Definitions of Sexual Behavior Among Young Adults

UNCA Author/Contributor (non-UNCA co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Hannah Clark, Student (Creator)
University of North Carolina Asheville (UNCA )
Web Site:
Melissa Himelein

Abstract: Much cognitive and definitional ambiguity surrounds the idea of “having sex,” especially among young adults. Researchers have attempted to determine what contextual factors influence university-aged individuals in their understanding and subsequent labeling of sexual behavior. However, previous investigations have been based on heterosexual populations, using questionnaires that may not apply to sexual minorities. The purpose of this study was to gather and compare definitions of sex among university-aged adults of varying sexual and gender identities. This study attempts to re-conceptualize sex definitional research through revised survey measures and varied sampling techniques. In particular, additional sexual behaviors were adapted from public health research of sexual minorities. Analyses of both quantitative and qualitative data are employed in the effort to clarify behaviors that are labeled as "sex" and the contextual factors affecting these definitions. We found higher endorsement of oral sex among females and sexual minorities as well as strong agreement among all participants that anal sex is considered to be sex. In addition, broader definitions of sex were found to be more likely among females and sexual minorities, and the presence of orgasm emerged as a significant variable in deciding whether to label a particular behavior as sex. The additional sexual behaviors had varying levels of endorsement, but were consistently included in sexual minorities’ definitions of sex. Future sexuality research should strive to incorporate more gender and orientation minorities and adjust their demographics and measures accordingly.

Additional Information

UNC Asheville - Journal of Undergraduate Research
Language: English
Date: 2013
sexual behavior, sex definitional research, sexual minorities

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