Fully 96 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 59 have had sex, according to a new sex study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, a branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While only 4 percent of U.S. adults are virgins, the rest have engaged in some kind of sex, including oral and anal sex. And by the time they reach age 21, fully 85 percent have had sex. In addition, a stunning 20 percent have tried hard drugs, such as cocaine or crack. This is the first time researchers looked only at sexual behavior and drug use.
Here are some of the eye-popping results:
Among blacks, 28 percent report having first sex before the age of 15, compared with 14 percent of whites.
15 percent of all adults abstained from sex until they were 21.
17 percent of men and 10 percent of women said they had two or more sexual partners in the past year.
46 percent of black men said they have had 15 or more sexual partners in their lifetime.
For all men, the median number of sexual partners is 6.8.
For all women, the median number of sexual partners is 3.7.
The younger a person is, the more likely he or she is to have had multiple partners.
Overall, only 11 percent of unmarried adults are virgins.
Mexican-Americans are the most likely to report never having had any form of sex with 24 percent of men and 45 percent of women in this group claiming to be virgins.
More than 19 percent of those ages 20 to 29 said they have tried cocaine, crack or another street drug, excluding marijuana, compared with 27 percent for those in their 30s, 26 percent for those in their 40s and 9.6 percent for those in their 50s.
Unlike other surveys where people may be too embarrassed to be truthful, the researchers believe they have created one of the most honest assessments yet of sexual behavior and drug use because they used a new method to do the research. Each participant answered the questions in complete privacy in a computer-assisted self-interview using a headset and computer touch screen. This is the first time this technique has ever been used.
HAVE you had as many sexual partners as the average woman? These ladies have revealed how many men they have really slept with. How do you compare?
Sex news: Women have revealed the number of men they have REALLY slept with
Many believe there is a stigma that surrounds the number of sexual partners that a woman has had. That was certainly the case for a Reddit user named ’sara-ndipity’ who asked women to reveal how many men they have really bedded.
“Ladies, how many people have you slept with? Is your number closer to what’s considered socially acceptable, or is it higher?” she asked on the website.
Women candidly revealed the number of men they have had sex with.
One women even divulged that she had bedded over 100 men, and had slept with 75 of those by the time she was 19. Many women admitted they had lost count, or simply couldn’t remember their exact figure
Many women admitted they had lost count, or simply couldn’t remember their exact figure.
“I’ve slept with maybe a dozen guys (sorry, I have a horrible memory). I confess I never thought about whether it’s socially acceptable,” one woman wrote.
“I don’t know. I stopped counting around 30, and that was like nine years ago.”
A 33 year-old woman said
“I stopped counting once I turned 30. I had something between 30 and 40 by age 25, the majority of which I got from the ages of 17 to 21.”When it comes to playing with sex toys in the bedroom, most lovers (68%) actually don’t use them. Whereas, slipping into some sexy lingerie seemed to be more common with 38% trying to shake things up that way
“I’m a 23 year-old woman and I have slept 32 people,” another woman revealed.
A few ladies disclosed they had slept with a more conservative amount of men.
One 22 year-old said
“My number is three. The first was a boyfriend and the last two were/are friends with benefits situations.”
An older woman, who was turning 50, had also slept with three people.
he revealed they were
“A high school boyfriend, a college girlfriend, and my husband (we met in college too).”
The woman claimed social expectations never mattered to her, adding
“I never really worried about a number or whether or not it was socially acceptable.”
Some women lamented that they had not had sex with more men, as they felt they might have missed out.
“I am 47 and I have been with five men,” one woman said.
The majority of women felt absolutely so shame or stigma about the number of men they had slept with
“I wish I had been more open to the many, many overtures made my way when I was younger.
“I am currently married now and I will probably never have sex with anyone else which makes me sad, not because I wish I could make love to someone other than my husband, but because I fear I possibly missed out on some wonderful experiences.”
The vast majority of women said they felt absolutely so shame or stigma about the number of men they had slept with – and were happy with their choices.
“I’m 29 and I’ve slept with 10 guys,” one woman said.
“I’m proud of my number, but I’d be proud no matter the number because I’ve wanted to have sex with each of those people and I’ve enjoyed it pretty much every single time.”
Is there any truth to the old stereotype of dividing a man’s number by three?
How many people have you slept with? It’s a question which can send a chill down many a spine for the very reason that there’s no ideal answer.
People tend to feel especially awkward when this issue comes up in conversation with their current partner. There can be a real fear of being judged for being ‘inexperienced’ or ‘promiscuous’, which can lead to a tendency to either exaggerate or play down the truth.
There’s an unreliable formula which is to be taken with a pinch of salt and assumes dishonesty on all fronts
some people say that whatever number a woman gives you should multiply it by three to get the real answer, and whatever number a man claims you should divide it by three. However, this idea does make the point that it might be tempting to massage the truth to this effect when as a society we too often still praise men who sleep with multiple partners for ‘playing the field’ yet label women who do the same as ‘easy’ or ‘slutty’.
When this question comes up between couples in the counselling room, Relate therapists explore all the potential drivers for asking a partner this question. For example, the person may simply be asking for reasons relating to sexual health, which is a perfectly valid reason to want to know a partner’s sexual history. Other times it may be a case of feeling insecure or even wanting to brag or compete.
We see many people in sex therapy sessions who are concerned they aren’t ‘good’ at sex because of their ‘limited’ number of sexual partners. If this is you, bear in mind that you can have multiple one night stands and not learn as much as you do in a forty year relationship with one person where you’ve understood what makes each other tick and how to satisfy you both sexually. That’s not to say you won’t pick up tips from a variety of partners either – it really comes down to luck of the draw and what you take from each experience.
Relate’s 2014 The Way We Are Nowreport found that 31% of men and 21% of women had slept with more than ten people in their lifetime. Perhaps due to more liberal attitudes and number of years sexually active, the number of sexual partners people reported over a lifetime peaked among those aged 35-44 years, with over a fifth of this age group reporting 20 or more sexual partners. In contrast, just 9% of people aged 65+ reported having 20 or more sexual partners during their lifetime. This no doubt goes hand in hand with the way society is changing. A few decades ago, many hotels would only take bookings from married couples and sex before marriage was frowned upon. Nowadays, cohabiting is very much a part of our social fabric and casual dating with multiple partners is increasingly common.
Despite these cultural shifts, 8% of people who responded to Relate’s survey reported that they’ve never had a sexual partner. A further 17% said that they’ve had only one sexual partner. Women were slightly more likely than men to report no or one sexual partner (26% vs 23%), although the largest gender differences were found among those who’d had sex with over 20 people (8% of women vs 16% of men).
We always say at Relate that there’s no such thing as ‘normal’. What one person may regard as an average or low number of sexual partners, another may consider shockingly high. Eyebrows were raised when Nick Clegg alluded to sleeping with ‘no more than 30’ people, but compared to Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall who’s widely reported to have slept with over 1000 women, the former Lib Dem leader’s figure somewhat pales into insignificance.
The point is that our personal take on what’s ‘normal’ is shaped by our own widely varying experiences and values. What it comes down to in the end is personal choice. Some people, for example, never want a sexual partner but are well acquainted with their vibrators, others want a different partner every night of the week and some experiment for a time and settle with one person. As long as you’re practising safe sexand considering the feelings of others, it’s really down to you and only you as to how many people you sleep with.
Whatever your magic number, try not be too hard on yourself, or compare yourself to your friends, partners or societal expectations. It’s not a competition or a trial for that matter – it’s your sexual history so feel free to leave it in the past where it belongs.
Study conducted by Kinsey Institute for research in Sex, Reproduction & Gender
Found that age is a key predictor for regularity of sex
People under 30 typically have sex twice a week, and it’s 1.6 times in your 30s
Those aged 40 to 50 have sex an average of less than once a week
Whether the fire of passion is well and truly burning in your relationship, or you only manage intimacy, you’ve probably found yourself wondering if the regularity of your sex life is ‘normal’.
Now you can find out, thanks to a study from the Kinsey Institute for research in Sex, Reproduction and Gender which has been recirculated, according to Medical Daily.
Researchers found that you can tell how your sex life measures up to others, according to your age, which is one of the main predictors for how often you get intimate with your partner.
It will probably be no surprise that younger people are having the most action with those aged 18 to 29 having sex an average of 112 times a year, or twice weekly. A study conducted by Kinsey Institute for research in Sex, Reproduction and Gender found that age is a key predictor of how often you’re likely to be having sex
Between the ages of 30 and 39, it drops to 86 times annually or 1.6 times a week.
