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Aug 18

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Teens and Oral Sex

“More Teens Have Oral Sex Earlier Than Vaginal Intercourse” headlines a story–based on a 2007-2010 CDC study of teens and sexual behavior–posted at USAToday on 8/16/12. The only problem is that the headline gets a key finding of the CDC study wrong. In truth, the percentage of 15-17 year old teens who engage in oral sex significantly earlier in time than they eventually engage in vaginal intercourse (about 1 in 4) has remained relatively constant for the last ten years.

When you first read the headline above, did it generate fear or or some other emotion?

Beware!! Sex sells, and stories about teen sexuality, especially those that in some way seem frightening or “scandalous,” sell especially well. Given the frequency with which these stories and headlines appear, and the hype about teenage sexuality that media continually generates, most Americans would never guess, for example, that the percentage of teenagers in the US who have ever engaged in either vaginal intercourse or oral sex has actually declined over the past teen years!

There are some fascinating findings in this report, however, and the study itself is very worthwhile reading. Here are some interesting sound bites reported by USAToday, and by the New York Times (“Sex Life of Teenagers Is Subject of Study,” 8/16/12).

  • Two-thirds of teens and young adults (15-24) have had oral sex — about as many as have had vaginal intercourse.
  • Many sex researchers had believed that oral sex was being used to defer vaginal sex, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for most teens today.
  • Girls and boys in the study had given and received oral sex equally, a finding suggesting that the gender differences found previously no long exist.
  • Condom use is unlikely during oral sex, even though several STIs–sexually transmitted infections–can be spread this way).
  • The CDC findings suggest that educational efforts aimed at teens and young adults about the transmission and prevention of STIs need to be expanded.
  • In interpreting the relationship between oral sex and vaginal intercourse among teen couples, Dr. John Santelli, professor of clinical population and family health at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, has said, “I think what kids do is get involved in a relationship, then at some point decide they’re ready to initiate vaginal sex, then probably engage in a whole repertoire of behaviors with that same partner.”

Two personal observations and thoughts:

1. Notice that the CDC research focused only on teens who were engaging in heterosexual behaviors. It’s important to ask why. Gay and bisexual teens deserve to be studied as well–so why are they so often left out of studies of “teens”? When we equate “teen sex” with “heterosexual teen sex” we deliver a powerfully negative message: if you’re gay, you don’t count, and we don’t care about or want to help you.

2. I understand full well why we need to focus on the worrisome problems of teen pregnancy and the transmission of STIs, and that’s why we need good data on who is doing what with whom and at what age. I am waiting for the day, however, when our culture and our researchers care just as much about the human components–the emotional, social, physical, intellectual, and ethical contexts in which teens are engaging in sexual behaviors–no matter the specific body parts they might juxtapose, or the genders they might be.

  • How well prepared do they feel for the experiences they are having?
  • To what extent are their experiences positive or negative, nourishing or destructive?
  • How are they feeling about what they are doing?
  • Why and how do they make the decisions they make?
  • How did or do they now feel about the other person?
  • What was the nature of the relationship between the two partners, and how did that matter?
  • To what extent were feelings of sexual pleasure and arousal experienced by each partner?
  • To what extent were their decisions made in an egalitarian way, and in the absence of coercion, pressure, or force?
  • What values did each bring to the experience?
  • How did each feel about their treatment of the other person, and how did each feel about the treatment he or she received?

If we want young people to think about and embrace their sexuality as a component of their whole selves, and as a central part of our humanity, we have to give up our obsessive and near singular focus on which parts are rubbing which.

Here are links to the articles:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/story/2012-08-16/cdc-oral-sex/57079768/

Here’s information on accessing the CDC’s full report: “Prevalence and Timing of Oral Sex with Opposite-sex Partners Among Females and Males Aged 15-24 Years: United States, 2007-2010,” was published in National Health Statistics Reports (2012;56) and can be accessed by visiting http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr056.pdf.]



 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://sexandsensibility.net/2012/08/18/more-teens-have-oral-sex-earlier-than-vaginal-intercourse/

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