AMA releases old survey on oral sex just in time for President's trial

Copyright 1999 Washington Times
January 15, 1999

Just in time for the impeachment trial, a medical journal is publishing an 8-year-old survey of college students that found 60 percent agree with President Clinton's belief that oral sex is not really sex.

News of the report -- embargoed by Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) until Tuesday -- was disclosed Thursday on the Junk Science Home Page on the Internet, which called it "politically convenient science."

The results -- though dated --are timely because one of the articles of impeachment against the president accuses him of lying to a grand jury about whether he had "sexual relations" with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Mr. Clinton insisted they did not, because he does not consider oral sex "sexual relations."

Mr. Clinton also benefited from a well-timed article in the British journal Nature in November -- just as the House Judiciary Committee was about to begin its impeachment inquiry -- showing that Thomas Jefferson had an affair with a slave that resulted in an illegitimate child. That magazine has since had to admit it overstated DNA evidence in the Jefferson case.

JAMA spokesman Scott Roskelley said the medical journal is "not going to address decisions that were made" regarding the timing of the report's publishing.

But June M. Reinisch, a former director of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, who conducted the survey in 1991 and wrote the report in JAMA, said, "Our paper was accepted for publication [by JAMA] in early-to-mid-December, and we were told they would publish it as quickly as possible. That was their decision, not ours."

"This is blatantly political," said Steve Milloy, publisher of the Junk Science Home Page.

"This has all the earmarks of the Iraqi bombings in terms of timing," Robert H. Knight, director of cultural studies for the Family Research Council, said of the report in JAMA.

In a telephone interview Thursday, Ms. Reinisch said the Kinsey survey of 600 students at a "major Midwestern university" showed that "a majority (60 percent) don't believe oral sex is sex, while a sizable minority (40 percent) do." The random survey specifically asked students whether they believed they "had sex" when they engaged in oral sex.

"So there is no right answer ... and a person who has either opinion would not be lying," said Ms. Reinisch, who declined to disclose her political affiliation.

The survey's findings contrast sharply with an ABC News poll released in October by the Roper Center at the University of Connecticut. That study found that 81 percent of respondents believe oral sex is included in the commonly understood meaning of the term "sexual relations."

The author of the JAMA report, who describes herself as a "psycho-biologist," served as director of the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University in Bloomington from 1982 to 1993.

Ms. Reinisch said the focus of the 1991 survey was to determine the prevalence of high-risk sexual behaviors and young people's attitudes about them.

Some of the findings -- such as the percentage of college undergraduates who had experienced vaginal or anal intercourse -- were published in the magazine Family Planning Perspectives in early 1995.

Ms. Reinisch said other results -- including those dealing with oral sex -- have been presented at various scientific conferences.

After the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke a year ago and debate raged over whether a recipient of oral sex is engaging in sexual relations, Ms. Reinisch said she received a "lot of pressure from colleagues who had heard our data earlier" and believed it should be made public.

"What really concerned me the most was that many people of power and prestige were making statements [about this] as if they were fact, when they were just giving their personal opinions," Ms. Reinisch said.

She said she considered submitting her research for publication early last year. "But we thought this [sex scandal] would only last two weeks or so. And since it usually takes six months to a year to get scientific papers published, we thought" the report would be out of date by the time it appeared, the researcher said.

But in August, Mr. Clinton told a grand jury he did not believe he had had sexual relations with Miss Lewinsky. In response to a grand juror's question about whether Miss Lewinsky performed oral sex on him, the president replied, "I think any person, reasonable person would believe that that is not covered in the definition of sexual relations I was given. ..."

On Sept. 9, independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr submitted a report to Congress that accused Mr. Clinton of lying about that and of committing other potentially impeachable offenses.

"The issue [of whether oral sex is or is not sex] didn't go away, and we had [relevant] data and felt it would be irresponsible not to present it," Ms. Reinisch said Thursday.

She said she and others involved in the research decided in September to submit it for publication. "But there are only three or four journals that would have the capability to turn articles around quickly," said Ms. Reinisch, identifying JAMA as one of them.

The report was sent to JAMA in September, she said, and underwent "very rigorous review" by "three anonymous reviewers, plus the editorial board of JAMA." Ms. Reinisch said the peer-reviewers came back with questions and recommendations, and the report was changed to meet those concerns.

"They thought it was a very good article, and they either felt it was worthy of being speeded up [for publication] or maybe they had space" to publish it at this time, she said.

Ms. Reinisch said nearly 79 percent of the students in the survey described themselves as being "moderate to conservative." Fifty-eight percent of those interviewed were registered voters, "and Republicans outnumbered Democrats 2 to 1," she said.

Mr. Knight of FRC isn't impressed. "Political labels are becoming increasingly meaningless," he said.

He makes it clear he's always suspicious of Kinsey Institute research. "The Kinsey Institute has a well-established track record of politically correct research that promotes sexual license," Mr. Knight said.

He added: "It takes a suspension of common sense to believe sexual activity does not constitute sex. What we could have here is a willful dodging of the truth which some teens have always found to be expeditious."

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