After decades in which researchers concerned about teenage pregnancy focused only on intercourse, a study by the Urban Institute, financed by the federal government, provides the first national data on the sexual practices of to year-old boys.
With young people engaging in a growing variety of sexual behaviors, public health experts said they were increasingly concerned that teenagers did not understand the risks of sexually transmitted diseases and were confused about what constituted abstinence.
They're not protecting themselves; they don't understand the risks of transmitting infection between the genital and oral areas. Most sexually transmitted diseases -- whether viral, like herpes and hepatitis B, or bacterial, like gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia -- can be transmitted orally or genitally.
Although most researchers say H. According to the study, many teenage boys are engaging in sexual activities that include oral and anal sex. Sonenstein, director of the Population Studies Center at the Urban Institute and one of the study's authors. The report of findings from the National Survey of Adolescent Males is being released today in the latest issue of Family Planning Perspectives, a publication of the Alan Guttmacher Institute.
The issue includes a report on the policy implications of oral sex among young people.. The survey of adolescent boys was based on in-person interviews with 1, nationally representative males ages 15 to 19 in , including an oversampling of black and Hispanic youths. An earlier round in surveyed 1, boys. The questions about engagement in genital heterosexual activities were asked in a questionnaire that the teenagers answered themselves rather than telling the interviewer.
Sonenstein said that methodology, known as a self-administered interview, yielded more reliable information on sensitive subjects. According to the findings, more than 1 in 10 boys had engaged in anal intercourse, half had received oral sex from a girl, and slightly more than a third had performed oral sex on a girl. The national survey found significant differences among racial and ethnic groups: black and Hispanic boys were almost twice as likely as whites to have had anal intercourse.
White and Hispanic boys were about twice as likely as blacks to have performed oral sex on a girl. The study also found that while the percentage of black boys receiving oral sex more than doubled, to Many adolescents, according to the report, consider oral sex to be a precursor or substitute for intercourse and something that does not count as ''sex.
To be eligible for the money, states had to offer programs teaching ''abstinence from sexual activity outside marriage as the expected standard for school-age children. Since then, researchers, public health experts and health care workers have found that many young people perceive oral and anal sex as something other from sex -- and often, even, as abstinence.
In research last year among Midwestern teenagers 12 through 17 who had received abstinence education, there was no consensus on what qualified as abstinence.
And in an earlier survey of college freshmen and sophomores in the South, a quarter considered anal intercourse as abstinence, and more than a third thought the same of oral sex.
Another study found that more than half of the college undergraduates surveyed did not consider oral sex to be sex, and that the proportions were even higher if the act had not resulted in orgasm. Health educators themselves are no more clear: a survey last year found that nearly a third believed that oral sex was abstinent behavior. And in , President Clinton, in testimony about an affair with a White House intern, said he had not had ''sexual relations'' but had engaged only in oral sex.
Abstinent or not, the public health risks of oral and anal sex are real. In one region of Georgia, the research report said, a health screening project among middle-school students intended to detect meningitis bacteria in the throat, found, to everyone's surprise, that several girls had pharyngeal gonorrhea.
Linda Dominguez, assistant medical director of Planned Parenthood of New Mexico and a nurse practitioner with a private practice, has also diagnosed pharyngeal gonorrhea in adolescent girls.
Dominguez said. I ask if they use dental dams, or condoms, but they don't. Our questionnaires also pose the question about anal sex, which is a tool to start a conversation about whether that's by their choice, or whether there's some coercion. Alexander of the American Social Health Association. And we have heard that some girls use muscle relaxants, which can also be risky. One indication of the growing concern about sexually transmitted diseases, she said, is that her group's Web site for teenagers, which is www.
Alexander and others said that the data on adolescent sexual practices should encourage parents and clinicians to take a broad view of sexual practices in their discussions with young people. Ward Cates, president of the Family Health Institute and past director of the Division of Sexually Transmitted Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, ''The most important message of these findings is to encourage communication about the whole range of sexual behavior, and to get away from the dichotomy we've set up between sex and abstinence, the view that sex is vaginal intercourse and abstinence is nothing beyond holding hands.
While the federal government also supports research on adolescent girls, in the National Survey of Family Growth, that study does not gather information on oral or anal sex. Survey Shows Sex Practices of Boys. View on timesmachine. TimesMachine is an exclusive benefit for home delivery and digital subscribers.