The Prevalence of Oral Sex Among High School Teenagers

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Many people believe that teenagers (and adults) do not consider oral sex to be "real sex" and, therefore, practice it somewhat casually. Others assume that the prevalence of oral sex among high school students is just an urban legend, and question whether or not the "it's not real sex" myth is actually true.

Fortunately, there's no need to rely on guesses, beliefs, or assumptions. Several studies have looked at how often teenagers have oral sex, and how soon they start having it. Depending on which camp you fall into, it's either more ("Kids don't do that!") or less ("Kids think it's no big deal!") than you might think.

Study Results

Studies suggest that as many as 20% of adolescents have had oral sex by the end of their freshman year in high school. Furthermore, by the end of their teenage years, as many as two-thirds of young men and women have participated in oral sex with an opposite-sex partner.

Unfortunately, due to the fact that sex education programs often primarily focus on pregnancy risk, many of these teenagers are unaware that oral sex can have real risks - both physical and emotional. The risks of teenage oral sex are not as high as those for intercourse or anal sex. Still, oral sex does put teenagers at risk for a variety of STDs including syphilis, herpes, and HPV-related throat cancer. These risks can be reduced by using barriers for both fellatio and cunnilingus. Unfortunately, many teenagers are not aware that safe sex is even an option for oral sex.

A national study looking at the timing of oral sex compared to vaginal intercourse among 15 to 24-year-olds found that around a quarter of young men and women had oral sex first, a quarter had intercourse first, and only around five percent chose to only have oral sex. In other words, oral sex is usually a behavior that happens alongside intercourse, not instead of it. Still, the percentage of people who had only oral sex was much higher among the 15 to 17-year-olds who were still in high school. There, eight percent of young women and 12 percent of young men had only had oral sex.

All things considered, that's not a lot. Research has also shown that having oral sex at a young age may also be a sign of a teenager's intention to engage in other, potentially riskier, sexual activities such as intercourse. One 2010 study found that students who decided to have oral sex were significantly more likely to also explore vaginal sex during high school than those who refrained from oral sex. In fact, most of them waited less than 6 months.

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