What We Learned About Sex In 2017, According To Science
The more that we can learn about sex, and talk about sex, the better. I'm always interested in what new studies and surveys find out about our sex lives — not just because I write about sex, but because I like talking about sex with my friends and my partner. It's a helpful habit to get into, because talking about sex generally makes it easier to communicate with your partner about your sex life and what you want in bed.
"[Couples with healthy sex lives] have awkward conversations," sexologist and relationship expert Dr. Nikki Goldstein tells Bustle. "Often people can have sex but are scared to talk about it out of fear that might offend their partner or it might be awkward. In order to have a healthy sex life you need to have sometimes awkward conversations about what might not be working in the bedroom or what you want more or less of."
If talking about your own sex life feels awkward, one way to approach the topic is to being up some interesting sexual facts you've recently learned. The good news? 2017 was full of them. From the very serious to the much more silly, here's what surveys and studies discovered about sex in 2017.
1Only 18.6% Of Women Say Penetration Is Enough For Orgasm
One sex study in 2017 got everyone finally talking about the importance of outercourse versus intercourse. Debby Herbenick at Indiana University led a survey that asked 1,055 heterosexual women aged 18 to 94 years all about genital stimulation. While 36 percent of women said that they needed clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm, another 36 percent said that they didn't need it, but it made their orgasms stronger.
Only 18.6 percent of women said penetration was enough for orgasm. That's why outercourse is such an important term, because it gives an alternative to intercourse, which just isn't the main event for most women We don't need to focus on penis-in-vagina penetration, when sex is about so much more.
2What Counts As "Sex" Is All Relative
In addition to recognizing outercourse, there was further proof that defining sex as solely penis-in-vagina penetration is hugely reductive, especially when you factor in the queer community. According to a study published in The Journal of Sex Research, definitions of "sex" are really malleable. The study looked at 700 LBGTQ adults and found that while 90 percent of gay men thought anal penetration counted as "sex", there was no clear winner for women. Toys, oral, and digital manipulation were all options different participants said counted as "sex". Lesson? It's time to stop being so prescriptive.
4The Average Duration Of Sex Is Different Around The World
There's definitely no perfect length of time for sex to last because everyone has different tastes. And it turns out, the average length of sex varies, depending on what country you live in. According to a survey from Saucy Dates, an adult dating site, of 3,836 heterosexual people 18 to 50 around the world, there's a huge range of sex durations.
In the U.S., the average sex session was 17 minutes and five seconds, compared to just 15 minutes and 15 seconds in India.
5We Still Aren't Using Protection For Oral Sex
Safe sex is important — even when it comes to oral sex. But according to a YouGov survey, 34 percent of Americans never use protection during oral sex, which isn't good considering how many STIs you can get from oral sex. And even worse, 14 percent of people said they never practice safe sex at all. In 2018, we need to get our sh*t together.
6Most Men Confuse Sexual Interest And Consent
Research from Binghamton University found that most men confuse sexual interest with consent. How depressing is that?
"We found that the way in which the woman communicated her sexual intentions, that is verbal refusal versus passive responding, had the largest effect of men's perceptions," Binghamton University Associate Professor of Psychology Richard Mattson said in a press release. "However, there was also evidence of a precedence effect." As in, if they had had sex with a woman before they were more likely to presume consent. In ambiguous situations, men were likely to fall back onto toxic "hyper-masculine" logic and rape myths (like "no means yes") to fill in the blanks. Sadly, we still have a long way to go before there is a true understanding of what consent looks like.
7Love At First Sight Really Is About... Sex
Love at first sight might just mean that you really, really want to have sex with someone. A study published in the Journal of the International Association for Relationship Research found that love at first sight might not even have much to do with love at all. In fact, for people who said they had experienced it, it wasn't linked to intimacy or romance, but feelings of intense physical attraction. Basically, love at first sight may really just be lust at first sight.
8Sex Toys Are More Popular In New England
Lovehoney also looked at sex toy sales around the country in a 2017 report and found that New England was the most popular place for sex toy sales, with Vermont and New Hampshire topping the list. Considering Alaska came in at number three, my guess is that it has something to do with people trying to stay warm.
9We're More Interested In Sex Around The Holidays
We all get horny around the holidays. Research published in the journal Scientific Reports tracked our "collective unconscious" by looking at Google searches in 130 countries. After looking at the sexual nature of our searches (and the resulting spikes in birth rates nine months later) researchers found that we were interested in sex more around the holidays — during the Christmas season in more Christian countries and around Eid in Muslim-majority countries.
10You Probably Won't Have A Sex Heart Attack
Yay for living through sex! Research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2017 showed that dying of a heart attack during sex is really, really unlikely. For men, only one percent of the total cardiac arrest cases were triggered by sex and for women, it was only 0.1 percent. So you can rest easy knowing it's really, really unlikely.
11Regular Pot Smokers Get Laid More
It's always great to see what new and exciting things we can learn about sex, so here's to more eye-opening research coming our way in 2018.