What We Think We Know About Sex

Slate_sex_2 At the Prospect office yesterday, my female editors and I shared a collective gasp of shock as we navigated over to the Slate homepage and saw the photo at left. My first thought, honestly, was, "How did she get her butt to look like that?" Jessica made some much more intelligent points.

But "illustrated history of the butt" aside, I did find one of the featured articles worth responding to — Amanda Schaffer‘s look back at the collection of sexual statistics in America. Because early sex researchers Alfred Kinsey and Shere Hite relied on personal interviews and often personal connections to locate subjects for their studies, their findings tended toward the sexually liberated. Hence, Kinsey thought 10 percent of people were homosexual, while Hite believed 95 percent of women could "orgasm easily." Kinsey said half of all married men had cheated on their wives.

Personally, I’m skeptical of what exactly this number counts, but newer research shows that only about 5 percent of Americans have sex with someone of their own gender. We also now know that closer to 25 percent of men and 15 percent of women are adulterers, not half of all married adults. And as many as one-third of women report having difficulty reaching orgasm.

What really strikes me is the pure staying power of some of the Kinsey numbers in our cultural consciousness, especially his statistics on homosexuality and adultery. Perhaps, as Schaffer notes, the issue is that no American sex researcher since Kinsey and Hite has courted the media the way those two did.

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