This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.
Grandpa and Grandma Are Still Getting It On
A new survey, conducted by the University of Michigan and funded by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), found that sex is still very important to older adults.
The survey was given to a representative sample of 1,002 men and women between the ages of 65 and 80. According to its results, nearly two-thirds of this age group say they are interested in sex and more than half say sex is an important part of their quality of life. While only 40 percent of respondents described themselves as currently sexually active, 73 percent said they were satisfied with their sex lives.
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More half of respondents who had a spouse or partner report being currently sexually active. The poll did not provide specifics for the time period; some respondents may have limited their answers to the last week and others to the last decade. There’s also no telling how people defined sexual activity; some respondents may have taken a narrow, genitals-must-be-involved view of what counts as sex, while others may have been more broad-minded.
Men seem to be having more sex than women (51 percent declared themselves active compared to 31 percent of women). Some of this difference can be explained by the fact that more men report having partners, but the survey does suggest that men are also more interested in sex. More than half of them reported that they were “very” or “extremely” interested in sex compared to just 12 percent of women.
The survey did find that sexual activity diminishes over time—46 percent of those ages 65 to 70 said they were sexually active, compared to 39 percent of those ages 71 to 75, and 25 percent of those ages 76 to 80. Health also has a major impact on sex lives—45 percent of respondents who described themselves as in “good to excellent” health reported sexual activity compared to 22 percent of those who said their health was “fair to poor.” And 18 percent of men and 3 percent of women said they took some kind of medication or supplement to improve their sex lives in the past two years.
We’re glad to hear that interest in sex keeps going long past the age of retirement, that so many septuagenarians are still getting it on, and that the majority of older adults feel good about their sex lives (whether currently doing it or not). Keep it up, Grandma and Grandpa!
Americans Increasingly Supportive of Same-Sex Marriage and LGBTQ Rights
At some point in June, we will learn whether the U.S. Supreme Court believes that a baker can refuse to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple due to his personal religious views. But if the justices consider American public opinion, they’ll find that views on same-sex marriage have shifted dramatically in recent years.
Case in point: A new survey of more than 40,000 Americans found broad support for same-sex marriage across racial, political, and religious lines, and little support for those who want to refuse services to LGBTQ individuals or couples.
The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found that 61 percent of Americans support legal marriage for same-sex couples—up from 52 percent just five years ago.
These increases in support have been seen across ethnic and racial lines; since 2013, support among white Americans increased from 53 percent to 63 percent, among black Americans from 41 percent to 52 percent, and from 51 percent to 61 percent among Latinos. Support for same-sex marriage exists among other ethnic groups as well, including Asian-Pacific Islander Americans (72 percent) and Native Americans (56 percent). But in every racial or ethnic group, a majority believe that same-sex couples have the right to be legally married.
Support also exists across most religious groups—97 percent of Unitarians support same-sex marriage, as do 80 percent of Buddhists, 77 percent of Jews, 75 percent of Hindus, 67 percent of white mainline Protestants, 66 percent of white Catholics and Orthodox Christians, 65 percent of Hispanic Catholics, and 51 percent of Muslims.
While positions on same-sex marriage often seem to fall along political lines, the survey showed support for same-sex marriage also crosses party affiliation. Seventy-three percent of Democrats and 66 percent of independents lend their support. Though the numbers are substantially lower across the political aisle, 42 percent of Republicans approve of same-sex marriage. That number is influenced by conservative Republicans’ stances. Only 36 percent of these voters say they support marriage rights compared to 58 percent of liberal Republicans and 59 percent of moderate members of the GOP.
One of the best illustrations of the cultural shift on this once hot-button issue is that the percentage of Americans who “strongly favor” same-sex marriage (30 percent) now outnumbers the 14 percent who “strongly oppose.” Just 10 years ago, these numbers were almost the reverse, with 13 percent saying they “strongly favored” same-sex marriage and 24 percent “strongly opposed.”
As for that wedding cake—60 percent of Americans oppose withholding services to same-sex couples, and the opposition also crosses religious and political lines, with Mormons, white evangelicals, and conservative Republicans as notable exceptions.
