sexually active

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NickJunior

Senior Member
Khmer
Hi,
I would like to know the meaning of the term "sexually active". Does it mean that the person sleeps around a lot with different sex partners, or does it mean that the person is very intimate all the times with a one on one relationship? Thanks.
 
  • Joelline

    Senior Member
    American English
    The generic question, "Are you sexually active" can mean either situation you describe. You would need to ask additional questions to narrow the answer: Do you have more than one sexual partner? How frequently do you have sex?" etc. etc.
     

    NickJunior

    Senior Member
    Khmer
    The generic question, "Are you sexually active" can mean either situation you describe. You would need to ask additional questions to narrow the answer: Do you have more than one sexual partner? How frequently do you have sex?" etc. etc.
    Thanks Joelline. This question is actually taken from a medical form that I had to fill out before being seen by a doctor. I just check off NO.
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    The truth is that the question is ill-defined, but since we're prudish about sex we'd rather stick with the nebulous concept of "active."

    Myself,I would read it as either "Have you ever had sex" or "Do you have sex on a regular basis," whatever "regular" might mean. It's a very vague question.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    The truth is that the question is ill-defined, but since we're prudish about sex we'd rather stick with the nebulous concept of "active."

    Myself,I would read it as either "Have you ever had sex" or "Do you have sex on a regular basis," whatever "regular" might mean. It's a very vague question.
    I'd interpret it as "Do you have sex now on an occasional or regular basis?" While the question of whether you have ever had sex is sometimes medically relevant, I don't think that is involved here. Rather, it's the possibility that recent sexual activity may be of medical relevance which leads the doctor (or other person) to ask the question.
     

    Indrid Cold

    Senior Member
    English (UK)/French (FR) - Bilingual
    I'm under the impression that the question "(are you) sexually active" is devoid of any other consideration (one on one, regular, multipartners, occasional etc...) and only strives to establish whether one 'engages in sexual activity or not' - the sort of question a gynecologist or urologist might well ask.

    Regards
    IC
     

    Lexiphile

    Senior Member
    England English
    This expression is usually used in the context of "becoming sexually active" and appears generally only in respect of teenagers.
    Young children are, as a rule, not sexually active.
    Adults, as a rule, are.
    At some point, a child becomes sexually active, and that fact could well be of relevance to a doctor. For example, the immunisation agains HPV (human papilloma virus) is effective only if it is administered to girls before they become sexually active.

    Edit: The frequency of the activity is not relevant.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    This expression is usually used in the context of "becoming sexually active" and appears generally only in respect of teenagers.
    Young children are, as a rule, not sexually active.
    Adults, as a rule, are.
    At some point, a child becomes sexually active, and that fact could well be of relevance to a doctor. For example, the immunisation agains HPV (human papilloma virus) is effective only if it is administered to girls before they become sexually active.

    Edit: The frequency of the activity is not relevant.
    You may well be correct that "sexually active" is a term most often used when describing teenagers. Nevertheless, the term is indeed applied to all adults, including older adults (in the US, at least, often referred to as "seniors") because the question of the sexual activity of these groups is an important one, for various medical and epidemiological reasons. Do a Google search for "sexually active adults" and "sexually active seniors" and you will see that the subject is indeed of interest to researchers. And this isn't simply an academic matter. Studies have shown that seniors are exposing themselves to STDs at a lamentably high rate because they don't take the proper precautions.

    As for the frequency, I think it does matter, in a couple of ways, basically concerning past and present behavior. Someone who had sex once, long ago in the past, or someone who had sex while married and who has been long widowed and without a sexual partner, would not be considered "sexually active."

