2011 Official Playboy Sex Survey

In 1983, Playboy Magazine did what only a small number of people had done – they surveyed the hell out of people about sex. Over the course of five issues, they reported results from a survey of 65,396 male and 14,928 of their readers. Earlier this year, the results of Playboy’s new 2011 edition were published, and while the number of respondents only surpass ten thousand this time, they likely still represent the greater population and serve as an important reference, as we’re living in the digital age. In collaboration, Harris Interactive also interviewed thousands of average Americans (not necessarily Playboy readers) and came up their own data. Some of these results will definitely surprise you.

Playboy Magazine Reader Survey

Details

A total of 8,002 males and 2,001 females responded to the survey. According to the results page, the age groups of respondents was as follows: 22% aged 18-24, 27% aged 24-34, 23% aged 35-44, 22% aged 45-54, 5% aged 55-64, 1% at least 65, with a median age of 35. In terms of sexual orientation, 91% of respondents were heterosexual, with 7% being bisexual, and less than 1% each being either homosexual or unsure.

With regards to marital status, 42% reporting being married or in “civil union,” 36% had never married, 10% were divorced, 9% were living with a partner, 2% were separated, and less than 1% were widows/widowers. Also, when the unmarried people were asked about their current relationship status, they elaborated on the following:

  • Casually dating someone: 9% (Male 10, Female 7)
  • Casually dating more than one person: 11% (Male 10, Female 12)
  • In a committed relationship with one person, living separately: 21% (Male 19, Female 25)
  • In a committed relationship with one person, living together: 20% (Male 17, Female 29)
  • Not currently in a relationship or dating: 36% (Male 39, Female 22)
  • Other: 3%

Playboy wrote about the differences between their two editions, and I wanted to reproduce some of it here:

Certainly a number of factors have changed how we view and practice sex since 1983—AIDS and Viagra come to mind. But a great amount of the new data we collected points to the influence of internet porn.

This includes a huge leap in the number of people who report watching adult movies (78 percent today, 40 percent in 1983). Both men and women masturbate more while having less intercourse. In 1983 we didn’t ask if people shaved their pubic hair—who would do that? Now more than half the respondents in our survey are trimming. We also noticed a boost in the incidence of reverse cowgirl—woman on top, facing away—a position popularized by porn.

Need more evidence? The security cam and gonzo porn genres are phenoms supported by the huge increase in readers who say they have had sex in public or other risky places (up to 76 percent from about 35 percent). And what’s one to make of the fact that 70 percent of female respondents have been photographed nude and nearly 50 percent while having sex? Thanks to digital cameras and smartphones, you no longer need to develop the film. That’s progress.

Results

This nice infographic was created to show you the results between gender and edition.

So those were the more scientific results, in a well-presented chart form, demonstrating how far we have come. The next infographic details information in a much more random format, but the results are no less interesting.

This infographic came from The Smoking Jacket, which is, as far as I’m concerned, basically a combination of Playboy and Cracked.com.

Harris Interactive Sex Survey

Details

Harris Interactive was the firm that helped Playboy conduct their reader survey, but Playboy had them also provide information on people who aren’t necessarily Playboy readers as well. So they interviewed 1,210 males and 1,100 females online, in order to reflect the “average American.” They asked for race, gender, sexual orientation, age, education, and other traits. The addition of this survey gives the Playboy reader survey a new level of credibility, because they are largely getting rid of their sample bias.

Respondents in this survey had a median age of 47. 12% were aged 18-24, 15% aged 24-34, 18% were 35-44, 20% were 45-54, 18% were 55-64, and 17% were at least 65. The age groups of this study actually seem to reflect the population better than the Playboy Reader survey. Sexual orientation, however, is less varied. 92% reported being heterosexual, compared to 3% gay, 2% bisexual, 1% lesbian, and the rest were unsure or did not answer.

