Those who insist on “safer sex” education for adolescents
seem to assume two things: first, that nearly all teens will become sexually
active, and second, that it doesn’t matter (they have a right to) so long as
they take precautions against disease and pregnancy. Therefore, all teens
should be subjected to the same sexual propaganda.
But a report
from the US government that I missed back in March indicates that these assumptions
are faulty. Researchers from the Centres for Disease Control gathered data on
sexual behaviour, attraction and identity through the 2006-2008 National Survey
of Family Growth — a household survey — and compared it with the 2002 NSFG
survey and other national surveys. The aim was to improve programmes to prevent
the spread of STIs and unintended pregnancy.
The survey had a high response rate (75 per cent) and
involved interviews (using laptops for maximum privacy) with more than 13,000
people aged 15 to 44.
The responses showed that among young adults aged 15 to 24,
29 per cent of women and 27 per cent of men had not had any sexual contact with
the opposite sex. This was a sharp increase from 2002 when about 23 per cent of
young adults had never had sex.
Furthermore, in the 15- to 19-year-old age group, 43 per
cent of males and 48 per cent of females reported never having an opposite-sex
partner. In the same age group a small percentage (7 per cent of females and 9
per cent of males) had had oral sex with an opposite-sex partner, but no
These figures suggest that, rather than bombarding all high
school kids with contraceptive information (not to mention perverse
alternatives to sexual intercourse) abstinence or chastity education is an appropriate option.
Indeed, it seems reasonable to infer that official encouragement of abstinence
education in the 1990s and up to 2008 has been effective.
Among those aged 25 and older there was a lot of unpleasant
stuff going on. However, same-sex activity was less than one might have
supposed from the amount of political attention such relationships get. Some 5.8
per cent of males said they had ever had same-sex contact and 12 per cent of
females. The percentages reporting their sexual identity as homosexual was even
lower: 1.1 per cent of women (bisexual 3.5), and 1.7 per cent of men (1.1
Sexual Behaviour, Sexual Attraction, and Sexual Identity in the United States:
Data From the 2006-2008 National Survey of Family Growth (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr036.pdf)