- The Washington Times - Friday, September 16, 2005

More than 90 percent of married Americans said they were faithful to their spouses in 2002, according to a new federal report on sexual behavior that includes data on men for the first time.

The data — and many more facts about Americans’ sexual behaviors, attractions and orientations — is designed to help researchers and policy-makers respond to public health matters, said William D. Mosher, lead author of the report released yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

“These are private behaviors, but they have public consequences,” Mr. Mosher said.About 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) are diagnosed each year. Roughly 85 percent of HIV/AIDS cases are acquired through sexual contact.

Much of the NCHS report’s data come from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), which surveyed 12,571 persons ages 15 to 44.

The previous five NSFGs were of women only and focused on fertility, childbearing and reproduction.

The 2002 NSFG included answers from 5,000 men and asked new questions about sexual attraction, sexual orientation and sexual practices, such as oral and anal sex.

The NSFG found, for instance, that when people ages 18 to 44 were asked for their sexual identification, 4 percent of men and 4 percent of women said they were either homosexual or bisexual. Those percentages would translate to a total of 4.5 million self-identified homosexuals and bisexuals ages 18 to 44 in the U.S.

However, when everyone in the NSFG survey group, ages 15 through 44, was asked about their sexual partners in the past year, smaller proportions — 1.6 percent of men and 1.3 percent of women — said all of their sexual partners were of the same sex as them.

Noting that “a mutually monogamous relationship” is one way to reduce STD risks, the NSFG asked married people how many opposite-sex sexual partners they had had in the past year. About 93 percent of wives and 92 percent of husbands said they had had only one partner.

About 5 percent of husbands and 4 percent of wives said they had had more than one sexual partner in the previous year, and smaller portions declined to answer the question, but these statistics “are not certain evidence of infidelity,” according to the report.

The NSFG found that of people ages 25 to 44, 97 percent of men and 98 percent of woman have had vaginal intercourse. However, it also found that almost as many of these adults — 90 percent of men and 88 percent of women — have had oral sex with people of the opposite sex.

The NSFG also contained new information about teens and their sexual behaviors, including the finding that more than half of all teens ages 15 to 19 engaged in oral sex in 2002.

Many teens who had engaged in oral sex engaged in sexual intercourse, as well. But of the teens who never had had intercourse, 24 percent of boys and 22 percent of girls reported having had oral sex.

These teens may be viewing oral sex as a way to maintain their “technical virginity” or avoid pregnancy, but they may not be aware of the health risks of oral sex, said Jennifer Manlove, a researcher at Child Trends.

Gonorrhea, herpes and chlamydia are just a few of the STDs that can be transmitted through oral sex, Ms. Manlove said.

Monica Rodrigues of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States said the new NCHS report “confirms” that Americans’ sex lives are “more diverse than commonly believed.”

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