A new analysis of teen sexual behavior in New York City offers some troubling/fascinating/instructive insights — and not just of the “only in New York” variety.
Published in the latest Pediatrics, the study found (for one thing) that among sexually active adolescent boys and girls, nearly one in ten had had a same-sex experience. But how many called themselves “gay”? Well, of the teens who’d had at least one same-sex partner, 38.9 percent answered “heterosexual or straight.” Which is fine in a hey-who-needs-labels sense — and hooray for experimentation, when that’s what it is — but not fine in a hey-who-needs-condoms sense. That is, the study also found that teens reporting partners of both sexes also reported higher-than-average rates of risky sexual practices, such as not using a condom during intercourse.
Hmm. Especially among those in the “I’m not really gay” camp, could there be a related sense that “it’s not really sex”? And does “I’m not really gay” stem from “Gay’s not really OK?” (“Even in New York”?) “These are kids in New York City where there’s more awareness and perhaps acceptance of non-heterosexual behavior, and you’re still finding such high reports of risk behavior and violence,” Laura Lindberg, senior research associate at the Guttmacher Institute, told the AP.
Thomas Krever, executive director of the Hetrick-Martin Institute, a youth advocacy organization that runs an alternative high school for gay teens in New York City, said the survey results did not surprise him.
Many teens with partners of both sexes lack supportive adults and peers in their lives and may experience depression because social stigma, Krever said.
“Young people who are exhibiting characteristics of depression and lower self-worth can indeed place themselves in more risky situations including risky sexual practices,” he said.
1. As advocates continue to stress, sex ed has to focus not on identity/orientation, but on behavior. No matter what you call what you do, it’s safer with a condom.