A new study by the CDC detailing the sexual behavior of American teenagers provides a peek into the factors that motivate teenagers when their thoughts turn to sex.
It’s a topic that many parents have a difficult time facing—in fact, some parents might even cringe when reading an article about teenagers and sex. But our discomfort has no connection to what they are actually doing, so let’s go on ahead and dive into the CDC findings.
What the headlines focused on was the big news at the top—while two in every three young American between the ages of 15 and 24 have engaged in oral sex and vaginal sex, the rates are lower than they were 10 years ago. So the takeway is that American teens are doing it less than they used to—what the author of the study, Casey Copen, called a “decreasing trend in sexual experience among teens.”
But a closer look unearths some fascinating stuff:
Young people coming from two parent homes are more likely to engage in oral sex before vaginal.
44 percent of white youth had practiced oral sex first, compared to just 30 percent of black youths.
44 percent of boys age 15-17 were engaged in some kind sexual activity with a partner of the opposite sex, along with 39 percent of girls the same age.
A higher percentage of females and males who had oral sex, but not yet had vaginal intercourse, had mothers who had some college education or higher.
What this means is that teenagers with a mother and father in the house, or a mother with some college education, are postponing vaginal intercourse—but substituting oral sex for vaginal sex. I’m going to guess that the predominant message these particular young people are hearing from their parents is the importance of avoiding teen pregnancy. The quickest way to avoid teen pregnancy is to avoid vaginal sex. But apparently these kids are not hearing the same message about oral sex—clearly these children are more likely to see oral sex as relatively free of consequence compared to vaginal sex.
The study suggests that parents must enlarge the “sex talk” to include more discussion of oral sex, as uncomfortable as that addendum may be. I can recall those talks with my teenage son and I can honestly say that oral sex wasn’t foremost in my mind when we got into the details of how he was to conduct himself. I should have been much clearer about explaining that oral sex isn’t exactly free of consequence as perhaps they think. But it didn’t come up—I was more focused on warning him that he was not to be bringing home any squealing, burping little babies.
The study was actually conducted by the CDC to monitor those who are at risk for STDs. So while the kids with the most parental input are less likely to be engaged in activities that are going to lead to pregnancy, they are more at risk for the STDs that could be spread by oral sex.
Thanks to the CDC, all of us with teens or tweens in the house have gotten a major wake-up call about the sex talk. Oral sex HAS to be on the agenda. Their lives may depend on it.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.