Thursday, March 4, 2010

What Counts As Sex: Stupidity or Repression

There is this hilarious study that shows just how profoundly puritanical this society is:
The study, published in the February issue of the journal Sexual Health, randomly surveyed 486 adults, most of them heterosexual, between the ages of 18 and 96. They were asked the following question: "Would you say you 'had sex' with someone if the most intimate behavior you engaged in was [blank]," and then followed more than a dozen "behavior specific items." A press release reports that "two out of ten people did not concur that penile-anal intercourse was sex, and three out of ten said 'no' to oral-genital activity, as did half of the respondents about manual-genital contact." And, while 95 percent classified penile-vaginal penetration as sex (one has to wonder what does count for the remaining 5 percent), that number dropped to 89 percent in cases where the man doesn't ejaculate.
Some bloggers have expressed an opinion that people who were questioned for this study are simply stupid. I believe, however, that this survey reflects the sad reality of a society where people have been told that sex is bad and dirty so many times that now they pretend that many obviously sexual activites don't "count" as sex. I have witnessed many convoluted discussions where people would try to define what should "count" as sex without being able to explain why they have the need for "counting" anything in the first place.

Until there is no stigma attached to a happy and healthy sexuality, we will see these weird results on sex-related questionnaires.


Anonymous said...

I knew a girl many years ago who insisted that she had never had sex even though she'd had anal sex with about half a dozen guys, probably hundreds of times (and enjoyed it).

Nothing against her (she was a good friend), but she was raised in a puritanical, nuthatch religious family, and she used the out that many such people do just as that study showed.


Clarissa said...

I knew somebody like that too. I would tell her: "But what about this guy you took home last night? And the night before?" And she would say: "They don't count because I don't care for them!" :-) :-)

m Andrea said...

Really no offence and hope my comment does not hurt your feelings, but "failing to agree on a definition" or "failing awareness of common definitions" is not evidence which supports the conclusion "therefore society is puritanical".

I guess you're trying to say that because many young women refuse to name their behavior for what it is, that they are repressed? But they're actively engaged in the behavior, so how can they be repressed? More likely they're ambivalent or trying to cope with a society which sends highly conflicting messages.

The current crop of twenty year olds grew up being exposed to a tremendous amount of marketing which sexualized females and glamourized sex at every opportunity, much more so than any other preceding generation; and at the same time these young people still have to deal with sexism which blames and inferiortizes females for everything.

Previous generations only experienced one set of messages which were not in conflict with each other. The old messages were: sex is bad, women are bad. Now the messages are: sex is great and every twelve year old should be doing it, but women are still bad. It's really no surprise that young women are conflicted.

Anyway, sorry to intrude with my comment if it's not welcome.

Anonymous said...

how is oral sex if only one person is on the receiving end of the pleasure?

thedrymock said...

@Anonymous - I hate to break it to you, but if by "pleasure" you mean "orgasm," then a great deal of the time, only one person receives pleasure from heterosexual PIV intercourse.

Clarissa said...

m Andrea:You are always welcome to make comments.

"But they're actively engaged in the behavior, so how can they be repressed?"

-Doing something and concealing is comes from being repressed. Seeng sex and bad ans dorty also comes from being repressed.

"The current crop of twenty year olds grew up being exposed to a tremendous amount of marketing which sexualized females and glamourized sex at every opportunity"

-Showing women in underwear does not glamorize sex. There is absolutely no kind of marketing that I've ever seen that glamorizes sex. Even in Vicotia Secret ads, women are always alone.

"Now the messages are: sex is great and every twelve year old should be doing it"

-Who exactly is sending this message and where? Tell me the name of that TV channel and I'll go tune in right now. But I don't think you'll find that channel because it doesn't exist. There is no glamorization of sex in the American media. There is a common belief that there is glamorization of sex in American media but that belief is based on nothing.

Clarissa said...

Anonymous and the drymock: if one of the people who participates in oral or vaginal )or anal, etc. etc. etc.) sex does not enjoy it and odes not derive pleasure from it, they must stop participating in activities they don't enjoy.

If you get no pleasure from oral or from PVI, stop doing it because it's wrong and unhealthy to totture yourself like this.

Vickie said...

I consider masturbation to be a form of sex. Many disagree with me. :/

Clarissa said...

I don't disagree. :-)

Anonymous said...

wtf is a totture?

Clarissa said...


John M said...

I don't get how people thought the respondents were stupid. I would have said no as well to oral sex, for example.

This has nothing to do (at least I don't conciously ascribe it to) knowledge of anatomy or physiology, but rather semantics. When I use the word sex, and when I here other people use the word, it seems to generally indicate penile-vaginal penetration (though I probably would have said penile-rectal was also sex, though I really don't know anyone who discuses this at all).

Surely oral sex is a sexual act, as it concerns the gentials and arrousal, but whether we call it sex or not seems to be semantics more than education.

I agree with Clarissa that social factors are important, and likewise feel that reasons of fear and stigma underly the treatment of sexuality- especially linguistically. My generation (mid 20's) grew up in the USA with knowledge that no contraception was perfect and that sexually transmitted diseases where terrible things that could not be prevented if one were to have sex. Along with the gross pics, this scared a lot of people- and this creeps out in interesting ways.

If oral sex isn't sex, it relieves the participants of all sorts of subconcious associations with STD's and death as well as immoral perversions and skankiness.