Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Our Fantasies Are Getting Ahead of Our Sex Lives

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Our Fantasies Are Getting Ahead of Our Sex Lives

Article excerpt

If Jesse Helms had known it would come out this way, he might have mortgaged the state of North Carolina to come up with the research funds. But when the conservative senator put the kibosh on federal money for a study of sex back in 1991, he didn't want to pay for filling in a landscape of licentiousness.

O, ye of little faith.

It turns out that the report, and the book released last week, presents a portrait of "Sex in America" that is anything but X-rated. Our national sex life is rather staid, especially compared to our sexual fantasies about this life.

Sex is by and large married and monogamous and if it's not hot, it's warm enough to please 88 percent of the couples. Some 75 percent of married men and 85 percent of married women remain faithful. Singles who have to pursue sex actually have it less often than married people who only have to roll over in bed and bump into it.

Based on a sample of 3,432 Americans from 18 to 59, it appears that the average American has sex once a week in positions that would be familiar to their missionary forebears. Men have had a median number of six partners over their lifetime, women have had two.

Moreover, sex does not appear to be an animal instinct on the rampage, barely checked by willpower and fear of AIDS. It exists in a wide social context, not in an elevator, and by and large obeys a series of social rules. Americans meet, date and mate people from their own socioeconomic circle. If they see someone across a crowded room, it's likely to be a room crowded with friends and colleagues and people like them.

In short, we are not all Sharon Stone. In fact Sharon Stone probably isn't Sharon Stone.

Now staidness shouldn't be so shocking. Yet the University of Chicago researchers who have put "Sex in America" between hard covers have a good many myths to debunk. "We are not teakettles full of hot sexual steam."

It seems that we have had years of flawed research from Kinsey to Hite to Playboy. More to the point, we've had decades of what amounts to propaganda from Hollywood, television, and advertising suggesting that we are teakettles. …

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