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Learn More. Sexual experiences include a range of behaviors, but research on sexual behaviors and consequences focuses primarily on vaginal sex. Oral sex occurs at rates similar to vaginal sex, and carries some, though less, risk than vaginal sex. The current study examined the event-level prevalence and consequences of oral sex compared to vaginal sex with other-sex partners in first year college students.
Both positive intimacy, physical satisfaction and negative worrying about health, guilt consequences were less common for oral than vaginal sex.
Gender differences suggested that female adolescents may find vaginal sex more rewarding than oral sex whereas male adolescents may find them equally rewarding. Although sexual experiences are multidimensional and include many behaviors, research on adolescent sexual behavior predominantly focuses on vaginal sex defined here as a penis penetrating a vagina in heterosexual samples. However, little is known about how individuals experience oral sex, and how this experience differs from vaginal sex.
In this article, we examined prevalence and consequences of oral and vaginal sex in an ethnically diverse sample of college students. Use of daily data enabled No bs just want sex and to give oral to examine within-person differences in oral compared to vaginal sex, and to understand proximal perceptions of sexual experiences. However, oral sex is as, if not more, common. Rates of engaging in oral sex are relatively similar to rates of vaginal sex for U. It is also important to understand consequences of oral sex from both risk and normative perspectives. From a risk perspective, consequences of sex can be reinforcing.
Thus, if individuals perceive oral sex as less rewarding, they may be less likely to engage in oral sex compared to vaginal sex in the future. Although not specific to consequences, other daily and ecological momentary assessment EMA studies have shown increased positive affect, decreased negative affect, and less social anxiety after reports of vaginal sex compared to measurement occasions when adolescents had not had sex Fortenberry et al.
Less is known about the experience of oral sex compared to vaginal sex. For positive consequences, late adolescents in the U. Adolescents accurately believe that oral sex is less likely to result in negative health outcomes, such as STIs and pregnancy than vaginal sex Halpern-Felsher et al. College students report more negative reactions to hookups that include vaginal sex compared to other types of sex, whereas oral sex hookups are not associated with negative reactions Lewis et al.
Past work has provided important information about consequences of oral sex, but questions remain. First, most studies do not examine actual experienced consequences at the within-person, event level, instead examining ratings of hypothetical scenarios Halpern-Felsher et al. In addition, prior research has examined long-term consequences of sex, which may be more influenced by intervening experiences. One exception is a study by Hensel et al. Thus, in the current study, we examined within-person consequences of sex on days of oral compared to vaginal sex.
There are also gender differences in perceived consequences of oral and vaginal sex. Sexual double standards in the U. Work examining the role of gender in relative consequences of oral and vaginal sex has focused on long-term consequences. In the current study, we build on this past work by examining gender differences in the daily consequences of oral compared to vaginal sex.
Due to prior conflicting and the lack of studies of short-term consequences, it is difficult to predict the direction of gender differences for short-term consequences. The current study used event-level daily data to examine experiences and consequences of oral and vaginal sexual behavior. This work extends past research by testing within-person differences in oral and vaginal sex consequences.
Specifically, the goals of the current study were to:. Examine the perceived positive and negative consequences of engaging in oral sex compared to vaginal sex. Based on past research, we predicted that oral sex would lead to fewer positive and fewer negative consequences than vaginal sex.
First year students at a large Northeastern U. Eligible individuals were 17—20 years old and were U. In total, students Each semester, participants received an with a secure link to the survey. Participants completed informed consent electronically.
Each semester they completed one longer web-based baseline survey, and then each day for the next 14 consecutive days received an inviting them to complete a daily survey about the prior day, resulting in up to 14 days of data per participant per semester. In Semester 2 S2 Of these participants, These rates were due to low rates of sexual behavior on any given day rather than due to low completion rates, as Participants contributed a total of 17, days of data during S1 and S2.
Because vaginal sex, by our definition, can only occur with an other-sex partner, we removed 27 days of oral sex with same-sex partners Participants in this analytic sample averaged Although data in this article were based on a sub-set of days from these participants, we calculated average daily response rate for this sample based on all 28 possible days.
