How Sex Habits Of Young Adults Have Changed In The Past 20 Years, According To New Study

It really shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, but many of our attitudes toward sex have drastically changed over the years. While there are still several sex acts many aren't too comfortable discussing, according to a new study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, heterosexual teens and young adults today are significantly more open to sexual experimentation than they were 20 years ago. Because of that, researchers believe it's seriously time for current sex ed curriculum to keep up.

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine analyzed over 45,000 interviews of British residents between the ages of 16 to 24 from three surveys that were taken within the past 22 years. Participants were asked standard questions on their sexual behavior, attitude towards certain sex acts and their experiences.

Overall, vaginal sex was found to be the most common sex act among teens and young adults throughout the years. That's not exactly shocking nor brand new information. What is, however, is the fact that vaginal intercourse saw a modest decline among 16 to 24-year-olds in the past 20 years.

So if it's not just vaginal sex, what exactly are older teens and early 20-somethings doing in bed nowadays? Here's what the study found:

Anal Sex Doubled Among Young Adults

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

Young people today are much more open to trying new things sexually. In fact, the number of young adults who've had anal sex has more than doubled in the past two decades. "One reason people are so fascinated by anal sex is because it’s typically perceived as taboo," Sunny Rodgers, Clinical Sexologist and Ambassador for the American Sexual Health Association tells Bustle. "It makes the allure of it almost magnetic. Anal sex is something that almost everyone has on their 'Must Try Once' list."

Another study published earlier this year from Indiana University’s Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction also found that over a third of women say they've had anal sex and even more are open to trying it. So it's definitely moving away from being in the "taboo" category.

The Number Of People Who've Done Vaginal, Oral, And Anal Sex Has Significantly Increased

Ashley Batz/Bustle

Vaginal, oral, and anal are probably the three sex acts that come to mind when you think of sex. Since more are trying anal sex than ever before, the number of people who've done all three has increased, too. In fact, the survey taken in the early 90s found that only one in 10 people have done all three acts over the past year. Most recently, one in four men and one in five women say they've participated in all three over the past year. The largest increase was found among older teens aged 16 to 19-years-old.

Although there was a decline in vaginal intercourse, researchers say oral and anal aren't "replacing" it in any way. Instead, the two are "joining" it as something heterosexual couples just happen to do during sex now.

Why This Is Important

Ashley Batz/Bustle

While it's great to know that more people are embracing a variety of sex acts, this study has another purpose. Because anal and oral sex are becoming a more standard thing among teens and young adults, researchers believe it's super important to have sexual education curriculum that reflects those changes.

"The changes in practices we see here are consistent with the widening of other aspects of young people's sexual experience, and are perhaps not surprising given the rapidly changing social context and the ever-increasing number of influences on sexual behavior," Kaye Wellings, senior author and Professor of Sexual and Reproductive Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said in a release. "It is important to keep up to date with trends in sexual lifestyles to help young people safeguard their health and increase their well being."

It's no secret that the state of sex ed today isn't all that great. In fact a 2016 study published in the journal BMJ Open found that teens believe sex ed is "out of touch." That's not exactly a good thing considering the fact that more young people today are open to exploring what sex has to offer.

"Teens and young adults have a much broader understanding of what sex means," sex educator Kenna Cook tells Bustle. "Teaching teens about oral sex, anal sex, and other forms of sexual expression like sexting, is extremely important for them to build a foundation to have safe and healthy sex lives and sexual identities into adulthood. The more we talk to teens about sex in their own terms, the more likely they are to ask questions when they need help."

While it's great that more people are comfortable exploring their sexuality, it's also important to be knowledgeable about what it means to be safe and respectful of both you and your partner's boundaries.