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Bernie Sanders

The Seven Days Sex Survey


Published February 25, 2009 at 6:30 a.m.

Everyone is hoping President Obama’s gazillion-dollar stimulus package will save the flailing American economy, or at least begin to stanch the hemorrhage. Meanwhile, one Vermont business has lit on a recession-proof revenue generator: sex. The Weston-based Vermont Country Store — of lucrative direct-mail-catalogue fame — has generated huffy letters from hundreds of uptight customers since it added sex-enhancing products to an otherwise wholesome line of merch, according to a recent report from the Associated Press. (Want the Synergy Pleasure System with your pine-tar soap? No problem. That’ll be $89.95.) Introduced by a senior member of the Orton family, 67-year-old Lyman, the racy items simply address a common conundrum: How to keep the drive alive over a certain age? Talk about home remedies.

With or without sensual aids, a romp in the sack is still an affordable pastime. Just ask the randy-pants readers of Seven Days. We did — and respondents from under 19 to 70-plus had no problem answering the most probing questions in our biennial Sex Survey.

That’s good, because otherwise we would have had to make things up, and it wouldn’t have been pretty. Instead, thanks in part to the ease of using, we heard from a more-than-representative sample of the Seven Days readership, and it was a snap to analyze the results. Apologies to the statistician we used to hire to do this! (Those of you who sent in paper ballots, don’t worry; our intern entered your responses in the online version, and she wants you to know it was good for her, too.)

Demographically, there were no earth-shaking changes from the 2007 survey to this one. Twentysomethings still compose the biggest group in the survey — 42.2 percent. However, this year we heard from more folks in the transitional 30-49-year-old range, too. And hooray for the 11 septuagenarians!

We still had more female than male respondents, but the gap narrowed a bit. This year we offered transsexual options in both directions, and an impressive — but statistically insignificant — 18 individuals checked in. Seven “unsure” people are apparently still working on it.

As for political affiliation, the percentage of Democrats and Progressives declined significantly from last time, while Republicans — a piddling portion of our respondents — held about steady, and far more folks now claim to be “Independent.” We don’t know what this means, but anyone running for office may want to find out.

Religion? This year we offered a noncommittal “spiritual but not religious” option, and more than a third of respondents jumped on it, rivaled in their numbers only by “atheist or agnostic.” The numbers are down for Catholic, Jewish and Buddhist categories, while those good old reliable Protestants are about the same.

Relationship-wise, a full third of our respondents are “partnered/married and content,” while another 24 percent are “going steady.” Of course, an equal number of you are “single and content,” so go figure. In any event, a suggestion for the bummed-out minority: How about a Seven Days speed-dating party?

Last not but least comes sexual orientation. Heterosexuals dominate the survey at about 78 percent, while the “gay/lesbian” category has grown a bit, and fewer people claimed “bisexual.” Finally made up your minds, did you? To the 3.4 percent who still don’t know, good luck with that.

Math majors or otherwise, um, anal readers may notice that our totals don’t always add up to 100 percent. That’s because we rounded numbers to the nearest whole, unless they were halfway between.

And now, sit back, loosen any constrictive clothing, and enjoy our penetrating analysis.

– Pamela Polston

Seven Days survey respondents are:


47% male

51% female

1.3% trans

0.5% unsure


78% heterosexual

9% gay/lesbian

10% bisexual

3% unsure


5% 19 or younger

42% 20-29

25% 30-39

16% 40-49

9% 50-59

2% 60-69

1% 70 or older

Political affiliation

48% Democrat

6.5% Republican

6% Progressive

30% Independent

9% other


29% atheist or agnostic

11.5% Protestant

12% Catholic

3% Jewish

2% Buddhist

34% spiritual but not religious

Relationship status

15% single and unhappy

23% single and content

24% going steady

6% partnered/married and unhappy

33% partnered/married and content

I lost my virginity when I was…

2.5% I’m still a virgin

12% under 15

68% 15-19

15% 20-24

2% 25-29

0.4% 30 or older

If we may generalize, it appears most Seven Days readers “lose it” in their late teens: Both men and women checked the 15-19 box in droves, regardless of sexual orientation, political party, religion or current relationship status. Only a handful of folks who are now 70+ remained chaste until their twenties. Was that the good old days?

