A STATISTICAL PORTRAIT OF A GENERATION
From "HER WAY"

(For more detailed information on sources, see book bibliography.)

One of the major contributions of "Her Way" is to cull and synthesize mostly overlooked statistics about young women from diverse sources, including some of the major social surveys of our time. Here are some of the highlights listed by chapter:

THINKING "HIS WAY": THE BEHAVIOR
(from Chapter Two)

Young women acting and thinking more "male" sexually marks the greatest change in American sexual behavior and attitudes of the past three decades. Some figures:

STARTING YOUNG

  • The youngest women surveyed, born between 1963 and 1972, were twice as likely as women born just 10 years earlier to have had multiple sex partners by age 18. These young women were almost six times as likely to report this as the even older generation, women born between 1943 and 1952 (Laumann, 328).
  • Instead of first having sexual intercourse several years behind boys, teenage girls start at the same age. The average age for women's first sexual experience is 17.5 for those born in the late sixties and after. This has been a gradual change from the Boomer women, who started at about 18, and their mothers, who began at 19 (Laumann, 324-325). Women's sex lives resemble men's from the very beginning, with also reporting the same number of partners in their teen years. (Both statistics from the University of Chicago National Health and Social Life Survey (1994), the most comprehensive sex survey of all time.)
  • Fifty-six percent of postboomers first married in the 1990s had their first intercourse five years before marriage, compared to only 2 percent of boomers (first married between 1965 and 1974). Eighty-nine percent of postboomers first married in the 1990s had their first intercourse outside of marriage, compared to about 69 percent of the boomer women. (According to the National Survey on Family Growth from the Centers for Disease Control,the primary and best source of detailed nationally representative information on the sexual and contraceptive behavior of women)
  • According to the Details "Sex on Campus" survey (1996), the average number of lifetime partners for college men and women is close: 7.2 for men, and 5.7 for women. (Elliott, 17).
  • Reports through the 1990s consistently gauge about 86 percent of college women as sexually active (Davidson and Moore, qtd. in Elliott, 134). This surpasses college men's rates, which range from 66 to 74 percent. (Reported in the Details book.)
  • Although the percentages in the Details survey were very close, more females (81 percent) than males (80 percent) surveyed said they were not virgins (5).
  • Women also surpassed men in frequency of sex; a full 36 percent of females report that they have sex two or three times a week, compared to only 25 percent of men (136).
  • What they do in bed has also changed. The survey also revealed, as a symbol for this change, the students' overall preference for the woman-on-top position. (Male preferences mainly account for this overall shift; the majority of women, 48 percent, do prefer the "man-on-top." Still, this overall change shows that men are beginning to not necessarily view sex as defined by their dominance, physically or otherwise) (138). From the Details "Sex on Campus" survey (1996), one of the most exhaustive studies ever done on college and university sexual behavior.

  • Recent Glamour reader surveys report even higher numbers of partners, with the respondents to a 1998 feature reporting a median number of ten partners (Mansbach, 242); in a 1999 survey, 20 percent reported at least 20 sex partners. This last survey stands out with its ambition; it goes beyond lifetime partners to report that a quarter of respondents have slept with more than one person in the same night (Boone, 212).

    THE ATTITUDES
    Surveys show that both young men and women have evolved slowly to set very similar sexual standards for both sexes.

