In 2006–2008, 29 percent of females and 27 percent of males ages 15 to 24 reported that they had never had sexual contact with another person. This was a small but statistically significant change from 2002 when it was 22 percent for both males and females.
Many teens are making responsible decisions when it comes to their sexual behavior; they delay sex, have fewer partners, and use contraception. And yet, we adults give them so little credit for behaving, in many ways, better than us.
AND THE SURVEY SAYS…
Traditionally, when thinking about sex and surveying individuals about their behavior, we have concentrated on penile-vaginal intercourse. This focus makes some sense from a public health perspective as it is the only behavior that can lead to both pregnancy and STDs. That said, other behaviors certainly carry a risk of STDs, and, the focus on vaginal sex by nature excludes all same-sex behavior. Still, I sense that the primary reason for this focus is something different—a societal understanding (however, inaccurate, incomplete, and exclusionary) that only penile-vaginal sex is sex.
There are lots of different theories about why the percentages of young people who had vaginal intercourse dropped during those years. Some argue that this is when teens started becoming highly aware of the risk of HIV and that a life-threatening STD was a game changer for teenagers.
Others credit sexuality education while still others undoubtedly credit abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. One mother of a teenager jokingly argued it was all because of video games, “if teens are really logging 30 hours a week of screen time, when would they possibly have time to have sex?” We may never really know but it is worth trying to understand as the numbers seem to have leveled out in recent years.
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