1979 Sex Survey

An article about a sex survey in the Emory Wheel (January 30,1979) was quite interesting in several ways and made me engage in some critical thinking. The ‘informal consensus’ on 165 students (80 females and 85 males) of Psychology 214 class compiled by Dr. David Edwards of the psychology department had some interesting statistics.

First interesting point was the difference between responses of male and female students in their frequencies of sexual intercourse. Forty-three percent of the females answered that they were having sexual intercourse several times per week, whereas only 14 percent of the males were having sex with such frequency. After reading this, I could not refrain from asking, who were the females having sex with?

If we assume that most of the students with active sex life were engaging in sexual intercourse that involves 1 woman and 1 man (because the article also mentions that 99 percent of both females and males considered themselves as heterosexual, and only 5 percent and 11 percent of females and males, respectively, had tried same-sex relations at least once in their lifetime), this can be interpreted in many ways.

It can mean that the small number of male students were having multiple partners when female students were being ‘loyal’ to their only partners. It may sound somewhat humiliating to the old Emory alumni who were in that class, but the difference in frequency reminded me of the statistics from primate social psychology class I took last semester. In macaques and capuchin monkeys’ societies, so called, alpha males and the ones very close to him mates with all of the females in the group, that shows similar statistics to that of the psychology class.

However, since the survey asked only a specific group of students, many other possibilities exist. The male students in the psychology class may had not been much sexually attractive, and the females could had been having sex with males in other classes or even the ones outside the campus. The male students themselves could had not been interested much in sexual intercourse, if we consider the 94 percent male masturbation rate (in contrast to 47 percent in females) that suggests that males were perhaps satisfied with fulfilling their sexual desires alone.

We should also note that the big difference (47% female vs 14% male) is from the response to “having sexual intercourse several times per week”. This could also mean the opposite of my first suspicion. Most male students could had been having sex once or twice per week (which is less than ‘several times’) with single partner and female students could possibly be having multiple partners.

The fact that women were having sexual intercourse more frequently just looked too contrasting to what I expected to find, probably because of the sexual stereotype I have that women, especially in times like 1979, should be more conservative than their concurrent males or present women.

Another aspect that surprised me was the openness of the article. Although 1979 can be seen as quite recent, this is the first article that I found in the archive that openly wrote about sexual research or surveys with questions about oral sex, masturbation, and same sex relations. About a month ago, I found and wrote about an article from the Emory Report, February 8th, 1934, tilted “Fair Sex Analyzed In Experiment at Tufts”, but that was merely a joke about female stereotypes. Since this time, the facts and numbers about the students’ sexual lives are discussed in the official university news paper, I believe there had been much changes between 1934 and 1979. I am also happy that I should be able to find more articles about sexual identity in later Emory Wheel.

Emory Wheel Sex Survey 1979

Emory Report 1934

2 thoughts on “1979 Sex Survey

  1. Generally when I see staggered statistics pertaining to sex between genders, I assume it’s because there are a few men who have sex with many girls. This is why you may see values such as 14% and 43%.

    It is similar to rape statistics where 1/4 women have experienced sexual assault. We would assume that would mean 1/4 of men are directly the cause of this, yet it is only 3% of men who repeatedly do this. [http://www.bewellexcel.emorycampuslife.org/97-of-men]

    This is why I am more persuaded by your first theory more than the others.

  2. Humint: Great job breaking down the statistics from the 1979 Sex Survey that you found in The Emory Wheel. I have to agree with sumo that there is a better chance that the women in this class were having sex with people from outside of Emory. I am also struck by the fact that 99% identified at heterosexual. I am pretty sure this does not jive with national statistics on gays and lesbians at the time. Interesting stuff, nonetheless. Great job.

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