The current public debate regarding whether oral sex
constitutes having "had sex" or sexual relations has reflected a
lack of empirical data on how Americans as a population define these
To determine which interactions individuals would
consider as having "had sex."
A question was included in a survey conducted in 1991 that
explored sexual behaviors and attitudes among a random stratified
sample of 599 students representative of the undergraduate population
of a state university in the Midwest.
The participants originated from 29 states, including
all 4 US Census Bureau geographic regions. Approximately 79%
classified themselves as politically moderate to conservative.
Main Outcome Measure
Percentage of respondents who believed the
interaction described constituted having "had sex."
Individual attitudes varied regarding behaviors defined as
having "had sex": 59% (95% confidence interval, 54%-63%) of
respondents indicated that oral-genital contact did not constitute
having "had sex" with a partner. Nineteen percent responded
similarly regarding penile-anal intercourse.
The findings support the view that Americans hold
widely divergent opinions about what behaviors do and do not constitute
having "had sex."