A new study, based on the widest survey of Americans’ sexual activity since 1992, revealed some startling facts: teenagers, especially teenage boys, are far more likely to use condoms during sexual intercourse than adults involved in sexual liaisons. Among a group of sexually active 14 to 17-year-olds, 80 percent of boys and 69 percent of girls said that they had used a condom the last time they had intercourse, compared with well under half of adults.
Considering the abysmal sex education that many youth in our country receive, it’s heartening to see that they’re still absorbing the idea that contraception is a crucial part of sexual responsibility. Dr. J. Dennis Fortenberry, a professor of pediatrics, explained to the New York Times that he believes that “there’s the same general widespread sense among contemporary teenagers that as you get to the point where you start thinking about having sex, condoms are going to be part of that decision.”
The study included some other, more disturbing findings. Almost a third of women surveyed said that they had experienced pain the last time they had sex, compared to 5 percent of men, and only two-thirds said that they had achieved orgasm (although 85 percent of men said that they believed their heterosexual partners had had an orgasm). And even though the fact that men don’t as readily admit to experiencing pain may mean that the statistics on male pain and pleasure may be different, this clearly represents a need for more information about female sexual pleasure and communication during sex.
Overall, the study represents a welcome addition to a somewhat sparse collection of information about Americans’ sexual practices and attitudes. These studies usually need to be funded by private sources rather than the government, and it can be hard to find backers. This study was financed by the makers of Trojan condoms.
Monica Rodriguez, president of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S., explained why studies like these are so crucial. Although Americans are inundated with sexual imagery, she said, they lack access to reliable information about sex. “That’s why this is so important,” she said, “it gives us a sense of what’s really happening, instead of all this, ‘Well, my sex life must not be normal, because I don’t do this or only do this.’”
Photo from Flickr.