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November 24, 1999

Attitudes Toward and Definitions of Having Sex

Author Affiliations

Phil B.FontanarosaMD, Interim CoeditorIndividualAuthorMargaret A.WinkerMD, Deputy EditorIndividualAuthorStephenLurieMD PhD, Fishbein FellowIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 1999;282(20):1916-1919. doi:10-1001/pubs.JAMA-ISSN-0098-7484-282-20-jbk1124

To the Editor: As Drs Sanders and Reinisch1 suggest, whether a particular act is labeled as "sex" may depend on factors such as the nature of the relationship and whether orgasm occurred. In 1997, as part of a pilot study conducted to investigate the labeling of selected physical acts as sex, we surveyed 57 undergraduates at a large eastern US university.2 The mean age of the participants was 19.5 years. Of the total participants, 51% were male and 75% were white. Survey participants were presented with 18 sexual behavior scenarios featuring "Jim" and "Susie." They were asked whether the behavior described would be considered sex by Jim and Susie (eg, "Jim and Susie meet at a bar. They go back to his apartment where they engage in vaginal intercourse. They both have orgasms. Would Jim consider this sex? Would Susie consider this sex?").

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