Adolescent sexual behaviour: Healthy trends and two disturbing findings

Adolescent sexual behaviour: Healthy trends and two

disturbing findings

G.C. Hess, J. J. Green

University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Over the last two decades we have gathered data via surveys

about adolescent sexual behaviour. In the first part of the presentation, a

summary of the trends over time will be presented. Overall, the adolescents have

reported more healthy sexual behaviour over time. Age of first intercourse has

remained constant; number of partners has remained the same; use of

contraception has increased dramatically. The findings from the Canadian

adolescents are remarkably similar to those reported by European adolescents.

There are two findings, however, which are disturbing to medical and sex


In the past oral sex, woman to man, was a sexual behaviour that

occurred after vaginal intercourse and was most often delayed until adolescents

were in a stable relationship in their late teens or older. Within the last five

years, there has been a marked increase in oral sex among young teens, aged

12-14. The findings will be presented including possible reasons for the change.

Some suggest the media coverage of Bill Clinton’s exploits is to blame. Others

think that all the medical education of the hazards of vaginal intercourse in

the Safer Sex campaigns have inadvertently led teens to believe that oral sex

without protection is safe.

The other disturbing finding is longer standing. In the 1970s an

American researcher, Sorenson, found that male adolescents tended to report

positive emotional response to first intercourse, while females reported feeling

negative emotions. In most other comparisons on sexual behaviour and attitudes,

we have found a convergence of male and female adolescent response since the

advent of the birth control pill in North America in the 1970s. However, in

every survey we have administered over the past two decades, we have

consistently found that males continue to report mostly positive emotions and

many females report negative emotion at first intercourse. Findings from several

surveys will be presented as well as our research in determining why the

differential exists.

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