Monday, April 04, 2005

Not Sex At All


One in five U.S. teenagers say they have engaged in oral sex, an activity that some adolescents view as not sex at all and certainly less risky than intercourse, a report released on Monday said.

The survey of 580 children with a mean age of 14-1/2 found 20 percent said they had engaged in oral sex, compared to 14 percent who said they had engaged in sexual intercourse.

In addition, one-third of the multi-ethnic 9th graders surveyed said they intended to have oral sex within the next six months and nearly one-fourth planned to have intercourse during the period. It was more common for boys to have performed oral sex on girls than vice versa, the report said.

Previous studies and numerous campaigns aimed at deterring teenaged sex have focused on intercourse, but as many as half of adolescents experience oral sex first, the report said.

The risk of transmitting infections, including HIV, is significantly less with oral sex than with intercourse but is likely underestimated by teenagers, said the report in the journal Pediatrics.

Youngsters who engage in oral sex rarely used condoms or dental dams, even though herpes, hepatitis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis as well as the virus that causes AIDS can all be transmitted orally, it added.

"Given the suggestion that adolescents do not view oral sex as sex and see oral sex as a way of preserving their virginity while still gaining intimacy and sexual pleasure, they are likely to interpret sexual health messages as referring to vaginal sex," wrote lead author Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, a pediatrician at the University of California, San Francisco.

"Adolescents also believed that oral sex is more acceptable than vaginal sex for adolescents their own age in both dating and non-dating situations, oral sex is less of a threat to their values and beliefs, and more of their peers will have oral sex than vaginal sex in the near future," she wrote.


At 12:33 PM, Blogger Rivki said...

It was more common for boys to have performed oral sex on girls than vice versa, the report said. Really? I'm suprised by that. I'd heard so many stories about young teenage girls (or even younger, starting around 11) preforming oral sex on their male peers for acceptance without any reciprocity. It's nice to know that that was just a) anecdotal and b) a hysterical response to women engaging in sex for pleasure. Not that teenagers should be having sex (and the thought of 11-year-olds engaging in sex acts of any kind is sick-making) but it's nice to know that it's not as exploitative as I had been lead to believe.

At 1:46 PM, Blogger ema said...


I had the same reaction. Until we read the study, I'd interpret that with caution.

At 2:28 PM, Blogger Rivki said...

Hmm, my newspaper has a bit of extra information on the study, apparently "the researchers surveyed 580 ethnically diverse ninth-graders in two California public high schools." So this study is unlikely to shed light on sexual activity in younger teens.

At 4:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to hold my opinion of this study, too. The claim that boys go down on girls more than vice just doesn't ring true.

In any case, I always have a question that never seems to be posed: are they having fun? Is it mutually pleasurable at all? They're still too young, and it's still too risky. But if it's all that and dreary, uncomfortable and confusing...well, that breaks my heart all over again.

I can't know what it's like for kids today, but I know a little bit about what it was like when I was a kid, for me and my friends. We didn't engage in oral sex instead of "real" sex: oral sex came afterward, if your partner asked you or simply bullied you into doing it.

But intercourse? It hurt and it was lonely. That wasn't because my equally young partners were bullies, by the way. It's just that I wasn't ready, and I didn't think I had the right to not be ready.


At 6:13 PM, Blogger Casey said...

I don't find the results surprising at all. I graduated from HS about 7 years ago, and even then more of my peers were engaging in oral sex than vaginal. It was almost considered "making out."

I'm also not surprised about boys performing oral sex on girls more often than girls on boys. I think there is more of an emphasis now on the importance of men being able please their partners, rather than having lots of partners.

The press has really voiced this study with the tone "oh, those silly teens!" I think the results are encouraging. It shows that adolescents are trying to be more responsible by choosing less risky sexual behaviors. I really hope this helps educators and policy makers to see that "abstinence only" sex ed programs are not having the intended effect.


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