And sexual activity tails off even further for 40 to 49-year-olds have half the amount of sex of their 20-something counterparts, making love 69 times a year.
‘The basic storyline that has emerged from these studies is that, as we get older, our odds of developing chronic health conditions increases and this, in turn, negatively impacts the frequency and quality of sexual activity,’ Dr. Justin Lehmiller of the Kinsey Institute explained.
HOW DOES YOUR SEX LIFE MEASURE UP?
18 – 29 years
Twice a week
1.6 times a week
Less than once a week
Surprisingly, the study did not go beyond those in their 50s and beyond, which appears to back up separate research which found that sexuality among older people is largely ignored.
Researchers from the University of Manchester analysed written comment from more than a thousand adults aged 50 to 90 to highlighted the obstacles some older couples face in maintaining and fulfilling their sexual lives.
Many were reporting signs of anxiety as doctors refused to address their drop in sexual desire or physical difficulties, they found.
Men were discovered to be more likely to discuss the impact of health conditions on their sexual activities.
Researchers found that, unsurprisingly, 18 to 19-year-olds are most active between the sheets, having sex twice a week on average
Heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes are all causes of impotence among men.
But women had a higher chance of discussing health-related sexual difficulties in the context of a relationship.
Experts recommend practitioners should positively engage with issues of sexual function – regardless of age.
They believe proactively talking about their issues will help to improve both health and well-being in older patients.
Our sex and relationships columnist explains why he hates the word “normal.”
Just how many sexual partners is “normal” for a girl to have in her 20s? For statistics on sexual behavior, you can check out the Kinsey Institute’s research here or try this calculator here. But I’d advise that you skip all that. Because it doesn’t matter.
You see, there actually is no “normal” sexual behavior. (And there’s no natural sexual behavior either.) The word “normal” is useless because, at best, it only represents a statistical mean, averaging out all behavior into one flat number that might not be relevant to your life at all. It’s like saying the normal family has 1.6 kids. Nobody has six-tenths of a kid. Nobody has the exact same sex life. No one person is ever normal. No one person needs to be.
If it’s not clear yet, I really hate the word “normal” when it’s applied to sex. Here’s the reason: When we hear the word “normal” in a public conversation about sex, its meaning isn’t mathematical. It’s judgmental. The word is typically used in some attempt to judge, shame, or control someone else’s expectations. That’s why you hear it when homophobes say gay sex isn’t “normal,” or when misogynists say a woman is a slut because she has more than a “normal” amount of sex.
Fuck normal. Everyone’s life is different. The amount of sex you have in your 20s shouldn’t be based on a statistic. It should be based on your free will, luck, and desire — and nothing more. It should be based on your personal decision about what’s right for you — and nobody else.
I’ve been with my boyfriend for five months, and we got together a month after I just got out of a very abusive seven-year relationship. I told him I wanted to take it slow, and he said he understood. We first had sex two months into our relationship. A month ago, he asked me to go down on him, and for some reason, I just can’t seem to do it. I don’t know what it is! I’ve done it before — I just get stage fright when I try. I must be insane, right? Now we avoid each other as much as possible because he says I’m so sexy that when he’s around me, all he can think about is blow jobs. He literally wakes up angry and comments about blow jobs all day every day. Now it’s gotten to the point that I am so turned off by his attitude that I don’t even want to try. HELP. You’re turned off by his attitude? You should be. Because he’s being an ass.
Your new boyfriend might treat you better than your abusive ex-boyfriend, but he still sounds awful. You need to end this.
I’m so glad you ended your seven-year abusive relationship. But you only had a month in between to recalibrate your sense of what’s healthy and what’s not. It sounds to me like you need some perspective: This guy sucks. A guy who wakes up angry and “comments about blow jobs all day every day” is not even remotely good boyfriend material. This is not acceptable behavior. If anything, he should be concerned for you — not selfishly making it worse.
He’s pointing out the one thing you have trouble giving him and obsessing over it, probably because he feels that it gives him some power over you. You don’t want to be with a guy like that.
This is not your fault. You say: “I must be insane, right?” Absolutely not. Regarding the blow-job stage fright, I wouldn’t be surprised if your body is sending you a message: You might not be able to go down on this guy because you know, deep down, that you shouldn’t be with him at all.
You ended one abusive relationship. End this one before it gets worse.
I’ve been dating my current boyfriend for two years, and he thought it would be cool if we took a couple’s sex questionnaire. It’s basically a way to figure out your partner’s fantasies without the awkward talk. It asks questions concerning “butt stuff,” “fetishes,” “group play,” and other topics. It asks particular questions and you either answer “no,” “if my partner is interested,” “yes,” or “we already do that.” I found out my boyfriend answered “if my partner is interested” to the question that asked, “Would you want to have a threesome with your girlfriend and another girl?” Afterward, I felt hurt because it made me think he’s unhappy with the relationship or I’m not satisfying him in the bedroom. I told him I am never interested in doing that and he said the only reason he answered that way was because he wasn’t sure what my opinion on the matter is. What is your take on this? “Would you be interested in a threesome if your girlfriend were into it?” If I were able to ask a million American men that one question right now, I doubt I could fill a single Chipotle with the small number of guys who’d say, “No way!”
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Guys love the idea of threesomes, but almost no guy expects to have one. Few ever do. And no guy should demand one. But if one were suddenly offered like a free sample of frozen yogurt? I doubt I know a guy who wouldn’t want a taste.
To most guys, a threesome is harmless fantasy, like sex on a plane. Have most guys actually joined the mile-high club? No. Is it terribly practical? Nope. But if the stars aligned, the flight patterns cooperated, and the flight attendants and Homeland Security agents looked the other way, would a whole lot of guys at least be interested? Why not?
So don’t worry. Hypotheticals like this are more about fantasy than reality. This does not mean your boyfriend is unhappy with the relationship. It does not mean he’s bored in the bedroom either. All it means is that he’s turned on by one extremely common fantasy. He doesn’t expect you to go for it. But if you were interested, as he told you, he would be too. So long as he’s respectful of your boundaries and doesn’t press it, that’s all fine.
It’s great that your boyfriend answered honestly. It’s healthy that he’s airing out his fantasies and that you are both being forthright about what you are (and are not) into. But here’s the trick: You don’t want your boyfriend to lie in the future because you overreacted this time. If you make a big deal about him admitting that he would be “interested” in something so common, it might scare him off from being truthful about something else later. Be firm about your limits, but don’t make this a referendum on your relationship, sexual or otherwise.
Do you have a question for Logan about sex or relationships? Ask him here.
Under 12 1%
Never had sex 3%
Men tend to lose their virginity before women, although the difference is not great (average age 16 and 17 respectively). Britons are losing their virginity younger than in the past: for over-55s the average age was 19; within the 25-34 group it was 16; and among 16-24s, 15. Londoners lose their virginity later than those living in any other area (18). In total, 32% of Britons lost their virginity before the legal age of consent of 16.
The average Briton has had 10 sexual partners. There is a distinct gender split with the average among men almost double that of women (13 and 7 respectively). The 35-44 age group is the most promiscuous (average of 13) while over-65s have had the least number of sexual partners (average of 5). People in Wales are the most promiscuous (13) while those in Yorkshire and Humberside have the fewest sexual partners (6). Only 23% of Britons have had more than 10 sexual partners (32% of men and 15% of women).
Are you currently in a stable relationship?
If yes, how long have you been in your current relationship?
Less than 6 months 6%
6 months-1 year 6%
1-2 years 8%
2-3 years 8%
3-5 years 10%
5-10 years 17%
10-15 years 11%
15-20 years 8%
20-30 years 11%
More than 30 years 15%
66% of UK adults are currently in a stable relationship. Even within the youngest age group (16-24) 49% are in a stable relationship. The average length of relationships is just under 13 years. Unsurprisingly, there is a correlation between age and length of relationship,but even among the relatively young (25-34) the average time in their current relationship is 5.3 years.
The average Briton has sex eight times a month, although this figure does include the 23% of Britons who do not have any sex in an average month.
Are you happy with your sex life?
Despite having sex less frequently, married Britons are happier with their sex lives than singles (84% and 64% respectively). Among those in a stable relationship, 85% are happy with their sex life.
How would you rate your sex drive?
Very high (5) 22%
Very low (1) 9%
Mean rating of sex drive: 3.44
How would you rate your performance?
Very good lover (5) 23%
Very poor lover (1) 1%
Mean rating of performance: 3.72
And the performance of your most recent partner?