Whereas this past research examined motivations to have sex in order to achieve or avoid a particular consequence, we assessed whether participants actually experienced these consequences. We assessed three positive consequences grouped as physical satisfaction two items: feel physically satisfied; feel a thrill or rush and intimacy one item: feel intimate or closer to a partner. We also assessed six negative consequences, categorized as worry about health three items: worry about pregnancy; worry about STD exposure; worry about HIV exposure and guilt three items: went against morals or ethics; parents may find out; wish had not had sex.
These have been empirically validated as groupings of motivations in past research Cooper et al. For each category that had two or three items, we created a categorical variable that indicated whether the participant experienced any of the consequences in that category.
All consequences are shown in Table 1. Performing and receiving oral sex on a given day were combined to indicate whether the participant engaged in oral sex on that day. We created a type of sex variable to indicate whether participants engaged in oral sex but not vaginal sex coded as 1 or vaginal sex with or without oral sex coded as 0.
We coded variables this way because of our interest in the distinct salience of engaging in oral sex compared to vaginal sex. On any day for which participants reported that they engaged in at least one sexual behavior, they were asked several follow-up questions, including the gender of their partner and their relationship with the partner. Our first aim was to describe the frequency of oral compared to vaginal sex in a sexually active sample, as well as characteristics of these sexual experiences e.
That is, of the 17, days sampled, only 4. Table 1 shows percentages of participants who experienced each sex-related consequence on days they had oral sex, compared to days they had vaginal with or without oral sex. Rates of experiencing negative consequences were substantially lower, with participants reporting at least one negative consequence on less than half of vaginal sex days and on about one quarter of oral sex days.
Our second and third aims were to examine the perceived positive and negative consequences of engaging in oral sex compared to vaginal sex, and to describe how gender moderated this association. At Level 1 dayswe estimated the following:. These coefficients were predicted by the following at Level are shown in Table 2. The coefficient examining gender differences for the intercept i. There was no ificant effect of relationship status on intimacy consequences.
There was no ificant effect of relationship status on physical satisfaction. There were no ificant between-person effects of having oral sex on experiencing a health consequence. There was no ificant effect of relationship status on worrying about health. There were no ificant between-person effects of having oral sex on experiencing guilt. In addition, students felt more guilt when they had sex with a non-relationship compared to relationship partner. In this study, we compared consequences of oral sex to consequences of vaginal sex, demonstrating that positive consequences were quite common for both oral and vaginal sex, though less common for oral sex.
Negative consequences were less common than positive consequences, and were less common for oral sex than for vaginal sex. There were a of gender differences in the relative consequences of oral compared to vaginal sex. This finding was consistent with the limited prior work on college students, and work on early adolescents that has demonstrated that oral and vaginal sex are commonly initiated around the same time, and that vaginal sex occurs after oral sex and other sexual behaviors Chambers, ; Lam et al.
Thus, these sexual behavior patterns seem similar whether initiated earlier in adolescence or later during emerging adulthood. On days that participants did have sex, however, engaging in both behaviors was most common, followed by engaging only in vaginal sex, and, least commonly, engaging only in oral sex. This finding supports past work with younger adolescents and college students, which suggests that vaginal sex is more common than oral sex, but that both occur relatively infrequently Hensel et al.
In fact, protected oral or vaginal sex carries little physical risk and, in actuality, occurs with less frequency than other behaviors that carry potential severe short-term e. For these college students, engaging in sexual behavior, often with a dating partner, was a largely positive experience, as students report these experiences are physically and emotionally satisfying. These findings suggest the importance of studying sexual behavior from a normative developmental perspective that considers positive consequences such as intimacy and physical pleasure as factors that contribute to normative sexuality development.
