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Virginity Is Up Among Teenagers, Says National Survey

Virginity Is Up Among Teenagers, Says National Survey

Among 15-to-24-year-olds, 29 percent of females and 27 percent of males report no sexual contact with another person, ever. By way of comparison 2002, 22 percent of both sexes reported no sexual contact with another person.

13 percent of women (aged 15 through 44) report some “same-sex sexual behavior” in their lifetime, while only 5 percent of men do. Further, 9 percent of women with bachelor’s degrees or higher report same-sex encounters, while 15 percent of women who had not graduated from high school report such. And while 6 percent of male college graduates report same-sex encounters, only 3 percent of men who had not finished high school report such.

All these are findings from the most recent results of the National Survey of Family Growth. The survey gathers information about family life, marriage and divorce, pregnancy, infertility, use of contraception, and men’s and women’s health. It was first done in 1973; the latest findings are based on a random sample of 13,495 Americans, ages 15 to 44, done from 2006 to 2008. The federal government’s Department of Health and Human Services conducts the survey which, as the Washington Post says, ‘provides basic information for public health policymakers concerned with such issues as sexually transmitted disease.’

Parts of the survey are ‘now so explicit’ that some questions are only asked using a computer screen, even though the interviewer and the subject are face to face. Originally, the survey only included married and formerly married women; as single women and then men were queried, the questions on the survey have become more detailed about sexual practices.

One such subject is teenage oral sex. Some results as reported in the Washington Post:

The latest results provides support for the idea that some teens limit their sexual activity to oral sex either to preserve their virginity or because they view such encounters as safe. Public health officials say the latter is a misconception, and some sexually transmitted infections, such as herpes and human papillomavirus, can be transmitted by oral-genital contact. 

Among 15-to-17-year-olds, 7 percent of females and 10 percent of males report having oral sex but no vaginal sex. That fraction, however, declines rapidly among older respondents. In the 20-to-24 age group, only 3 percent of females and 4 percent of males report oral-sex only activity. 

In the 25-to-44 age group, however, 98 percent of females and 97 percent of males report having had vaginal intercourse, with about 90 percent having oral sex as well. Slightly more than one-third (36 percent) of women and 44 percent of men report having had anal sex.

The survey also provides information based on whether people live in urban vs. suburban vs. rural areas; on their religious affiliation; and on living arrangements.

No doubt the findings about an increase in teenage virginity will get more than a bit of attention, especially as critics continue to blame our popular culture, which is rife with erotic and sexual content (obvious and not so obvious).

PDF file of ‘Sexual Behavior, Sexual Attraction, and Sexual Identity in the United States: Data from the 2006-2008 National Survey of Family Growth’ can be found here.

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12:08PM PST on Mar 9, 2011

Considering that the numbers are self-reported, maybe teenagers are having less sex ... or maybe they're just learning to lie about it more.

12:31PM PST on Mar 8, 2011

On the surface, this sounds good- but I wonder how much is involuntary abstinence due to the big increase in teen obesity.

10:46PM PST on Mar 5, 2011


10:36PM PST on Mar 5, 2011

Thanks. Maybe they're coming to see that sex is not always what it's cracked up to be and that the ramifications are real and can be profound.

7:24PM PST on Mar 5, 2011


7:10PM PST on Mar 5, 2011

HPV can also result in anal cancer. Oral sex (female giving to male, or male to male) can result in HIV infection. The scarey part is that 80% of STD's/STIs diagnosed are without symptoms!!! HIV can be in the body and transmitted to others, even though a person may show no symptoms for 10+ years! Our teens need more sex and health education!

2:45PM PST on Mar 5, 2011

Good if it's true. I teach high school and the "it can't happen to me" about STIs is rampant. They don't understand how bad STIs can be. Also now even HPV from oral sex is being linked to oral cancers, and oh my gosh, did you ever see photos of that? Even if it's treated or cured it is disfiguring.

Better they wait until their emotional/mental maturity catches up.

2:42PM PST on Mar 5, 2011

I have no beef with this data as long as people don't use it to promote abstinence-only sex ed. I think it's great that kids are getting smarter about waiting to have sex! I hope we continue to teach them about safe sex and the consequences of unsafe sex, rather than not teach them about sex at all.

2:25PM PST on Mar 5, 2011

One's virginity should be more about positive self image, self respect, and concerns about pregnancy and disease than on any religious value system.

1:19PM PST on Mar 5, 2011

A trend we should all encourage. The alternative is the risk of STDs and the near-certainty of heartbreak when a relationship falls apart. How many teens felt driven to suicide after going too far, too fast with someone who used them and discarded them? Delaying sexual activity softens the emotional injuries that hit adolescents during their growth trials. Waiting until their emotional growth catches up to their hormones results in better perspective and balance. There's a reason we don't hear about the psychological injuries of teens who abstained from adult activity: they weren't injured!

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