Very good lover (5) 31%
Very poor lover (1) 4%
Mean rating of recent partner: 3.76
Those aged 16-24 have the greatest sex drive (30% are ‘very high’) while each successive age group has a lower sex drive. Among over-65s only 9% have a ‘very high’ sex drive. Interestingly, singles are almost twice as likely to have a ‘very high’ sex drive as married people (31% and 16% respectively) suggesting familiarity breeds boredom and, eventually, lack of interest.
Britons consider themselves good lovers. A mere 1% consider themselves ‘very poor’. It may be youthful bravado or sheer exuberance but the age group most likely to consider themselves ‘very good’ lovers are 16-24 (30%). Single Britons are more likely to consider themselves good lovers than their married counterparts: 30% of singles consider themselves ‘very good’ lovers compared to 17% of married people (those who are married are likely to consider themselves ‘average’ – 47%).
Levels of sexual satisfaction seem fairly high, with 58% rating their most recent sexual partner as either a ‘good’ or ‘very good’ lover (27% and 31% respectively). Perhaps surprisingly, women are more likely to be satisfied with the performance of their most recent lover than men: 63% of women rated performance as ‘good’ compared to 54% of men.
Are you happy with the size of your penis?
Almost 1 in 4 men (23%) is unhappy with the size of his penis. Men aged 35-44 are most likely to worry about penis size (29%) but such concerns do not diminish with age as 26% of over-65s are also unhappy.
Have you ever used sex aids (such as sex toys)?
Britons aged 25-34 are most likely to have used sex aids (54%), but there is a distinct drop off among the over-45s group. However, there is little gender difference.
Have you ever been unfaithful to your current partner?
Which of the following best describes how frequently you have been unfaithful? (asked of those who have been unfaithful)
Only once 33%
Men are more likely to have been unfaithful than women (22% and 13% respectively). Londoners are the least likely to cheat (7%) while the Scottish are most likely to be unfaithful (34%).
The majority of those who have been unfaithful to their current partner have cheated on more than one occasion. Only 33% of those who have been unfaithful to their partner say infidelity occurred ‘only once’. Women are more likely to have strayed on just one occasion – 40% of women who have been unfaithful say it has only happened once compared to 29% of men.
Have you ever been unfaithful with a friend of your partner or someone known to your partner? (asked of those who have been unfaithful)
Proving that the source of trouble is often close to home, 45% of those who have cheated have been unfaithful with someone who is either a friend of their partner or known to their partner. There is little difference between the genders in this respect with 47% of men and 41% of women cheating with someone who is known to their partner.
To the best of your knowledge, has your current partner ever been unfaithful to you?
Don’t know 13%
11% of people in a stable relationship believe their current partner has cheated on them while a further 13% are unsure. Suggesting that we tend to judge others by our own standards of behaviour, 25% of those who have been unfaithful themselves also believe their partner has been unfaithful. 26% are unsure.
Have you ever had a one-night stand?
Have you ever slept with someone whose name you did not know?
63% of men and 39% of women have had one-night stands. Those living in the North are most likely to have done so (64%). 35% of men and only 8% of women have slept with someone whose name they did not know. The age group most likely to have done this is 25-34 (33%).
Do you believe monogamy is natural?
Do you believe monogamy is desirable?
Britons believe in monogamy, though among those who have cheated on their current partner, only 32% believe monogamy is natural and 52% believe monogamy is desirable. Once again there is a distinct gender split with 68% of men and 80% of women viewing monogamy as natural. However, the gender gap is less pronounced in terms of viewing monogamy as desirable (79% of men and 86% of women). Older Britons are significantly more likely to consider monogamy both natural and desirable: 84% of over-65s consider monogamy natural and 91% consider it desirable.
Of the different components of a marriage/relationship, which of the following do you think most important?
Britons are overwhelmingly of the opinion that the most important aspect of a successful relationship is trust. Sex was considered the third most important aspect but was selected by only 7%. However, men are more than twice as likely as women to consider it the most important aspect of a relationship, and age makes a significant difference. As people get older, they are less likely to consider sex important. Singles are also more than twice as likely to consider sex the most important aspect of a relationship (12% and 5% respectively).
Is it possible to maintain a happy marriage/relationship without sex?
It appears fair to suggest that many of those holding this view have had personal experience of a sexless relationship. Women are more likely to believe a happy relationship can be maintained without sex (55% compared to 42%). 55% of married Britons believe sex is not necessary to maintain a happy relationship while only 35% of singles concur.
Do you have any close friends of the opposite sex?
Younger Britons are more likely to have close friends of the opposite sex, and men are slightly more likely to have close female friends than vice versa (81% and 73% respectively).
Are you sexually attracted to your close friends of the opposite sex? (asked of all who answered yes to the above)
Yes, all of them 2%
Yes, some of them 48%
Men are more likely than women to be sexually attracted to friends of the opposite sex: 65% are attracted to at least some of their female friends while the same is true of only 35% of women in relation to male friends.
Have you ever had sex with a work colleague?
Have you ever had sex in your place of work?
Yes, with a work colleague 15%
Yes, with someone who didn’t work there 5%
Would you ever sleep with someone to further your career?
Men are more likely than women to have had sex with their work colleagues (39% and 23% respectively) and are almost three times as likely to have had sex in their place of work (28% and 10% respectively).
Considering the large proportion who would consider having sex for money it comes as no surprise that 18% of Britons would sleep with someone if they felt it would enhance their career prospects. Men are significantly more likely to make this ‘sacrifice’ for the sake of their career (31% against 7%). While singles are almost three times as likely to use sex to enhance their career prospects, 10% of married Britons would do the same. It is the young and ambitious, as opposed to the middle-aged and settled who are more prepared to sleep their way to the top. Almost 1 in 3 of the 16-24 age group (31%) would have sex to further their career. 33% of those who have previously slept with a work colleague would have sex to further their career, raising the suspicion that there may have been an ulterior motive to some of their previous exploits.
Paying for it
Have you ever visited a prostitute?
Would you ever consider paying for sex? (asked of those who said no to the above)
Would you consider having sex for money if the amount offered was large enough? (asked of everybody)
Yes, definitely 22%
Yes, would consider it 19%
Should prostitution be legalised?
15% of all men have visited a prostitute; the same is true of 1% of women. The use of prostitutes is not limited to the single and lonely as 6% of married Britons have visited one. The 35-44 age group is most likely to have visited a prostitute (10%). Londoners are most likely to have visited a prostitute (13%).
Among Britons who have not previously visited a prostitute, 7% would consider doing so: 15% of men who have not visited a prostitute would consider it in the future, meaning that 30% of all British men have either previously visited a prostitute or would consider doing so.
In terms of selling sex, men are more than twice as likely as women to sell their sexual services – 37% of men would sell their services and another 20% would consider it. In comparison, only 8% of women would sell their bodies for a sufficiently large sum and a further 18% would consider it.
A significant majority favour legalisation of prostitution. While men are more likely to favour legalisation (70%) a majority of women (53%) are also in favour. The youngest and the oldest are the only two age groups which are more likely to oppose legalisation: 54% of the 16-24 age group and 51% of the 65+ age group oppose legalisation.
Have you ever had sexual contact with someone of the same sex?
Should gay sex be made illegal?
Should same-sex couples be allowed to marry?
Should same-sex couples be allowed to adopt children?
Should the age of consent for homosexual sex be the same as for heterosexual sex?
While only 6% classify themselves as either homosexual or bisexual, 11% say they have had sexual contact with someone of the same gender.
The other answers reveal quite polarised views. Despite the gradual absorption of gay culture into the mainstream there remains a significant minority of Britons vehemently opposed to homosexuality. Almost 1 in 4 (23%) believe gay sex should be made illegal. What is startling about this is the support the suggestion generates across the age spectrum. While over-65s are most likely to support criminalisation of gay sex (40%), a significant proportion of the 16-24 age group concur (27%). Men are more than twice as likely as women to support this (32% and 14%). And yet a majority of Britons (58%) believe the age of consent for homosexual sex should be lowered to the same as it is for heterosexual sex.
Half of us believe same-sex couples should be able to marry, and 41% feel they should be allowed to adopt children. In respect to all these questions women are significantly more liberal. Social class is also a determinant of opinion to some extent with ABC1 adults generally more likely than C2DE to espouse liberalism.
What form of contraception do you use?
None, leave it to my partner 32%
The pill 21%
Have you ever had a sexually transmitted disease
Have you ever had an HIV test?
How worried are you about sexually transmitted diseases in general?
Not particularly 22%
Not at all 26%
Men are more than twice as likely as women to have had an STD (13% and 6% respectively) – probably a re¤ection of the greater average number of sexual partners for men.
