Adolescents, Sex, and Contraception

Adolescents, Sex, and Contraception

Adolescents, Sex, and Contraception

Adolescents, Sex, and Contraception

Excerpt

According to numerous surveys, an American female who was born at the time of the first world war was very likely to reach her wedding night without previously experiencing sexual intercourse--slightly more than two out of three had sex for the first time after marriage. Most males of that period did not remain premaritally chaste, thanks in large part to the existence of formal and informal prostitution. For those individuals born just after the second world war, the sexual realm had indeed undergone a revolution. By that point, the odds very much favored premarital intercourse for both males and females. In the most recent research on college campuses, it has been found that the two genders are almost indistinguishable in their sexual histories, and only a small percentage are virginal at graduation. Not only are more adolescents engaging in sexual intercourse at some point prior to marriage, but the average age of puberty has been getting gradually lower each decade; the average age of first intercourse has shown a corresponding drop. Recent figures suggest that about one out of ten thirteen year olds in the U.S. are sexually experienced.

Whatever one's reactions to these changes in behavior and moral standards, there is one aspect of the new sexuality about which it is easy to become scandalized. Among teenagers, their first act of intercourse is most likely not to involve contraceptives. The impetus to seek such protection is very often either a pregnancy or the false alarm of a late menstrual period. As is documented in various places in this book, the result is about 1,000,000 unwanted teenage pregnancies each year in the United States. Though these data are based on the American experience, the combination of teenage sexuality, the avoidance of contraception, and the consequent unwanted pregnancies are by no means unique to this country. The U.S. birthrate among 15-19 year olds is matched or ex-

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