POLL: American Sex Survey

Americans say they first had sex at an average age of 18 (17 for men, 18 for women). Seniors report an average first-time age of 19; for adults under 25, it's 16. In a difference between the sexes, half of women, compared with 37 percent of men, say that in retrospect that was too young to start. One percent say they first had sex at age 30 or later; one female respondent said it was at age 50, another at 42 and a man at 39.

First-time sex was too young:
Men 37%
Women 50

Those who have sex do so with some regularity: Among those currently in a sexual relationship, 85 percent have sex about once a week or more, including 41 percent several times weekly and eight percent have sex daily. And people like it: Eighty-four percent of all women and 95 percent of men enjoy sex, although, as noted, men are much (24 points) more apt to enjoy it "a great deal."

The times clearly have changed in terms of sexual mores. Fifty-five percent of adults say homosexuality is "OK for some people"; in a 1982 Gallup poll, by contrast, just 34 percent called it an acceptable lifestyle. Sixty-one percent say premarital sex is OK -- compared with just 21 percent in a Gallup poll in 1969. Seniors are the only group in which a majority still says premarital sex is not acceptable; among young singles, by contrast, 76 percent say it's OK.

The Young and the Single

Young singles (under age 30) are less inhibited in some ways, but it isn't quite "Sex and the City" out there. Indeed, young singles have sex less frequently than people in a committed relationship (naturally -- they lack a ready partner). As noted, they're less likely to be in a sexual relationship.

Young singles are no more satisfied than couples sexually and no more likely to call their sex lives very exciting. Instead it's married (or living-together) young adults who are most apt to call their sex lives very satisfying and very exciting.

Sex Lives
 Very satisfied Very exciting
Married/ committed under 3077% 55
Singles under 3053 36
All 30 and older46 33
Less often3 24

Young singles also are no more likely than anyone else to have had sex on a first date, or to watch sex movies. Compared to all adults, more young singles are virgins (16 percent), particularly young single women.

Sexually active young singles don't have more lifetime sex partners (they're still young); they report a median of two partners in the last year, compared with a median of one for other adults. Forty-seven percent of young singles are concerned about contracting AIDS or some other sexually transmitted disease, twice the level of concern among other adults. (Concern about AIDS and other STDs peaks, at 59 percent, among anyone who's had two or more sex partners in the last year.)

There are other ways young singles differ: More, about four in 10, say sex without an emotional relationship is OK. And more (especially young single men) report having had unexpected sex and outdoor sex.

Generation Gap

Young adults more broadly, whether single or in a relationship, are more progressive sexually. They're more apt to talk with partners about their sexual fantasies; 71 percent do, compared with 45 percent of their elders. They're more likely to describe themselves and their partners as sexually adventurous. They're more apt to look at sexually explicit Web sites (particularly young men -- 53 percent have done so, compared with 26 percent of young women).

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