseyconfidential.org) for Q&A, podcasts and blog posts. Thanks for asking.

– November 16, 2010 2:59 PM
Q.

respect and honor

Don't you believe it is tragic how this age has made sex a public affair? I believe sex was so much nicer when their was a mystery, a privacy when one's body was their very own. It seems we are in a sea of bodies with no personal private principals that bring a sense of faith, a sense of respect and honor. It is truly sad that they are robbing the innocense of the youths, putting them at many dangers and death!

A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

It seems there are different aspects to the private or public nature of sexuality. Individuals can still remain very private and guarded about their own sexual lives while encouraging scientific study of this very interesting topic that's influential to many people's lives.

And of course other people find enjoyment in sharing their sexual lives with others to varying degrees. For some, this may mean talking about their sexual dreams or experiences with their partner or a close friend. And of course others prefer a wider audience.

As for the very young, parents, teachers and others who care for children certainly have a growing number of technologies and experiences to attend to in creating a nurturing and safe environment for their children. Rev. Debra Haffner (herself a sex educator and parent) has written several very good books about how parents can work toward raising sexually healthy children.

– November 16, 2010 3:04 PM
Q.

Washington DC

I call into question your expert who says that people suddenly single at "40, 45" don't know about AIDS. I was college class of '84, am 47 years old and have vivid memories of my college years being framed as a freshman being worried about Herpes simplexes I & IV and then as a junior wondering if this mysterious new threat called AIDS was worse. Your expert quoted in the article lacks credibility, and I wonder if anyone else knows what they're talking about.
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

Certainly people have different experiences. I cannot speak for Dr. Sawyer but imagine he was trying to get at the fact that many people who have been in a relationship for many years (and perhaps not thinking much about condom use or HIV risk) are often surprised and scared about their changing reality when they are single again after so many years. The take-home message is that adults of all ages need accurate information about their bodies, their sexual health and it would be helpful if healthcare providers would ask more patients about their sexual behavior so that they could best learn about condoms, STI and HIV testing, etc as applicable.

– November 16, 2010 3:07 PM
Q.

Frequency

Did the study ask about frequency of intercourse? That's one that I'm always wanting to know if I'm "normal." (I know, I know, it shouldn't matter--it's normal for me.)
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

Yes, we did  - the details are in www.nationalsexstudy.indiana.edu

:)

– November 16, 2010 3:08 PM
Q.

Orgasm

Having an orgasm can't be as easy as learning to ride a bike can it? I am a 29 y.o. female with plenty of sexual experience but have never had an orgasm. I can't even give myself one. Sometimes I think I am too impatient but after all these years I have pretty much given up on the idea that I will ever experience the pleasures of an orgasm. How much am I missing out on and is there any way to get help? I have read books about self-orgasm techniques without any results.
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

This is a topic that interests many women and men and unfortunately, it's often the case that trying very hard can put pressure on oneself and make it  more difficult to experience. The vast majority of women are indeed capable of experiencing orgasm during masturbation, oral sex, exercise (!), intercourse, or some or all of the above. I've written at greater length about what we currently know about learning to experience orgasm in my book Because It Feels Good. I also very much like the (older but excellent) book Becoming Orgasmic. And of course, working with a sex therapist (www.sstarnet.org) can be helpful too. That said, not everyone experiences orgasm or finds it that important to their experience of sexuality or relationships, though some do.

– November 16, 2010 3:11 PM
Q.

Oral Sex

What percentage of people have oral sex?
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

It varies by age group and the details are in nationalsexstudy.indiana.edu

– November 16, 2010 3:11 PM
Q.

I'ts been awhile

Hello, Can't believe I writing this - however, I have a question-I have not been sexually active in approx. 10 years - It is not on purpose, just have not met anyone in 10 years! The longer I go without sex, the more and more I can live without it. My sister says that is not a good thing. Everyone needs companionship and closeness with someone. I'm content, not happy, but content. What do you think?
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

I'm glad you felt comfortable writing this. Certainly people vary in their wanting or needing of a relationship partner or a sexual partner or both. There are certainly many benefits that come with a partner such as having someone to come home to, to count on when one needs something and sexually speaking, there is some truth in the "use it or lose it" saying (specifically, that intercourse for women can maintain vaginal flexibility which is a good thing; and for men, erections and ejaculation are part of a healthy sexuality, too.).

