DIVORCE

Americans Are Cool With All Kinds Of Sex, Just Not The Extramarital Kind

05/06/2015 05:21 pm ET | Updated May 22, 2015
Shutterstock / Yuri Arcurs

Academic studies can be fascinating... and totally confusing. So we decided to strip away all of the scientific jargon and break them down for you.

The Background
Between sexting, hookup apps and dating sites for people seeking affairs (yes, really), it's easier to cheat now than ever. But while we seem to be more open about infidelity these days, does that mean we're officially cool with it?

The Setup
To find out, a set of researchers turned to the General Social Survey, a longitudinal survey of over 33,000 adults between 1972 and 2012, which asked participants about sexual norms (among other things). This provided the researchers with a rare bird's eye view of how opinions about sex have changed over the last 40 years, and it served as the basis for their recent study on America's shifting attitudes about sex.

The questions included: "Do you think it is wrong or not wrong if a man and a woman have sexual relations before marriage?"; "What if they are in their early teens, say 14 to 16 years old?"; "What about a married person having sexual relations with someone other than his or her husband or wife?"; and "What about sexual relations between two adults of the same sex?" Respondents could answer "always wrong," "almost always wrong," "wrong only sometimes" and "not wrong at all."

The Findings
While people have become significantly more tolerant of premarital sex, adolescent sex and same-sex sexual activity since 1972, it seems people still aren't open-minded about extramarital sex (defined as "sex between a married person and someone other than his/her spouse" by the researchers). In fact, people have actually become less OK with cheating over the years -- 4 percent of respondents said it was acceptable in 1973 (5.9 percent of men and 1.9 percent of women), but only one 1 percent said the same in 2012 (2 percent of men and a mere .6 percent of women).

The Takeaway
It may be easier to find sex outside of marriage nowadays, but cheating is still considered incredibly uncool -- and thinking that doesn't make you some sexually regressive curmudgeon (unless you're in France).

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