Sex Survey of Students Is Unsettling

Article excerpt

How are members of Generation X - or maybe sub-Generation X - thinking about a rather large issue in their lives? Sex, that is. That most cutting edge of cutting-edge magazines for young males, Details (published by the mighty and most successful Conde Nast Corp.) has joined forces with Random House to produce an unsettling book: "Sex on Campus."

The publishing house is one of the oldest, most reputable and successful, and one willing to go out on a limb now and again. Witness one of its current novels, Kathryn Harrison's "Kiss," in which she recounts a four-year affair with her father. Oh yes, definitely a cool publisher. But consider "Sex on Campus."

Together, last fall Details and Random House conceived the idea of surveying 20,000 college students, asking them 150 "revealing" - as the press release puts it - questions about their sex lives. Conde Nast retained a major research firm, Willard & Shullman of Greenwich, Conn., to revise the questions and oversee the results to ensure - again in the words of the press release - "that it would generate statistically viable results."

Twenty thousand questionnaires were sent out, and by November some 9 percent of those questioned had responded; that is, 1,752 in all, from all parts of the country and from all levels of college - freshmen through seniors - with fully completed forms. Willard & Shullman calculated the findings and weighted the responses to reflect the U.S. college population as a whole. The survey, claim the publishers, is the largest college student sex survey ever conducted.

Judging by the highly vernacular language in which "Sex on Campus" is couched, the book is intended for the college students themselves rather than members of the adult world. In fact, as the authors, Leland Elliott and Cynthia Brantley, say more than once in the course of the work, they hope the students will regard it as a "guidebook" to make readers informed and comfortable on the whole matter of sex. …