The CDC is currently asking teens to share a secret: Are you having sex? The question it wants to ask on its survey but can't is: Are you having oral sex? Dr. Lloyd Kolbe, director of the CDC's Adolescent and School Health Program, said a committee that approves the survey thought the question was too risqué. Yet a trend currently rippling across the country suggests that the agency should track the behavior, Kolbe said.
Adolescents now moving through middle and senior high schools have redefined words like abstinence and intercourse, embracing an increasingly casual attitude toward oral sex. In fact, many teens say they believe oral sex is not sex at all. Some girls are using it as a way to remain virgins, said Lisa Remez, associate editor of a sexual and reproductive health journal for the Alan Guttmacher Institute. Remez added that girls choose oral sex first because they view it as something they control, whereas vaginal sex is seen as something boys control.
The result could be a generation that is increasingly promiscuous, startlingly frank and beginning to experiment as young as ten, teachers say. About 50 percent of the nation's teens have had sexual intercourse, nearly 10 percent by age 13, a 1999 CDC survey revealed. "There's a huge disparity in the definitions from adults to young people," said Diane Waggoner, health education consultant for Oakland County, Mich., schools. Teens are using oral sex when they are not ready for vaginal intercourse, she added. "A lot of kids think that since they can't get pregnant with oral sex, they are practicing abstinence and are safe."
"What young people must understand is that it is possible through oral intercourse to be infected with HIV and other serious STDs," Kolbe said. Area teachers said the next concern is oral sex in elementary schools. Fifth- and sixth-graders know what it is and some have already told teachers they've tried it, said Waggoner.
Back to other CDC news for June 17, 2002