History of Sex Surveys: Sexual Behavior in the 1970s Part 1

About the sex survey conducted by The Research Guild Inc in the 1970s on sexual behavior, marriage, drugs, and other topics.

Survey: SEXUAL BEHAVIOR IN THE 1970s

Researchers: The Research Guild, Inc., an independent market-survey and behavioral-research organization, commissioned by the Playboy Foundation. Supplemented and interpreted by author Morton Hunt.

Topics Studied: Contemporary sexual behavior and attitudes in all aspects, as compared with the findings of the 1st Kinsey Report, published 25 years earlier.

When Done: 1973--1974.

How Done: Subjects completed questionnaires made up of over 1,000 items covering their backgrounds, sex education, attitudes toward sexual practices, and complete sex histories. Ten percent of the subjects were subsequently interviewed in depth--the men by Mr. Hunt, the women by his wife, author Bernice Kohn.

Subjects Studied: The sample closely paralleled the composition of adult American society. It included 982 men and 1,044 women, was approximately 90% white and 10% black. Seventy-one percent were married, 25% never married, 4% previously married but not remarried. Age, educational level, occupation, and geographical origin were roughly representative of the population as a whole.

Where Done: Information was collected in 24 U.S. cities and suburbs.

Findings: Premarital sex has become acceptable and widespread. About 75% of the single women had had intercourse before they were 25. Fifty percent of the women who married before 25 had had premarital sex, and among the younger married women, 80% had had it. The overall incidence of premarital sex among males showed a less dramatic increase than among females, but single males were found to begin their premarital coital experiences earlier. By the age of 17, nearly 75% of the noncollege males had had premarital coitus.

Extramarital sex, "at least in the eyes of those who were divorced, [was] related to the distintegration of marriage. More than 50% of the divorced males and females who had had extramarital relations say that such activities caused their separations or divorces."

Divorced persons are much more apt to be sexually active and experimental than their precursors of a generation ago. None of the divorced males were sexually inactive; they had a median of 8 intercourse partners a year. Only 9% of the divorced women were sexually inactive; the others had a median of 3.5 partners per year. Hunt contends that "much of the postmarital behavior of the divorced is aimed at the restoration of ego strength and is a preparation for renewed intimacy--when it can be found."

The double standard has been virtually abandoned, one result being the wane of prostitution, which is approximately half as widespread as it was in the '40s. Young husbands are only a little more likely, but young wives much more likely (24%) to engage in extramarital sexual activities than they were in Kinsey's day.

Oral sex is far more widely used--an average of half again as much--as it used to be. These practices are especially common today among younger men and women; more than 80% of single males and females between 25 and 34, and about 90% of married persons under 25 had practiced cunnilingus or fellatio, or both, in the past year.

Heterosexual anal intercourse is much more widely used today than formerly, although it remains primarily an experimental variation, chiefly among younger persons. Nearly 25% of all females and more than 25% of all males in the total sample had experienced anal intercourse at least once, and nearly 25% of married couples under 35 had used it at least once in the past year.

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