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Marital Sex

Sexual Practices And Preferences

Married couples in today's society may not be having intercourse any more frequently than those living twenty or thirty years ago. However, they do seem to be engaging in a greater variety of sexual activities. For example, although vaginal inter-course remains the most common form of sexual expression among heterosexual couples (Laumann et al. 1994), a greater proportion report practicing oral-genital sex today than a generation or two ago. Studies indicate that a majority of married and cohabiting couples engage in oral-genital sex at least occasionally (Blumstein and Schwartz 1983; Gagnon and Simon 1987; Laumann et al. 1994). Anal intercourse, while relatively uncommon, is tried at least once by 8 to 10 percent of heterosexual North American couples (Laumann et al. 1994; Voeller 1991), and many couples report experimenting with new sexual techniques or activities at least some of the time (Greeley 1991). Homosexual couples practice many of the same sexual activities as heterosexual couples, but report higher frequencies of particular behaviors. For example, lesbian couples engage in more kissing, caressing, holding, and breast stimulation during lovemaking than cohabiting or married heterosexual couples; gay male couples, in turn, incorporate more body contact, including nipple stimulation and caressing, into their lovemaking than heterosexual couples (Blumstein and Schwartz 1983; Masters and Johnson 1979). In addition, oral-genital and anal sex are more commonly used by homosexual than heterosexual couples (Blumstein and Schwartz 1983; Laumann et al. 1994).

In addition to exploring what people actually do sexually with their partners, some researchers have examined what people say they would like to do—in other words, their sexual preferences. Of all the possible sexual practices on the heterosexual menu, vaginal intercourse possesses the most universal appeal. Laumann and colleagues' (1994) survey revealed that nearly 80 percent of women and close to 85 percent of men prefer this particular sexual activity. Watching the partner undress was a distant second choice, followed by receiving and giving oral sex (with both men and women preferring to receive rather than to give this sexual act).


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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaRelationshipsMarital Sex - Beliefs About Marital Sexuality, Sexual Frequency, The Decline Of Sexual Frequency Over Time, Sexual Practices And Preferences