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In Their Own Right: Addressing the Sexual and Reproductive Health Needs of American Men

March 14, 2002

A note from The field of medicine is constantly evolving. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

Highlights from the report's second chapter show that there is a great variation in when and how safely teenage men experience the transition to sexual activity.

For the average American male, puberty starts between the ages of 12 and 14, although some males are in their late teens before signs become evident. Many believe that a very high proportion of youth start having vaginal intercourse during their early teens. This is not the case. About one in five 15-year-olds have had intercourse with a woman. However, around eight out of ten men age 19 have had intercourse at least once -- a proportion similar to that of young women. Considerably higher proportions of black than of white and Hispanic men have intercourse in the early teenage years, but the difference narrows by age 19.

Teenagers who have had intercourse do not necessarily have sex frequently. Nine in ten young men who have ever had intercourse did so at least once in the past year, but only half did so in the past month. Moreover, fewer than half of sexually experienced men ages 15-19 (and about a third of those ages 15- 17) had intercourse more than ten times in the past year. Almost three in ten sexually experienced men ages 15-17 have had only one lifetime partner, but two in ten have already had six or more. By ages 18-19, the proportion who have had only one lifetime partner declines to just over two in ten, and the proportion who have had six or more increases to almost three in ten. Hispanic and black men ages 18-19 are less likely than their white peers to have had only one partner, and more likely to have had six or more.

For some adolescent men, the fear of pregnancy is greater than the fear of STDs. Nevertheless, at first intercourse, the condom is young men's favored choice of STD and pregnancy prevention. The first time adolescent men have intercourse, 60 percent use a condom by itself, 7 percent use a condom in combination with a female method (dual methods), 2 percent practice withdrawal and 4 percent rely on their partner's method. One-quarter have no protection of any kind. At adolescents' most recent intercourse, 40 percent used a condom by itself and 2 percent practiced withdrawal, while 20 percent used dual methods and 18 percent relied on female methods alone. The remaining 20 percent did not use any method. This means that most current protection among adolescent men involved male contraceptive practice. About two-thirds of dual-method use involves the pill, and the remainder, another female method.

At most recent intercourse, use of condoms (alone or in combination with other methods) was more common among men ages 15-17 (67 percent) than among older teenagers (55 percent), and it was lower for men whose family income was low (44 percent) than for those in families with higher incomes (64-65 percent). Overall protection is very similar for white and black youth, and somewhat higher among these groups than among Hispanic youth. The last time they had intercourse, 20 percent of men ages 15-19 did not use any contraceptive method, but the proportion having unprotected intercourse is notably higher than average among young men with the lowest family incomes (37 percent) and Hispanic young men (30 percent). The fact that four in ten sexually experienced men ages 15-19 are currently using no method or a method other than the condom suggests that STD and pregnancy prevention messages are not well understood by all adolescents.

Sexually experienced men ages 15-19 say they get most of their information about contraception from television (91 percent), school (89 percent), their parents (47 percent), and doctors or nurses (32 percent). Six in ten men ages 15-19 say they were taught in school sexuality education classes how to put on a condom. But one in ten do not know that it is risky to wait until just before ejaculation to put on a condom, and about one in four do not know that they must hold the condom as they withdraw after the sexual act is over. One-third do not know that oil-based lubricants can cause condoms to break.

Back to other CDC news for March 14, 2002

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Adapted from:
Alan Guttmacher Institute

A note from The field of medicine is constantly evolving. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Quiz: Are You at Risk for HIV?
10 Common Fears About HIV Transmission
More Research on HIV Prevention Among Youth


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