Diversity in conceptualisation of having "had sex".
Article Type: Brief article
Subject: Mediating effects (Research) (Analysis)
Sexual behavior surveys (Reports)
Pub Date: 05/01/2010
Publication: Name: Reproductive Health Matters Publisher: Reproductive Health Matters Audience: General Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Family and marriage; Health; Women's issues/gender studies Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 Reproductive Health Matters ISSN: 0968-8080
Issue: Date: May, 2010 Source Volume: 18 Source Issue: 35
Topic: Canadian Subject Form: Sexual behaviour surveys
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 236247756
Full Text: Understanding the meaning of the word "sex" has implications for medical research and clinical practice. This is the first study of a representative sample to assess attitudes about which sexual behaviours constitute having "had sex" and to examine possible mediating factors. A telephone survey of randomly selected English-speaking residents of Indiana, US, was conducted, giving a sample of 204 men and 282 women aged 18-96. Questions assessed attitudes on manual-genital, oral-genital, penile-vaginal intercourse and penile-anal behaviours. There was no universal consensus on which behaviours constituted having "had sex". 95% responded "yes" to penile-vaginal intercourse, bur this dropped to 89% if there is no ejaculation. 81% responded "yes" to penile-anal intercourse, and 71% and 73% responded "yes" to oral-genital, either performing or receiving, respectively. Manual-genital was endorsed more often when received (48.1%) than given (44.9%, p< 0.001). Among men, the oldest and youngest age groups were significantly less likely to believe certain behaviours constituted having "had sex". It is necessary to use behaviour-specific terminology in sexual history taking, sex research, sexual health promotion and sex education. Researchers, educators and medical practitioners should not assume that their own definitions of having "had sex" are shared by research participants or patients. (1)

(1.) Sanders SA, Hill BJ, Yarber WL, et al. Misclassification bias: diversity in conceptualisations about having 'had sex'. Sexual Health 2010;7(1):31-34.
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