Sexuality in the United States

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Attitudes towards sexuality in the United States has had an assorted approach depending on both the region in the country and the specific time period.


The United States during the early modern period has a reputation for sexual impermissiveness, partyly due to influence from the Puritans. During the Victorian era romance was increasingly viewed as a key component of sexuality.[1] The 1960s are often viewed as the period wherein the US underwent a substantial change in perception of sexual norms, with a substantial increase in extramarital relations.[2] One study of the interwar period suggests that prudish attitudes were more pronounced among women than among men with 47% in a poll describing pre-marital sex as wicked while only 28% of men said the same.[3]


Some scholars argue that American media is the most sexually suggestive in the world.[4] According to this view, the sexual messages contained in film, television, and music are becoming more explicit in dialog, lyrics, and behavior. In addition, these messages may contain unrealistic, inaccurate, and misleading information. Some scholars argue that still developing teens may be particularly vulnerable to media effects.[5] A 2001 report found that teens rank the media second only to school sex education programs as a leading source of information about sex,[6] but a 2004 report found that "the media far outranked parents or schools as the source of information about birth control."[4]

Media often portray emotional side-effects of sexuality such as guilt, and disappointment, but less often physical risks such as pregnancy or STDs.[7] One media analysis found that sex was usually between unmarried couples and examples of using condoms or other contraception were "extremely rare."[8] Many of programs or films do not depict consequence for sexual behavior. For example, only 10% programs that contain sexual scenes include any warnings to the potential risks or responsibilities of having sex such as sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy.[9] In television programing aimed at teens, more than 90% of episodes had at least one sexual reference in it with an average of 7.9 references per hour.[10]

However, government statistics suggest that since 1991, both teen sex and teen pregnancy have declined dramatically despite the media generally becoming increasingly sexually explicit.[11]


The 21st century saw increaingly permissive attitudes towards homosexuality.[12] One survey has found that millennials, on average, have sex less frequently than previous generations.[13] This has led to some analysts ruminating on a moral panic wherein young adults of the 2010s decade are uninterested in sex.[14] According to OKCupid, Portland, Oregon is the most promiscuous city in the United States.[15] One study has shown that there is no correlation between sexlessness and unhappiness with sexually active and sexually inactive adult Americans showing roughly equal amounts of happiness.[16] Vicenarian women are slightly more likely to engage in infidelity than vicenarian men at 11 to 10 per cent respectively.[17] Some studies have shown that Americans in general have more prudistic attitudes to sex than Europeans.[18] Numerical data from some dating services show that black women and Asian men are the least desired categories of people.[19] Some data has shown that the most popular search terms on pornographic websites include fauxcestual themes such as step-mom and step-sister, as well as teen and lesbian.[20]


  1. ^ "The Puritans really loved having sex". 21 October 2016. 
  2. ^ Spielvogel, Jackson (2016). Western Civilization: Volume II: Since 1500. p. 897. 
  3. ^[full citation needed]
  4. ^ a b Victor C. Strasburger, MD (2005). "Adolescents, Sex, and the Media: Ooooo, Baby, Baby – a Q & A". Adolesc Med. 16 (2): 269–288.
  5. ^ Gruber, Enid; Grube, Joel (March 2000). "Adolescent Sexuality and the Media". Western Journal of Medicine. 3. 172: 210–214. doi:10.1136/ewjm.172.3.210. 
  6. ^ American Academy Of Pediatrics. Committee On Public Education, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (January 2001). "Sexuality, Contraception, and the Media". Pediatrics. 107 (1): 191–1994
  7. ^ Roberts; Henriksen & Foehr (2009). "Adolescence,adolescents, and media". Handbook of Adolescent Sexuality (3rd ed.). 2: 314–344. doi:10.1002/9780470479193.adlpsy002010. 
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Jennifer Stevens Aubrey (2004). "Sex and Punishment: An Examination of Sexual Consequences and the Sexual Double Standard in Teen Programming". Sex Roles. 50 (7–8): 505–514
  11. ^
  12. ^ Powell, David (2009). 21st-Century Gay Culture. p. 54. 
  13. ^ Post, Tara Bahrampour The Washington. "Americans are having less sex than they once did". 
  14. ^ Twenge, Jean M; Sherman, Ryne A; Wells, Brooke E (2016). "Sexual Inactivity During Young Adulthood is More Common Among U.S. Millennials and iGen: Age, Period, and Cohort Effects on Having No Sexual Partners After Age 18". Archives of Sexual Behavior. 46 (2): 433–440. doi:10.1007/s10508-016-0798-z. PMID 27480753. 
  15. ^ "Top 10 most promiscuous cities in the U.S." 6 December 2011. 
  16. ^ Kim, Jean H; Tam, Wilson S; Muennig, Peter (2017). "Sociodemographic Correlates of Sexlessness Among American Adults and Associations with Self-Reported Happiness Levels: Evidence from the U.S. General Social Survey". Archives of Sexual Behavior. 46 (8): 2403–2415. doi:10.1007/s10508-017-0968-7. PMID 28275930. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ Hatfield, Elaine, and Richard L. Rapson. "Historical and cross-cultural perspectives on passionate love and sexual desire." Annual Review of Sex Research 4.1 (1993): 67-97.
  19. ^ Strubel, Jessica, and Trent A. Petrie. "Love me Tinder: Body image and psychosocial functioning among men and women." Body image 21 (2017): 34-38.
  20. ^ MacInnis, Cara C., and Gordon Hodson. "Do American states with more religious or conservative populations search more for sexual content on Google?." Archives of Sexual Behavior 44.1 (2015): 137-147
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