The Big Two genders recall their first time rather differently. Not surprisingly, a majority of guys found the maidenhead voyage “enjoyable.” Forty percent of women pronounced it a “disappointment,” followed by “painful” and “a relief.” But the gloss of time — and, no doubt, practice — seems to erase negative memories; the oldsters in our sample gave pretty glowing reviews of kissing virginity goodbye.

While 59 percent of males tell us they wish they had “not waited so long,” 28 percent of females wish they’d “waited until I was older,” and 69.5 percent of them wish they’d “lost their virginity to someone else.” Ouch. That latter opinion, in fact, turns out to be pretty popular across sexual orientation, political party, religion and current age. So maybe waiting a lot longer would result in better choices? Then again, a body’s gotta start somewhere.

So far, I have had sex with ___ people.

2% none

23% 1-4

21% 5-9

23% 10-19

13% 20-29

6% 30-39

3% 40-49

9% 50-plus

First of all, please note that “sex” here includes oral, anal and vaginal. But, even with that blow-ted definition, two-thirds of our sample claim between one and 19 lovers. Given that we tend to start in our teens, that’s a relatively modest outcome.

As for the gender divide, males and females show fairly similar percentages until we hit the elite 50-plus group. There we find 13 percent of all males, compared with just 6 percent of women. Can we chalk that up to super-achieving gay men? Oh, let’s.

Actually, the homosexuals and bisexuals in this sample are far more likely to know 50 ways to leave a lover — 22 percent claim that many belt-notches in each group. Who’s having the most sex? We’re skeptical about the individuals who claimed triple digits or more, but a typical portrait might look like this: male, gay or bisexual, thirtysomething, Democrat, and “spiritual, not religious.” Lookin’ at you, Unitarians.

Here’s an intriguing trend: Regardless of gender and sexual orientation, we see a huge drop-off when we get to the groups of people claiming 30-39 or 40-49 lovers, and then a jump back up in the 50-plus range. What to make of this? Do the randiest among us really go all the way, while the rest settle on The One after 20-odd experiments? Frankly, we have no idea.

The Onion recently claimed that Republicans generally don’t like the idea of someone, somewhere, having an orgasm. We beg to differ. For starters, there have been plenty of sex scandals on both sides of the aisle — and across it. In our sample, significantly more Rs report one to four lovers, and they tend to show modest percentages in the other categories . . . until we reach the 50-plus club, where Republicans get a bump over all other political persuasions. Sure, we’re talking about small numbers, people, but we’ll put it out there anyway. Call it transparency.

I have had sex with…

0.9% a sibling

3.4% a cousin

0.6% a parent

28% a person 20 or more years older

13% a person 20 or more years younger

2% a politician (who was not my spouse)

15% a teacher

1% an inflatable or Real doll

4% a repairman/woman

3.5% a delivery person

53% a person of a different race

5% a differently abled person

18% a fruit or vegetable

61% a coworker

10% the help of Viagra

We’ll let this list speak for itself. But how ’bout those coworkers? And is someone bringing fruit and vegetables to the office?

The impact Barack Obama as president will have on my sex life:

OK, we just had to ask, and 75 percent of respondents sensibly said, “None.” But we’re delighted with the 17.5 percent who went with “‘Yes we can’ is my new sexual mantra.” Almost 3 percent agreed that thinking of the prez (or his missus) makes them want to touch themselves. Moveon.orgasm! Still, we’re not sure what to make of the earnest 4 percent who vowed, “I will have less time for sex because I will be busy making change come.” Except that they’re likely to be twentysomething heterosexual female Democrats. Ah, the power of suggestion!

I have ___ sexual thoughts per day/week/month/year.

A lot of smartypants gave us vague — not to mention boastful — answers, such as “too many to count,” “lots” or “umpteen.” We’re pretty sure those who claim to think about sex “constantly,” or gave some number higher than the federal deficit, are pulling our leg. Or something. One who estimated “1000 times a day” — a het Democrat Catholic girl in her twenties — has one lucky boyfriend. Or maybe a zucchini?

