Document Type

Book Chapter


What do people mean when they say they “had sex”? The most-cited study regarding what activities are communicated as having “had sex” is now over 20 years old. This chapter provides findings from a study that replicated the original study’s methods to provide an up-to-date understanding. An Internet survey completed by 380 women and 197 men from the United States was conducted. Results show that penile-vaginal intercourse was the sexual activity most likely to count as having “had sex,” with 97.4% of participants indicating it as sex. Other common sexual activities measured include penile-anal intercourse, oral-genital contact, and manual stimulation of genitals. The findings suggest many attitudes represented in the original survey have changed. Implications and future studies are offered.

Publication Date


Original Citation

Peck, B., Manning, J., Tri, A., Skrzypczynski, D., Summers, M., & Grubb, K. (2016). What does it mean when people say they “had sex”? Connecting communication to behavior. In J. Manning, & C. M. Noland (Eds.), Contemporary studies of sexuality & communication: Theoretical and applied perspectives (pp. 3-13). Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt.


Department of Communication

Legacy Department

Department of Communication




Kendall Hunt



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