The Sex Lives of Teenagers
Young adolescents don't seem to know a lot about sex.
—National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2003 1
Worldwide, 15- to 24-year-olds account for half of all new infections. Almost 12 million young people now have H.I.V., and an additional 6,000 young adults become infected every day.
—L. K. Altman, July 3, 2002 2
Every child needs to have equity of opportunity for sex education.
—D. Satcher 3
One hallmark of adolescence is puberty—a biological and social transformation that emerges seemingly overnight. An overwhelming onslaught of awkward physical developments assault young people during puberty, including noticeable hair growth and vocal changes for boys and breast development for girls. At no other time in the human life span other than in early infancy do such sudden and radical bodily changes occur. In addition to these inevitable biological changes, adolescents must simultaneously grapple with social changes, notably increased emphasis on peer groups and potential romantic partners.
The adolescent's sexual curiosity is developmentally appropriate, 4 yet many adults see youth's blooming sexuality as threatening—feral behavior to be controlled. 5 Fear tactics and other strategies are employed to stop youth from having sex or even thinking about it. Religious groups hold that premarital sex is a sin. Policymakers claim that sexually active teens are morally deficient. Policymakers, pressured by influential conservative and