Poll explores American attitudes on sex

February 23, 1993|By New York Daily News

Americans can't seem to make love without peeking over their shoulders to see who's coming up behind them.

We're a sexually insecure nation, measuring our performances and preferences against every kinky movie ("Basic Instinct" did wonders for the sale of white Hermes scarves), salacious video and sex survey.

The last big survey stir was in 1990, when June Reinisch, director of the Kinsey Institute, claimed only five women out of 1,974 respondents got all 16 questions of a sex quiz correct.

Now, Samuel Janus and Dr. Cynthia Janus weigh in with "The Janus Report on Sexual Behavior: The First Broad-Scale Scientific National Survey Since Kinsey" (Wiley; $24.95.) about the secret sex lives of 2,765 Americans.

How can we keep up with the Januses if we don't know what the Joneses are doing? Here are some selected findings from the latest hotsy-totsy tome.

* Catholics are the most passive sexual partners. (Thirty percent of Catholic women and 27 percent of the Catholic men prefer their partners to initiate sex.)

* Jewish respondents had their first "full" sexual experience later than any group that identified itself by religion, and, with the religiously unaffiliated, were most likely to approve of masturbation in marriage. Of the women who reported having an abortion, 18 percent described themselves as "very religious."

* The less educated the individual, the more likely he or she was to place a high value on parenthood as a lifetime achievement. Men, more than women, believe that parenthood is "the ultimate human attainment," probably because dads focus on the ego boost of birth, while moms ruminate on caretaking responsibilities, the authors surmise.

Only 15 percent of the women and 19 percent of the men with postgraduate educations strongly agreed that parenthood was the ultimate lifetime attainment. Yet, 38 percent of single men and 45 percent of single women say they would like to become parents even if they never marry.

Shere Hite's research claimed that a majority of women actively disliked their husbands, but the Januses have 85 percent of the male respondents and 82 percent of the females describing their spouse or partner as their best friend. This despite the fact that only 61 percent of the women said they always or often had an orgasm during lovemaking. (Ninety-three percent of the men claimed to achieve climax.) The Januses contend that fewer and fewer couples approve of extramarital affairs, and that "marriage as an institution and a commitment to a spouse is more highly valued."

* Northeasterners -- 58 percent -- were most likely to agree with the statement, "There is too much pornographic material in neighborhood stores."

* Of the 23 percent of the women who said they had been sexually molested as children, 62 percent identified their abuser as a relative, and 20 percent said the abuse had been ongoing.

Eighty-eight percent said the abuse was never reported to authorities. Perhaps because only 11 percent of male respondents reported being sexually abused as children, men identified incest as less of a problem than women. Only 60 percent of men, compared to 75 percent of women, agreed that incest is a "major" societal problem. A full 28 percent of men had no opinion at all.

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