  • In a 1999 academic study finding almost the same percentages of such activity, women and men who reported having "casual sexual encounters" gave very similar reasons. The top reasons were personal--both sexes emphasized motivations like sexual exploration/experimentation (24 percent of women, 16 percent of men), to satisfy their own feelings of sexual desire (30 percent of women, 40 percent of men), and spontaneous urge (22 percent of women, 25 percent of men). (Pamela Regan and C. Dreyer, "Lust? Love? Status? Young Adults' Motives for Engaging in Casual Sex." Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality. No page number available.)
  • In response to "Do you ever feel guilty for wanting to have sex without offering an emotional commitment in return?" only 15 percent of the women, as compared to 24 percent of the men, said yes in a 1995 Playboy study on sexual correctness (Rowe, 153).
  • In the Roper Organization's regular Virginia Slims survey in 1970, 65 percent of women surveyed agreed that pre-marital sexual intercourse is immoral. In 2000, (answering a comparable question) only 20 percent did not feel that men and women cohabiting before marriage was acceptable.
  • Of those surveyed by the University of Chicago's 1994 National Health and Social Life Survey, only 16 percent of the men and 22 percent of the women born from 1963 to 1974 believed that sex before marriage is "always or almost always wrong." Their elders thought differently; of those born between 1943 and 1962, 21 to 26 percent of men and 31 percent of women agreed. And of those born between 1933 and 1942, 36 percent of men and 53 percent of women shared this response (507).
  • UCLA's 1997 report, "The American Freshman: Thirty Year Trends," found a reduction in "the largest [gender] gap of all--in support of 'casual sex.'" The gap in men's and women's responses decreased from 31.1 percent to 21.9 percent since 1974, with men actually decreasing in approval and women slightly increasing.
  • In her study of college students, University of Maryland professor Ilsa Lottes noted that, challenging traditional views, a majority of her male sample (65 percent) reported that marrying a virgin was not important at all. Only about half of both the males (50 percent) and the females (45 percent) reported that men have a greater sex drive than women.
  • Of her sample group, Lottes reported in 1993 in the journal Sex Roles that "there were no significant gender differences in age of first intercourse, frequency of intercourse, oral sex participation, prevalence of coitus, oral and anal sex, rating of how often their partner satisfied their sex needs and desires, and reactions to recent intercourse." ( ""Nontraditional Gender Roles and the Sexual Experience of Heterosexual College Students.")

    MAJOR CHANGES AMONG THE WHITE, MIDDLE CLASS

  • In 1970, 26 percent of white teens had experienced premarital sex, versus 46 percent of African American teenage girls. By 1988, that gap had nearly closed: 50 percent of white girls ages 15 to 19 reported premarital sex, compared to 58 percent of African-American girls the same age (Smith 1994, xiii).
  • In fact, white middle-class college-educated women in their twenties are widely recognized by researchers to have more sex partners than any other group of women; the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth reports that women in these three categories (of race, income and education) have the highest proportions of four or more partners over their lifetimes (39).
  • The authors of a 1997 study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior observe educated women evolving to act more like the "lower classes." Among young adults, "the lower level norms are becoming the predominant cultural norms," write Martin S. Weinberg and his colleagues. Their sample of a college population found that women of all classes shared very similar sexual profiles, including numbers of sexual partners and sexual initiation, regardless of their parents' level of achievement. (Class was a slightly more important variable with the men; for example, men of "lower classes" had sex earlier and had more partners.) (by Weinberg, Ilsa Lottes and Liahna E. Gordon. 1997. "Social Class Background, Sexual Attitudes and Sexual Behavior in a Heterosexual Undergraduate Sample.") The 1994 University of Chicago NHSLS also reveals few differences across educational levels.

    EDUCATION THE GREATEST VARIABLE

  • About half of those with less than a high school education have received oral sex, compared to 83.1 percent of women who finish college (Table 13.6, 98), according to the University of Chicago's NHSLS.
  • Twice as many college graduates (12.8 percent) than high school graduates (5.3 percent) report being attracted to other women, according to the U of C report.
  • Reflecting the Details Sex on Campus statistics, the NHSLS reported that about a third, 28.6 percent, of women with master's degrees had experienced anal sex, compared to 16.6 percent of high school graduates. (Men compared at 29.2 percent with a master's degree and 23.1 percent with a high school education.)
  • In the NHSLS, only 25 percent of women who have not completed high school have masturbated in the past year; this increases steadily at each educational level to a high of 60 percent of those with an advanced degree. The more educated are also most likely to always or usually experience orgasm during masturbation, ranging from 45.6 of those with less than high school to 87 percent with graduate degrees (Laumann 1994, Table 3.1, 82).

