In 1983, after surveying the sexual habits of 65,396 male and 14,928 female readers, Playboy magazine published their report. Not long after in January of 1984, Apple released the Macintosh, which would become the first commercially successful personal computer. It’s been 28 years and in that time, technology hasn’t only advanced: it’s become an integral part of our existence.
Technology has become so embedded in our daily lives that last night when I asked followers on Twitter whether they would give up sex or the internet, a quarter gave up sex in favor of the web and another quarter simply couldn’t decide. Needless to say, a lot has changed, so Playboy, with the help of Harris Interactive, polled 8,002 male and 2,001 female visitors to Playboy.com, along with a random sample of 1,210 men and 1,100 women between the ages of 18 and 70. They compare the results of this survey with those of the 1983 survey in their June issue.
In most every respect, we have expanded our sexual repertoires: many more people are talking dirty during sex, using sex toys either together or separately, exploring bondage and BDSM, and watching porn. While the results regarding watching pornography may be severely skewed in the results of the 1983 survey, which queried only Playboy readers, the results of this year’s survey show that women continue to consume pornography.
Fifteen percent of women taking the Harris survey reported that they rarely orgasm. Seven percent of women reported never reaching orgasm at all.
In the Harris survey, 21 percent of married men confessed to cheating, versus 13 percent women. In a monogamous relationship, 18 percent of men admitted to cheating, versus 14 percent women. Interestingly, despite cheating more across the board, 39 percent of men suspected their partners had cheated, while only 23 percent of women suspected their partners had cheated on them.
Fifty-four percent of those surveyed by Harris would not forgive a cheater, 44 percent would, and two percent declined to comment.
For an entertaining look at the breakdown of politics when it came to sex, Harris broke down respondents into two categories: liberal and conservative. They found that liberals had the upper hand in most everything except posting ads while in a committed relationship and remembering the full names of past lovers.
For Playboy’s part, there seems to have been a decrease in frequency of sex for women. In 1983, 65 percent of women responders had sex between once a day to two to three times a week. In 2011, that figure is down to 57 percent. In 1983, 21 percent of women responders had sex between once a week and less than once a month. In 2011, that number is up to 42 percent.
This brings to mind another modern day sex survey, this one conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which reported an increase in the incidence of abstinence between 15 and 24 year olds. In 2002, 22 percent of those surveyed between those ages reported never having had any type of sexual contact. In March of this year, that figure had climbed to 29 percent.
For all the talk about how their survey in 2011 contrasts the one they offered in 1983, Playboy certainly missed an opportunity when they failed to ask about social media in their question about where respondents met their last sex partner. Twenty-seven percent responded they met their current sexual partner through friends. But how many of these are Facebook friends? They do ask about dating sites, but nothing about social networks or anything about classified list postings, like those on Craigslist or Backpage.
The findings are far more interested when one stop trying to make them speak for the whole population and uses the Harris results as a control against which to measure the sexual habits of Playboy readers (myself included).
A whopping 68 percent of Playboy respondents said they had had sex on a couch or chair versus the 32 percent shown on the Harris survey. Fifty-eight percent ofPlayboy responders had done it on the floor versus 25 percent of those surveyed by Harris. Playboy found 9 percent of responders had had at the office, while only three percent of those responding to the Harris survey had done so.
The positions survey was more even, with the exception of Playboy readers’ preference for rear-entry, doggy-style sex. The magazine’s survey found 32 percent liked this position best, while only 16 percent of those surveyed by Harris agreed.
But perhaps the most drastic difference can be seen in the section about sexual experiences. Eighty percent of Playboy responders said they’d talked dirty versus only 44 percent of people polled by Harris. Sixty-two percent of Playboy responders have had rough sex, versus 25 percent of the people surveyed by Harris. Forty-six percent of Playboy responders have had phone sex, versus only 20 percent of the people polled by Harris.
All that experience seems to have reaped some benefits: 47 percent of the Playboy readers that were surveyed reported they made sure to use protection during sex, versus only 26 percent of those in Harris’ sample. Fewer Playboy readers who had been diagnosed with an STD would fail to let their partner know.
AV Flox is the editor of Sex and the 405 -- what your newspaper would look like if it had a sex section.