Byline: RACHEL DAVIS
Out-of-town parents. A cool 21-year-old to supply the beer. Dark corners or bedrooms to coax the girls into impromptu make-out sessions. It was the typical teenage party decades ago.
Today the list isn't all that different. But if you're lucky enough to be invited (which you won't be if you're old enough to remember the '80s) you might get a glimpse into a newly emerging teenage dynamic. A role reversal of sorts where more girls are taking over as the aggressors. Where young girls feel free to experiment sexually without fear of society's expectations.
Coed sleepovers, which most parents never would have condoned a generation ago, are acceptable social events. Oral sex is a convenient alternative to intercourse.
"Girls make out with girls," said Kalli Kearney, a 13-year-old from Darnell-Cookman Middle School. "They have boyfriends, but they make out with girls."
Every generation of teenagers has its way of out-shocking and out-sexing the previous group of young people, and in that sense teens who own the middle- and high-school hallways today are no different. But for the most marked changes in this generation, turn your eye toward the girls.
Their language, their fashion sense and attitudes cue from television shows such as Nip/Tuck, Laguna Beach and Sex and the City. Heterosexual girls make out with other girls at parties and grind dance on each other at Club Paris' Teen Night. They talk openly about their sexual status on public online forums such as MySpace.
It's not all talk either, if you believe the sociologists, sex experts, pastors, educators, parents and local teens we interviewed.
In the past few years teenage girls, who lagged behind their male counterparts by 15 percent with regard to sexual experience, have closed the gender gap, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. And experts who study teenage sexuality are struggling to explain why.
Some say society's expectations of girls have changed, prompting them to adjust their behaviors. Others think past numbers were misleading and that girls are only now more comfortable admitting to pollsters what they've been doing all along.
It's safe to say that not every girl in the Father Knows Best era kept it on in the back seat of the 1954 Buick Skylark. Nor are we saying that every teenage girl is taking it off today. But national data is debunking the conventional wisdom that girls are sitting idly by, hoping silently that the cute boy in biology class will ask them to cruise the strip Saturday night.
Gracie Cain, a 14-year-old student at Douglas Anderson School for the Arts, said more than half of her friends aren't virgins. Her parents have raised her in the traditional Catholic faith, but she said, "I'm still kind of judging whether I want to have sex before I get married."
In 1991, 57 percent of teenage males had sexual intercourse at least once, compared to only 50 percent of females, according to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
Since then the number of teens having sex has decreased across the board. However, the number of girls having sex decreased at a slower rate than the boys, allowing them to pull even.
In 2005, about 46 percent of females and 48 percent of males reported engaging in sexual intercourse, according to the same survey. With the margin of error the numbers are statistically the same, and the National Center for Health Statistics put both at 46 percent in 2002.
"There is no longer a gender gap," said Jennifer Manlove, Child Trends area director of fertility and family. "What's driving the trend is white females. White females are slightly more likely to have sex than white males."
National experts said that girls also express themselves more sexually and talk more openly about the topic with their friends, boyfriends and (gasp) adults.