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How Milwaukee Does It

The Shepherd’s 2009 sex survey results

Feb. 17, 2009
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Apparently people do more in the Bayshore Park N Ride lot than just wait for buses. The lot was just one of hundreds of public places where Shepherd readers say they’ve had sex. Also on that very long list: parks, libraries, museums, bistros, bars, dance clubs, schools, beaches, bike trails, buses, concert venues, dressing rooms, sport supply stores, a cemetery, a Laundromat and, for one pair of thrill seekers with marina access, Latrell Sprewell’s boat.

If you can park a car in a given spot, there’s a good chance someone’s had sex there, too—though judging from the survey results, many of our readers don’t even bother parking the car. About 60% of respondents have given and/or received oral sex while driving.

As always, the Shepherd’s Fifth Biennial Sex Survey is an unscientific sample, so it’s best to assume that its large, self-selected sample skews more sexually adventurous than the average Milwaukeean (that nearly 30% claim to have had sex with more than one partner at the same time attests to that). The results are endlessly insightful, nonetheless, providing a glimpse not only at the city’s fetishes, but also at its psyche. Kinky as they can be, it seems that at heart Milwaukeeans are a bunch of romantics.

Eighty-four percent of men and a full 90% of women agreed that being in a relationship makes sex better. And asked if they ever had sex they later regretted, very few professed guilt over an actual sex act, but plenty expressed emotional remorse. Many men regretted cheating. Others confessed to taking advantage of their sex partners. “I hooked up with someone just to prove to myself that I could, and then felt bad for using them,” one man lamented.

Women were more likely to regret their choice of partner. “The person I had sex with turned out to be a liar and very manipulative,” one wrote. “He used those manipulation skills to get me in bed, and I felt swindled.” Another woman had far harsher words for an ex-boyfriend: “I am deeply ashamed that the penis of an ignorant, boring, racist simpleton has entered my body. I will never date below myself again.”

One-night stands were among common regrets for both men and women, with one man speaking for many respondents when he wrote, “They’re just not my thing. I’d much rather be in a relationship with the person I am having sex with.”

Debunking Taboos

Laura Anne Stuart, who writes the Shepherd’s SEXPress column and owns the Tool Shed erotic boutique, said that two of the most common questions she encounters are about anal sex and female ejaculation. The survey results suggest that both acts are very common.“There’s a huge amount of curiosity about female ejaculation, and many women wonder if it’s real,” Stuart said. “So it’s interesting that 36% of women said they have ejaculated. That’s a really healthy chunk.

“And 52% of [the respondents] say they’ve had anal sex,” Stuart continued. “That’s really high, yet people still feel like anal sex is a taboo topic. It shouldn’t be. There’s a large amount of people who are trying some kind of anal play.”

Stuart sees a similar double standard with society’s views on polyamorous, open relationships and its views on cheating. Cheating appears to be rampant: 21% of respondents say they’ve cheated on their current partner, and 36% say they’ve repeatedly cheated on past partners. An overwhelming 60% report being cheated on.

“Polyamory is considered this very strange thing, yet cheating is almost considered normal,” Stuart said. “In the survey, 60% of people say they’ve been cheated on that they know of. That’s not healthy, but we see it as normal. You have to wonder, if people were more open to polyamory, would cheating be such an issue?”

The vast majority of respondents (72%) said their relationships were monogamous, with just 7% considering themselves openly non-monogamous. Wandering eyes abound, though: Another 11% admitted that they were in a relationship but would “like to explore my options.”

Between all the sex in public and anal intercourse, the survey can sometimes paint the picture of a city consumed by carnal desires, but the reality is more nuanced. Ellen Barnard, a trained social worker who co-owns A Woman’s Touch Sexuality Resource Center, said she found it telling that although respondents tended to be more adventurous, the bulk still reported only having sex about once a week. Most single people reported having sex far less than that, closer to once a month (34%). Forty-three percent of single people say they have sex once a year or less.

“People can feel this pressure that they should be having lots and lots of sex,” Barnard said. “Hopefully if they see that most people report having sex once a week or less, that will help them feel a lot better if that’s where they’re at.”

Sobering Stats

There were some statistics that worried Barnard, though. Forty-one percent of respondents admitted that they don’t find it easy to talk to new partners about their sexual history or history of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). And although a full 96% believe they have a good understanding of STIs and how to avoid them, another stat suggests otherwise: Only 62% report that they always use condoms or other protection with a new partner. “That’s one of those statistics where it’s like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” Barnard said.

Also concerning: 92% reported that they do not have an STI (herpes and HPV were the most common ones). That number would appear to be good news—if it weren’t statistically impossible. STIs are much more prevalent than this number suggests. In fact, more than half of all people will contract one at some point in their lifetime.

“One of the things that many people don’t understand is you can have a sexually transmitted infection and not know it,” Barnard said, “and clearly there are people in this sample who fall into that category.”

The secret to avoiding STIs, Barnard said, is the same as the secret for great sex: communication. “The people I know who enjoy themselves the most are the ones so comfortable with sex and their bodies that they can talk openly about what they want, which includes demanding the use of condoms,” Barnard said. “That all makes for better sex.”

What’s your take? Write: editor@shepex.com or comment on this story online at www.expressmilwaukee.com.

About the Sample

59% male

41% female

84% heterosexual

6% homosexual

10% bisexual

30% single

33% in a relationship

37% married


Women who have faked an orgasm at least once: 77%
Women who fake orgasms regularly: 20%
Men in a relationship who regularly masturbate alone: 78%
Women in a relationship who regularly masturbate alone: 60%
Men and women who sometimes or regularly watch porn with their partners: 55%
Men who regularly lie to partners about past sexual history: 11%
Women who regularly lie to partners about past sexual history: 15%
Men and women with STIs who have lied to partners about it: 5%

Percentage who have done the following: (men/women)
Oral sex with opposite gender: 92% 95%
Oral sex with same gender: 18% 29%
Anal sex with opposite gender: 50% 55%
Anal sex with same gender: 12% 5%
Anonymous sex: 24% 15%
Bondage: 27% 33%
Domination play: 19% 27%
Spanking: 40% 55%
Phone sex: 46% 54%
Cross-dressing: 7% 4%
Used sex toys: 64% 73%
Had sex with prostitute: 15% 1%
Used Internet sex chat: 20% 11%
Had sex with someone met online: 27% 23%
Called 1-900 numbers: 7% 2%
Shopped at an erotic boutique: 70% 75%


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