I was inclined not to read a press release about new research on the sexual behaviour of Americans until my eye fell on the word “adolescents” and then “abstaining”, so I skipped to that part.

Just so you know where it comes from:

The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB) was conducted by researchers from the Center for Sexual Health Promotion (CSHP) in Indiana University’s School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (HPER).

The NSSHB is one of the most comprehensive studies on these topics in almost two decades and documents the sexual experiences and condom-use behaviors of 5,865 adolescents and adults ages 14 to 94.

A unique feature of the study was the inclusion of adolescent men and women. Dennis Fortenberry, M.D., professor of pediatrics in the IU School of Medicine, led the adolescent aspects of the study.

It appears that our impression of teenagers may have become a bit warped by the constant chatter of the sexual health brigade.

“Many surveys of adolescent sexual behavior create an impression that adolescents are becoming sexually active at younger ages, and that most teens are sexually active,” Fortenberry said. “Our data show that partnered sexual behaviors are important but by no means pervasive aspects of adolescents’ lives. In fact, many contemporary adolescents are being responsible by abstaining or by using condoms when having sex.”

Furthermore:

At any given point in time, most U.S. adolescents are not engaging in partnered sexual behavior. While 40 percent of 17 year-old males reported vaginal intercourse in the past year, only 27 percent reported the same in the past 90 days.

That’s 27 per cent too many, of course, but better than some of us thought. And while it is based on self-reporting, what study of sexual activity is not?

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet