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Sexual behavior, teens believe oral sex is safer


Teens believe that oral sex is less risky to their health and emotions than vaginal sex, more prevalent among teens their age and more acceptable among their peers.

Participants in the study, published in Pediatrics, were students at two California high schools.
The mean age of the 580 participants was 14.5 years; 58 percent were girls and 42 percent were boys.
Their ethnic diversity was similar to that of their schools: approximately 40 percent White, 24 percent Latino, 17 percent Asian with others describing themselves as Pacific Islander, African American, American Indian/Alaskan Native and mixed or other.

This study is the first to investigate adolescents' perceptions of the health, social, and emotional consequences associated with having oral sex as compared with vaginal sex, as well as whether adolescents view oral sex as more acceptable and more prevalent than vaginal sex.

Participants completed a self-administered questionnaire that inquired about their sexual experiences and percent chance of experiencing outcomes from, attitudes toward, and perceived prevalence of oral versus vaginal sex among adolescents.

More participants reported having had oral sex ( 19.6% ) than vaginal sex ( 13.5% ), and more participants intended to have oral sex in the next 6 months ( 31.5% ) than vaginal sex ( 26.3% ).

Adolescents evaluated oral sex as significantly less risky than vaginal sex on health, social, and emotional consequences.

Adolescents also believed that oral sex is more acceptable than vaginal sex for adolescents their own age, oral sex is less of a threat to their values and beliefs, and more of their peers will have oral sex than vaginal sex in the near future.

One troubling finding of the study was the teens' perception of the health risks of oral sex.
Most of the participants recognized that there is some risk of infection with sexually transmitted diseases ( STD ) such as chlamydia and HIV, and accurately ranked this risk less than with vaginal sex.
However, one in seven participants thought that the risk of STDs from oral sex would be zero.

Source: University of California – San Francisco, 2005

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