At the very least, you may find happiness in making new friends whether they turn into sexual relationships or not. And if you feel or sometimes wonder if there is something to this, or if you'd like to consider this difference you're noting between feeling "happy" and "content", you might consider meeting with a counselor or therapist (find one in your area through apa.org).

 

– November 16, 2010 3:15 PM
Q.

Sex study: Sexual behavior, habits, and enjoyment

After 45 is Sexual desier drop???
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

We have not yet presented results from desire in this study (though we will - stay tuned!). However, other research has found that desire declines for women and men as we age. That said, sexual satisfaction tends to remain fairly stable or, sometimes, to increase with age, which suggests an interesting complexity to human sexuality.

– November 16, 2010 3:16 PM
Q.

WOMEN AFTER FIFTY

DOES A WOMAN REALLY NOT WANT SEX AT FIFTY.
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

We certainly found lower rates of sexual activity among women and men in their 50s, however this does not mean that women (or men) don't want sex as they age. Particularly for women, declines in sex are often linked to the loss of a partner due to death, illness, separation or divorce. And some women and men do loes interest in sex. Yet many women and men remain interested in sex. One book I liked about sex among older women is called "Better Than I Ever Expected" and an interesting documentary on the same topic is called "Still Doing It" and features Betty Dodson among other women.

– November 16, 2010 3:18 PM
Q.

sexuality at different ages

I recently lost my virginity at what I consider to be the totally embarrassing age of 34. I hardly ever admitted I hadn't had sex (and generally tried to avoid discussing it) and, now that I'm on the other side, I have to admit part of me is like, geez, what's the big deal? This is it? I mean, it's great, and I'm definitely enjoying exploring this part of life with my excellent boyfriend, but it was hardly worth being so weird about for all those years. I have friends in the same boat (all female) and I think it's an interesting area. I know your study didn't address this, but it came to mind when you mentioned your appreciation for the way sexuality can unfold at any age.
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

Thank you so much for sharing this! I'm sure your comments will resonate with many readers who have had similar experiences.

– November 16, 2010 3:20 PM
Q.

Gender roles in a relationship

There is a growing number of blogs on the Internet focused on what are variously called female-led relationships, wife-led marriages, and other arrangements in which the woman leads (e.g., as the primary decisionmaker, head-of-household, rule maker and enforcer) and the man follows and obeys. These arrangements have implications on the sexual activities of the couple. Have there been any studies of these arrangements?
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

Not that I know of but it would be a very interesting topic to study.

– November 16, 2010 3:21 PM
Q.

Sex is good for you right?

I don't want to die so how often should I have sex?
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

Fortunately, individuals do  not "need" sex to live as they do food, water or shelter. However, while they're alive, most people enjoy some level of sexual behavior, alone and/or with a partner.

If you've heard reports about sex being linked to longer life, it does appear to be true that sexual activity is associated with more positive health and on many fronts. However, people should do only what they are comfortable doing as there are many roads to wellness (healthy eating, exercise, not smoking, relaxation, spirituality) and sexuality is only one of them.

– November 16, 2010 3:23 PM
Q.

Am I the new sexual deviant?

Sounds silly, but while society has been getting kinkier over the years, I've stayed darned vanilla. I'm not a prude in any way. I've tried some of the sexual activities you mentioned (oral, anal) but just didn't enjoy them because they didn't feel good. I'm a woman who doesn't need foreplay to because aroused (no, really) and can achieve orgasm 100 percent of the time through vaginal intercourse (no, really). The funny about it is that some people judge me harshly as a result of my vanilla tastes, by inferring that I am selfish in bed or in denial about my partners' needs. In my experience, vanilla is the new pervert.
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

There are many variations to human sexual behavior and certainly many ways of enjoying sex. Variety in behavior is not for everyone. If you and your partner are both satisfied with your experiences, then that is what counts - not what these other people think. Would you agree?

– November 16, 2010 3:24 PM
Q.

sexual desire in women

do the drugs Cialis and Viagra increase the desire in women? Why isn't there more discussion on this subject?
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

There have been several studies on this topic. Dr. Julia Heiman, who is the current director of The Kinsey Institute, was a co-author on a study related to Viagra and a reduction of sexual side effects for people who take certain antidepressants (at least I think I'm getting that right!). You can learn more about that study and others in the publications section of kinseyinstitute.org.

