The Great American Debate: What is "Sex?"

| by Reason Foundation

By Radley Balko

"I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinski," declared [youtube alert] President Bill Clinton back in the prelapsarian 1990s. It turns out that the former chief executive may have been something of a semiotician since a new survey by Indiana University researchers find Americans disagree over the meaning of "had sex." The press release from the Kinsey Institute researchers reports:

The study involved responses from 486 Indiana residents who took part in a telephone survey conducted by the Center for Survey Research at IU. Participants, mostly heterosexual, were asked, "Would you say you 'had sex' with someone if the most intimate behavior you engaged in was ...," followed by 14 behaviorally specific items. Here are some of the results:

-- Responses did not differ significantly overall for men and women. The study involved 204 men and 282 women.

-- 95 percent of respondents would consider penile-vaginal intercourse (PVI) having had sex, but this rate drops to 89 percent if there is no ejaculation.

-- 81 percent considered penile-anal intercourse having had sex, with the rate dropping to 77 percent for men in the youngest age group (18-29), 50 percent for men in the oldest age group (65 and up) and 67 percent for women in the oldest age group.

-- 71 percent and 73 percent considered oral contact with a partner's genitals (OG), either performing or receiving, as having had sex.

-- Men in the youngest and oldest age groups were less likely to answer "yes" compared with the middle two age groups for when they performed OG.

-- Significantly fewer men in the oldest age group answered "yes" for PVI (77 percent).

Discuss among yourselves. Check out more IU sex survey results here.