New Survey Says Americans Are Getting Freakier, Masturbating More

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Man_On_Woman_Jordy_Van_Der_Nieuwendijk_slideIllustrated By Jordy Van Der Nieuwendijk.
Whatever your thoughts on pornography, it's hard to deny that it's changed the way we think about (and have) sex, especially since the Internet has made it accessible to anyone with a broadband connection. But, it turns out that free-flowing porn isn't the only way technology has impacted our sex lives. A new survey finds that an increasing number of Americans are experimenting with technology in the bedroom — and we're not just talking about vibrators.

The study, commissioned in honor of National Masturbation Month by social webcam site Cam4 and French survey institute IFOP, surveyed a representative sample of 1,023 Americans over the age of 18 on their sexual habits. The data showed that 21% of women and 32% of men watch live sex shows online. Skype sex is also increasingly common, with 26% of respondents saying they had "had sexual relations via a webcam," while 48% said they would do so if given the opportunity.

Of course, sexting still has a stronghold. (It's not just for Anthony Weiner, you know.) The data suggest that 40% of women under 35 have shared photos or videos in which they were at least semi-naked, either via text or through social media. Webcams and smartphones are also being used by the amateur pornographers among us: 25% of respondents under 35 have filmed or photographed themselves while having sex with their partner. Over 50% said they would do so "if the timing was right."

The survey also included information on the prevalence of masturbation in America. Among female respondents under 35, 79% said they had masturbated; 88% of their male peers said the same. This was considerably higher than the overall proportion of the sample, suggesting that young people are significantly more likely to engage in self pleasure than their older counterparts. The survey authors indicate that the figure might be even higher for women, who tend to underreport their solo-sex experiences.

It's possible that the wide accessibility of sex content on the Internet — both educational and otherwise — has made us more comfortable with ideas that used to be taboo. As Chauntelle Tibbals, a sociologist and porn researcher, points out, "In recent years, as a culture, we have really matured in terms of sexual shame and judgement. Though not everyone shares the same proclivities (nor should we) and though we are definitely not perfect, it has become less and less acceptable to evaluate others' wants and desires. I think this has contributed significantly to both our use of technology to explore sexualities, as well as our increased openness about it."

Of course, the personal tech boom has made it easier than ever to be intimate wherever and whenever. Whatever the motivation behind using our gadgets in this way, one thing's for sure: Many of us really have fun fiddling with wires and cameras.