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HOW Many Have Had Sex by Age 21?

Fully 96 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 59 have had sex, according to a new sex study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, a branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While only 4 percent of U.S. adults are virgins, the rest have engaged in some kind of sex, including oral and anal sex. And by the time they reach age 21, fully 85 percent have had sex. In addition, a stunning 20 percent have tried hard drugs, such as cocaine or crack. This is the first time researchers looked only at sexual behavior and drug use.

Here are some of the eye-popping results:

  • Among blacks, 28 percent report having first sex before the age of 15, compared with 14 percent of whites.
  • 15 percent of all adults abstained from sex until they were 21.
  • 17 percent of men and 10 percent of women said they had two or more sexual partners in the past year.
  • 46 percent of black men said they have had 15 or more sexual partners in their lifetime.
  • For all men, the median number of sexual partners is 6.8.
  • For all women, the median number of sexual partners is 3.7.
  • The younger a person is, the more likely he or she is to have had multiple partners.
  • Overall, only 11 percent of unmarried adults are virgins.
  • Mexican-Americans are the most likely to report never having had any form of sex with 24 percent of men and 45 percent of women in this group claiming to be virgins.
  • More than 19 percent of those ages 20 to 29 said they have tried cocaine, crack or another street drug, excluding marijuana, compared with 27 percent for those in their 30s, 26 percent for those in their 40s and 9.6 percent for those in their 50s.
What bothers researchers the most is how young so many people are when they start having sex. "We still have a public health problem in that we still see a lot of adults reporting their sexual debut at a pretty young age," Dr. Kathryn Porter of the National Center for Health Statistics, who led the survey of more than 6,237 people ages 20 to 59, told Reuters. "That is an area of concern because risky sexual behaviors can result in sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancies."

Unlike other surveys where people may be too embarrassed to be truthful, the researchers believe they have created one of the most honest assessments yet of sexual behavior and drug use because they used a new method to do the research. Each participant answered the questions in complete privacy in a computer-assisted self-interview using a headset and computer touch screen. This is the first time this technique has ever been used.

--From the Editors at Netscape

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