Everything else is permitted. Harper and Row, Qualitative and quantitative data on sexual behaviors other than intercourse are clearly needed to close the gaps in knowledge about practices that may expose young people to emotional and physical harm. By the senior year of high school, the numbers rise to 66 percent of girls and 64 percent of boys.
In , a survey of college undergraduates indicated that among those who were in a serious relationship, virgins were as likely as nonvirgins to have ever had oral sex although nonvirgins were more likely to have had mutual oral sex. While everyone agrees that the implicit meaning of the term is abstaining from vaginal-penile intercourse, especially since the concept is often taught as a "method" of avoiding pregnancy, the consensus stops there. While teenage patients now seem much more comfortable talking about oral sex than they were in the past, the taboo against bringing up anal sex is still very much in place. If such surveys are conducted and reveal that only a small percentage of adolescents are involved, "then we need not be alarmed," according to Laura Stepp, the Washington Post reporter who wrote some of the first stories on oral sex. Mundy L, Young teens and sex: Moreover, trends are especially hard to detect because of past and current problems in the reliability of type-specific testing. For teen males, 44 percent said they had vaginal intercourse, and 49 percent reported oral sex. Unless and until data to verify them become available, we have only impressions to go on, and there is by no means a consensus among adolescent health professionals. Students struggled to come up with a coherent definition, although older adolescents had less difficulty than younger ones. Among teen and adolescent girls ages 15 to 19, rates were similar between those who had vaginal intercourse 47 percent and those who had oral sex 48 percent with a member of the opposite sex. The authors also cite research that suggests teens perceive oral sex to be safer with fewer health-related risks. Non-Hispanic black males 44 percent had a lower percentage 44 percent of responders who reported giving oral sex to a female compared with Hispanic males 51 percent and non-Hispanic white males between 15 and 24 60 percent. Similar data exist on age at first intercourse, most recent sexual intercourse and current contraceptive use. For example, according to Kathleen Toomey, director of the Division of Public Health in Georgia's Department of Human Resources, "anecdotal evidence and some recent data suggest that teenagers are engaging in oral sex to a greater degree than we had previously thought, but whether this represents a true increase is difficult to say, since we have no baseline data for comparison. By the senior year of high school, the numbers rise to 66 percent of girls and 64 percent of boys. The simplest public health argument is that doing so would enable researchers to identify individuals whose behaviors place them at risk, so that more appropriate programs and policies can be developed. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that many of the adolescent patients involved have not yet initiated coitus and thus are unlikely to visit a family planning or STD clinic. The view of oral sex as harmless fun may have gotten a boost from the widely publicized actions of former President Clinton, who engaged in oral sex with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Because of the difficulties in obtaining funding and consent for conducting this type of research among minors, many of these studies have necessarily relied on small, nonrepresentative samples of college-age students enrolled in human sexuality or psychology classes, which are hardly generalizable to the overall population. Stan Weed, who has experience drafting questionnaires in the new climate of ostensibly greater participation in oral sex, suggests that advance focus-group research can be helpful in countering objections to questions from parents and school administrators. There is growing evidence, although still anecdotal and amassed largely by journalists, not researchers, that adolescents might be turning to behaviors that avoid pregnancy risk but leave them vulnerable to acquisition of many STDs, including HIV. Klaus T, , op. But we're still sexual and we're going to do other things. However more teens are still engaging in oral sex than vaginal intercourse, which health officials say is not as safe as some young adults may think. Attitudes and Motivations Experts say there are multiple, interrelated reasons for why adolescents might be turning to oral sex. The tendency to equate "sex" with intercourse alone represents long-standing cultural norms of acceptable sexual behavior and certainly applies to adults as well as to adolescents. One is the perceived difficulty of getting parents to consent to surveys on the sexual activity of their minor children generally aged 17 and younger.
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