Other answers were too precise to be believed: 11? 16.5? Seriously, who keeps track of these things? Accountants?

Most readers should be relieved to learn that the majority of respondents limit their sexual thoughts to one to four per day, with five to nine a close second choice. Then there’s the single fiftysomething guy — a Prog! — who says he thinks about sex just once a year. It can’t help that he’s “unsure” of his orientation. Or maybe he’s one of those people who are making change come instead?

I masturbate ___ times per day/week/month/year.

Regardless of how often people think about sex each day, the majority of respondents admit they turn that into self-pleasuring just one to four times per week. After all, who has enough hours in the day, never mind free hands? (See multitasking typists, below.) There were, of course, individuals who suggested numbers in the stratosphere, but color us unconvinced.

In the past year I...

35% cruised an Internet chat room or hookup site

8% misrepresented myself in an Internet chat room/hookup site

17% made a real-time hookup through an Internet site

35% typed with one hand while diddling myself with the other

69% had an orgasm while at the computer

61% visited one or more personals sites

23% dated someone I met through a personals site

5% found the love of my life through a personals site

Without question, the Internet has changed the face of human interaction, whether by enabling us to acquire virtual “friends,” have casual sex or meet a soulmate. And a whole lot of our respondents report that it’s given them something new to do with their hands. The 69 percent who’ve climaxed at the computer probably weren’t watching droll YouTube videos. Just don’t get the keyboard wet, people.

We’re intrigued that, while 61 percent of our respondents have visited personals sites, only about a third of them went on dates. What, the rest of you were just window-shopping? O, really? Hey, nearly 5 percent of respondents have found true love through the personals. Not bad odds, really, compared with a night at a local bar.

In the past year I...

94% cruised pornography online

38% downloaded pornography

21% purchased pornographic materials

4% appeared in pornography

0.1% worked for an Internet porn site

In our 2007 survey, we merely asked what kind of porn readers preferred, including both electronic and other varieties. Interestingly, about the same percentage (22) of respondents said they enjoyed erotic literature as said they visited pornographic websites. This time we dispensed with high-brow alternatives and went straight to the Net. And, wow, even we were surprised by the enthusiastic response. Ninety-four percent is a lot of eyeballs.

A number that high can’t be ascribed just to horny men. Nope, turns out 55 percent of the males and 67 percent of the females in our sample have visited porn sites. However, most of the ladies were just looking; 28 percent of men actually downloaded porn, compared with a modest 14 percent of women.

Almost 62 percent of heterosexuals surf online porn, while just 49 percent of gay and lesbian respondents claim to cruise, as do 55 percent of bisexuals. Age-wise, web-savvy twentysomethings are the biggest users — no surprise there. As for political parties, here’s the deal: Democrats, 59 percent; Republicans, 60 percent; Progressives, 58 percent; and Independents, 58 percent. Maybe President Obama is looking for bilateral consensus in all the wrong places.

What about religion, you ask? Catholics and “spiritual” types step out ahead among porn readers. Ten Hail Marys and six Oms, please.

(By the way, in case anyone wants to reflect on the deeper implications of the porn boom, Middlebury College is hosting a series of events collectively titled “Pornography and the College Student.” Two sessions open to the public include a documentary film this Friday, February 27, called The Price of Pleasure: Pornography, Sexuality and Relationships, at 4:20 p.m.; and a talk Saturday night by Robert Jensen, author of Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity, at 7:30 p.m. Info, 443-5580.)

In the past year I...

29% cheated on my significant other

23.5% was cheated on by my significant other

19.5% had sex with someone whose name I don’t know

47% had sex with my ex

14% had sex with a friend’s ex

35.5% had sex with someone else’s current partner/spouse

Well, we knew there was a lot of cheating going on, but who knew the most popular choice was one’s own former squeeze? True, Vermonters are big on recycling. Meanwhile, the fact that nearly 20 percent of you are doing the nasty with Anon. is kind of alarming. Are we surprised the majority is twentysomething?

I fake orgasms…

66% never

32% sometimes

2% always

The biggest source of wonder here is the sole male who claims to always fake it. How, dude? Then again, 14 percent of the guys in our sample said they pretend to end now and then. Maybe the boys have learned a trick or two from the 47 percent of girls who fake it “sometimes.” The females (mainly hets) who always put on an act are down from last time we asked, though — from 5 to 3 percent. Guess that’s progress.

