Monday, August 14, 2006

Teenage sex

Over on Jo's Journal she discusses "Shocking news: teens have sex!" in response to news of a survey that found a third of 16-24 year olds have had sex below the legal age of consent. For her, and no doubt many others, the big concern is not the headline figure but other statistics such as:

38% of young people do not always use a condom with a new partner, with being too drunk cited as one of the most common reasons well as this:

The survey also revealed deficiencies in young people's sex education.

One in 10 claimed to have had no sex education at school, while three quarters said they only learned the basics.

Many showed a lack of awareness about contraception failure, with 43% not knowing it was possible to get pregnant if a condom is not used correctly and 35% unaware that the contraceptive pill can also fail.
Having been to all male (from the age of 7 onwards) private schools my own school experience was no doubt abnormal. Jo comments:

I remember when we had "the talk" at school. Helpfully it took place after at least half the year had lost their virginity..
I strongly suspect the figure for my year (I can't remember if it was when I was 14 or 15) was considerably lower due to the nature of the pupil base (all male, private, pupils from all over Greater London which was an impediment to friendships, many pupils coming from strong religious homes, a high geek element and frankly a good number of the not so socially advanced) but frankly it was still rather poor and had nothing really in it about proper safe sex. (We were taught as part of biology just how condoms work as barriers but I can't recall ever being taught how to operate them! It's like a physicist knowing all about how partial vacuums operate but not having a clue how to actually use the vacuum cleaner, albeit with rather more serious consequences.)

One of the other problems that I don't often see addressed in this debate is the role of parents and their sometimes reluctance to allow their children to find out about much of this "too early". The desire to "let children be children" is understandable if more dangerous here - often it doesn't actually result in their offspring not learning about sex for some years but instead in finding things out haphazardly through a mixture of the playground, friends, magazines and whatever they pick up from elder siblings.

The other one which gets a bit more attention is the current cultural attitude to sex. It isn't actually one that encourages people to wait or treasure virginity, and yet many abstinence programmed seem to blindly assume that such values can be inculcated.

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