Thus, positive consequences from day-to-day sexual experiences likely contribute to subsequent sexual self-concept and sexual satisfaction. Consequences of sex differed by type of sexual behavior. In our study, at the within-person level, college students were less likely to report worrying about their health as a result of sex on days they had oral sex compared to days they had vaginal sex. Thus, college students were generally experiencing both fewer positive and fewer negative consequences of oral sex than of vaginal sex.
Vaginal sex may be more emotionally charged—both positively and negatively—due to its unique status as a behavior that marks the transition from abstinent to sexually active by both researchers and adolescents Byers et al.
In addition, these evaluations of sexual behaviors may influence likelihood of engaging in these behaviors in the future Vasilenko et al. As a result, oral sex may play a different role in normative sexuality development, potentially leading to less change in sense of sexual self and No bs just want sex and to give oral health outcomes than vaginal sex.
In the current study, for positive consequences, female adolescents were less likely to report feeling intimate with their partner and feeling physically satisfied as a result of sex on days they had oral sex compared to days they had vaginal sex, whereas the difference was smaller or in the opposite direction for male adolescents.
Thus, female adolescents may experience more intense feelings, both physical feelings like satisfaction, and relational feelings like intimacy, as a result of vaginal compared to oral sex. For male adolescents, these two types of behaviors may be more similar experiences. In terms of negative consequences, although oral sex resulted in less worrying about health than did vaginal sex for both female and male adolescents, the difference was greater for female than for male adolescents.
Because pregnancy may be experienced as a more immediate concern for female than male adolescents, vaginal sex may have more health salience for women than oral sex does. Overall, these gender differences suggest that female adolescents may find vaginal sex more rewarding than oral sex, whereas male adolescents may find them equally rewarding.
From a normative developmental perspective, women then likely incorporate these differences in experienced consequences of vaginal vs. As a result, it is possible that female adolescents, more so than male adolescents, develop a sexual self-concept that includes greater desire for vaginal sex over only oral sex, potentially putting themselves at higher physical risk from future sexual behavior. Our findings have several limitations that warrant caution in interpretation and suggest future directions for new research.
First, we focused on one college sample at a predominantly residential university. Findings cannot be generalized to college students at other types of institutions e. Second, given our interest in comparing oral to vaginal sex, we focused our examination to behaviors with other-sex partners. Future research should consider the consequences of different types of sex for same-sex partnerships, including oral sex, genital touching, and for men anal sex. In addition, many lesbian, gay, and certainly bisexual individuals have sexual experiences with both same- and other-sex partners Morgan, Third, in this sample, condom use rarely occurred on oral sex days.
Thus, using condoms was confounded with type of sex, which may partially explain differences in consequences. Fourth, our research focused on comparing any oral sex to vaginal sex. Future research should consider consequences of performing and receiving oral sex separately, which we did not have the power to do because of the low occurrence of performing or receiving oral sex in isolation.
Finally, future work should consider how consequences of sex predict subsequent sexual motives, future sexual behaviors including condom use, or psychological well-being and mental health. A better understanding of how positive and negative consequences predict future choices about oral and vaginal sex could help to inform messages conveyed in prevention programming aimed to help late adolescents make sexual decisions.
In summary, this study contributed to the literature on oral sex by demonstrating that the majority of college students have engaged in oral and vaginal sex at some point, but that the occurrence of these behaviors at the daily level is relatively rare. Our findings advance research on consequences of oral sex compared to vaginal sex by demonstrating that, at the within-person level, oral sex is associated with a lower likelihood of experiencing both positive and negative consequences, and that gender moderates this association.
These contribute to our understanding of oral sex as a normative part of sexuality development, with consequences distinct from vaginal sex. We would like to thank Jennifer Maggs, Nicole Morgan, Meg Small, and the rest of the University Life Study team for their help with study de, data collection, and data management. National Center for Biotechnology InformationU. Arch Sex Behav. Author manuscript; available in PMC Feb 1.
Eva S. LefkowitzPh. VasilenkoPh. LeavittM.No bs just want sex and to give oral
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Oral vs. Vaginal Sex Experiences and Consequences Among First-Year College Students