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Young Adult Sexual Health: Current and Prior Sexual Behaviors Among Non-Hispanic White U.S. College Students

March 23, 2010

The current study provides information on the prior and current sexual practices -- including oral sex, vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse, and masturbation -- of a population of U.S. college students. "Less is known about the sexual health of young adults than about adolescents, despite 20- to 24-year-olds' greater risk of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmissible infections," the authors wrote.

The researchers examined data from a cross-sectional sexuality survey of students at two U.S. universities: one in the Midwest and one in the Southwest. The sample consisted of 1,504 non-Hispanic, white, never-married students who identified as heterosexual.

Of 16 possible combinations of four sexual activities (solitary masturbation, oral sex, vaginal intercourse, and anal intercourse), only four contained more than 5 percent of respondents: masturbation, oral sex, and vaginal intercourse (37 percent); oral sex and vaginal intercourse only (20 percent); all four (14 percent); and none (8 percent). Ever engaging in anal sex was reported by 20 percent. Forty-eight percent of women reported ever having masturbated, compared to 92 percent of men. Several challenges to sexual health including lack of verbal consent, alcohol use proximal to sex, and lack of contractive use -- were exhibited in analyses.

"Although few young adults are substituting it for vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse is increasingly common, and safer-sex efforts should encourage condom use during both sexual activities," the authors concluded. "Masturbation should be encouraged as an alternative to higher risk sexual practices and an essential aspect of sexual well being. Finally, practitioners should continue to address specific threats to students' sexual health, including alcohol use and non-verbal consent."

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Excerpted from:
Sexual Health
02.2010; Vol. 7; No. 1: P. 35-43; Jenny A. Higgins; James Trussell; Nelwyn B. Moore; J. Kenneth Davidson

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