    A CLOSE-UP: CHANGING SEXUAL SCRIPTS:
    (from chapter 3)
    INITIATION OF DATES

  • In response to a survey in the June/July 1999 Jane magazine, a whopping 100 percent of readers answered yes to the question: "Is it better to make the first move when it comes to people you're interested in?" (34).
  • In her study of college students, University of Maryland professor Ilsa Lottes notes that the majority of females surveyed (74 percent) had asked a male for a date and a majority of males (88 percent) had been asked out for a date. Fifty-four percent of females reported asking out a man more than once, and 75 percent of males reported being asked out more than once. Only 12 percent of men and 8 percent of women had never shared dating expenses. (1993).
  • Another study of college students found large numbers of women initiating dates. Fifty four percent in the last month, and 72 percent in the past six months. (1991, J. Regis McNamara and Kandee Grossman. "Initiation of Dates and Anxiety Among College Men and Women." Psychological Reports.)

    ORGASMS, ORAL SEX, "ADVENTUROUS" SEX:

  • In the Details survey, 94 percent of men and 87 percent of women reported ever having an orgasm.
  • A 1999 Glamour survey on orgasms reveals very similar experiences according to gender. Only 7 percent of women and 1 percent of men reported that they typically have no orgasms "per sexual encounter." Fifty-three percent each of men and women answered one, and 35 percent of men and 26 percent of women said more than two (Levin).
  • In Ilsa Lottes' study, a majority of sexually experienced young women reported they usually have at least one orgasm with their partner and almost a third reported they usually have more than one orgasm.
  • (Still, according to other data, heterosexual women have a long way to go to rival men in the orgasm department. The University of Chicago's National Health and Social Life Survey reports that an average of 28.6 percent of women "always have an orgasm" during intercourse, while men report a vastly greater rate of 75 percent.)
  • The rates for men and women receiving oral sex are nearly identical. According to the 1994 NHSLS report, the clear majority, 74.7 percent of women aged 18-24, have received oral sex. This compares to 73.7 percent of women 30 to 34 -- revealing that younger generations are adapting it early on (102).
  • Of all those surveyed by the NHSLS, the youngest sample, women and men from 18-39, incorporate it most regularly in their sex lives, with 22.3 to 24.2 percent of these women reporting having done it during their last sexual experience. The shift is most pronounced between them and women in their 40s and higher; for women 40-44, the rate of having done it during their last sexual encounter goes down by almost half, to 12.6 percent.
  • Reflecting this recent shift are attitudes of younger males, more likely to report the giving of oral sex "very appealing' (Laumann 1994, 157) The numbers remain stead for men 18 to 44, ranging from 31.6 to 39.6 percent; only 15.6 percent of men aged 55-59 reported this preference.
  • A difference in the practice of oral sex in practice from the past is its casualness. Today, oral sex of both types is more likely to happen outside of marriage. According to the University of Chicago's NHSLS, only 12 percent of women in marriages report that their partner usually performs oral sex on them, compared to about more than three times that in a short-term partnership (29.9 percent), and about twice that in a long-term or live-in partnership (at about 19.6 to 19.8 percent (Laumann 1994, Table 3.8A, 130).
  • Given its more casual presence, oral sex has recently become a standard teen alternative to intercourse. A 1994 national poll by Roper Starch found that 26 percent of high school student surveyed had oral sex. Among those who already had intercourse, two-thirds also had oral sex (qtd. in Lewin 1997).
  • While oral sex is by far the most common "adventurous" practice, some others are also making their way into the sexual script. In the Details Survey, at about the same rates of men, 63 percent of women said they talked dirty; about a quarter had engaged in spanking or bondage; 16 percent had sex with a much older partner; 13 percent had taken photographs; 14 percent had role played; and ten percent experienced a threesome, online sex or a "golden shower."
  • Reflecting more "adventurous" appetites among the younger generation, women in their twenties were slightly more likely than other groups (at 10 to 12 percent) to have experienced anal sex in the past year in the U of C study(Laumann 1994, Table 3.6, 99).

    MASTURBATION

  • In Shere Hite's 1994 Hite Report on the Family, 61 percent of girls surveyed expressed a positive attitude toward masturbation, compared to 29 percent in her 1976 Hite Report.
  • The March 2000 Glamour reports that 94 percent of readers surveyed masturbate regularly (Holmes 2000).
  • (However, the University of Chicago's NHSLS reports much lower rates of female masturbation, with 64.4 percent of women 18-24 reporting that they have not masturbated in the past year.)