Men are also more likely to have had an HIV test (16% and 10% respectively). In terms of age, the 25-44 age group is most likely to have had an STD (12%) while the 25-34 group is most likely to have been tested for HIV.
While there is a clear correlation between levels of sexual activity and fear of disease there is still a signiÞcant minority of sexually active Britons who feel invulnerable to the threat of disease.
Encouragingly (as it suggests they will take the necessary steps to avoid infection) it is the youngest age group (16-24) which is most concerned about STDs (69% are either ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ concerned).
Which of the following statements is closest to your views about HIV and Aids in this country?
Only homosexuals and intravenous drug-users are at risk from HIV 5%
HIV presented a huge risk in the past but is now under control 7%
Everyone is at risk from HIV if they do not take precautions 88%
Despite fears that complacency is creeping in regarding the threat of HIV and Aids, the vast majority of Britons (89%) acknowledge that everyone is at risk from infection if they do not take the necessary precautions.
Should the Government spend more on education and information about HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases?
Do you always practise safe sex with a new partner?
Although 89% of us acknowledge that everyone is at risk from HIV and Aids, 30% say that they do not practise safe sex with new partners as a matter of course. Men are almost twice as likely as women to admit that they have unprotected sex with new partners (38% and 21% respectively). 16-24 year olds are least likely to have unprotected sex with new partners (21%) while over-55s are the least likely to take necessary precautions.
Worryingly, 42% of those who have contracted an STD in the past fail to practise safe sex with new partners while the same is true of 31% who have been tested for HIV.
Are children in school given…
Too much information about sex 13%
Too little information about sex 49%
About the right amount of information about sex 38%
Those most likely to hold the view that schoolchildren are given insufÞcient information are those who have had the most recent personal experience of sex education: 65% of the 16-24 age group believe children should be taught more.
Each successive age group is then more likely to think children are given too much sex education at school.
A sample of 1027 UK adults were interviewed by ICM Research in August 2002. Participants completed a confidential questionnnaire, placed in a sealed envelope. Innterviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults.
Policy and programmatic efforts promoting sexual abstinence until marriage have increased, but it is unclear whether establishing such behavior as normative is a realistic public health goal. This study examined the proportion of individuals in various cohorts who had had premarital sex (defined as either having had vaginal intercourse before first marrying or ever having had intercourse and never having married) by various ages.
Data from four cycles of the National Survey of Family Growth, 1982–2002, and event history analysis techniques, including Kaplan-Meier life-table procedures and Cox proportional-hazards regression models, were used to examine the incidence of premarital sex by gender and historical cohort.
Data from the 2002 survey indicate that by age 20, 77% of respondents had had sex, 75% had had premarital sex, and 12% had married; by age 44, 95% of respondents (94% of women, 96% of men, and 97% of those who had ever had sex) had had premarital sex. Even among those who abstained until at least age 20, 81% had had premarital sex by age 44. Among cohorts of women turning 15 between 1964 and 1993, at least 91% had had premarital sex by age 30. Among those turning 15 between 1954 and 1963, 82% had had premarital sex by age 30, and 88% had done so by age 44.
Almost all Americans have sex before marrying. These findings argue for education and interventions that provide the skills and information people need to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases once they become sexually active, regardless of marital status.
Over the past decade, increasing amounts of advocacy, funding, and programmatic effort have focused on encouraging Americans to abstain from sexual intercourse until they marry. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (i.e., welfare reform) enacted in 1996 contained a provision authorizing $50 million annually in federal funding for abstinence-until-marriage education; programs funded under the act must teach that “abstinence from sexual activity outside marriage [is] the expected standard” of behavior and that “sexual activity outside of the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects.”1 State programs funded under this authorization must have as their “exclusive purpose” the promotion of abstinence outside of marriage for people of any age.2 The current administration recently requested $204 million for fiscal year 2007 to fund abstinence-only education, and now requires such programs to emphasize “that the best life outcomes are more likely obtained if an individual abstains until marriage” and prohibits them from “promoting or encouraging the use of any type of contraceptives outside of marriage.”3 Due in part to government support, private advocacy efforts to promote abstinence until marriage are also gaining prominence and political clout.4
The primary stated goal of these efforts is to encourage all Americans to abstain from sex until they marry.5 It follows that such programs consider it an achievable goal to make abstinence until marriage a normative behavior.6 However, the median age at first marriage increased from 22.1 to 25.8 for women and from 24.4 to 27.4 for men over the past 25 years,7 and the proportion of the population 18 and older that had never married increased from 16% to 25% between 1970 and 2004,8,9 suggesting that many individuals have a long interval after puberty and before marrying during which they may become sexually active. The median age at menarche is 12.6 and at spermarche is 14.0,10 so this interval is now typically about 13 years for both men and women. That 70% of adolescent females and 65% of adolescent males have had sex by age 1911 and few have married suggests that a large percentage do so before marrying. The first goal of this analysis was to quantify current normative behavior by calculating the proportion of Americans who have had premarital sex.
In addition, public opinion polls over the last 20 years have consistently shown that about 35% of adults say premarital sex is always or almost always wrong. (Unpublished tabulations of data from the General Social Survey, 1982–2004.) In the same vein, there is a common popular perception that most or all of those who came of age before the “sexual revolution” of the 1960s and 1970s waited until they married to have sex, and that it is necessary to revert to the behaviors of that earlier time in order to eliminate the problems of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. However, research has questioned whether such a chaste period ever existed.12 The second goal of the analysis was to assess whether the percentage of Americans having premarital sex has changed over time.
Many or most abstinence-until-marriage programmatic efforts are aimed at teens.13 The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS’s) Healthy People 2010 goals include the objective of increasing the proportion of adolescents who abstain from sexual intercourse or use condoms if sexually active,14 and DHHS’s parenting skills web site states that “abstaining from sex until… a mutually faithful marriage to an uninfected partner is the healthiest choice.”15 The third goal of this analysis was to assess whether those who abstain from sex at least until the end of their teen years are likely to abstain all the way until marriage.
The primary data sources for this analysis were the four most recent cycles of the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), conducted in 1982, 1988, 1995, and 2002. The NSFG is a nationally representative, in-person survey that collects detailed information on individuals’ sexual, marital, contraceptive, and childbearing behaviors. The 1982, 1988, and 1995 NSFGs all surveyed women aged 15–44; the sample sizes were 7,969 in 1982, 8,450 in 1988, and 10,847 in 1995. The 2002 survey interviewed 7,643 women in this age range, and for the first time a sample of 4,928 men were also surveyed.16
I constructed a measure of premarital sex by combining measures of the age (in years and months) at which the respondent first had vaginal sexual intercourse (if the individual had ever had sex) and the age he or she first married (if the individual had ever married). A previously published cross-sectional analysis indicated that in the 2002 NSFG, 85% of ever-married women had had sex before they married,17 but this measure fails to take into account women who had never married but had already had sex. A better methodological approach (used in the current study) is event history analysis, which allows one to take into account the experience of people at all ages and of all marital statuses.18
In the current analysis, an event was defined as having sex for the first time before ever having married. Individuals whose month of first sex was earlier than their month of first marriage, or who had had sex but had not married by the time of interview, were considered to have experienced the event. Those who had had sex for the first time in the same month as (or after) their first marriage and those who had neither had sex nor married contributed their months of nonexperience of the event to the analysis and were “censored” at the time of marriage (for those who had married) or at the time of interview (for those who had not married), since they ceased to be at risk of the event at that point. I then calculated the proportion of individuals who had had premarital sex by each age, or event curves, using Kaplan-Meier life-table procedures.19 For comparison, I also calculated proportions for the occurrence of sex (premarital or otherwise) and marriage.
Event curves were first calculated for all male and female respondents (together and separately) in the 2002 NSFG. To better examine change over time, I used all four rounds of the NSFG to calculate separate curves for women only by 10-year age cohort, based on the year each person turned 15 and beginning with the 1954–63 cohort. Earlier cohorts have curves that extend to older ages than later cohorts, since only individuals in the earlier cohorts have reached those later ages. Finally, in order to examine the behavior of those who abstained until at least a certain age, I calculated premarital sex proportions for the subsets of men and women in the 2002 NSFG who had not yet had sex by exact ages 15, 18, and 20.
