The final stretch of the semester is upon us. Research papers, exams, thirty-degree weather. If you are exhausted, you are in good company. If you are searching for any last grain of motivation that you can possibly muster to study, you are in great company. And apparently, if you have not had sex this semester, you are in absolutely fabulous company.
Welcome to the Sex Edition, Statement’s annual issue that covers anything and everything sex-related. With this edition comes a survey that allows our team to gather quantitative data on what sex looks like for University of Michigan students. This article is a presentation and analysis of that data, as examined by the Statement editorial team.
The survey was sent out to all University of Michigan students, both undergraduate and graduate, with a total of 50,227 recipients. Of those recipients, 3,184 people responded. 22.6% of the responders were freshman, 13.4% sophomores, 16.7% juniors, 15.1% seniors and a significant 31.7% graduate students. 54.4% of respondents identified as female, 40.4% as male, 4.4% as non-binary, and 0.9% as other. The distribution of respondents’ sexual orientation was also recorded as 68.1% heterosexual, 16.5% bisexual, 7.4% lesbian/gay and 8.2% other.
It should be noted the statistics resulting from this survey may be skewed, as many individuals may not have wished to disclose information detailed in the questionnaire, may have refrained from answering certain questions and/or may have answered questions dishonestly. Additionally, there may be survey bias in that those who chose to participate are more open to discussing sex-based topics or checking The Michigan Daily emails more often than those who refrained.
We also would like to acknowledge an error made in the phrasing of question number three of the survey, asking for respondents to detail their gender identity. Out of the options offered, we included the choices of male, female, nonbinary, and other. After distributing the survey, it was brought to our attention that male and female are not considered gender identities, with the proper terminology instead being men and women. We apologize for any harm we may have caused with this discrepancy, and understand that this lapse may have caused a potential skew in data.
It seems as though our education systems are failing us when it comes to sex education. The internet makes up a vast majority of where people have learned most about sex — class, family members and doctors pale in comparison. While 31.5% of participants felt as though their school education in sexual wellbeing was “positive, informative, and helpful”, 27% disagree. It also seems as though women learn more from each other than men might — they openly talk about sex with one another around 15% more than other gender identities. However, almost half of the responders answered that they do not feel comfortable talking to family members about sex.
Comfortability and openness in terms of consent are just as undisputed. The data shows that regardless of gender, about 70.7% of U-M students believe that a verbal “yes” is required in order to gain consent. With that, 84.2% of people believe that only sober parties can give affirmative consent.
So who is having sex (or lack thereof)? According to the data, about 38% of the student body has not had sex this semester. Out of this data, only 25% of seniors and graduate students reported not having had sex this semester, while 40% of freshmen have been out of luck. On a similar note, throughout the time spent in college at large, 12.6% of seniors and 5.1% of juniors have had 10 or more partners. Don’t worry, freshman, your time will come.
The data also indicates that when analyzed based on department, Medical School and Engineering students have had the least amount of sexual partners in college, with 30% of medical students and 27.8% of engineering students reporting having had 0 sexual partners since arriving at the University. On the other end of the spectrum, 16.9% of students in the School of Social Work have had 10 or more sexual partners in college. It seems as if students within that school are socially working indeed. One to two sexual partners in college was the most common number reported across all schools.
Regardless of the number of sexual partners, we at Statement encourage all participants to ensure safe sex for all parties. If you are sexually active, an essential part of staying safe is regularly getting tested for STIs. As stands, only 13.7% of men respondents have had STI testing in the last year, versus 23.5% of women and 26.8% of non-binary respondents. We encourage our readers to help get these numbers up to 100% — and UHS offers free, accessible testing for students!
We additionally asked students to characterize the relationship of their most recent sexual encounter. The research also showed a steady decrease from freshman to seniors and even graduate students in one-night stands as a participant’s most recent sexual encounter. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was a steady increase from freshman to seniors in a participant’s most recent sexual encounter being from within a relationship. The data also suggests that of those graduate students who filled out the survey, three are married. Congrats to you and yours!
When categorizing respondents by school, students within the School of Music, Theatre and Dance seemed to have the highest frequency of no-strings-attached style relationships. 10.8% of students within the SMTD department reported that their last sexual experience was a one-night stand, which was a substantially larger percentage than of all other schooling options.
When analyzing this question based on sexual identity, 17.1% of respondents who identify as lesbian or gay reported their recent sexual partners as being one-night stand relationships — a significant percentage when compared to other sexual orientations (heterosexual respondents: 54%, bisexual respondents: 6.3%, other respondents: 4.5%).
Additionally, the data suggests a correlation between people whose most recent sexual encounter was a one-night stand and it being a bad experience. Specifically, 21.1% of overall respondents who engage in one-night stands “strongly disagree” the experience is positive.
