HUMP DAY: Teen Sex Edition

4 May

Last month, RH Reality Check (the creators of Strokey!) released the second part of a series on teen sex – examining new data on teen sexual behaviors and mapping out what that data looks like and means for teens, the media, and our society.

In the second installation, sexual health expert Martha Kempner writes about teen sex: “who, what, when and what would change look like.”

Instead of giving you a thorough synopsis and summary of the article, followed by my general commentary, I’m just going to throw some non-sequitur excerpts from the report, hoping that they will tantalize you enough to read it for yourself, because it is so interesting and totally worthy of your time!

OK! Here we go!

We are way too focused on who is sticking what body part where and how often…but without understanding the relationship between the two people this is not all that informative.

68 percent of male teenagers and 60 percent of female teenagers agreed that it was okay for unmarried 18-year-olds to have sex if they have strong affection for each other, but only 39 percent of males and 27 percent of females said the same about 16-year-olds. (To give teens credit for behaving true to their beliefs, the percentages of teens that are having vaginal intercourse at 16 match these numbers pretty well.) 

Believe it or not, most teens are experimenting with sex in the context of a relationship.  While today’s teens are portrayed as unable or unwilling to really bond with another person and interested in sex but not relationships, the data suggest otherwise.

84 percent of sexually active, never-married female teenagers used contraception at their most recent intercourse; 55 percent used a condom, 31 percent the pill, and 21 percent used both a condom and a hormonal method (the pill, the shot, the patch, and the contraceptive ring are all hormonal methods).

The only women who are considered “not at risk” are those who were currently pregnant, trying to get pregnant, sterile for health reasons, had never had intercourse, or had not had intercourse in the last 3 months.

The difference is that today there is more meaningful risk of STDs, some of which, like Herpes and HPV, can be transmitted quite effectively through saliva.  What used to be invisible is no longer invisible or consequence-free.

By just focusing on what we believe as the negative aspects of their behavior we send teens a clear message that nothing they do will ever be good enough which undermines their efforts to be responsible and in the end also undermines our goals of helping them grow up to be healthy, independent adults.

Before I knew him, my husband was part of a peer education group that would go into high schools and provide sexual assault prevention programs.  He always said that the moment he got the young people in the audience (young men in particular) to listen to him was the moment he pointed out that he wasn’t going to say “I don’t want you to have sex,”  he was simply going to say, “I only want you to have good sex.”

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This post brought to you by Tara, who only wants you to have good sex. 

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