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According to a new study, the researchers for the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior say Americans indulge in 41 possible combinations of sexual acts. 

Many of us, the survey says, do a bit of this and a fair amount of that, not of course all at one time.  In fact, the panel of researchers say, the number is no doubt higher than 41, but the survey did not ask, for example, about use of sex toys and porn.

The study, of 5,865 people between the ages of 14 and 94, focused on five sex acts: penile-vaginal intercourse, solo masturbation, partnered masturbation, oral sex and anal sex.

The most common sexual encounter among both men and women was limited to one sex act: 32.9 percent of men and 39 percent of women aged 18-59 only engaged in penile-vaginal intercourse. But over 6 percent of men aged 25-29 used all five techniques the last time they had sex. About 16 percent of women 18-24 used four as did about 8 percent of women aged 50-59. And remember, that was just their last time.   

To some, ignorance is bliss. That’s all the better to maintain the image of this country as a land of heterosexual married couples locked in a missionary position.

Stats on oral sex are:  Eighty-eight percent of men aged 30-39 have performed oral sex on a woman. Almost 69 percent did it in the past year. Eighteen percent of boys aged 16-17 have given a girl oral sex in the past year. More than 15 percent of men in three age groups have given oral sex to another man.

Stats on anal sex are:  21 percent of women aged 25-29 had anal sex in the last year. By the time girls are 19, the new study shows, 30 percent have had anal sex at least once.

For many women, variety in each sexual encounter is better. Women reported they were much more likely to have an orgasm if their partners used more than one technique; 54 percent of women reported having an orgasm the last time they had sex when they engaged only in one act, but 89 percent of women who performed five sex acts during their last encounter had an orgasm.

All this can be fun, of course, but as our sexual variety has expanded, we’ve created more disease pathways. HPV, the cause of cervical cancer and genital warts, can be transmitted to the anus and mouth. The rise in oral sex corresponds with a rise in the rate of oropharyngeal cancer. Infection increases too. There are more cases of genitals being infected with herpes type 1, the cold sore type. There is also a rise in the rate of anal cancers which can also be caused by HPV.

Studies prove we must adjust health messages to fit our practices, like encouraging adoption of the HPV vaccine, and making sure everyone, in all age groups, understands that enjoyment of this variety means we must take greater responsibility for our related health concerns.


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