A study shows that some youth who say they are “abstinent” must be engaging in some kind of sexual activity, because they’re testing positive for sexually transmitted diseases. About 10 percent of young adults tested in the study said that they were abstinent, and half of those claimed that they had never had sex at all. Most of the subjects were women, and their average age was 22, so we’re not talking about teenagers – these were people who said that they had consciously chosen abstinence.
One of the study’s authors was quick to say that dishonesty was only one possible explanation for the discrepancy, and I’m sure she’s right. The abysmal state of sex education in this country means that it’s entirely possible that the study’s subjects were engaging in what, strictly speaking, is sexual behavior, without realizing that they were doing so. The emphasis on vaginal intercourse means that many don’t realize that oral sex can also result in the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. The Guttmacher Institute reported last spring that many young people don’t view oral-genital contact as sexual activity. The report’s authors point out,
“As oral-genital stimulation becomes increasingly disassociated from sex and instead thought of as ‘messing around,’ the authors speculate that people who engage in this behavior will become increasingly unmindful of the health risks. They suggest that sex education programs can help minimize the risk by giving increased attention to the role of oral-genital stimulation in STD transmission and the appropriate preventive measures that can be taken.”
This obviously has serious implications for whether young people engage in risky behaviors, and puts this study in a more understandable context. It’s not just that these young people are lying boldly to the researchers, the issue is far more nuanced.
And once again, the solution goes back to sex education, and how we can teach children and youth about sex in a way that makes them understand the risks of various activites, and gives them the tools to make healthy decisions. This is especially if they do decide to become abstinent, so they don’t end up with a sexually transmitted disease, which I’m sure was extremely disturbing and humiliating for the study participants.
Photo from CoolVirginity.com