Tamed sex or the invention of flirting
The AIDS epidemic has given rise to a new body of quantitative or ethnographic research on sexual behaviour. Based on the timing of the first sexual experience, we retrace major changes observed in American, English or French surveys. The change in sexual habits in the post-war generations is related to two phenomena – a lengthening of the individual transition period towards genital sexuality and the generational synchronization of the age at first intercourse. Today, the onset of genital sexuality depends on individuals’ages at first non-genital activity, this being the result of a long period of flirting, beginning as one leaves childhood. First genital sexual experience has been the mark of a normative accomplishment, no longer the counterpart of marriage. This internal normative pressure is exerted by the younger generation itself upon its members.