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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Bill Clinton vindicated 12 years too late

Here are three fun activities for abstinent couples:

1. Go see a movie!

2. Play a board game!

3. Oral sex!

Yes, you read correctly. “”Oral sex”” is no longer sex. Twelve years after Bill Clinton placed all his eggs in a bucket of semantics, his statement “”I did not have sexual relations with that woman”” is true, at least according to a recent University of Kentucky study.

Titled “”Sex Redefined: The Reclassification of Oral-Genital Contact,”” the study by Jason D. Hans et al., asked 477 university students what behaviors constitute sex. Respondents were asked “”Would you say you ‘had sex’ with someone if the most intimate behavior you engaged in was,”” for 11 different “”behaviors,”” ranging from “”penile-vaginal intercourse”” to “”partner touches your breasts/nipples.””

The study, conducted in 2007, replicated similar studies conducted in both 1991 and 1999-2000. While penile-vaginal intercourse was consistently classified as sex by 98 percent of respondents, the percentage of respondents who considered oral-genital contact to be sex dropped from approximately 40 percent to 20 percent from the previous studies to the most current.

The authors concede the study is “”partially anecdotal”” and limited in generalizability, but the study abstract describes the social benefit of studying what constitutes sex. The concepts of “”sex”” and “”virginity”” are widely known and taken seriously, but few can define them with clear definition.

The authors reference the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal as a case in which the ambiguous definition of “”sex”” held vast ramifications for the United States and the world as a whole. Although he was not removed from office, Clinton was fined $90,000 and his Arkansas law license was suspended for five years for his “”intentionally false”” statements regarding sexual relations with Lewinsky. The authors propose that Bill Clinton’s declaration that oral sex is not sexual intercourse, while deemed perjury 12 years ago, is being recognized as valid by university-level students. This potential realization has been coined the “”Clinton-Lewinsky Effect.””

The authors point to the fact that, unlike previous studies, the respondents of the most recent study were adolescents after the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. They represent a small portion of emerging young adults, who may reflect changing attitudes for younger students and teenagers.

The implications for this study extend far beyond past scandals to the future of sex education. Abstinence-only education stresses the importance of waiting until marriage to have sex. Unfortunately, countless studies have shown abstinence-only education to be woefully inept at controlling the urges and temptations of young adults and teenagers. As they are taught, abstinence-only programs offer few “”moral”” outlets that only increase sexual frustration. If these were to adopt this experimental partition between oral-genital contact and sex, young people could engage in a consensual act without fearing moral condemnation.

The changing attitudes regarding oral-genital contact are critical to incorporate in any sexual education programs, whether abstinence-only or comprehensive. Oral-genital contact is often perceived as “”messing around”” instead of sex, which lowers the inhibitions of young people. The authors of the study conclude that the shifting attitude could leave participants less mindful of the potential health risks of this activity. Sex education programs should seek to truthfully distinguish between oral-gential contact and sex, but also stress the similar risks associated with “”messing around”” and how to minimize those risks.

The changing attitudes toward oral sex may reflect the increasing sexuality of American culture, leaving Americans more open to liberal interpretations of sex and experimentation. Whether these results can be generalized, there is undoubtedly a need to study the matter further. Defining the boundaries between “”sex,”” “”messing around”” and other physical acts will be a daunting but critical task for both sex education and legal defenses.

— Dan Sotelo is a political science senior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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