Figure 1 shows the proportion of individuals in the 2002 survey who had had sex, had premarital sex, and married by each age; the Table contains the proportion who had had premarital sex by specific ages for all respondents and by gender, as well as the median age at first premarital sex for various subgroups. By the exact age of 20 years, 77% of individuals had had sex, and 75% had had sex before marriage; 12% had married. By exact age 44, 99% of Americans had had sex, 95% had had sex before marriage, and 85% had married. At that age, 3.3% had abstained until marriage, and 1.3% had neither married nor had sex. Thus, 97% of those who had ever had sex had done so premaritally at some point. Cox tests of equality20indicated that the likelihood of having sex at all did not differ significantly by gender. However, males were slightly more likely to have had premarital sex at virtually every age; by exact age 44, 96% of males and 94% of females had had premarital sex. Females were more likely to have married by each age, reflecting the fact that women typically marry at a younger age than men. It is important to note that although the overall marriage curve is included for comparison to the sex curves, the percent who had had premarital sex by a certain age cannot be calculated by taking the difference between the sex curve and the marriage curve at that age, because most of those who had both had sex and been married by that age had had sex first.
Percent of individuals who had had sex, had premarital sex, and married by specific ages, 2002 National Survey of Family Growth
Figure 2 and the Table show premarital sex proportions using data from all four surveys (for women only) by 10-year cohort. The figure and table show a trend from the 1950s through the 1990s toward a higher proportion experiencing premarital sex: 48% of the cohort who turned 15 from 1954 to 1963 had done so by exact age 20, while 65% of the 1964–73 cohort, 72% of the 1974–83 cohort, and 76% of the 1984–93 cohort had done so. For the 1994–2003 cohort, 74% had had premarital sex by exact age 20, a figure between that of the 1974–83 and 1984–93 cohorts. The difference between the first cohort and subsequent ones was larger than later differences.
Percent of women who had had premarital sex by specific ages, by decade turned 15. 1982, 1988, 1995, and 2002 cycles of the National Survey of Family Growth
Among those born in the 1940s and turning 15 from 1954 to 1963, 82% had had premarital sex by exact age 30, and 88% had done so by exact age 44; for more recent cohorts turning 15 from 1964 to 1993, at least 91% had done so by exact age 30. The youngest cohort had not yet reached age 30 by the time of the most recent survey. A Cox proportional-hazards regression model20 including cohort as the only predictor indicated that the first four cohorts were significantly different from each other, but that the 1984–93 and the 1994–2003 cohorts were not significantly different (not shown). Figure 2 suggests that the vast majority of those who have premarital sex have done so by age 30.
Figure 3 and the Table show premarital sex proportions for those individuals (both male and female) in the 2002 NSFG who had not yet had sex by exact ages 15, 18, and 20. Ninety-four percent of those who abstained until at least age 15 and 89% of those who abstained until at least age 18 had had premarital sex by age 44. Even among the 28% of the population who had not had sex by age 20, 81% had had premarital sex by age 44.
The results of the analysis indicate that premarital sex is highly normative behavior. Almost all individuals of both sexes have intercourse before marrying, and the proportion has been roughly similar for the past 40 years. The slight decrease between the 1984–93 and 1994–2003 cohorts was not statistically significant. The increase seen beginning with the 1964–73 cohort may be partly due to increased availability of effective contraception (in particular, the pill), which made it less likely that sex would lead to pregnancy;21 but even among women who were born in the 1940s, nearly nine in ten had had premarital sex by age 44. Among those who did not have sex at all during their teen years, eight in ten eventually had premarital sex.
Premarital sex as normative behavior is not surprising in an era when men and women typically marry in their mid-to-late twenties. Indeed, not only is premarital sex nearly universal by age 30, but it is also very common at much younger ages. Evidence from the past 50 years suggests that establishing abstinence until marriage as normative behavior is a challenging policy goal. Instead, these findings argue for education and interventions that provide young people with the skills and information they need to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases once they become sexually active.
1. Groves RM, Benson G, Mosher WD, Rosenbaum J, Granda P, Axinn W, et al. Plan and operation of Cycle 6 of the National Survey of Family Growth. Vital Health Stat 1. 2005;1(42):1–86. [PubMed]
17. Chandra A, Martinez GM, Mosher WD, Abma JC, Jones J. Fertility, family planning and reproductive health of U.S. women: data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth. Vital Health Stat 23. 2005;80(25):1–160. Table 41. [PubMed]
18. Allison PD. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications; 1984. Event history analysis: regression for longitudinal event data. Quantitative applications in the social sciences, no. 4.
19. Kaplan EL, Meier P. Nonparametric estimation from incomplete observations. J Am Stat Assoc. 1958;53:457–81.
20. Cox DR. Regression models and life tables. J Royal Stat Soc, Series B (Methodological) 1972;34:187–220.
21. Akerlof GA, Yellen JL, Katz ML. An analysis of out-of-wedlock childbearing in the United States. Q J Econ. 1996;111:277–317.
Articles from Public Health Reports are provided here courtesy of SAGE Publications
Sex is a sticky enough subject as is. But complicating matters is the idea that, in general, we need to partner up to get the deed done. There are those who stick to one lover and there are others who opt for more. Unfortunately, some see sex as a numbers game, and a high
300px) 100vw, 300px" />score doesn’t always get you a winning ticket.
According to a survey of more than 2,000 people in the U.S. and Europe, men believe women who have had 14 partners or more are “too promiscuous.” Women thought the same of men who have had 15 partners or more.
The survey, conducted by SuperDrug Online Doctor, found men to be more likely than female participants to inflate the number of sexual partners they’ve had. Women, on the other hand, were more likely to deflate the number of partner’s they’ve bedded. The majority of both genders (67.4 percent of women and 58.6 percent of men) claim they’ve never lied about the number of people they’ve slept with. Whether or not that’s a lie is up to you to decide.
On the other side of the spectrum, men believe 2.3 partners is too conservative, while women think 1.9 is the threshold for too few.
According to the guys surveyed, the “ideal” number of partners for women is an average of 7.6. Women answered similarly, citing 7.5 partners to be a good number to cap it at. Interestingly enough, women reported having had more sexual partners overall than men, with an average of 7 to date. The men surveyed averaged about 6.4 partners.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the year 2007, 35% of US high school students were currently sexually active and 47.8% of US high school students reported having had sexual intercourse. This percentage has decreased slightly since 1991. According to a 1994 study, every year an estimated one in four sexually active teens contracts a sexually transmitted infection (STI).Teenage pregnancy is four times as prevalent in the United States as in the European Union. However, US teen pregnancy rates have been steadily declining for decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and were at a “record low” as of 2012.
In 1999, a Kaiser Family Foundation study found that 95% of public secondary schools offered sex education programs. More than half of the schools in the study followed a comprehensive approach that included information about both abstinence and contraception, while approximately one third of schools provided students with abstinence-only sex education. In 2002, most Americans favored the comprehensive approach. A 2000 study found that almost all schools included information about HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, in their curricula. There have been efforts among social conservatives in the US government to limit sex education in public schools to abstinence-only sex education curricula. The effectiveness of abstinence-only programs has been an issue of controversy.
Self-report surveys suggest that half of all 15- to 19-year-olds have had oral sex. That percentage rises to 70% by the time they turn 19, and equal numbers of boys and girls participate. Research indicating that oral sex is less risky to teens’ emotional and physical well being than vaginal sex has been advanced; researchers at the University of California do not believe this conclusion is warranted. They found that oral sex, as well as vaginal sex, was associated with negative consequences. Of adolescents engaging in oral sex only, girls were twice as likely as boys to report feeling bad about themselves and nearly three times as likely to feel used. Despite their behaviors, 90% of adolescents “agree that most young people have sex before they are really ready.”
The average age of first sexual intercourse in the United States is around 18 for males and around 17 for females, and this has been rising in recent years. For those teens who have had sex, 70% of girls and 56% of boys said that their first sexual experience was with a steady partner, while 16% of girls and 28% of boys report losing their virginity to someone they had just met or who was just a friend.
Teens are using birth control (contraceptives) more today when they lose their virginity than they did in the past, and this is in part due to the AIDS epidemic. Of sexually experienced adolescents, 78% of girls and 85% of males used at least one contraceptive when they lost their virginity. A detailed qualitative study of girls’ loss of virginity found that their experiences “were almost all quite negative (and, in some cases, horrific).” Before age 15, “a majority of first intercourse experiences among females are reported to be non-voluntary.”
Adolescents who are better students generally initiate sexual activity later than those who are poor students. In addition, among those seventh and eighth graders, those with personal and perceived peer norms that encourage adolescents to refrain from sex are less likely to engage in it.
