Your Health

Teen Sex Rates Hold Steady, So They Say

Despite living in an age of unfettered access to Lady Gaga and thousands of 24-hour cable channels dripping with sexual images, American teens aren't having sex more often than those who came of age decades ago.

teen boy holding girl around waist i i

Teens are having sex, but maybe not as much as we think. iStockphoto.com hide caption

itoggle caption iStockphoto.com
teen boy holding girl around waist

Teens are having sex, but maybe not as much as we think.

iStockphoto.com

Or at least they're not admitting it to government officials.

A slew of interesting statistics are hidden in a new analysis of teen sex from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, like only 43 percent of teen boys and 42 percent of teen girls between ages 15 and 19 say they've had sex.

This most recent data, collected from interviews with teens between 2006-2008, is virtually the same as the results of the last survey, published in 2002. However, it is lower than teens' reported sexual activity from two decades ago.

Back in the Dark Ages of 1988, when the wanna-be-cool kids were listening to risque music like George Michael's "Faith," INXS' "Need You Tonight" and Michael Jackson's "Dirty Diana," the number of teens who said they had sex was 51 percent for girls and 55 percent for boys.

So why the change? Even if teen-focused pop songs, the Web, and TV have become more explicit, as some argue, maybe kids today are less sensitive to it.

On the other hand, teen boys tend to exaggerate their experiences, and that can leave us with the impression teens are having more sex than they really are.

We'll leave all that to the experts to hash out.

Besides the sexually active numbers, many other stats have remained virtually the same since the last CDC teen sex survey. Most sexually active teens prefer the condom to other kinds of contraception and said they used contraception the first time they had sex. Only about a quarter of them reported having had two or more partners.

And interestingly, 71 percent of female teens say now — as they did in 2002 — that it's OK for an unmarried female to have a child. Meanwhile, the boys acceptance of teen pregnancy went up to 64 percent from 50 percent.

Still, 58 percent of teen girls said they'd be very upset if it happened to them.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.