    SAME-SEX ACIVITY

  • Another increasingly common stop for women in the experimental path -- even for those who identify as heterosexual -- is interludes with other women. The NHSLS study reveals women in their thirties (5.4 percent) as more than twice as likely than women in their fifties (1.9 percent) to have had a same-gender sex partner. A large number of these women see themselves as "straight"; only 1.8 percent of the women in their thirties and .4 percent of the women in their fifties called themselves lesbians in the U of C study (Laumann 1994, Table 8.2, 305).
  • Other surveys reveal much more experimentation. In the Details survey, a small yet significant percentage of self-described heterosexual women reported having sexual contact with other women. Fourteen percent had kissed, 11 percent had caressed, 5 percent had experienced "manual-genital stimulation," and 2 percent had shared oral sex.
  • A more recent 1999 Glamour sex advice column quotes a source from the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality pegging about 18-20 percent of women as having "been sexually intimate with someone of the same sex" and about 3-4 percent of women as actually gay (Czape).

    DOING IT "HER WAY": SOME "FEMALE" ATTITUDES REMAIN
    (from Chapter Four)

  • Women are still more likely than men to attach love to sex. Despite the genders' views being closer than ever, about 26 percent fewer women approve of casual sex, according to the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute Survey The American Freshman: National Norms for Fall 1998.
  • While men and women's age of first sex has never been more similar, they have contrasting motivations, according the University of Chicago NHSLS. As a reason for having their first intercourse, many more teenage girls, at 47.5 percent, cite "affection for partner," chosen by only a quarter of males. These responses are reversed when citing curiosity/readiness for sex" as a motivation" (Laumann, Table 9.3, 329).

    THE CHANGING FAMILY
    (from Chapter Five)
    MARRIAGE AND FAMILY BECOMING MORE EQUAL

  • As a result of their greater power in marriage, women today are happier with it. In a 1995 CBS News poll, women were more likely than men (63 to 49 percent) to say that their marriages are better than their parents' marriages. As a whole, both genders agree about improvements: comparing themselves to their parents, 56 percent said their marriages were better, 36 percent the same, and only 3 percent were worse (qtd. in Bowman).
  • Statistics indicating the "breakdown" of the American family, citing such factors as divorce and out-of-wedlock children, have plateaued. After skyrocketing in the 1970s and 1980s, rates of divorce, abortion, cohabitation, premarital sex and single motherhood are steady--with figures matching those of other industrialized nations. From 1970 to 1990, the number of married couples with children under 18 shrank from 40 percent of all households to about 25 percent, where it has remained through 2000 (Household and Family Characteristics 1998).
  • With more power and higher expectations, young women enter marriage on an entirely different footing than the generation before the baby Boomers. A majority of women (55 percent) now earn at least half their household's income. (1995 Whirlpool Foundation Study, "Women: The New Providers.")
  • The proportion of women working to support their families doubled in the past 20 years, from 19 percent in 1980 to 46 percent in 2000 (Virginia Slims Poll).
  • While finances are still important and a major source of marital strife, they aren't the single-most vital foundation of marriage. According to the 2000 Virginia Slims/Roper Starch Opinion Poll, in response to the question, "What makes a good marriage?" women and men rated "respect for each other" at the top of the list (selected by 85 percent of women and 83 percent of men). Following that, selected by 7 in 10 women and men, were: being in love, a spouse's sexual fidelity, communication about feelings, and keeping romance alive. These were rated above "financial security," rated by a slim majority, 59 percent each of men and women.
  • Both men and women have increasingly favored equality from 1970 to 1995. Using the 1972 Attitudes Toward Women Scale, University of Michigan researcher Jean Twenge compared 71 subjects from that 25-year period, which revealed a steady trend toward more liberal/feminist attitudes. Women changed most in the late 1970s and early 1980s, while men have lagged a generation behind. (It was not until 1986-1990 that they equaled the attitudes toward greater gender equality that women had in the 1970s) (Psychology of Women Quarterly).
  • Over the years, student attitudes have become much more liberal about and accepting of married women's role outside the home, even though other political attitudes (such as about marijuana and the death penalty) became more conservative during the 1980s (American Freshman 1997).