The percentage of teenagers who report they are currently sexually active has been dropping since 1991. By 2005, the overall percentage of teenagers reporting that they were currently sexually active was down to 33.9%. A lower number of sexually active teens are “quite positive in terms of their health and their well-being.”
The condom is the most popular form of contraception used by teenagers. Among sexually active 15- to 19-year-olds, from 2002 to 2010 more than 80% of females and more than 90% of males reported using at least one method of birth control during their last intercourse. In 1995, only 71% of girls and 82% of boys reported using contraception the last time they had sex. In 2006–2010, one in five sexually active female teens (20%) and one-third of sexually active male teens (34%) reported having used both the condom and a hormonal method the last time they had sex. Less than 20% of girls at risk for unintended pregnancy were not using any contraceptive method the last time they had sex. Calendar abstinence, or the rhythm method, was used by 17% of female teens in 2006-2008.
Sexual abstinence is the practice of refraining from some or all aspects of sexual activity for medical, psychological, legal, social, financial, philosophical, moral or religious reasons. For the last twenty years, abstinence rates among American adolescents have risen. The percentage of high school students in the US who reported that they have ever had sexual intercourse dropped from 54.1% in 1991 to 47.8% in 2007 and to 43% in 2011. A cross-sectional survey in 1998 found that fear of pregnancy was the most commonly cited reason for choosing abstinence, especially among girls, as well as boys who had caused a pregnancy in the past. Other reasons included a fear of sexually transmitted infections, a lack of desire, being afraid of getting caught, and the belief that sex was not appropriate for someone of their age.
Epidemiologists at the Center for Disease Control emphasize that for sex education to be effective, it should take place before teens become sexually active.
Most common reasons virgins cite for remaining abstinent
Percent of 9th grade males
Percent of 12th grade males
Percent of 9th grade females
Percent of 12th grade females
Fear of pregnancy
Fear of STDs
Decision to wait until marriage
Belief that sex was not right for a person their age
Parents would object
Both adolescents who have never had sex and those who have chosen to become abstinent after engaging in sexual behaviors cite the negative consequences of sex as reasons why they choose not to have sex. Girls of all ages and experience levels were more likely than boys to cite the fear of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Virgin boys were more likely than girls to say they believed most students did not have sex.
Boys who caused a pregnancy in the past were more than twice as likely to become abstinent after this episode than boys who had not. However, for girls, a past pregnancy had little correlation with secondary abstinence. Fear of pregnancy, wanting to wait until marriage, and not wanting to have sex were cited more often by virgins in the 12th grade than they were by 9th graders. Of the sexually experienced who are now practicing abstinence, girls were more likely than boys to say a lack of desire, fear of STDs, being afraid of getting caught, the belief that sex was not appropriate for someone their age, and that their parents had taught them the advantages of waiting as reasons why they made their decision.
Among young people engaging in some form of sexual activity, definitions of virginity differ. Virginity is usually defined as the state of a person who has never engaged in sexual intercourse, although there are some gray areas. For example, teenagers that engage in oral sex but not penile-vaginal sex may still identify themselves as virgins; this is sometimes termed technical virginity. Of those polled, 70% of adolescents aged 11–16 believed oral sex did not disqualify someone from virginity, and 30% believed they were still abstinent.
Of adolescents age 11–16, 83% believe a person is still a virgin after engaging in genital touching, and 70% said they believed one retained their virginity after having oral sex. Additionally, 16% considered themselves virgins after anal sex. However, 44% believed that one was abstinent after genital touching and 33% believed one could have oral sex and still remain abstinent. Of anal and vaginal sex, 14% believed one could engage in the former and 12% said one could participate in the latter while still remaining abstinent.
Among those 15–19 years old, those who remain a “technical virgin” are motivated more by the fear of pregnancy or STIs and less by religion and morality.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has identified the sexual behaviors of American adolescents as a major public health problem. The Academy is concerned about the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases in sexually active teenagers and about the very high rate of teenage pregnancy in the United States compared to other developed countries.
Research into adolescents’ sexual behavior in situations outside traditional dating situations, commonly referred to as “hooking up”, shows that adolescents underestimate the risk involved in such situations. With all the issues and problems relating to adolescent sex, “ideally, they won’t be having sex.”
Teen pregnancies—defined as pregnancies in women under the age of 20, regardless of marital status—in the United States decreased 28% between 1990 and 2000, from 117 pregnancies per every 1,000 teens to 84 per 1,000. The 2008 rate was a record low and represented a 42% decline from the peak rate of 117 per 1,000, which occurred in 1990. From 2009 to 2010, the teen pregnancy rate dropped 9%, the biggest one year drop since the 1940s.
Each year, almost 750,000 girls aged 15–19 become pregnant. Two-thirds of all teen pregnancies occur among the oldest teens (18–21-year-olds). Of them, 82% are unplanned, accounting for about 20% of all unintended pregnancies annually. Of pregnancies among 15–19-year-olds girls in 2008, 59% ended in birth, 26% in abortion, and the rest in miscarriage. Overall, 68 pregnancies occurred per 1,000 girls aged 15–19 in 2008. Nearly 7% of 15–19-year-old girls become pregnant each year. Pregnancies are much less common among girls younger than 15. In 2008, 6.6 pregnancies occurred per 1,000 teens aged 14 or younger. In other words, fewer than 1% of teens younger than 15 become pregnant each year. Stillborn and newborn deaths are 50% higher for teen moms than women aged 20–29, and are more likely to have a low birth weight.
Teenage birth rates, as opposed to pregnancies, peaked in 1991, when there were 61.8 births per 1,000 teens, and the rate dropped in 17 of the 19 years that followed. One in four American women who had sex during their teenage years will have a baby before they are married, compared to only one in ten who wait until they are older. Even more will experience a pregnancy. Of women who have sex in their teens, nearly 30% will conceive a child before they are married. Conversely, only 15% of women who don’t have sex in their teens will become pregnant before they are married. Of all women, 16% will be teen mothers.
According to a study, girls who participate in girls-only activities are far less likely to experience a teenage pregnancy and less likely to be sexually active in general. Participating in competitive sports has also shown to have an effect for girls. A study published in 1999 found that female adolescents who participated in sports were less likely than their non-athletic peers to engage in sexual activity and/or report a pregnancy. Males interested in arts are also less likely to be involved in a pregnancy situation. It is unclear whether these correlations are causal or the reflection of the underlying bias of the considered population. The study that reported these findings did not take into account the sexual orientation of the subjects.
A survey by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy found that “7% of youth used alcohol the first time they had sex, and 6% used alcohol the most recent time they had sex.” In another study, teens aged 15–19 accounted for 15.5% of abortions in 2009, and patients aged 20–24 made up 32.7%. Together adolescents aged 15–24 made up just under half (48.2%) of the 784,000 abortions reported to the CDC that year.
According to one study, laws that require parental notification or consent before a minor can obtain an abortion “raise the cost of risky sex for teenagers.” The study found that states which have enacted such laws have seen lower gonorrhea rates among teens than states that do not have such laws. The researchers of the study believe these laws lower the gonorrhea rate because teens reduce the amount of sexual activity they have and are more fastidious in their use of birth control. On the contrary, statistics released from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that more restrictive laws on abortions do not necessarily mean fewer abortions; the abortion rate one year for Latin America (where, broadly speaking, abortions are generally made illegal) was 32 per 1000 people, whereas the abortion rate for Western Europe (where overall the laws are more relaxed) was 12 in 1000.
US Centers for Disease Control rates of reported syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea per 100,000 people, from 1941–2016
Each year, between 8 and 10 million American teens contract a sexually transmitted infection (STI/STD),[note 1] almost half of the 19 million STIs reported for all age groups in the United States.
Lloyd Kolbe, director of the Center for Disease Control‘s Adolescent and School Health program, called the STI problem “a serious epidemic.” The younger an adolescent is when they first have any type of sexual relations, including oral sex, the more likely they are to get an STI.
HPV (Human papillomavirus) is the most common STI among teens (as well as adults). In a CDC study, 18% of teen girls were infected with HPV. Another study found that HPV infections account for about half of STIs detected among 15- to 24-year-olds each year. While HPV infections may not cause any disease and is often asymptomatic, it can cause genital warts and even cancer.
After HPV, trichomoniasis and chlamydia are the most common STI diagnoses among 15- to 24-year-olds; combined, they account for slightly more than one third of diagnoses each year.Genital herpes and gonorrheatogether account for about 12% of diagnoses. HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B account for less than 1% of diagnoses, however young people aged 13–24 accounted for about 21% of all new HIV diagnoses in the United States in 2011.
