Medical, educational and social service professionals are
spending a lot of time discussing the origins and consequences of
early sexual activity. There is a responsibility to examine the
issues as completely and candidly as possible. The public is best
served by a presentation of accurate scientific information,
objective observations of existing programs and expert opinion as
to the most reasonable approaches to teen-age sex and consequent
sexually transmitted diseases.
Adolescence is a time of self-discovery, adventure, risk-taking
and establishment of independence. Sexuality is a part of this life
change. The combination of passionate, rapid serial monogamy and
the sense of invulnerability that characterizes adolescents leads
to more partners, erra tic use of barrier contraceptives and
probable exposure to sexually transmitted diseases.
If teens add alcohol and drug use to their lifestyles, the
chances of unprotected sex and subsequent sexually transmitted
diseases are even higher.
Beyond the natural and behavioral reasons for teen sexual
activity, there are factors for which the adults in adolescents'
lives are responsible. Recent studies demonstrate that a large
number, even a majority, of teen-age girls are having sex with
adult men. In some areas, even junior high school girls have
partners who are an average of six years older than they.
Obviously, there are questions of exploitation, safety and
A 20-something man picks up a 13-year-old girl at a skating
rink. Are no other adults - his friends, her relatives, parents out
skating with their kids - alarmed?
Why is that teen-age girl so starved for attention that she
responds readily to an unknown man, and why does she not know the
dangers of "just taking a ride" with him? Does she have no one she
must go to and get permission?
It is not unusual for a 16-year-old young woman to have a
22-year-old boyfriend. The relationship is conducted in his social
circle, not hers; with adults, not other children. The unavoidable
result is a teen-ager doing very grown-up things. If a responsible
adult doesn't intervene, the young woman learns that there is
nothing amiss, that this is the expectation, and that no one will
guide or protect her. The man learns he can take advantage of women
and situations, that mature relationships can be avoided and that
no one will hold him accountable. Given these scenarios, it is no
wonder we are faced with a trend of earlier and more frequent teen
sexual activity and an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases.
There is no single solution. Educational programs impart
information, and information leads to knowledge. However, knowledge
does not automatically translate into changed behavior.
For instance, college students can recount accurate information
about transmission and avoidance of sexually transmitted diseases,
but the rates of these diseases and condom usage do not improve in
Teaching and promoting abstinence should be the foundation of a
complete sex education program, but too often the instruction is
focused on the girl saying no, with little attention on the male,
and assumes that a young woman has power in the relationship.
Families must model, support and nurture lifestyles that
encourage behaviors based on integrity and responsibility. …