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May 22, 2008

The rainbow party’s over

Filed under: News — posted by Breakup Girl @ 9:36 am

Via Broadsheet:

You know how teens have oral (or, wow, anal) sex instead of SEX sex in order to maintain that they are “technical” virgins? (As in, “I did not have sex with that hockey player”?)

Well, turns out the grown-ups had it wrong. Again.

According to the latest data (PDF) from the Guttmacher Institute, teens don’t have “nonvaginal” sex in order to preserve their virginity. They have it along with losing their virginity. (And a bunch more after that, apparently. By six months after their first vaginal sex, 81 percent of adolescents have also had oral sex. By three years after, 92 percent.)

The main finding is this: “Both oral and anal sex are much more common among teens who have already had vaginal intercourse than among those who have not, suggesting that teens initiate a range of sexual activities around the same time, rather than substitute one for another.

“‘There is a widespread belief that teens engage in nonvaginal forms of sex, especially oral sex, as a way to be sexually active while still claiming that technically, they are virgins,’ says study author Laura Lindberg. ‘However, our research shows that this supposed substitution of oral sex for vaginal sex is largely a myth. There is no good evidence that teens who have not had intercourse engage in oral sex with a series of partners.'”

Or, as another researcher put it to the Washington Post, “Most teens don’t have oral sex until they have had vaginal sex.”

This data contains more than just the basis for “A Very Special Hannah Montana,” experts say. Rather, it has “clear policy implications,” says Lindberg, noting that sex education and counseling need to take into account the even-fuller-than-we-thought spectrum of teen sexual behavior, especially when it comes to preventing sexually transmitted infection (STI). “The federal government’s exclusive emphasis on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs does not give teens the skills and information they need to be safe.” (Point taken, but if it’s STI risk we’re worried about, we always knew they had oral/anal sex, regardless of the timing. Not sure how this data should make the safer-sex message that much different.)

What it does suggest, the Post notes, is that we may also have had it wrong when we blasted the abstinence-only folks for “driving” teens to oral sex as, you know, something to do before marriage.

Still, bottom line: When it comes, at very least, to STI prevention — pretty crucial these days among teens — oral sex and anal sex are no mere technicality.

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