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Therefore, we conducted a national online survey to better understand the associations among internet use, sexual behavior, and adjustment called the Sexual Behaviors, Internet Use, and Psychological Adjustment Survey SIPS. We found age- and sex-related trends in oral, vaginal, and anal sex in terms of prevalence, frequency, of partners, and age of initiation consistent with prior studies.
We also detected differences in sexual behaviors based on relationship status and sexual orientation, but small and relatively few ificant differences across racial and ethnic groups. The confirm and expand upon trends identified in prior national surveys of sexual behavior, establishing the representativeness of the SIPS sample for use in future research examining the links among sexual behaviors and romantic relationships, internet use, and adjustment. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist. The encroachment of the internet into everyday life has changed the way people form and maintain romantic and sexual relationships. For example, dating apps e. To better understand these novel associations and whether internet technology has altered patterns of coupling behavior, we conducted a national online survey called the Sexual Behaviors, Internet Use, and Psychological Adjustment Survey SIPS , which assessed sexual behaviors, social media and dating app use, and several domains of adjustment including mental health, substance use, and interpersonal functioning.
An important first step to making valid inferences about the associations among these social and sexual domains is to describe normative patterns of sexual behavior. It is especially important to document patterns of sexual behavior in demographically diverse samples with varying ages, genders, incomes, races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations represented.
Here, we utilize the SIPS sample to characterize demographic trends in multiple sexual behaviors. We also sought to replicate and expand upon recent surveys that reported nationally representative demographic trends in sexual behavior to validate the representativeness of the SIPS sample and bolster the reliability and validity of past estimates of sexual behavior. Given the shift towards online data collection in recent years, it is especially critical to replicate findings that utilize relatively novel, modern sampling methods, i.
Thus, as participation in internet-based social networking continues to rise, it is critical to understand if and how these social trends are impacting in-person social relationships, sexual behaviors, and well-being more broadly. The taboo nature of sex has historically proven to be a barrier in ascertaining demographically representative surveys of sexual behavior.
In the midth century, Kinsey and colleagues [ 6 , 7 ] conducted a series of landmark studies on sexual activity in men and women. However, these studies emphasized sexual diversity rather than estimates of population prevalence and failed to assess how sexual diversity presents across different groups e. Towards the end of the 20th century, several demographically representative surveys emerged to help understand trends in common and uncommon e. Though these surveys were robust and collectively add considerable information about sexual behavior across age and sex, they were mainly conducted through in-person interview and questionnaire procedures.
The recent advent of the internet and online surveys has afforded new opportunities for more easily and efficiently recruiting nationally representative samples and targeted samples whose members constitute a sexual minority in the broader population. Recently, Herbenick et al. Most respondents had engaged in oral Women reported higher rates of lifetime vaginal sex Although these trends are informative, it is also important to consider how various sexual behaviors differ across other relevant variables such as relationship status, sexual orientation, race, and ethnicity.
Cohabitation can also affect the accessibility of sexual partners. Indeed, married couples who are cohabitating are almost twice as likely to report sexual intercourse over the past 90 days compared to those who are not cohabitating [ 14 — 16 ]. Further, homosexual and bisexual men reported lower rates of vaginal sex, but higher rates of insertive and receptive anal sex compared to heterosexual men [ 17 ].
Questions regarding sexual behavior focused specifically on single-partner oral, vaginal, and anal sex. In addition to prevalence, we also collected details about frequency, age of initiation, and of sexual partners. We first examined the rates and demographic trends in sexual behaviors in the SIPS sample and then compared our findings with prior estimates from similar surveys to evaluate the representativeness of the current sample.
Expected findings related to age and sex trends in sexual behavior included:. Beyond age and gender trends, we also sought to replicate several findings regarding differences in sexual behavior related to relationship status, sexual orientation, race, and ethnicity. Expected findings in these domains included:. Data were collected in February and March using an actively managed, double-opt-in research panel in the Qualtrics XM survey software.
Recruitment procedures were intended to capture a sample consistent with the demographics of the United States general population in terms of age, gender, education, race, and household income. Quotas were created for each demographic variable and monitored while the survey was in the field.
Respondents were recruited using a dashboard-style web on the Qualtrics website and cellphone app where participants saw a list of surveys that they had the option to participate in. Recruitment was also conducted via s sent to established panel members within the Qualtrics database. In all recruitment methods, potential participants received information regarding the estimated length of the survey and the compensation rate for completing it.
Specific details about the survey content were not available until the participants opted-in to deter self-selection bias. Upon opting into the study, participants read and electronically ed a consent form containing an overview of the survey contents. Participation was voluntary and anonymous as no individually identifying information was collected.
Contact information for the research team was provided if participants had questions about the survey. The median response time for completing the survey was The survey was completed by respondents. Data were manually checked and respondents were excluded due to multiple inconsistent and unreasonable answers e. Single values were excluded on a case-by-case basis if all other responses from that participant were within a plausible range of values, assuming the respondent misread or misunderstood a single question.