It’s always fun to look at the party profiles on this one, so we can make wild extrapolations about our actual politicians. This time we observed that Democrats are more likely to “sometimes” or “always” falsify their results. Nary a Republican copped to it. But then, they could be faking.

When it comes to pubic hair, I prefer that my partner…

18% have a full bush

57% be trimmed

7% have a “landing strip” or other design

18% be shaved clean

With a new production of Hair on its way to Broadway, can hirsute nether regions be far behind? Yeah, probably. It appears 21st-century tastes are more streamlined. Can you say Brazilian?

It’s not just a male preference; 79 percent of het women would like their guy to rein in the short hairs. There’s a direct correlation with age, though. Put it this way: Those who know all the words to “The Age of Aquarius” are more likely to appreciate a groin au naturel.

At what age do men make the best lovers? At what age do women make the best lovers?

Talk about subjective questions; the answers really depend on whom you ask. Of course, we asked everyone, and here’s what they said: Nearly 40 percent of respondents admitted they have no clue, which we found rather endearing. Second to “don’t know,” men and women both guessed twentysomethings make the best lovers. Among the more decisive respondents, people under 60 tended to identify folks in their own age group as best in bed. After 60, opinions split — maybe they can’t remember? (To be fair, it’s impossible to draw conclusions from the small sample of AARP-qualified respondents.) But isn’t it nice to know that whatever age you are is the best age to make love?

My favorite time of day to have sex is…

As a whole, our respondents went with the traditional “evening,” which we’ll assume means “bedtime” and not “during the six o’clock news.” But the breakdown indicates that just as many guys like to get up and at ’em at daybreak as at dusk — which is when most women appear to be receptive. While there are no huge differences among sexual orientations, most gays and lesbians don’t tend to be morning people, at least in this regard.

Penis size is a factor in my sexual satisfaction.

27% true

34% false

38.5% depends on the penis

It ain’t the meat, it’s the motion, right? That’s what we might take these results to mean. But let’s look a little closer. More than half the male respondents optimistically checked “false,” while women weighed in with “true” (33 percent) or an equivocal “depends” (46 percent). Hets were more likely to say “false” than homos, though 50 percent of the latter group believes in extenuating circumstances. So there you go: Work with what you got.

____ of my sexual sessions are on a bed.

1% none

18% some

78% the majority

4% all

We have consensus here, across the board. And duh: These springs were made for bouncin’. Not to mention rolling over and going to sleep afterward. But what about those “none” and “some” people . . .?

Other than bed, my favorite place to have sex is…

55% the couch

8% the kitchen/dining room table

19.5% standing up against a wall

2% public bathroom

6% a car

9% a hot tub

Again, no surprise that the comfiest option comes out on top. But verticality made an impressive showing, more among women (23 percent) than men (15), and slightly more among homos (21) than hets (18). We’re guessing physical strength comes into play here.

By the way, the 273 “other” responses were dominated by “outdoors,” “places we could get caught,” “the shower,” “the floor” and a variety of other horizontal surfaces or arrangements on living-room furniture. The most innovative locales — if not the most accommodating — were “ambulance,” “trampoline,” “grandmother’s electric wheelchair” and “Town Meeting Day in a voting booth.” (We’ll ponder that next week at the polls!)

Of course we got a “graveyards” fan — there’s one in every crowd. But a lot of libertines weren’t the least bit picky: “any flat surface” and such desperate-sounding answers as “anywhere we can find that won’t freak out the kids” cropped up pretty often. We’re thinking quickies.

The most provocative answer, though, came from a het fortysomething male: “on my liberator sex furniture.” Details, please!

I learned the most about sex from…

2% a parent

0.9% a sibling

12% a friend

3% a class

82% a sexual partner

So much for sex education in schools; our readers are clearly DIY types. But we suspect they’re thinking less about the academic “birds and bees” part than the juicy details you learn when you’re actually doing it. And what else is so much fun to practice?

