A recent USA Today article on teens and sex no doubt has parents all a-titter. And for good reason: “Teens define sex in new ways” cites a number of recent studies that say many American kids consider oral sex to be no big deal. In fact, some teenagers who have experienced oral sex still consider themselves virgins. (Thanks loads, Bill and Monica.)
A study published in the journal Pediatrics in April supports the view that adolescents believe oral sex is safer than intercourse, with less risk to their physical and emotional health.
The study of ethnically diverse high school freshmen from California found that almost 20 percent had tried oral sex, compared with 13.5 percent who said they had intercourse.
More of these teens believed oral sex was more acceptable for their age group than intercourse, even if the partners are not dating. …
The federal study [by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], based on data collected in 2002 and released last month, found that 55 percent of 15- to 19-year-old boys and 54 percent of girls reported getting or giving oral sex, compared with 49 percent of boys and 53 percent of girls the same ages who reported having had intercourse. …
The $16 million study, which took six years to develop, complete and analyze, surveyed almost 13,000 teens, men and women ages 15-44 on a variety of sexual behaviors.
As experts interviewed by USA Today note, becoming sexually active at too early an age is potentially dangerous. “When teenagers fool around before they’re ready or have a very casual attitude toward sex, they proceed toward adulthood with a lack of understanding about intimacy,” warned Sabrina Weill, author of The Real Truth About Teens & Sex. “What it means to be intimate is not clearly spelled out for young people by their parents and people they trust.”
Though I find this news deeply troubling, it does not surprise me. When my daughter, now 17, was in middle school, she told me about her classmates’ experimentations with oral sex. Yes, in middle school. And the kids were doing it just for kicks — love and caring and commitment had nothing to do with it. I was horrified and surprised then, but now, when many teens relish getting “benefits” from friends as a matter of course, I find the news not shocking, but depressing.
There was something in the USA Today piece, however, that floored me. Peruse these stats from a 2002 CDCP survey:
percentage of teens who have had intercourse and their ages:
15 – 25.1%
16 – 37.5%
17 – 46.9%
18 – 62.4%
19 – 68.9%
15 – 26.0%
16 – 39.6%
17 – 49.0%
18 – 70.3%
19 – 77.4%
percentage of teens who have had oral sex and their ages:
15 – 35.1%
16 – 42.0%
17 – 55.7%
18 – 65.4%
19 – 74.2%
15 – 26.0%
16 – 42.4%
17 – 55.5%
18 – 70.2%
19 – 74.4%
Do you see what I see? If these findings are to be believed, more girls than boys are having sexual intercourse — and at ages 16, 18, and 19, more girls than boys are participating in oral sex. Compare these results to those of a 1995 federal study that tracked the percentages of teens having intercourse:
Sources: 1995 National Survey of Family Growth and 1995 National Survey of Adolescent Males
How times have changed.
Is this sexual equality? Is the traditional double standard — sexually active guys are studs; girls who “do it” are sluts — a thing of the past? Somehow, I doubt it.
This much I believe: Whether male or female, it is healthier and more intelligent for teens to wait until they are truly ready to handle relationships and responsibility before having sex, oral or otherwise. And it’s time to put my 9-year-old son under lock and key.