U.S. Teenagers View Oral Sex as Less Risky Than Intercourse, Say Oral Sex Not Really Sex, Survey Shows
April 5, 2005
U.S. teenagers view oral sex as "not sex" and less risky than sexual intercourse, according to a study published in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics, Reuters reports. Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, a pediatrician at the University of California-San Francisco and colleagues surveyed 580 multi-ethnic ninth graders with a mean age of 14.5 at two California high schools on their views about the risks and perceptions of oral sex (Reuters, 4/4). Teenagers were asked to estimate the risks of contracting a sexually transmitted disease, including HIV, from oral sex and were asked about the social and emotional costs of engaging in oral sex, the AP/Houston Chronicle reports (Johnson, AP/Houston Chronicle, 4/3). The researchers found that 20% of the teens surveyed said they had engaged in oral sex, while 14% of the teens said they had engaged in vaginal sex. In addition, 33% of teens said they planned to engage in oral sex in the next six months, compared with 25% who said they planned to have sexual intercourse in the next six months (Reuters, 4/4). The teenagers surveyed said that oral sex is less risky, more prevalent and more acceptable for their age group than sexual intercourse, according to the AP/Chronicle. Boys and girls reported similar experiences and opinions about oral sex (AP/Houston Chronicle, 4/3). Boys more commonly performed oral sex on girls than vice versa, according to the study, Reuters reports. In addition, teenagers "rarely" reported using condoms or dental dams during oral sex, according to Reuters (Reuters, 4/4). Although there is "little reliable data" on the risk of spreading STDs through oral sex, it is known that HIV, herpes, hepatitis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis can be spread through oral sex, according to the AP/Chronicle (AP/Houston Chronicle, 4/3). Although the risk of spreading STDs through oral sex is "significantly less" than with sexual intercourse, teenagers likely underestimate the risks of oral sex, according to the study, Reuters reports (Reuters, 4/4).
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