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Campus Celebrity: Sandy Caron

Sexuality professor shares two decades of research into a popular topic

Dr. Sandra Caron, a professor of family studies and human sexuality at the University of Maine in Orono, Maine, has spent the past 20 years issuing a 100-question survey to her college students about their attitudes and opinions about sex and sexuality. What she discovered from the 4,683 18- to 22-year-olds was a range of opinions and experience in sexual relationships. Now she’s outlined what she’s learned in 20 years in her new book, “The Sex Lives of College Students: Two Decades of Attitudes and Behaviors.”

According to Caron, while we may see sex and sexuality more in movies, television, books, magazines and the Internet, young adults are still left asking questions, learning, and making assumptions. The book offers insight into the differences between college men and women, and interesting trends in college students' attitudes and behaviors since 1990.

 “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’s findings in an easy-to-understand manner and serves as a discussion-starter for people of all ages.

That discussion is important, she says. For instance, across two decades, friends have remained the most important influence on college students’ sexual attitudes, especially same-sex friends (53%). Few college students felt their parents or schools played an important role in their sexual development.

"Despite years of advocating the importance of parents as sexual educators of their children there has been very little change. Across the two 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 than ever before concerning relationships, the two decades 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 20 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 our young people that it is not intended to be sex instruction. But for too many young people, it serves as their primary foundation for sexuality education."

Caron’s book “The Sex Lives of College Students” is available for purchase from Amazon.com in paperback form ($24.99) or as an e-book for Kindle ($7.99). 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. In addition, the book has a companion website providing the original sex survey questions and raw data, a Q&A with the author, endorsements from noted sexuality professionals, and many of the illustrations found in the book: sexlivesofcollegestudents.com.

For questions or to set up an interview: Dr. Sandra Caron, (207) 581-3138, sandy.caron@umit.maine.edu

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 30 years. She is the founder and director of three nationally recognized peer sexuality education programs: Athletes for Sexual Responsibility, Male Athletes Against Violence, and The Greek Peer Educator Program. For two decades, she wrote a weekly newspaper column and hosted a radio show on sexuality called “Sex Matters.” She now hosts a national website for college students — collegesextalk.com.

Dr. Caron received a 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 returned to her home state of Maine and joined the University of Maine faculty in 1988.

Her research and publications have focused on the social-sexual development of young people, with an emphasis on sexual decision-making, contraceptive use, safer sex, sexual assault, sexuality education, and cross-cultural perspectives. She has previously authored two books published by Pearson, "Sex Matters for College Students: FAQs in Human Sexuality" and "Sex Around the World: Cross-Cultural Perspectives in Human Sexuality."


Others to contact for comments on the book:

Foreword by Clive Davis, clivemdavis007@gmail.com 

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, yarber@indiana.edu 

Professor of Applied Health Science and Senior Research Fellow, The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, Indiana University, Bloomington


Additional contacts for comments on the sex research findings presented in the book can be found under the Endorsements section of the website: sexlivesofcollegestudents.com

Taylor is a fourth-year journalism student at the University of Maine and one of Her Campus UMaine's campus correspondants. Taylor was born right outside of Philadephia, Pennsylvania, but spent summers teaching sailing on Vinalhaven, Maine. Taylor also produces video for The Maine Campus, and loves making videos.
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