Researchers from the CDC have noted that teenagers often do not understand the risks associated with sexual activity. “Research suggests that adolescents perceive fewer health-related risks for oral sex compared with vaginal intercourse. However, young people, particularly those who have oral sex before their first vaginal intercourse, may still be placing themselves at risk of STIs or HIV before they are ever at risk of pregnancy.”“Several studies have documented that oral sex can transmit certain STIs, including chlamydia, genital herpes, gonorrhea and syphilis. Teenagers and young adults engaging in sexual activity are at increased risk of STIs or HIV.”
A 2008 study by the CDC found that one in four teen girls, or an estimated 3 million girls, has an STI. The study of 838 girls who participated in a 2003–04 government health survey found the highest overall prevalence among black girls; nearly half in the study were infected. This is compared with 20% among both whites and Mexican-American teens. The same study found that, among those who were infected, 15% had more than one STI, and 20% of those who said they had only one sexual partner were infected.
In a 2011 study by the CDC, 7.1% of females and 2.1% of males aged 15–24 were infected with chlamydia,:65 historically the most prevalent of all STIs in the general population (after HPV).
Benefits to teen sex do exist, by extension of data on the benefits of sex: It can relieve pain, burn calories, relieve stress, help the immune system, stimulate the mind and mellow one’s mood. Other health benefits have been observed in older men—decreased risk of stroke and heart attack—but the same benefits have not been confirmed in teenage patients.
The earlier onset of puberty can produce sexual drives at a time when teens are not yet fully socialized to understand the potential social and emotional consequences of sexual activities. Some scholars claim that the risk for depression is “clearly elevated” for the sexually active of either gender.
“We tend to focus on the health consequences of having sex, like pregnancy and STIs, but we also need to talk to [teens] about all the emotional consequences,” some experts say.
Some research suggests that two-thirds of sexually active girls wish they had waited longer before having sex. Of seniors in high school, 74% of girls regret sexual experiences they have had.
For girls, even modest involvement in sexual experimentation elevates depression risk. Sexually active teenage girls are more than twice as likely to suffer depression compared to those who are not sexually active.
Sex therapists have found that the roots of sexual issues facing adults often date back to regretful teenage experiences. Research has also found that being abstinent in the teen years was associated with better mental health at age 29. Girls who were virgins at age 18 were also less likely to have a mental illness at age 40.
Girls are “at particular risk for experiencing negative social and emotional consequences of having any type of sex,” including oral sex. Girls are more than twice as likely as boys to say they felt bad about themselves and more than three times as likely to say they felt used as a result of engaging in sex or hookups.
In a study of casual sex among adolescents, many girls believed they could have a purely sexual experience with no emotional ties, and they believed it was sexist to assume otherwise. However, the study found that both the girls and the boys who were hooking up often were depressed and didn’t feel very good about themselves.
When engaging in sexual acts the body produces oxytocin, a chemical produced in the brain to promote feelings of connection and love. Production of oxytocin increases during the adolescent years. It has a larger effect on girls, suggesting it may make them care more about relationships and feel connections with others more intensely than boys.
Teen dating violence is defined as the physical, sexual, psychological or emotional violence within a dating relationship, as well as stalking. This includes electronic forms (e.g., threatening text messages, excessive yelling or cursing at someone in a phone message) as well as face-to-face forms.
Girls who have engaged in sexual intercourse are five times more likely than their virgin peers to be the victim of dating violence. Girls who were intentionally hurt by a date in the past 12 months are at a “significantly elevated risk for a broad range of sexual health concerns and for pregnancy.” Girls who have been victims are also twice as likely to report high levels of multiple sexual partners.
Sexual assault is any involuntary sexual act in which a person is threatened, coerced, or forced to engage against their will, or any sexual touching of a person who has not consented. This includes but is not limited to rape (forcible sexual penetration), groping, forced kissing, or the torture of the victim in a sexual manner. In legal terms, sexual assault is a statutory offense in the United States, varying widely state-to-state.
Outside of law, the term rape has a less distinguished meaning and is often used interchangeably with sexual assault.
Most rape victims are in their teens or young twenties: according to a study by the CDC and Department of Justice, 83% of rape victims interviewed were under the age of 25, and 54% were under the age of 18. 1 in 6 women had been raped in the study, and 1 in 33 men. 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men who have experienced sexual violence first experienced this through dating violence as a teen.
Sexting, the sending of sexually explicit messages and/or photographs, has become increasingly popular with adolescents. However, according to some studies, sexting can “glamorize and normalize sex in a way that might cause some teenagers to start having sex earlier, or in unhealthy ways.”
More than one fifth of teens have sent sexually suggestive text messages or nude photographs of themselves online. Teens who photograph or film themselves or receive photos of others, known as sexting, can be charged with child pornography. Others who post the photos online could also be charged with child pornography and face prison time. Sexting can be considered sexual harassment.
Sexting is linked to psychological distress among teens. Those involved in sexting are more likely to report a suicide attempt, and have twice the odds of reporting depressive symptoms as students who aren’t involved in sexting. “For girls who send the sexts … there is a disillusionment and a sense of betrayal when it’s posted everywhere. When it gets forwarded to multiple boys at multiple schools and also other girls … a girl starts getting called names and her reputation is ruined.”
Boys who are victims of sexually predatory teenage girls can also be devastated. Sexually predatory girls will ask a boy, particularly a sexually naive boy, for photos, and “he’s sort of flattered and he feels like a big guy and then she sends them around.” Unbeknownst to them at the time, their compliance can cause lasting harm.
Often girls who take racy photos of themselves “want to be admired, want someone to want them. A lot of them are lonely and starved for attention. A lot of girls believe they have no choice but to pose in this way. There are also the thrill seekers who do it because it’s ‘edgy and cool.'”
Experts say that sexting poses a serious problem, partly because teens do not understand that the images are permanent and can be spread quickly. “It does not click that what they’re doing is destructive, let alone illegal.” “Once they are out there, it spreads like a virus,” police say.
Each state has its own age of consent. Currently, state laws designate the age of consent as 16, 17, or 18, with more than half of the states designating 16 as the age limit. However, the five most populous states all have a higher age of consent (California: 18, Texas: 17, Florida: 18, New York: 17 and Illinois: 17).
In some common law jurisdictions, statutory rape is sexual activity in which one person is below the age required to legally consent to the behavior. Although it usually refers to adults engaging in sex with minors under the age of consent, it is a generic term, and very few jurisdictions use the actual term “statutory rape” in the language of statutes.
In statutory rape, overt force or threat need not be present. The laws presume coercion, because a minor or mentally challenged adult is legally incapable of giving consent to the act. Statutory rape laws are based on the premise that until a person reaches a certain age, he or she is legally incapable of consenting to sexual intercourse. Thus, even if a minor engages in sexual intercourse willingly, the intercourse is not consensual.
Often, teenage couples engage in sexual conduct as part of an intimate relationship. This may occur before either participant has reached the age of consent, or after one has but the other has not. In the latter case, in most jurisdictions, the person who has reached the age of consent is guilty of statutory rape. In some jurisdictions (such as California), if two minors have sex with each other, they are both guilty of engaging in unlawful sex with the other person. The act itself is prima facie evidence of guilt when one participant is incapable of legally consenting.
Some jurisdictions have passed so-called “Romeo and Juliet laws,” which serve to reduce or eliminate the penalty of the crime in cases where the couple’s age difference is minor and the sexual contact would not have been rape if both partners were legally able to give consent.
Research indicates that sexual messages contained in film, television, and music are becoming more explicit in dialog, lyrics, and behavior. In television programming aimed at teens, more than 90% of episodes had at least one sexual reference in it with an average of 7.9 references per hour. Researchers have found a correlation between the amount of television with high sexual content that teenagers watch and an increased likelihood of them becoming pregnant or fathering a child out of wedlock, and believe that reducing the amount of sexual content adolescents watch on television could substantially reduce the teen pregnancy rate. By contrast, other scholars have argued that such claims have been premature; Steinberg and Monahan found that media effects diminished once other factors were controlled.
Scholarly studies suggest that approximately 15% of youth intentionally seek pornography in a given year. Donna Freitas, author of The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy, has this to say about porn:
Many boys learn to assume that the things women do in porn—how they dress and act around men—is also how women are supposed to act in real life. These same boys are learning to expect girls their own age to act like the women in porn videos, too … Social media and Internet porn are influencing junior-high and high-school girls’ understanding of sexiness. Girls are learning to use porn and porn archetypes to impress boys as early as middle school.
