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.