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America’s Sexual Revolution

Published: November 11, 2010

A large survey on human sexuality indicates that Americans have undergone a second “sexual revolution” over the past two decades. Researchers at Indiana University conducted The National Survey of Sexual Health by interviewing 6,000 people.

According to Michael Reece at IU’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion, acts that society once frowned upon, such as oral sex and masturbation, are practiced by large majorities of citizens. The responses gathered indicated that while vaginal intercourse was still “the main event” other activities are reported in much larger numbers. For example almost 90% of men and women under 30 report having given and received oral sex. Additionally, about 7% of respondents labeled themselves as “other than heterosexual”.

One has to wonder how much of this reflects changes in actual behavior and how much of this reflects a simple willingness to answer the questions more honestly. While it may be true that masturbation was more “frowned upon” in prior years, it seems pretty clear that it is and always has been a popular activity.

America has deep roots in religious fundamentalists like our Pilgrim fathers whose Puritan rigidity made them enormously unpopular in Europe. That was WHY they emigrated to the New World. It is curious to think that Americans are now admitting to things like oral sex, which much of the rest of the world seems to find pretty darned normal. Witness the European amusement over the sex scandals of Bill Clinton. Kenneth Starr’s publishing of semi-pornography on the public’s money was thought of as hilarious by people across the Atlantic who felt that the oral sex escapades included in his report were something less than shocking no matter how scandalous episodes that involved cigars seemed to people below the Bible Belt.

IU researcher Michael Reese said “Many people struggle with the conceptualization of what a normal sex life looks like”. It is fair to say that our repertoire may be changing, or at least, how we view what it is that we do.

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