Ever Wonder If You’re Sexually ‘Normal?’

What Are Sexual Norms?

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  • Overview


    Ever wonder if you’re sexually “normal?” You may be curious about how often others have sex or what types of sexual activity they have. Don’t be embarrassed. It’s perfectly natural to wonder about sexual behavior and how you fit in.

    Our individual preferences vary greatly and fluctuate throughout our lives. Societal attitudes also change over time. We’re more open to discussing sexual behavior these days, but in many respects it’s still a very private matter. Although there’s some interesting data, it’s wise not to get too caught up in the concept of normal.

  • How often?

    How often?

    How often do most people have sex? That depends on what you consider sex to be. Statistics vary depending on whether you’re talking about vaginal intercourse, oral sex, or mutual masturbation. Marital status, age, and health also make a difference. The only thing that really matters is your own satisfaction and that of your partner.

    According to the National Opinion Research Center, people aged 18 to 29 have sex about 84 times a year. In their 40s, most people drop off to around 63 times a year. By age 70 and up, it’s about 10 times.

  • Your sexual repertoire

    Your sexual repertoire

    The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB) revealed that Americans between the ages of 14 and 94 have quite a repertoire. It’s never about just one sex act. In fact, survey respondents reported more than 40 combinations of sex acts. Vaginal intercourse is the most common shared activity, but oral sex and partnered masturbation are also popular.

  • Who’s using a condom?

    Who’s using a condom?

    According to NSSHB, vaginal intercourse is condom-protected 25 percent of the time in the United States, and 33 percent of the time among single people in the United States. It also found that African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans have a higher rate of condom use than whites and other groups. The lowest rate of condom use is among people over age 40.

    Condom users were just as likely to have a pleasurable experience in this survey as those who did not use condoms.

  • Oh, that elusive orgasm!

    Oh, that elusive orgasm!

    According to the same survey of sexual behaviors, approximately 85 percent of men say their partner had an orgasm the last time they had sex. Only 64 percent of women say they had an orgasm during their last encounter.

    For men, vaginal intercourse is the type of sex most likely to lead to orgasm.

    Women orgasm more often when oral sex or another form of stimulation is included. According to Harvard Medical School, women have varied ways of showing sexual arousal, and there is no “normal” for the female sexual response.

  • Sexual orientation

    Sexual orientation

    Approximately 7 percent of females and 8 percent of males identify themselves as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, according to the NSSHB. However, the number of people who say they’ve had sexual relations with someone of the same gender is higher than that.

    Historically, prevailing social attitudes made it difficult for people to identify as gay. However, in recent years, more people who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual have felt inclined to “come out” and speak of their same-sex orientation.

  • Sexual development in children

    Sexual development in children

    Children develop at their own rate. Your child may fall outside the normal range of development, but this may be OK.

    From birth to 5 years of age, curious children explore their own bodies. By 5 years old, most children ask questions about body parts and functions, gender differences, and where babies come from.

    From 6 to 10 years of age, children become modest about their bodies and more curious about adult sexuality. They may begin talking about sex with their peers and engage in some form of masturbation.

    With the onset of puberty at 11 or 12 years, children become aware of sexual desires.

  • Teen talk

    Teen talk

    Despite all the talk to the contrary, most teenagers are not having frequent sex. The NSSHB survey asked 17-year-old males if they’d had vaginal intercourse in the previous year. Forty percent said they had, but only 27 percent said they had in the previous three months.

  • Sex is not just for the young

    Sex is not just for the young

    According to a study commissioned by AARP, people over age 45 say sexual activity is a very important part of their lives and has a direct impact on the quality of their life. Of all study participants, 36 percent reported having sexual intercourse at least once a week. They reported a variety of sexual interests. They also enjoy touching, caressing, and hugging. They like sex and say they would not be pleased to give it up.

    Among older Americans who no longer have sexual relations, declining health is a common culprit.

  • Those other behaviors

    Those other behaviors

    Lots of people are reluctant to talk candidly about their sexual activities. That’s why real numbers are hard to come by. Suffice it to say that a fair number of us indulge in other sexual behaviors, including:

    • celibacy
    • erotic fantasy or role-playing
    • pornography
    • bondage, domination, and submission
    • anal sex

    It all comes down to the personal preferences of consenting adults.

  • Changing attitudes

    Changing attitudes

    There was a time, not so long ago, when one simply didn’t discuss sex in polite company. Now it’s hard to avoid the subject. It’s easier than ever to talk about it, ask questions, and seek professional advice. Although once-taboo subjects, people now speak more openly about masturbation, homosexuality, and bisexuality. Still, what people do in the privacy of their own homes and what they will admit to may be two different things.

    Don’t worry about measuring up to others. The only measuring standard you need is your own.