– November 16, 2010 3:26 PM
Q.

8.7%

Let's say I am a guy that did not experience orgasm the last time I had intercourse. Any thoughts? Help me feel less odd.......
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

9% of men in our study did not experience an orgasm the last time they had intercourse, so you're not "odd"! Like women, men do not always experience orgasm when they have sex. Some choose not to. Some simply aren't feeling it at that particular time. Others find it difficult. Men who find it difficult to ejaculate or even impossible can often be helped by meeting with a sex therapist (sstarnet.org) if bothers them. It doesn't bother everyone - in fact, some enjoy spending extra time in masturbation or sex. Some men find that vibrations help them to experience orgasm more easily, as is true for many women too. One of my favorite books on male sexuality, by the way, is called The New Male Sexuality.

– November 16, 2010 3:28 PM
Q.

Fulfilling Fantasies?

Is there a way to slowly convince a partner to try new things in bed without being manipulative? I love my BF but he's way too "vanilla" and I'd like things a bit more "rum raisin", if you know what I mean? We're both very communicative sexually and he knows what I'd like to try but he's subconsciously resistant. Help break me out of a rut? Thanks!
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

I'm running out of time on today's chat! However, I've written at length about sex and communication in my book Because It Feels Good and also in various (free) podcasts at KinseyConfidential.org and on my blog MySexProfessor.com. Sex columnist Dan Savage (he writes Savage Love - Google it) also has much to say on the topic! :)

– November 16, 2010 3:30 PM
Q.

When men are from Mars...

Debby, I read your book, Because it Feels Good, a few months back and think it/you are great. I have a hard time reaching orgasm and am not sure that I ever really have with a partner. when i do have them, i have them by rubbing against the bed. i hear that this is more of a "tension" orgasm than a relaxation one (i have those occasionally in my sleep, and they are awesome). can you recommend any ideas for how to encourage more orgasmic-ness, especially when a) i'm not totally sure how/what i like and if my partner is a typical guy who gets turned on in a heartbeat (and I confess...I haven't been great about trying to get him to spend a while really revving me up). Also: any sexy movies or Web sites that you like, either for me or to share with my partner that encourage and teach a more female-focused route to pleasure?
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

Thanks, I'm happy you enjoyed the book! Many women and men masturbate in a way similar to what you described, such as rubbing against bed or pillows. Have you considered exploration with fingers or a vibrator, allowing yourself plenty of time (an hour or more), perhaps tensing your pelvic floor muscles, altering your  breathing pattern, and fantasizing? I'm running out of room in our chat here but Becoming Orgasmic has many detailed exercises that quite a lot of women find helpful.

As for women-oriented movies, check out my site MySexProfessor.com for a post by Garnet about women and porn (if that's what you're looking for) or look through The Sinclair Institute's films for some titles that may be of interest. However, your own exploration will probably be the most education for you and for a present or future partner as women are all quite different from one another.

– November 16, 2010 3:34 PM
Q.

A spanking good question

Did you include researching what portion of people use spanking as foreplay? I ask because I often believe it is among the widely practiced taboos, yet I wonder if anyone has actually determined how many actually do this?
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

Thank you for your question. As part of the NSSHB, we were limited in the number of sexual practices we were able to ask about and did not ask about spanking as part of foreplay or overall sex play. I'm not aware of any scientific nationally representative probability surveys that have done so in order to determine the prevalence of this practice. However, I would suspect that it is likely a widely practiced part of sexual behavior, and to different degrees (e.g., occasional or light spanks at one of the contiuum and spanking groups toward the other end).

– November 16, 2010 3:34 PM
Q.

female ejaculation

Why is there still so little known about female ejaculation? It doesn't even appear there is agreement on what fluid is released.
A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

There have been a few good studies on female ejaculation and its chemical properties, which I mentioned in Because It Feels Good, however we certainluy need more data on the topic. I couldn't agree more.

– November 16, 2010 3:35 PM
Q.

sexual study

How frequent is sexual intercourse among married couples in their late sixties?

A.
Ms. Debra Lynne Herbenick Ph.D. :

We have these data in our report - see nationalsexstudy.indiana.edu for the breakdown (the paper of those 50+ will be the one to look at).

– November 16, 2010 3:36 PM
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