When it comes to the reasoning behind having sex, 14% of women, non-binary and other individuals report they have sex because it is expected in a relationship whereas only 9% of men express such expectation. Additionally, 38% of women, 51% of non-binary and 43% of those who identified as another gender identity have sex to feel wanted, in comparison to 30% of men who answered such. With these statistics in mind, we deduce that men are less likely to experience the societal expectations and pressures of sex coupled with the emotional desire to feel wanted in a relationship. We note that there may be survey biases with these results, though, as gender norms may pressure respondents to answer questions as they feel they are expected to.
When analyzing the same question based on sexual identity, 86% of gay/lesbian and 83.8% of bisexual people report having sex for pleasure, which is a stark 10% higher than heterosexual respondents.
On a more individual note, only 4.6% of men reported that they haven’t masturbated this semester. Similar trends apply to non-binary people (3.2%). The same cannot be said for women, however, with 16% of women respondents saying that they have never masturbated this semester. This percentage presents a striking difference in masturbation habits in regards to gender identity. Along the same lines, 19.2% of men and 19.7% of non-binary respondents reported masturbating 3-4 times per week — once again, substantially larger proportions than that of women, of whom 8% of respondents report masturbating at the aforementioned frequency.
The results of the masturbation portion of the survey reveal that 11% of men, 29% of women and 37% of non-binary people masturbate in pursuit of finding out what they like. Overwhelmingly, students in STAMPS along with the senior class as a whole are masturbating in the most concentrated quantities to discover their sexual preferences.
In a similar vein, when asked about comfortability levels in giving directions to partners on sexual preferences, 37% of grad students felt comfortable in comparison to only 18% of freshmen. In addition, 28.1% of men feel very comfortable telling their sexual partners what to do, whereas only 20.8% of women and 23.6% of non-binary people do.
Discussing one’s personal preferences can be a large contributor in helping reach orgasm. And even though popular discourse centers on climaxing as an end goal of intercourse, not everyone has the privilege of always getting there. Some participants have instead sometimes resorted to faking an orgasm. This distribution is not created equally: Of those surveyed, 53.9% of men have never faked an orgasm, a number 20% larger than the reports of women respondents, and 10% than nonbinary respondents. Additionally, 6% of women respondents report often faking sexual satisfaction in comparison to less than 1% of men and 3.1% of nonbinary folks. Such statistically significant differences between sexes indicate the presence of an “orgasm gap.” We hope this gap will get closer to closing soon.
The next section of the survey assessed students’ use of the internet in regards to sex. When asked if the respondent has ever sent nude pictures, 50% of seniors were affirmative, compared to only 30% of freshmen. In contrast, 45% of freshmen have received nude pictures, highlighting that freshman students, in particular, are more likely to receive nudes than send them.
Additionally, when analyzing internet masturbation trends, results revealed that 70% of males and 76% of non-binary people have used the internet to masturbate compared to only 55% of females.
We also investigated trends of dating app usage across campus, as the Statement 2020 Sex Survey indicated a rise in online dating among students. When comparing usage across grade levels, 25.3% of freshmen and 58% of senior respondents participate in online dating platforms, indicating that users may get more comfortable meeting someone virtually with age. Additionally, there was a notable difference in the distribution of dating app usage among differing sexual identities: 39.4% heterosexual, 64.7% gay/lesbian and 54.8% bisexual respondents have participated in online dating. Lastly, we can deduce from the question asking participants to dictate motivation behind dating app usage that male respondents use these platforms “to hook up” more than female, nonbinary and other genders surveyed. On the contrary, women respondents use dating apps for casual browsing more frequently than men, non-binary and other gender participants.
In future years, we strongly suggest that the Sex Survey is restructured to be more inclusive of all sexual identities, and queer sex more generally. Specifically, we acknowledge the heteronormativity embedded in the wording of questions and answer options for inquiries such as “Have you and your partner ever had a conversation about contraception and who is responsible for it?” and What is your preferred method to ensure safe sex?” We suggest further investigation into each question to see how they can be more thorough in applying to all sexual identities and practices. Lastly, we suggest that future surveyors include a demographic question regarding participants’ relationships with faith and religion, as these factors may potentially impact respondents’ answers.
Last year our sex survey analysis concluded with “We’re curious to see how trends will change when the data is compared to next year’s survey, given the hopes that the circumstances regarding pandemic will have improved.” Unfortunately, that mentality still remains. So, until next year…
The Statement Editorial Staff, Andie Horowitz, Samantha Cole, Leo Krinsky and Julia Maloney, can be reached at email@example.com.