News release

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September 2021 | Orono, Maine

Sexuality professor shares 30 years of research into a popular topic

What do nearly 7,000 college students have to say about sex? What do they do? What do they think? How do they feel about it? How has the media and Internet influenced their actions?  And compared to 30 years ago, is sex really different today? The Sex Lives of College Students: Three Decades of Attitudes and Behaviors presents the results of a sexuality survey administered over the past 30 years to thousands of college students.

Dr. Sandra Caron, a professor of family studies and human sexuality at the University of Maine, has spent the past 30 years issuing a 100-question survey to her college students. What she discovered from the 6,654 students between the ages of 18-22 is a range of opinions and experience in sexual relationships. Now she’s outlined what she’s learned in her third edition of The Sex Lives of College Students.  Her first edition covered two decades of research and her second covered a quarter century; this edition includes three decades of college students’ sexual attitudes and behaviors (from 1990 to 2020).

According to Caron, while we may see sex more in movies, television, books, magazines and the Internet, young adults are still left asking questions and making assumptions. The book offers insight into the differences between college men and women, and interesting trends in students’ attitudes and behaviors since 1990. Because of its longevity, the survey includes not only the views of today’s college students, but also those of their parents’ generation.

“The survey data serves as a reality check on the sex lives of college students,” Caron said. “Despite the perception that all college students are regularly hooking up, their survey responses indicate that, overall, they are neither feeling overly liberated sexually nor jumping into bed with multiple partners. Instead, the survey shows a range of opinions and experience in sexual relationships.”

The book, published by Maine College Press, uses colorful illustrations and infographics to present the survey findings in an easy-to-understand manner. Each page begins with a sex question for the reader to consider and serves as a discussion-starter for people of all ages.

That discussion is important, she says. For instance, across 30 years, friends have remained the most important influence on college students’ sexual attitudes, especially same-sex friends. Few college students feel their parents or schools played an important role in their sexual development.

Despite years of advocating the importance of parents as sexuality educators of their children there has been very little change. Across the three decades, the proportion of students who report they have asked their parents questions about sex has remained virtually unchanged.”

Faking orgasm is another area where the statistics show an interesting change, Caron noted. Despite the 1960s Sexual Revolution and what appears to be more openness concerning relationships, the past 30 years of data found that a quarter of men and two-thirds of women say they have faked orgasms and that number has gone up — not down— over the 30 years. “Those numbers tell us that we’ve lost touch with what sexual relationships are supposed to be about— enjoying ourselves rather than faking pleasure and satisfaction.”

The survey findings reveal that some college students today are simply performing sex. “Without the proper guidance of their parents and schools, many young people have been misled by the acting world of pornography, which is designed to be stimulating fantasy for adults. Somewhere along the line, we forgot to tell young people that it is not intended to be sex instruction. But for too many, it serves as their primary foundation for sexuality education.”

The book opens with an impressive list of “who’s who” in the field of sex research offering words of praise for Caron’s research. The foreword is written by Dr. Clive Davis, former editor of The Journal of Sex Research, who explains both the uniqueness and the significance of Caron’s research findings.  The back cover endorsement is by Dr. William Yarber, senior researcher at the Kinsey Institute in Indiana (where sex research got its start). In addition, the book has a companion website providing the original sex survey questions, a Q&A with the author, and endorsements from noted sexuality professionals:

Caron’s book, The Sex Lives of College Students: Three Decades of Attitudes and Behaviors, is available for purchase from in paperback form and as an e-book for Kindle as well as other e-readers.


For questions or to set up an interview: Dr. Sandra Caron, (207) 581-3138,

Dr. Sandra L. Caron is Professor of Family Relations and Human Sexuality at the University of Maine, where she teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses in family studies and human sexuality. She has been a member of the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, and The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality for nearly 40 years. She is the founder and director of several nationally recognized peer sexuality education programs, including Athletes for Sexual Responsibility and Male Athletes Against Violence. For two decades, she wrote a weekly sexuality column for the campus newspaper and hosted a campus radio show on sexuality called Sex Matters. She now hosts a national website for college students —

Dr. Caron received her Ph.D. in Human Development with an emphasis in human sexuality in 1986 from Syracuse University, where she studied under Dr. Sol Gordon, along with Dr. Clive Davis. She left her position at Cornell University to return to her home state of Maine and join the University of Maine faculty in 1988. She has received numerous recognitions for her work, including the 2019 Distinguished Maine Professor, awarded by the University of Maine Alumni Association.

Her research and publications have focused on the social-sexual development of young people, with an emphasis on sexual decision-making, sexuality education, and cross-cultural perspectives of sexuality. Besides her three editions of The Sex Lives of College Students, she has previously authored two books published by Pearson, Sex Matters for College Students: FAQs in Human Sexuality and Sex Around the World: CrossCultural Perspectives in Human Sexuality, and more recently a children’s book, Birds and Bees and More: How Babies Are Made and Families Form.

Others to contact for comments on the book:

Foreword by Clive M. Davis,  – Emeritus Associate Professor of Psychology, Syracuse University; Past President of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality; Past President of the Foundation for the Scientific Study of Sexuality; Former Editor of The Journal of Sex Research.

Back cover endorsement by William L. Yarber,  – Professor of Applied Health Science and Senior Research Fellow, The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, Indiana University, Bloomington.

Names of additional sexuality professionals to contact for comments are found in the “Endorsements” section of the book’s website: