Friday, September 16, 2005

Teens engage in high risk behavior to appear "abstinent"

Study Suggests Shift in Teen Sex Practices - Los Angeles Times:
"Those teens who are less likely to have sexual intercourse are more likely to have had oral sex," said Jennifer Manlove, who directs research on fertility and family structures at Child Trends, a Washington research group on children and families. "We're not sure whether these teens … are engaging in oral sex because they view it as a way to maintain their technical virginity or even because they regard it as an 'easy' method of birth control," she said.

The emphasis over the last five years on promoting abstinence from sex has led to widespread neglect of discussions about the safety of various sexual practices, Wagoner said.

"One of the most shocking statistics now is that the incidence of teen gonorrhea in the United States is 70 times that in the Netherlands and France," he said. "We are paying a big price for shutting down discussion."
We discussed AIDS in the second lab of the year (we simulated HIV transmission to show how rapidly it spreads through a population). I came across two interesting facts:
  1. Half of all new HIV infections are in people under 25
  2. While rates of new infections are declining over all, rates of new infections in 13-24 year olds are holding constant or increasing
Condoms save lives. HIV is a preventable disease, and education is the key.

That's why I'm frankly uncomfortable with making sex ed optional in any way, though I respect the fact that some parents want to handle it in the home or some other non-school setting.

This study meshes nicely with other research showing that teens who are not having vaginal sex are more likely to engage in oral or anal sex. Bad sex ed means that they engage in high risk activities thinking that it's safe. They don't use condoms:

only 9% of the teens reported using condoms during oral sex. Studies have shown that gonorrhea, syphilis, genital herpes and human papillomavirus can be transmitted in this manner.
Similar stats hold for anal sex, and oral and anal sex are better ways of transmitting some diseases than vaginal sex would be.

Teach abstinence, by all means. But don't ignore the fact that even when you do, at least 80% of the kids will still have sex. Don't leave them unprotected.

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