How much has sex changed, really? It depends on how you ask the question.

It seems that each generation of teenagers re-invents sex for themselves. They feel that way, of course, but there may also be some truth to it.

Teenagers today are different from the ones ten, fifteen, twenty years ago in many ways. By and large, research indicates that they’re making far better choices than their previous counterparts did. They’re doing drugs less, drinking alcohol less, going to church more, volunteering more, and telling their parents that they love them more. (Okay, I’m not too sure about that last one…) But they are certainly having sex less.

How many of you immediately asked yourself what I actually mean by sex?

If not, go back and read my first post.

What I mean is that teenagers today, by and large, are delaying first penile-vaginal intercourse when compared to previous generations of teenagers. But they are having their first experiences with other sexual acts (oral and manual for starters) no later, and maybe even earlier, than old folks did. I think this change is primarily because we’ve done a decent job scaring teens away from intercourse through AIDS education and pregnancy scares.

I worry about two things about this change:

1. We’ve neglected to talk about the social/relationship implications inherent to early and intense sexual exploration.

2. We’ve also neglected to talk about the possibility of STD transmission through other ways than intercourse.

Maybe these aren’t topics that are easy for parents to talk about with their teenagers. It doesn’t mean that teenagers don’t need to know about them, and it certainly doesn’t mean that teenagers will get appropriate or accurate information from their peers or the media – which is generally where they will get it if it doesn’t come from parents or schools.

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.

1 Comment

  1. A couple of thoughts – I would say AIDS education has had much bigger impact on sexual behavior than pregnancy scares. If anything contraception is more reliable, and generally more available than 15 or 20 years ago, so pregnnacy is less of a fear.

    Another factor in changed behavior in adolescents may be the increased sexualization of society in general. Oral sex used to be never discussed in open – but now it’s been the topic of Congressional hearings.

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