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November 24, 1999

Attitudes Toward and Definitions of Having Sex—Reply

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

In Reply: The responses to our article encompass several positions ultimately supporting our basic points. Despite widespread discussion of the specific meaning of certain sexual verbal expressions, Dr Burland and Dr Turner suggest it is well-known that people select their words to "protect them and rationalize their behavior" and, for young people at least, "‘having sex' means whatever they want it (or need it) to mean." The statement that our article "adds nothing new," belies the recent controversy among political pundits, media experts, and their audiences, each insisting their conflicting definitions represent the generally held meaning of particular sexual phrases. Although Burland seems to dismiss the potential general applicability of our findings regarding variations in definitions of "having sex," he otherwise suggests that "situational definitions" of sexual terms "can be used by adolescents of all ages."

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