Girls Stand Up to Boys
April 26, 2002
Two social scientists, Barbara Risman of North Carolina State University and Pepper Schwartz of the University of Washington-Seattle, have found that girls are feeling more comfortable about setting sexual boundaries. In an attempt to explain what many see as positive news about teen behavior -- that sexual activity before age 18 seems to be decreasing, along with unwanted pregnancy -- the two researchers have found that girls are now speaking up, declaring what they do want and do not want and helping drive statistics down.
The researchers' report appears in the new journal Contexts, published by the American Sociological Association. The good news the two specialists, who are with the Council on Contemporary Families, culled from various sources includes:
The sociologists reported that they took a new look at statistics from a government-sponsored, long-term study of 10,000 teens under 18, analyzing the results by gender. They found that sexual activity is becoming more equal. While the number of high school girls who had intercourse declined slightly from 1991 (51%) to 1997 (48%), the number of boys who had intercourse dropped significantly, from 57 percent to 49 percent. According to the authors, the boy's behavior reflects girls' "increased influence in intimate relationships."
Both boys and girls today are more apt to have sex within a relationship of some sort, but "lots of the teens we talked to said some boys have sexual buddies they hook up with for some kind of sex," Schwartz said. "But you can't get a reputation as a boy who just plays girls. You have got to be in a relationship, be going with somebody." Risman said that boys are tending to have even their initial sexual relationships with "a girlfriend, not in one-night stands. It is not so casual now."
Tamara Kreinin, president of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, said she would love it if young women's increased self-confidence were actually reducing pregnancy rates. Teen girls, she said, are "getting more positive messages about self-esteem and looking after their own bodies." But she sees a "combination of causes" at work, including the fear of AIDS and the fact that "teens have more information about how to protect themselves."
04.23.02; Karen S. Peterson
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.