Nineteen percent responded similarly regarding penile-anal intercourse. Recent public discourse regarding whether oral-genital contact constitutes having "had sex" highlights the importance of explicit criteria in contrast with implicit assumptions in this area.
Unfortunately, a review of the literature demonstrates that empirical exploration of what is included in definitions of having "had sex" for the general public in the United States remains scant. Social and legal definitions of "sex," "sex act," "having sex with," "sexual relations," and various crimes related to having "had sex," including adultery, rape, and statutory rape, vary depending on the source but often refer to sexual intercourse, which, in turn, is often defined as "coitus" or "copulation.
However, this suggests that for some, engaging in an act they define as "sex" does not necessitate defining the other person as a "sexual partner" and, hence, does not inevitably lead to labeling the interaction as a sexual relationship. The current public debate regarding whether oral sex constitutes having "had sex" or sexual relations has suffered from a lack of empirical data on how Americans as a population define these terms.
The respondents today range in age from late 20s to early 30s. Methods The study was approved by the university's institutional review board human subjects committee.
The data were collected in as part of a survey containing items addressing the prevalence and interrelationships among behaviors associated with sexually transmitted disease risk from a randomly selected, stratified undergraduate sample.
Participants were students at 1 of the largest Midwest state universities, originating from 29 states 10 in the Midwest, 11 in the South, 5 in the Northeast, and 3 in the West. The majority of participants were from the Midwest. Potential participants were first contacted by a letter informing them that they had been chosen at random, explaining that The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction Studies was conducting a large survey of college student sexual behavior, and describing the procedures for data collection and insurance of confidentiality.
Letters were followed by telephone contact to enlist participation. Mean SD age was Ninety-six percent identified themselves as heterosexual.
When queried about their political position, Additional details regarding the methods, sample demographics, and behavioral data are presented elsewhere. Results As can be seen in the Table 1 , almost everyone agreed that penile-vaginal intercourse would qualify as having "had sex. Answers to the breast contact items a, c, e, and j did not vary substantially regardless of the directionality of behaviors or whether contact was manual or oral. For the behaviors less frequently included as having "had sex," men were slightly more likely to incorporate them into the "had sex" category.
Responses to the "had sex" question did not differ in general based on these experiences with the following exception: Among the behaviors assessed, oral-genital contact had the most ambivalent status. Additionally, we found evidence of belief in "technical virginity.
One out of 5 indicated they would not count penile-anal intercourse as having "had sex. Future investigations should examine such variables as the relational context of the behavior eg, was it within an established relationship?
Was it extramarital or extrarelational? The virtually universal endorsement of penile-vaginal intercourse as having "had sex" in contrast with the diverse opinions for other behaviors highlights the primacy of penile-vaginal intercourse in American definitions of having "had sex. These data indicate that prior to the current public discourse, a majority of college students attending a major midwestern state university, most of whom identified themselves as politically moderate to conservative, with more registered Republicans than Democrats, did not define oral sex as having "had sex.