    FATHERS CHANGING

  • In the 1980s and 1990s, a new breed of fathers has emerged who assume and enjoy new involvement at home. A recent study of employed adults by the Families and Work Institute shows a diminished gap between working men and women's contribution to housework. In 1977, men spent about 30 percent as much time as women on housework, compared to 75 percent as much in 1997. (The gap in 1997 was 45 minutes.) The same study also reveals children receiving more attention from working parents, mainly because of the change in men (qtd. in Lewin 1998).
  • Fathers take on this role from the very beginning, with 90 percent of married fathers present in the delivery room when their children are born, according to Robert L. Griswold, author of Fatherhood in America (qtd. in Gibbs).
  • In polls, men claim more interest in children over career. In a 1990 survey by the Los Angeles Times, 39 percent of fathers said they would "quit their jobs" to spend more time with their kids. Another survey found that 74 percent of men said they would rather have a daddy-track job than a fast-track job (1990 Los Angeles Times poll, qtd. in Gibbs, 56).
  • While 15 percent of preschoolers whose mothers work were cared for by their fathers in 1988, that figure rose to 20 percent over the next three years, according to a 1994 Census Bureau report. (Qtd. in Vobejda and Cohn).

    DIVERSITY IN MARRIAGE

  • In the 2000 Virginia Slims Opinion Poll, more than 90 percent of women said that marriages among people of different religions is acceptable; 85 percent also agreed about interracial marriage.
  • Rates of actual such marriages have skyrocketed. Between 1960 and 1990, interracial marriages increased by 800 percent. Roughly one in 25 married couples today are interracial.
  • In 1990, according to a study by the American Enterprise Institute, nearly two million children lived in homes where the primary adults were of different races, double the number in 1980 and more than four times the number in 1970 (qtd. in Holmes 1996).
  • Rates of intermarriage vary by race. Although accounting for only one percent of all marriages, the pace of marriage between whites and blacks is rapidly accelerating. According to Census figures, in 1993, of all new marriages by blacks, 12.1 percent were to white partners, up six times from 2.6 percent in 1970 (most of these involve black males and white women).
  • The intermarriage rate is much greater for Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans, of which at least 30 percent marry outside of their race. In fact, with greater intermarriage rates than their male counterparts, Asian American women are as likely to marry a white man as they are another Asian. Along with Native American men, a majority of Native American women (53.9 percent) marry whites (Russell Sage Foundation statistics, qtd. by Lind).
  • Young adults also more commonly form partnerships across religious lines. In contrast to more traditional times, about three-quarters marry, and about half date or cohabit, within their religion (Michael, 46).
  • Only a third of mainline Protestants marry others with their own religious identification, compared to 61 percent of evangelical Protestants and 68 percent of Catholics, according to the U of C study (Laumann, 244).
  • The intermarriage rate is particular dramatic for Jews. It has more than quintupled, from 9 percent for Jews married before 1965 to at least 52 percent married after 1965 (Council of Jewish Federations study, qtd. by Steinfels).

    SINGLE WOMEN A GROWING FORCE
    (From Chapter Six)

