Sex Study & Media Spin
September 26, 2005
S. Michael Craven
This past week the Centers for Disease Control released the results of a
nationwide study, Sexual Behavior and Selected
Health Measures: Men and Women 15-44 Years of Age, United States 2002.
Initial reports on this study from both the Washington Post and New York
Times suggest very different conclusions than the report seems to indicate. The
Washington Post headline by Laura Sessions Stepp read, Study:
Half of All Teens Have Had Oral Sex and the New
York Times article by Tamar Lewin reported that, "According to the survey,
more than half of all teenagers aged 15 to 19 have engaged in oral sex..."
Stepp writes in her article, "The findings on oral sex among teens are sure
to stir debate over abstinence-only sex education. Supporters of such programs
say they have resulted in young people delaying intercourse, but opponents say
they also have led young people to substitute other behaviors... The new data
tend to support this view, showing that nearly one in four virgin teens has
engaged in oral sex."
The implication of course is that abstinence-centered education is failing to
equip kids for the real world and as a result we now have an "epidemic" of oral
sex among youth. This notion derives from the supposition that
abstinence-centered education really says nothing about sex except to say "no."
In light of such a "facile" approach to human sexuality, proponents of
"safe-sex" and condom education argue that kids are resorting to oral sex out of
ignorance because they think they remain "technical virgins" which is, they say,
all that abstinence education emphasizes. While it is true that many teens today
think that oral sex is not to be compared with intercourse this is not the
result of abstinence education but rather a cultural phenomenon given great
momentum by a former U.S. President.
Nonetheless, this is not at all what the report says. The report states, "At
the ages 15-17, about 13 percent of males and 11 percent of females had had
heterosexual oral sex but not vaginal intercourse." The report goes on to say
that, "At ages 18-19, about 11 percent of males and 9 percent of females had had
oral sex but not vaginal intercourse." Both the Washington Post and NY Times
neglect to report the fact that in the overwhelming majority of instances oral
sex is secondary to intercourse. For example among 16-year-old males, 12 percent
have only had oral sex while 37 percent have had intercourse. Among 17-year-old
males, 14 percent have only had oral sex and 46 percent intercourse and among
18-year-olds, 10 percent have only had oral sex and 62 percent intercourse. The
survey reveals that nearly all teenagers who have had sexual intercourse have
also had oral sex: 88 percent of the boys and 83 percent of the girls.
Oral sex, according to this study is not an alternative and growing
phenomenon but rather a sexual behavior that more often than not accompanies
sexually active teens who are already engaging in intercourse.
While teen sexual activity of any kind is not good news the fact is according
to another study by the CDC; The National
Youth Risk Behavior Survey: 1991-2003, sexual intercourse among teens
has steadily decreased every year since 1991. The fact is abstinence education
is working. Teens are becoming more aware, not less, of the risks associated
with any pre-marital sexual activity. According to this same report, even condom
use has increased from 46.2 percent in 1991 to 63 percent in 2003 at a time when
emphasis on condom use is being replaced by an emphasis on abstinence. These
figures counter the claims of those who argue that failure to teach "safe-sex"
will decrease condom use and increase risks among teens. The message of waiting
until marriage is gaining ground despite a media culture that is determined to
advance the alternative.
Granted, there is still much work to be done but we must continue to promote
a proper and natural view of sex that encourages abstinence until marriage and
not return to the days of encouraging sex among teens as long as it is "safe."
The evidence indicates that progress is, in fact, being made among youth.
Perhaps a more interesting revelation from this report are the figures
regarding homosexuality. According to the study, "the proportion of men who had
only male sexual partners in the last 12 months was 1.6 percent" and only "about
2.3 percent of men and 1.3 percent of women described themselves as homosexual."
Women who reported at least one female sexual partner in the last twelve months
represented 4.4 percent and men with at least one male partner in the last
twelve months represented 2.9 percent. Interestingly, about 1.8 percent of men
and 2.8 percent of women described themselves as "bi-sexual," which I find
strange in light of the claim that homosexuality is a genetic predisposition
when a self-professed bi-sexual can choose their orientation on any given day.
Clearly, these figures indicate once again that the homosexual population
remains extremely small and they do not represent a monolithic group. There is
clearly periodic experimentation and abandonment of homosexual acts further
dismissing the claim that homosexual behavior is innate and immutable. As has
been the case throughout history; homosexual behavior is a cultural [and not
biological] phenomenon that is linked to those societies who are in the progress
of modifying their sexual ethics from absolute monogamy within marriage to more
libertine practices. In every instance without exception this shift in sexual
ethics has served to destabilize family and subsequently the society as a
© S. Michael Craven, 2005