Have you ever wondered what’s considered standard for sex?
Since most people don’t talk openly about their sex lives, it can be difficult to know if your own sex life is typical. But many of us are curious. A lot of people wonder if they should be having more sex, trying new positions, and exploring different sex toys.
Before we dive into what’s standard for sex, let’s define what sex is. Sex doesn’t have to include intercourse or penetration. Sex can be anything that feels sexual to you – kissing, touching, tickling, spanking, fetish play, intercourse, outercourse, and any other sexy choices and activities that you enjoy.
According to the World Health Organization, sexual health is a state of physical, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality. It requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence.
This brings us to our next question—what kind of sex is typical?
Studies have found that sex is usually more than just one sex act. The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior shared that Americans ages 14 to 94 reported engaging in over 40 combinations of sexual positions and acts. Vaginal intercourse was reported as the most common shared sexual activity among those polled, along with oral sex and masturbation.
Research by AARP shared that older Americans reported a variety of sexual interests. Research participants shared their enjoyment of sex and other intimate gestures such as touching, caressing, and hugging.
According to the Kinsey Institute, plenty of kissing or cuddling promises happiness in relationships for men, but not for women.
Because people are less likely to speak about sexual behaviors, such as roleplaying, anal sex, and BDSM, it’s difficult to gauge how many people are partaking in these activities.
I can share with you that over the past two decades that I’ve worked with patients on their intimate lifestyles, vaginal intercourse is the most typical type of sex that I’ve encountered. I have found that sexual openness and experimentation is increasing.
So, how often are people having sex?
According to the National Opinion Research Center, people aged 18 to 29 have sex about 84 times a year. In their 40s, most people drop off to around 63 times a year. By age 70 and up, it’s about 10 times annually.
That means, having sex or enjoying sexual activities around once or twice each week is typical for most people.
Research by AARP echoes this with 36 percent of their study participants reporting they have sexual intercourse at least once a week. AARP’s report states that people over age 45 say sexual activity is a very important part of their lives and has a direct impact on the quality of their life.
The Kinsey Institute states sexual dissatisfaction is associated with increased risk of divorce and relationship dissolution.
So, no matter how often you’re having it, sex is an important part of a relationship.
What about sexual satisfaction?
Although the World Health Organization's definition of sexual health as a state of well-being, virtually no public health research has examined sexual well-being outcomes, including sexual satisfaction.
Research by the American Public Health Association (APHA) examined over two thousand university students and concluded sexual satisfaction is a critical element of sexual health. They reported sexual satisfaction as being an integral part of overall sexual well-being. The majority of university student participants reported they were satisfied or very satisfied with their current sexual lives and satisfaction did not differ significantly by gender.
Of course, orgasms are tightly tied to sexual satisfaction. The APHA research found men were twice as likely as women to experience an orgasm during sexual intercourse (89% vs 44.6%). Hence, The Orgasm Gap.
The Orgasm Gap refers to the fact that in heterosexual sexual encounters, men have more orgasms than women. It was also the name of a 2017 study done in the Netherlands by Durex.
A study by the American Sociological Review with 15,000 college students found that the orgasm gap is larger in hookup sex than in relationship sex. The orgasm gap may be attributed to the lack of consistent, quality sex education available. In our school systems today, there is zero education on sexual pleasure and satisfaction as it pertains to sex. Most sex education focuses on avoiding sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
Having an orgasm does not define a sexual experience. There are many ways to enjoy sex without attaining an orgasm. Some people find it difficult to reach orgasm, and for women, most orgasms are clitorally-based and not dependent on sexual penetration. This makes the inclusion of sex toys important for sexual satisfaction!
Is it normal for sexual desires to change?
Learning from the patients I’ve spoken with, it appears as though people all evolve sexually. Throughout our lives our sexual desire, perceptions, and preferences may shift.
According to AARP research, among older Americans who no longer have sexual relations, declining health is the most common culprit.
During menopause, desire for sex will also wane. Masturbation, self-care, and appreciating your body may help boost desire. These practices can be helpful in feeling sexier in your own body, which in turn can make you desire more sex.
I ask my patients to make time for masturbation, which can get healthy blood flow circulating through the genital regions. Plus, the more you know about what stimulation your body sexually responds to, the more readily you’ll be able to get “in the mood”.
Trying new things sexually and experimenting with new positions and sex toys can also help bring sparks back into relationships.
One Common Sexual Thread
Among everyone I’ve spoken with about sex and what it means to them, the commonality is that people want to enjoy sex and pleasure is the #1 thing they seek. Yes, sex brings us closer together. Sure, not everyone enjoys the same type of sex. Of course, there are healthy benefits to having sex. But it’s pleasure that is in the forefront of people’s minds.
What does sex mean to you? Do you feel like your sex life is typical? Or not? I’d love to hear from you! Please let me know what your normal is. And if you have any questions, I’m always here to help.