In terms of relationship status, 51% reported being married or in “civil union,” which makes sense considering the age groups. 26% had never married, 9% were divorced, 5% were living with a partner, another % were widows/widowers, and 3% were separated. Of those in a relationship, 65% had been together for more than 10 years, 12% for 5-10 years, 11% for 2-5 years, 9% for 6 months to two years, and 4% for less than six months. When asked about their relationship status, unmarried people gave these results:

  • Casually dating someone: 10% (Male 12, Female 8 )
  • Casually dating more than one person: 6% (Male 9, Female 2)
  • In a committed relationship with one person, living separately: 14% (Male 12, Female 16)
  • In a committed relationship with one person, living together: 14% (Male 14, Female 15)
  • Not currently in a relationship or dating: 53% (Male 51, Female 55)
  • Other: 3%

Results

The infographic below pertains to political orientation. To provide some context, 35% of interviewees said they were either very/somewhat conservative, while 29% said they were very/somewhat liberal, and 30% said they were moderate. So I think this sample quite fairly represents the American public.

This next infographic compares answers between males and females.

For both the reader survey and the Harris survey, there are much more questions that I have not even touched on. I recommend, if you want to know more, to head over to that website yourself. I focused mostly on the information that had infographics attached, and that which I think is interesting.

There’s just one last part of the Harris survey I wanted to mention. When asked how they define sex, 94% (92 male, 95 female) reported vaginal sex, 60% (67 male, 54 female) said oral sex, and 52% (58 male, 47 female) said anal sex. I love how English speakers say “oral sex is not sex,” because that makes absolutely no sense. It’s like saying “junk food is not junk.” …Or food, for that matter. But the definition of sex is a topic for another day.

The Bottom Line

Surveys like these are in my opinion a great service to researchers. Sex surveys are not the easiest to run, because there are often biases involved. For example, the chart below entitled “Oogle Search” is highly suspect.

Only 45% of males and 8% of females have visited a porn site in the past five years? I’d like to direct you to the explanation of why this chart is obviously and completely bullshit. I expect that such results reflect the interviewee’s desire to look good in the interviewer’s eyes, not the truth. This is called social desirability bias, but there are plenty of other reasons why sex research isn’t so easy to conduct. When I talked about the survey that recently came via Timeout Tokyo, I mentioned how it neglected to ask certain information, making many (but not all) of the results practically useless.

No country in the world is more culturally influential than America, and sex is one of America’s biggest exports. But I’m talking about memetic, cultural, psychological sex, not the sex trade or even necessarily the sex industry. I’m talking about images, ideas, and trends. For example, I mentioned months ago about the first French kiss ever aired on Indian television, and you can be sure that it was because of the culture of America was subtly advertising, even promoting, this kind of behavior on TV.

More on India’s first TV French kiss »

If you are to insist that Japan is losing its culture, then perhaps we should consider another “victim” of Westernization. In February of this year, the first French kiss on Indian television was broadcast on the soap opera Maryada: Lekin Kab Tak?. The ratings war among the 100 +Indian soaps (of which the unsuccessful are cancelled after about a year) has driven the show, which airs after 11PM, to push the envelope. It is increasingly focusing on its city-dwelling audience, whom are less likely to take offense to that type of public display, since they are more prone to watching Western sitcoms. Though the two recently announced that they are engaged to wed, Indian stars Ridhi Dogra and Raqesh Vashisth locked lips in a scene that may have changed Indian television and film forever. As a quick comparison, not only is American TV chalk-full of make-out sessions, but the first lesbian kiss has already aired on television. To be precise… it aired twenty years ago.

So even if you’re not from the U.S., this kind of information is good to know. Therefore, we should appreciate the more scientific aspects of Playboy’s methods,  despite its limitations (and there aren’t any huge ones like in the Timeout Tokyo survey). Of course we should be cautious of trying to assume too much from the results, but these studies can be used as references for information on a variety of sexual acts and opinions.

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