  • The statistics about the larger-than-ever numbers of single women provide powerful testimony to this new permission to live outside of marriage. This group includes 66.7 percent of women 20 to 24, 35.7 of women 25 to 29, 20.1 percent of women 30 to 34, and 13.5 percent of women in their late thirties (National Survey of Family Growth, Table 32, 43).
  • The average age of marriage for women, 25 (and 26.7 for men) in 1998, has never been higher (Marital Status and Living Arrangements,U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1998).
  • In the past 15 years alone, the number of single women living alone has increased by almost 50 percent. (Marital Status and Living Arrangements,U.S. Bureau of the Census, comparing 1983 to 1998)
  • Among black adults, less than half (43) percent were currently married in 1994, a considerable decrease from 64 percent in 1970. In 1994, 63 percent of white adults were currently married, down from 73 percent in 1970 (Marital Status 1994).
  • Not only do women of all races have less shame about remaining single, they also are more likely to be satisfied in this arrangement than in past eras. In a 1993 poll of singles, half of the single women said they wanted to get married, compared to two-thirds of single men. When asked if people who live alone are basically lonely and unhappy, only 23 percent of women gave that answer, compared to 41 percent of men. (From a survey of 1,057 respondents by Guido Stempel, a journalism professor at Ohio University, in conjunction with the Scripps Howard News Service.)
  • From 1985 to 1997, single women's share in the housing market rose by a third, accounting for 15 percent of total home buyers. In 1996 and 1997, single women outpaced single men in making home ownership an investment goal (statistics from Kermit Baker, economist at Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Statistics; qtd. in Iovine).
  • Since 1970, the rate of living together outside of marriage has increased five-fold, from 1.1 percent to about 6 percent of all couples. About ten percent of women in their twenties are currently cohabiting with a man. And about half of women 25 to 39 years of age have had an unmarried cohabitation with a man at some time during their lives. (National Survey of Family Growth, 5).
  • The fastest growing group of single people are the divorced. The number of divorced adults quadrupled, from 4.3 million in 1970 to 17.4 million in 1994, an increase from 3 percent to 9 percent of all adults age 18 and over in 1994. Young adults share the Boomer rate, with about 40 percent of marriages still ending in divorce.
  • When they plan their lives, most women in college do not realize how great the odds are that they will be raising children alone. In 1998, about three out of ten, or 27.3 percent, of all parent-child living arrangements were accounted for by one-parent situations; this compares to only 13 percent in 1970.
  • A majority of single-parent families, 64 percent, are white. But a higher proportion of black families are headed by single parents: two-thirds of black families, compared to 25 percent of white ones. (In 1970, the corresponding proportions were 36 percent for blacks and 10 percent for whites.) (Household and Family Characteristics, 1994).
  • The factors leading to single motherhood have changed. A decade ago, children were twice as likely to have lived with a divorced parent than a never-married one. Today, they are just as likely to live with a parent who never married.
  • In 1994, about 36 percent of single parents never married, 37 percent were divorced, and 23 percent were separated from spouses because of marital discord or other reason.
  • With whites, a greater proportion are the result of divorce; twice as many white single mothers are divorced as are married, with spouse absent, or never married. Those numbers are reversed with blacks, with about three times as many never married than divorced or married with a spouse absent (Marital Status 1994).
  • The rise in unwed motherhood is dramatic for all groups. From 1983 to 1993, out-of- wedlock births soared to70 percent and then leveled off. Today, one-third of births are to unmarried mothers.
  • A major rise in unwed motherhood has been among white women, whose rates have doubled since 1980. (Census Bureau)
  • Despite social outcries about the promiscuity of teens, the age group with the most growth in out-of-wedlock births since the 1970s are women in their 20s and older, who account for 70 percent of them. Through the 1990s, for teens, the birth rate fell; for women in their twenties, it stayed constant; and for women in their thirties, it rose slightly.
  • Out-of-wedlock teenage births actually halved from 1957 to the mid 1980s; the numbers seem larger now because unwed mothers are no longer hidden from society. (In reality, the teenage birth rate reached an all-time low in 1997, following an overall record low U.S. birth rate.) At the same time, married women are having fewer children, inflating the share of babies born to unmarried mothers.
  • The odds of becoming an unmarried mother sharply decline with education. About half of births to high-school drop-outs occur out of wedlock; among college graduates, the rate is just 6 percent.
  • Yet, it is significant to note that professional and educated women are beginning to see single motherhood as an option. According to the Census Bureau, for women with professional jobs, rates of single motherhood tripled since the 1980s. Those with some education have doubled in their rates over that period, reaching 11.3 percent in the mid 1990s.
  • Abortion is mainly used by young single women to maintain independence and control over their lives. Eighty-two percent of women seeking abortions are unmarried, either in school or working. While blacks and Hispanics have higher abortion rates, the majority of those getting abortions are white and in their teens and early twenties.