    Or so that is my understanding. However, I'd like to see what medical professionals have to say about the meaning of the term, but that's not the easiest thing to research, it seems. Even the OED online, which one might expect to have added the term, does not have it, nor do other general dictionaries. Still, I would expect medical professionals to have a specific idea about the meaning of the phrase. In other words, I consider it a technical phrase rather than some sort of vague euphemism, as was suggested earlier in this thread.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    You may well be correct that "sexually active" is a term most often used when describing teenagers. Nevertheless, the term is indeed applied to all adults, including older adults (in the US, at least, often referred to as "seniors") because the question of the sexual activity of these groups is an important one, for various medical and epidemiological reasons. Do a Google search for "sexually active adults" and "sexually active seniors" and you will see that the subject is indeed of interest to researchers. And this isn't simply an academic matter. Studies have shown that seniors are exposing themselves to STDs at a lamentably high rate because they don't take the proper precautions.

    As for the frequency, I think it does matter, in a couple of ways, basically concerning past and present behavior. Someone who had sex once, long ago in the past, or someone who had sex while married and who has been long widowed and without a sexual partner, would not be considered "sexually active."

    Or so that is my understanding. However, I'd like to see what medical professionals have to say about the meaning of the term, but that's not the easiest thing to research, it seems. Even the OED online, which one might expect to have added the term, does not have it, nor do other general dictionaries. Still, I would expect medical professionals to have a specific idea about the meaning of the phrase. In other words, I consider it a technical phrase rather than some sort of vague euphemism, as was suggested earlier in this thread.

    I had previously tried various searches on Google to find a definition of "sexually active," without success. But then I tried searching for "sexually active is defined as" and I learned something very interesting. "Sexually active" is indeed treated as a technical term, but not with a fixed meaning.

    Here's one definition, via Google Books, from Dermatology, Progress & Perspectives: "The US Centers for Disease Control have recommended vaccinating sexually active heterosexuals, defined as those with more than one partner in the last 6 months, or those with another STD."

    Other definitions, often used for surveys, included having had sexual intercourse within the last three months, having had sex (defined as oral-genital or genital contact) within the last three months, being married or having had a sexual partner within the last month, and I'm sure there are others. A page concerning the sexual activity of young people did indicate that one instance of intercourse was sufficient for the label "sexually active," which is the definition given by the person I was replying to in my previous post in this thread. Note, however, that while he said that frequency was unimportant, in most of the definitions I found, frequency was an integral part of the definition.

    I noticed that there was a confusion of "currently sexually active" and "sexually active." Often a definition for the former on one Web page was equal to a definition for the latter on another Web page. The CDC was often referenced with the "three months" figure, but as you can see from my first cite above, that is not the only definition that agency has used.

    As a result, I have to conclude that if we are presented with a form which asks whether we are sexually active, the only way of determining what is meant is to ask the person handing out the form!
     

    Lexiphile

    Senior Member
    England English
    You may well be correct that "sexually active" is a term most often used when describing teenagers. Nevertheless, the term is indeed applied to all adults, including older adults (in the US, at least, often referred to as "seniors") because the question of the sexual activity of these groups is an important one, for various medical and epidemiological reasons.
    Yes, I must admit that I had overlooked the possibility of someone ceasing to be sexually active. Don't wish to think about it, :)

    Of most crucial importance is Msplsray's observation that the definition is in flux. And the observations about frequency suggest that there are indeed degrees of activity:

    Are you sexually active (answer yes, no, or "a bit")?

    I think most native speakers, on being asked for a binary answer, would be aware of the reason for the question and would therefore have a pretty good idea which answer to give. Some might want to answer "I hope so" though.
    In any case, we have established that to be sexually active is not the opposite of being sexually passive.
     

    katie_here

    Senior Member
    England/English
    I'm under the impression that the question "(are you) sexually active" is devoid of any other consideration (one on one, regular, multipartners, occasional etc...) and only strives to establish whether one 'engages in sexual activity or not' - the sort of question a gynecologist or urologist might well ask.

    Regards
    IC
    I think as explained above is the reason for the question on the form, and also a less direct way of asking whether you are a virgin or not.

    Some illnesses and diseases are only prevalent in sexually active people, for example, cervical cancer and sexually transmitted diseases.

    If they were going to carry out a smear test for example on a woman, then there would be little point if the person had never engaged in sexual activity and also distressing for the person involved.
     
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