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Int J Sex Health. 2015 Jul 1;27(3):351-367. Epub 2015 Mar 9.

Vaginal and Oral Sex Initiation Timing: A Focus on Gender and Race/Ethnicity.



Most previous studies on sexual initiation timing have examined its effects on a variety of subsequent outcomes without first examining the correlates and predictors of these timing categories. Studies that do exist often do not utilize samples through young adulthood, leading to a misclassified set of sexual timing categories. In addition, the literature does not adequately address the issues of oral sex timing. Therefore, the objectives of this study were 1) to explore age-cutoffs that mark the "normative" and "non-normative" entry into vaginal and oral sex among young women and men in the U.S., creating sexual four sexual initiation timing categories - "early," "normative," "late," and "inexperienced," and; 2) to examine the association between race/ethnicity and sexual initiation timing by gender.


The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) was used in both descriptive and multivariate contexts to determine the net association of gender and race/ethnicity with vaginal and oral sex initiation timing.


Age-cutoffs for vaginal sex timing were similar for women and men, yet differed by gender for oral sex timing. Women were more likely than men to initiate vaginal sex (20% vs. 18%) and oral sex (19% vs. 16%) at an early age and less likely than men to initiate these behaviors at a late age (18% vs. 19% for vaginal sex, and 15% vs. 16% for oral sex). Although most respondents initiated these two behaviors by young adulthood, a considerable proportion remained inexperienced, with men more likely than women to report inexperience with vaginal sex (7% vs. 5%), and women more likely than men to report abstaining from oral sex (8% vs. 6%). Race/ethnic differences in sexual initiation timing remained robust in the face of controls for both women and men.


Understanding the timing at which adolescents and young adults transition to first vaginal and first oral sex is critical for sex education curriculum and policy makers.


adolescents; oral sex; sexual initiation; vaginal sex

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