Both boys and girls feel pressure from their friends to have sex. The perception adolescents have of their best friends’ sexual behavior has a significant association with their own sex behavior. Sexually active peers have a negative effect on adolescent sexual delay; however, responsive parent-adolescent sex discussions can buffer these effects.
In a 2003 study, 89% of girls reported feeling pressured by boys to have sex, while 49% of boys reported feeling pressured by girls to have sex. In contrast, 67% of boys felt pressured by other boys, while 53% of girls felt pressured by other girls.
Adolescents who reported sexual activity had high levels of reputation-based popularity, but not likeability among peers; however, sex with more partners was associated with lower levels of popularity.
Two main forms of sex education are taught in American schools: comprehensive and abstinence-only. Comprehensive sex education covers abstinence as a positive choice, but also teaches about contraception use and the avoidance of STIs if the teen becomes sexually active. A 2002 study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 58% of secondary school principals describe their sex education curriculum as comprehensive. The difference between these two approaches, and their impact on teen behavior, remains a controversial subject in the United States.
There have been numerous studies on the effectiveness of both approaches, and conflicting data on American public opinion. Public opinion polls conducted over the years have found that the majority of Americans favor broader sex education programs over those that teach only abstinence, although abstinence educators recently published poll data with the totally opposite conclusion. The poll sponsored by the National Abstinence Education Association and conducted by Zogby International found that:
When parents become aware of what abstinence education vs. comprehensive sex education actually teaches, support for abstinence programs jumps from 40% to 60%, while support for comprehensive programs drops from 50% to 30%. This sharp increase in support of abstinence education is seen across all political and economic groups. The majority of parents reject the so-called “comprehensive” sex education approach, which focuses on promoting and demonstrating contraceptive use. Sixty-six percent of parents think that the importance of the “wait to have sex” message ends up being lost when programs demonstrate and encourage the use of contraception.
Experts also encourage sex educators to include oral sex and emotional concerns as part of their curriculum. Their findings also support earlier studies that conclude:
…sexual risk-taking should be considered from a dynamic relationship perspective, rather than solely from a traditional disease-model perspective. Prevention programs rarely discuss adolescents’ social and emotional concerns regarding sex…. Discussion about potential negative consequences, such as experiencing guilt or feeling used by one’s partner, may lead some adolescents to delay the onset of sexual behavior until they feel more sure of the strength of their relationship with a partner and more comfortable with the idea of becoming sexually active. Identification of common negative social and emotional consequences of having sex may also be useful in screening for adolescents at risk of experiencing more-serious adverse outcomes after having sex.
Proponents of this approach argue that sexual behavior after puberty is a given, and it is therefore crucial to provide information about the risks and how they can be minimized. They hold that abstinence-only sex ed and conservative moralizing will only alienate students and thus weaken the message.
A report issued by the Department of Health and Human Services has found the “most consistent and clear finding is that sex education does not cause adolescents to initiate sex when they would not otherwise have done so.” The same report also found that:
Family life or sex education in the public schools, which traditionally has consisted largely of providing factual information at the secondary school level, is the most general or pervasive approach to preventing pregnancy among adolescents…. Adolescents who begin having sexual intercourse need to understand the importance of using an effective contraceptive every time they have sex. This requires convincing sexually active teens who have never used contraception to do so. In addition, sexually active teens who sometimes use contraceptives need to use them more consistently (every time they have sex) and use them correctly.
Abstinence-only sex education tells teenagers that they should be sexually abstinent until marriage and does not provide information about contraception. In the Kaiser study, 34% of high-school principals said their school’s main message was abstinence-only. Some Christian organizations advocate abstinence-only sex education because it is the only approach they find acceptable and in accordance with their churches’ teachings.
Some organizations promote what they consider to be “sexual purity”, which encompasses abstaining from not only intercourse before marriage, but also from sexual thoughts, sexual touching, pornography, and actions that are known to lead to sexual arousal. Advocates of abstinence-only sex education object to comprehensive curricula which fail to teach moral behavior; they maintain that curricula should promote conventional (or conservative) morality as healthy and constructive, and that value-free knowledge of the body may lead to immoral, unhealthy and harmful practices.
A comprehensive review of 115 program evaluations published in November 2007 by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that two-thirds of sex education programs focusing on both abstinence and contraception had a positive effect on teen sexual behavior. The same study found no strong evidence that programs that stress abstinence as the only acceptable behavior for unmarried teens delayed the initiation of sex, hastened the return to abstinence, or reduced the number of sexual partners.According to the study author:
Even though there does not exist strong evidence that any particular abstinence program is effective at delaying sex or reducing sexual behavior, one should not conclude that all abstinence programs are ineffective. After all, programs are diverse, fewer than 10 rigorous studies of these programs have been carried out, and studies of two programs have provided modestly encouraging results. In sum, studies of abstinence programs have not produced sufficient evidence to justify their widespread dissemination.
Most teens (70%) say they have gotten some or a lot of information about sex and sexual relationships from their parents. Other sources of information include friends at 53%, school, also at 53%, TV and movies at 51% and magazines at 34%. School and magazines were sources of information for more girls than boys, and teens “who were sexually active were much more likely to say they got information about sex from their friends and partners.” Less than half of parents with daughters under 18 talk to their girls about how to say no to boys, and about half talk to them about contraception.
Adolescents whose parents talked to them at a young age felt more comfortable as they grew and were more likely to make personal decisions about sexual behavior that reflects the parental values and morals.
Some scholars argue that parents have a large influence on how teen sexuality is viewed in the United States, as well as how teens view their own sexuality. Parents’ views of adolescent sexuality vary greatly between different countries. In the United States, teen sexuality is generally viewed under the framework of “adversarial individualism”. This means that on a broader, societal level, there is little communication among individuals as compared to other countries such as the Netherlands where there is more emphasis on “interdependent individualism”. Scholars argue that in the United States, there is greater emphasis on individual success rather than success of the majority. This paradigm plays into adolescent sexuality in the way that there is less communication about oftentimes sensitive topics such as adolescent sexuality. Scholars argue that this mentality has several consequences. The negative consequences of adversarial individualism can present themselves as impulse-driven teenagers that ultimately require more supervision than teenagers living in an interdependent individualistic society. In interdependent individualism, teenagers are ultimately more responsible because they are able to have open discussions with their guardians.
Studies have suggested that fathers generally tend to avoid sexual conversations with their children. Many fathers have uncertainties on how to start to the conversation. Other times they simply put the initiative on their daughters to come to them with questions or issues. Even when the conversation is launched fathers tend to be judgmental or only talk about abstinence. Fathers are more likely to forbid daughters from having sex when they are talking. Wilson et al. (2010) found that some fathers felt that talking about the potential consequences of sex was easier than talking about sex itself. Fathers overall tend to apply more orders when talking to their daughters than giving them unbiased information or simply listening and trying to give them their best advice.
Hutchinson and Cederbaum (2011) studied father-daughter communication and found that increased father-daughter communication delayed sexual debut and decreased the frequency of engagement in sexual intercourse. They also found that responsible sexual behavior among adolescent females was associated with positive father-daughter communication regarding men, dating, sex, and marriage. On the other hand, fathers who were absent had been linked to higher rates of sexual activity and teen pregnancy among female adolescents. Fathers have a greater impact on daughters than they think, but fail to recognize it because they don’t believe they should be discussing sex with their daughters or simply leave it to the mothers.
Girls who participate in athletics, artistic, or academic extracurricular activities are less likely to be sexually active than girls who don’t participate in any. Female athletes have “significantly fewer sex partners, engaged in less frequent intercourse … and began having sex at a later age.” For boys, those who participate in sports are slightly more likely to be sexually active, and those who are in artistic activities are considerably less likely.
Religious adolescents lose their virginity three years later than the average American. On average, those with strong religious backgrounds become sexually active at age 21.
Studies have shown stressed teens and teens without sufficient familial involvement tend to have more sex.
According to a study based on a sampling of teenagers in Massachusetts, sexual minority youth—that is, those who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual or had any same-sex sexual contact in their lifetimes—were significantly more likely than other students to report lifetime sexual intercourse (72% vs. 44%). The same study found that sexual minority youth were more likely to report sexual intercourse before age 13 (18% vs. 4%), sexual intercourse with four or more partners in their lifetimes (32% vs. 11%), and recent sexual intercourse (55% vs. 33%). Among students in the Massachusetts study who ever had sexual intercourse in their lifetimes, sexual minority youth were significantly more likely than other students to report “having been or gotten someone pregnant (15% vs. 4%) and having been diagnosed with HIV or another STI (10% vs. 5%).”