WASHINGTON – Slightly more than half of American teenagers ages 15 to 19 have engaged in oral sex, with females and males reporting similar levels of experience, according to the most comprehensive national survey of sexual behaviors ever released by the federal government.
The report released Thursday by the National Center for Health Statistics shows that the proportion increases with age to about 70 percent of all 18- and 19-year-olds. That figure is considerably higher for those who also have engaged in intercourse.
A report by the center nine months ago, based on the same survey, showed that slightly more girls than boys have intercourse before they turn 20. In addition, other national data indicate that the proportion of high school girls who have one-night stands, as well as nonromantic sexual relationships, equals boys.
The entire survey, administered in 2002 and 2003, includes a variety of findings about sexual behaviors among 15-to 44-year-olds. For example, almost 11 percent of young women ages 15 to 19 said they had had some kind of sexual experience with a female partner, a figure that also held true for 15-to-44-year-old women in general. Proportions of men reporting same-sex activities were lower.
The findings on oral sex among teens are sure to stir debate over abstinence-only sex education. Supporters of such programs say they have resulted in young people delaying intercourse, but opponents say they also have led young people to substitute other behaviors, especially oral sex. The new data tend to support this view, showing that nearly one in four virgin teens has engaged in oral sex.
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