'Clinton-Lewinsky Effect': Study Shows Students' Changing Views Of Oral Sex

Sex researchers point to former President Bill Clinton, former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, a notorious blue dress -- and perhaps a cigar -- for a recent study that shows college students are growing more hesitant to call oral sex actual sex.

According to the University of Kentucky study of sexual definitions, only 20 percent of students considered oral-genital contact to be "sex." That's about half the number who responded that way in similar "sex" classification studies in 1991 and 1999-2001.

Though researchers had a variety of theories about this shift -- including a change in emphasis on sex-ed programs and the desensitizing influence of sex portrayed on television and movies -- perhaps the most interesting explanation was called the "Clinton-Lewinsky Effect."

Sexual definitions, the researchers hypothesized, were inevitably shaped by President Clinton's famous "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" statement and the ensuing national discussion.

"Like President Clinton, adolescents and young adults often interpret these words with a degree of latitude, depending on whether they want to maintain an image of being sexually experienced or inexperienced," the report explained.

"Unlike respondents in the previous samples, our respondents were adolescents after the Clinton-Lewinsky era, which our comparisons of data over time suggest may have been a turning point in conceptualizations of oral-genital contact. The dramatic and sudden shift in attitudes toward oral-genital contact can therefore be termed the Clinton-Lewinsky effect."

The study surveyed 477 college undergraduates -- 328 women and 149 men.