“The country has reached a milestone moment in the debate over LGBT rights,” Dan Cox, research director at PRRI, told NBC News. “At a time when Americans are more divided than ever, the sea change in support for LGBT rights that now crosses lines of race, ethnicity, religion and geography means that LGBT rights are becoming one of the few areas of public agreement.”
It may be premature to grab a slice of cake before the Supreme Court rules, but we here at This Week in Sex are ready to pour a little bubbly to celebrate this good news.
Everybody Is Doing It: Majority of People Worldwide Masturbate
May is Masturbation Month. Since 1995, the folks at Good Vibrations, one of the more well-known sex toy stores in the country, have been celebrating May as Masturbation Month.
The celebration started as a protest of the treatment of then-Surgeon General M. Joycelyn Elders, who was forced to resign after suggesting that it could be good to teach young people about masturbation. Good Vibrations wanted to change the narrative on masturbation—from something controversial to something safe, free, and pleasurable.
This year, Tenga, a manufacturer of men’s sex toys, is marking the month with a global survey that asks about masturbation, and we don’t think anyone is going to be surprised by the results: Everybody masturbates. Okay, not everybody, but a majority of adults (78 percent) across the globe. This includes 96 percent of British men and 78 percent of British women; 93 percent of German men and 76 percent of German women; and 92 percent of American men and 76 percent of American women.
Masturbation starts pretty early, with an average age of about 15 in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Germany. Young people also do it most often, with more than half (57 percent) of people between the ages of 18 and 24 saying they masturbate at least weekly.
What we don’t do, however is talk about it. Only 18 percent of respondents in the United States, 15 percent in the United Kingdom, and 11 percent in Germany said they feel it is important to talk about masturbation with people they care about.
Kinky in the Kitchen: Sex Is Not Just for the Bedroom
While the bedroom might be the most obvious place, it is certainly not the only room in our homes that see sexual action, according to a new survey by the website House Sense. The site surveyed 1,048 men and women between the ages of 18 and 80 and found that pretty much every room in the house—including basements and bathrooms—is fair game for sex games.
Outside of the bedroom, the living room was the most popular, with 97 percent of respondents saying they’d had sex there. Coming in a distant second is actually the bathroom at 83 percent—what it lacks in comfortable furniture and warm surfaces, it seems to make up for in doors that lock. Other somewhat popular spaces include the guest bedroom (65 percent), kitchen (58 percent), den (57 percent), and home office (55 percent).
The basement seems preferable to the attic (42 percent compared to 11), and the laundry room beat out the closet (33 percent to 19 percent). We wonder if it’s the extra room to move or the built-in vibrations of the dryer that people prefer. In the name of privacy, the backyard was much more popular than the front yard (25 percent to 8 percent) and the garage beat them both (27)—what it lacks in ambience it makes up for in walls.
There’s a pretty close race running between the dining room (39 percent), the home gym (39 percent), and the stairway (35 percent). We find this surprising, mostly because we didn’t realize that so many homes had a dedicated gym and that people were bendy enough to have sex on stairs without risking life and limb.
What we didn’t find surprising were the difference in habits between those who had children and those who did not. While nonparents used the living room, den, and kitchen with impunity, parents were relegated to rooms that presumably have doors and locks, like the bathroom, the guest bedroom, and the home office.
Regardless of whether they live with toddlers, tweens, terriers, or just a goldfish—it turns out that having sex outside of their own bedroom is good for couples. A clear majority of those who had sex outside the bedroom (94 percent) were satisfied with their relationship and 87 percent were satisfied with their sex life. In contrast, only 84 percent of bedroom-bound couples had relationship satisfaction and just 62 percent of them were satisfied with their sex life.
The moral of this story: The home gym isn’t just for squats, the laundry room isn’t just for stain removal, and the kitchen floor isn’t just cold, hard, Mexican ceramic tile. They’re all new places to find love, romance, and sexual satisfaction. Just be careful if you do it on the stairs.