The sex toy I would most like to receive for a Valentine’s Day gift is…

39% none

31% a vibrator

10% a strap-on dildo

6% butt plug/anal beads

14% bondage gear

Seems most of you were better off sticking with candy and flowers on V-Day. We recommend that the rest peruse Mistress Maeve’s blog at for ideas for next year. We can tell you, though, that a vibrator is not an unwelcome choice for a straight, single, twentysomething female, especially if she’s a Democrat.

The body part that most turns me on is…

18% eyes

12% mouth

25% chest/breasts

11.5% genitals

22% ass

5% legs

8% hands

In case these scattered responses left any doubt, the “others” on the survey confirm that every body part has its fans. Predictably, straight men of any age tend to get distracted by boobs, while straight women apparently believe the eyes have it. Windows of the soul and all that, right? Homos are far more likely than hets to get off on actual genitals (29 and 16 percent, respectively). Bis can’t make up their minds between eyes and chests. Figures.

I have had…

33% crabs

19% herpes

25% chlamydia

41% HPV

10% gonorrhea

1% syphilis


People, people, people. What did we tell you about safe sex? Sexually transmitted disease is predominantly an issue for the young and reckless; twentysomethings are far more likely to report intimate familiarity with HPV (human papilloma virus) than any other age group. Fifty-two percent claim to use condoms (see below), but that leaves 48 percent unprotected. Respondents now in their forties and older have encountered good old-fashioned crabs in their day, but are blissfully free of the more serious STDs.

My main form of birth control is…

There are so many choices here, it’s easier for us to summarize. Just under a third of survey respondents checked “condoms,” while about a fifth use “the pill.” Interestingly, the third most frequent answer was “vasectomy/hysterectomy” — this, of course, linked to age. Next in line was “not applicable,” which we’ll attribute to homosexuality and menopause. But after that came “pulling out.” Remarkably, 10 percent of respondents in their thirties, who should know better, use this method. Just for the record, it’s notoriously ineffective. So is “prayer,” which eight respondents say they rely on. Speaking of religious beliefs: For all the hoopla about the “morning-after pill,” we noted that not a single one of our respondents uses it. Fifteen opt for “celibacy,” which makes us wonder about the 31 individuals in the survey who claim to be virgins. Hmm.

When it comes to aural satisfaction, I prefer…

1% silence

28% dirty talk

5% music, loud and hard

12% music, soft and sexy

54% just the sound of my lover grunting, panting, moaning or shrieking

Vermonters are so self-reliant! Add “dirty talk” to the more animalistic sounds, and it’s clear most survey respondents need only a partner to enjoy sex. (Some don’t even need that.) As we noted earlier, it’s an affordable entertainment option. Among those who keep the iPod going, though, it’s worth noting that Al Green beats the hell out of Metallica for most lovers.

I have done the following:

71% purchased a sex toy

69% used a sex toy on/with someone

19% had sex with three or more people at once

18% BDSM

9% peed on someone

7% been peed on by someone (not an infant)

67% had sex in a public place

49% had sex in a moving car

13% had sex in a moving boat

2% had sex on a ski lift

Now we know why so few people wanted a dildo for Valentine’s Day: Practically everyone’s already got one — and God knows what else. As for the public sex, threesomes and other thrills, see the sidebar on “most memorable sexual experiences.”

I perform oral on a sex partner…

6% never

28% 1-3 times per month

23% 4-7 times per month

28% 8 or more times per month

15% only on special occasions

None of these categories reveal a huge difference between males and females — at least straight ones. Only one homosexual and four bis claim to keep their mouths shut. But, oddly enough, similar proportions in all sexual orientations reserve oral for “special occasions.” We included that option to be funny, but we guess the joke’s on us. So, what makes an occasion special?

Performing oral sex on my partner turns me on.

70% true

9% false

21% depends on the partner

’Nuff said, right? Not so fast. Males — straight or gay — are way more inclined to get turned on “down there” than are women. Like, 82 percent versus 61 percent. Conversely, while guys don’t discriminate, a quarter of women say it “depends.” Size does count, no?

My partner performs oral on me…

25% every time we have sex

66% occasionally

9% never

More special occasions? (See above.)

My partner will only do oral if I ask for it.