We asked respondents to report their current age, biological sex, gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Table 1 provides descriptive statistics for these and other variables. We asked respondents to report their current romantic relationship status. Although we provided 11 possible response options, these options were collapsed into three for analysis. Respondents were able to select multiple response options if applicable. Not dating or not in a relationship included the responses: rarely date and not dating now.
Being in a casual relationship included the responses: mostly going out with one person and dating a few others , dating or seeing more than one person , and dating or seeing one person casually. If a respondent reported ever engaging in a given sexual behavior, they were then asked to indicate how frequently they had engaged in that behavior during the past 12 months and the past 30 days not at all , less than once a month , once a month , multiple times per month , once a week , multiple times per week , every day , multiple times per day.
Next, we asked respondents how many partners they had engaged in oral, vaginal, and anal sex with during their lifetime and in the past 12 months. Finally, respondents were asked to indicate the age at which they first engaged in oral, vaginal, and anal sex. Logistic and linear regression models were used to analyze the demographic trends associated with each sexual behavior. Age was grand mean centered before calculating the interaction terms.
Although the descriptive tables and plots are organized based on age bins, the continuous age variables were used in all statistical analyses. One-way ANOVAs were then used to test for mean differences in the frequency of sexual behaviors past 12 months and 30 days , the of sexual partners lifetime and past 12 months , and age at sexual initiation across relationship status, sexual orientation, race, and ethnicity.
Differences between Hispanic and non-Hispanic respondents were examined using t- test procedures. All analyses were conducted using SPSS version The demographic characteristics for the sample are reported in Table 1. These demographics were similar to those reported by the U. Census Bureau for the United States population [ 24 ], with some minor differences due to the sampling procedure and exclusion of participants. However, the proportions of individual age groups based on 5—10 year intervals are consistent with the U. Almost half of the sample While estimates of sexual orientation are not provided by the U.
Census Bureau, our sample characteristics were similar to those reported by several large studies assessing sexual minority groups [ 25 , 26 ]. The majority The small remainder of the sample reported their sexual orientation as questioning 0. Ethnicity Hispanic, The mean educational level was higher than the US general population due to lower rates of people with a high school diploma or less Descriptive statistics for the prevalence rates of oral, vaginal, and anal sex are presented in Table 2.
Fig 1 graphically depicts the age and sex-related trends in the prevalence of these sexual behaviors. Descriptive tables and figures include respondents organized by gender men, women, and 19 that reported non-binary gender , and all analyses were conducted using biological sex males, females as the predictor variable. The lifetime prevalence rates of engaging in oral We detected a ificant main effect for Age for lifetime vaginal and anal sex, though in opposite directions.
Specifically, older age was associated with higher rates of lifetime vaginal sex but lower rates of lifetime anal sex. We also detected ificant main effects of Age 2 for lifetime oral, vaginal, and anal sex indicating that rates increased from the youngest ages 18—24 years old and then leveled off in young and middle adulthood ages 30—59 years old. Finally, we detected a ificant Age x Sex interaction for lifetime anal sex, wherein rates were highest from ages 30—39 for females and ages 40—49 for males, with a greater decline at older ages for females relative to males.
For both the past 12 months and past 30 days, about half the sample reported engaging in oral Engagement in each sexual behavior over the past 12 months increased from ages 18—24 years old to peak levels at ages 25—39 and then decreased in the older age ranges.
Females engaged in anal sex at lower rates than males during the past 12 months and past 30 days. Finally, rates of oral and vaginal sex declined with age at a greater rate for females relative to males. Next, we examined age-related trends and sex differences in the frequency of oral, vaginal, and anal sex in the past 12 months and the past 30 days. Descriptive statistics for the frequency of oral, vaginal, and anal sex are reported in Table 3 , and Fig 2 provides a graphical depiction of age and sex-related trends in the frequency of these sexual behaviors parameter estimates from multiple regression models are reported in S2 Table.
For the past 12 months, the average frequency of vaginal sex was roughly once a month, between once a month and less than once a month for oral sex, and less than once a month for anal sex. The frequency of all three sexual behaviors was slightly lower for the past 30 days. Notably, about half of the sample had not engaged in oral sex during the past 12 months or past 30 days Over one-third of respondents Also, most respondents had not engaged in anal sex during the past 12 months or past 30 days The frequency of oral and vaginal sex in the past 12 months and past 30 days increased from ages 18—24 years through age 30—39 years old and then declined after age 40 after age 30 for the frequency of oral sex in women with a greater age-related decline for females relative to males.
Younger respondents and males engaged in anal sex more frequently during the past 12 months and past 30 days. Next, we examined age-related trends and sex differences in the of oral, vaginal, and anal sex partners for lifetime and past 12 months.
Descriptive statistics are provided in Table 4 , and Fig 3 provides a graphical depiction of age-related trends in the of sexual partners see S3 Table for parameter estimates from regression models. For the total sample, the mean of lifetime partners was 8.Women wanting anal sex United States
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