POLL: American Sex Survey

Moreover, the survey finds that satisfaction with sex does matter. A statistical analysis identifies some of the factors independently related to satisfaction with sex, marriage and life more broadly. Among other findings, it shows that activities such as discussing fantasies with a partner contribute to an exciting sex life, that an exciting sex life contributes to a happy marriage and that a happy marriage contributes to life satisfaction.

These and other findings in this random-sample telephone poll of 1,501 adults paint a remarkable and intimate portrait of sex in America in the 21st century. Many of the frank and personal questions, from foreplay to fantasy, have rarely if ever been asked before in a representative national survey. Other results comport with previous sex research. The survey is the basis for an exclusive report on sexual attitudes and behavior for the ABC News program "Primetime Live" that aired on Thursday, Oct. 21 at 10 p.m. ET. A second program, based on a separate survey of sexual attitudes and behavior among teenagers, will air at a later date.

Different Planets

If women are from Venus, men are -- well -- men. Seventy percent of men think about sex every day -- double the rate among women. Indeed, 43 percent of men think about sex several times a day; just 13 percent of women do that. Eighty-three percent of men enjoy sex "a great deal"; that falls to 59 percent of women. Women, though, are equally likely to express satisfaction with their sex lives.

Sex and the Gender Gap
 Men Women
Think about sex every day70% 34
Enjoy sex a "great deal"83 59

Overall, women report an average of six sex partners in their lifetimes; men, 20. But a better gauge of sexual activity for most people is the median, the midpoint between the high and low: Women report a median of three sex partners; men, a median of eight.

The averages are higher because a small number of individuals -- especially men -- report a very large number of partners. Five percent of the men in this sample reported having had 99 or more sex partners, including four who reported 200, three who reported 300 and one who reported 400. Among women, one percent reported 99 or more partners; the high was 100 (reported by two women).

Total Number of Sex Partners
 Average Median
All13 5
Men20 8
Women6 3

While there are differences between the sexes, the data are internally coherent; for example, people who report more sex partners, men and women alike, are more apt to describe themselves as adventurous sexually and to say they enjoy sex a great deal.

Total Number of Sex Partners
  All Men Women
One 19% 12 25
2-4 25 16 33
5-10 28 26 29
11-20 12 18 6
21+ 12 20 4

In another difference between the sexes, 42 percent of men report having had had sex on a first date; that drops to 17 percent of women. Again the data are coherent; women who report having had first-date sex also are much more likely to call themselves sexually adventurous, and they report many more sex partners across their lives -- an average of 19, compared with an average of four for other women.

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