21% true

79% false

So, who’s complaining the most? A straight fortysomething male who’s likely to be a Republican and a Protestant. Sound like anyone you know?

Receiving oral brings me to climax…

17% never

29% less than half the time

31% more than half the time

23% always

We’re not talking super-great odds here; sounds like you people need to try harder. And by “you people,” we’re not just talking about straight males. In fact, neither of the Big Two genders earns great marks for getting their partners off with their mouths. The most satisfied group is the 28 percent of men who say they “always” O from oral, compared with 19 percent of women. But wouldn’t you expect that number to be higher? The biggest percentage of female respondents — 34 — concedes they climax “more than half the time.” Big whoop. Go for the gold, we say.

When I have sex, I fantasize about someone other than my partner...

43% never

51% only when I’m bored

6% all the time

The follow-up question we should have asked is “How often are you bored?” But we did learn that males are more likely to answer “when I’m bored” (54 percent) than are women (48), while the Big Two genders were equal on “all the time” — 6 percent. Gays were a little more inclined than straights to fantasize under any circumstances. Middle-aged respondents were more likely to use their imaginations than the younger crowd, too, which we’re charitably going to attribute to multitasking skills. We just hope no one is still thinking of England.

I would feel hurt if I knew my partner was fantasizing about someone else while we’re having sex.

41% true

22% false

37% depends who it is

It’s perhaps no huge revelation that women in general are far more sensitive about this than are men, even though nearly half the females in our sample admitted to fantasizing at least some of the time themselves. On the other hand, 40 percent of women were willing to consider the source. A partner who fantasizes about one’s best friend/sister/mother may be more of a problem than, say, one who dreams of babelicious Scarlett Johansson. But guys, take it from us: Whatever you do, don’t ’fess up. You’re not going to win here. By the way, hets are way more thin-skinned than homos; bis are the most accommodating of all.

I tell my lover about my fantasies while having sex.

38% never

56% sometimes

6% always

In this question, the fantasies could concern the person you’re actually having sex with, so it stands to reason that both men and women are more inclined to share. These proportions hold up for straights and gays, but bi lovers are way more likely to kiss and tell. And we’re beginning to wonder: Do bis have double the fun?

I wish I could tell my lover about my fantasies while having sex.

46% true

54% false

Men are more likely (48 percent) than women (43) to say yes on this one. (See “sensitive,” above.) This is true across sexual orientations, though bis come out ahead of the pack (55) in wanting to share their thoughts. The most close-lipped fantasizer is likely to be a fiftysomething married straight guy — perhaps to preserve the marriage.

I have fantasies that wouldn’t be ethical to act on.

40% true

60% false

So, if we may extrapolate, most Seven Days readers are a considerate and law-abiding bunch even in their dreams. But let’s dig deeper. Turns out that 47 percent of guys have unsavory thoughts, compared with just 33 percent of women.

Just remember: Even if your fantasies are no-no’s in real life, it’s still OK to have them. Unless, of course, you’re Catholic. Ten Hail Marys.

If I could have sex with any well-known Vermonter, he/she would be…

Ahem. Those who think “There are well-known Vermonters?” is an original response, or an amusing one, are sadly mistaken. “Ethan Allen” and “Champ” don’t cut it, either.

Among those who took the question more in earnest, the greatest hits are still Rusty DeWees and Grace Potter. After that comes just about any telegenic person who delivers news or weather (what is it about climate control?). Then the politicians, especially former Gov. Howard Dean, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Vermont Secretary of State Deb Markowitz. (Any doubts now about running for gov, Deb?) No political party has cornered the market on sexual allure (heads up, Sen. Doug Racine and Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie), though the comparative dearth of Republicans among our respondents skews things somewhat.

Closer to home, our own sex columnist Mistress Maeve and Food Editor Suzanne Podhaizer (“in a large tub of guava jelly”) are feeling the love, and there was scattered applause for certain local rockers and snowboarding stars.

We’re not sure what to think of the dude who answered, “grade A medium amber Vermont maple syrup.” Is it irony? A metaphor? Or just woodchuck humor?

In the end, our favorite response was “Armando Vilaseca.” Besides being Cuban, he’s Vermont’s new education commish, and everybody knows smart is hot.

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