Published February 26, 2009
You don’t say.
For the last year, I’ve been struck by the number of studies that counter common sex beliefs. Just when we think we know it all, new data comes along and challenges what we believe. And it’s only by coincidence that my decision to highlight certain research efforts comes at a critical time.
In an effort to cut budgets, lawmakers in Georgia and Florida are attacking departments, research and courses rooted in sexuality and women’s studies. If successful, all of us stand to lose important scientific contributions that shape health promotion, intervention and inform policies and programs.
Sure to impact fields that deal with this area of study — like anthropology, sociology and ethnic studies — we risk our ability to obtain accurate, evidence-based findings to guide healthy sexuality efforts.
Check out some of the intellectual efforts afforded by academic freedom that impact all of us in one way or another:
1. More Birth Control = Better Sex
It’s hard enough for lovers to use one contraceptive method, let alone two. Both sexes think condoms undermine their sexual pleasure. Yet the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University found women who use a hormonal contraceptive plus condoms report higher overall sexual satisfaction.
This is because better sex goes way beyond the actual sex act, encompassing factors like relationship satisfaction and sexual self-esteem. And when it comes to the need for lovers to protect themselves, such data can’t be emphasized enough.
2. Abstinence Is Great ... for Other Teens
A study at the University of Washington, published in “Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health,” found that while youth might believe in abstinence, they also intend to have sex. Many of the 365 kids ages 12 to 15 who were surveyed had a positive view about refraining from sex.
But those scoring the highest on both sex and abstinence intentions were the most likely to have sex. Such findings need to be considered in tailoring comprehensive sex education classes for youth.
3. Interventions Equally Effective
We tend to think teens who engage in risky behaviors, like alcohol use, also engage in high-risk sexual behaviors more than their cautious peers. Yet a study in the "Journal of Adolescent Health," looking at data from the "Youth Risk Behavior Survey," showed otherwise.
Researchers found that interventions, conducted in the 1990s and the early part of this century, aimed at reducing sexual activity are equally effective for both groups. The conclusions will be of great assistance to future sex education efforts.
4. Teens' First Time Was a Good Time
The general thought is that most adolescents had a miserable experience their first time. However, a longitudinal 2008 study in “Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health,” found quite the contrary was true. Those who lost their virginity at the ages of 15-16 were much less likely to feel regret than those who first had sex at age 13 or younger.
Those who had been with their first-time partner for more than one month (remember, for youth this feels like an eternity) were also less likely to feel regret than those who had first sex with a casual partner. Such reports show the need to support youth in delaying sex and getting to know their partner.
5. Overweight Women Have More Sex
Most stereotypes on obese women hold that they don't have sex. Yet a 2008 study in “Obstetrics and Gynecology,” involving some 8,000 females, shows that overweight women have more heterosexual sexual encounters than average-weight women. The percentages: 92 percent of obese women versus 87 percent of women with a normal body mass reported having intercourse with men.
This is a major wake-up call for physicians who assume large women don’t have the same sexual health needs that their smaller counterparts do.
6. Parental Laws Not Significant for Abortions
When parental involvement laws were enacted, many feared the consequences this would have on youth seeking out abortion-related services. According to The Guttmacher Institute, there is no strong evidence that having parental involvement laws in place prevents minors from obtaining an abortion.
Even in states where such laws are absent, six in 10 minors involve at least one parent in their decision to terminate their pregnancy. Abortion rates have steadily declined in states both with and without these parental involvement laws.
7. Women Couldn't Care Less About Sexual Problems
Data has long indicated that about 40 percent of women have sexual problems. But a 2008 Harvard study published in “Obstetrics & Gynecology,” involving 32,000 women, shows only 12 percent are bothered by these issues. For a sexual concern to be labeled a disorder, a person must feel distress.
Such findings are a great relief for women who have been made to feel that there’s something wrong with them.
8. Tea Is Preferred to Sex
At least it is in Britain, when compared to sex on a first date. An informal poll of 541 British singles, conducted by Craigslist UK, found that they largely prefer ending a good first date with a cup of tea. Over four times as many participants voted for tea over sex. Such fun tidbits help to alleviate the pressures that come with living in a sexualized culture.
9. Students Do Listen
Learning life-changing behaviors in high school health classes appears to come down to who is teaching more than the curriculum. A study published in the “Journal of Health Promotion Practice,” which was conducted by the University of Kentucky and Ohio State University, indicated that students learn more from their regular classroom teachers when it comes to subjects like HIV and pregnancy prevention.
The reason? Knowledge and trust are huge motivating factors for kids who feel this way toward their teachers.
Also, it was found that teachers with specific training in sexuality are the best bet for students.
10. Virginity Pledges = Riskier Sex
An analysis by The National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health found that those who promise to stay virginal until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not make such a pledge. They’re also much less likely to use condoms and other contraceptives when they are sexually active.
Data further revealed that pledgers tend to be more religious, more conservative and have a less positive attitude about sex. All of this data helps to guide researchers, educators and parents in their outreach efforts.
To learn more about how you can protect the pursuit of knowledge and human inquiry, visit the National Sexuality Resource Center at http://nsrc.sfsu.edu/
Dr. Yvonne K. Fulbright is a sex educator, relationship expert, columnist and founder of Sexuality Source Inc. She is the author of several books including, "Touch Me There! A Hands-On Guide to Your Orgasmic Hot Spots."