Young Wait Longer for First Sexual Activity

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Updated: 3/25 4:46 am

March 3, 2011 -- Young men and women may be waiting longer before having their first sexual experiences than they did just a few years ago, a new CDC study indicates.

According to a study based on 13,500 interviews with men and women, more than 25% in the 15-24 age range say they have never had any sexual contact with another person.

The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics says that 27% of males and 29% of females said during the 2006-2008 period that they had never had sexual contact with another person.

That is up from 22% of males and females in the same age group who gave that answer in 2002.

Other key findings of the report:

  • More than half of young people between ages 15 and 24 say they engaged in oral sex before ever having vaginal intercourse.
  • 57% of white youths ages 15 to 24 said they had engaged in oral sex before vaginal intercourse, compared to 39% of African-American or Hispanic young people.
  • 94% of women and 96% of men identify themselves as heterosexual or straight, and 1.1% of women and 1.7% of men identify as gay.
  • The percentage of women who report they are bisexual was more than three times as high as men: 3.5% for women compared to 1.1% for men.
  • Women ages 15 to 44 are more than twice as likely to have had a same-sex experience as men. About 12.5% of women and 5.2% of men reported a same-sex experience in the 2006-2008 period.
  • Women who have had four or more male sex partners also are more likely to have had a female sex partner, compared with women who have had no male partners or women who have had only one male partner.
  • 98% of females and 97% of males report in the 2006-2008 period that they had engaged in vaginal intercourse.
  • 89% of females and 90% of males report having had oral sex with a partner of the opposite sex, and 36% of females and 44% of males report having had anal sex with the opposite sex.
  • Among teens ages 15 to 19, some 7% of females and 9% of males say they have had oral sex with an opposite-sex partner but no vaginal intercourse.

Sexually Transmitted Infections

Researchers say sexual behaviors, attraction, and self-identity vary by age, marital and cohabiting status, education, and race and Hispanic origin. Behaviors are related to birth and pregnancy rates and also to the incidence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including the HIV virus that causes AIDS. About half of 19 million new STIs occur among people ages 15 to 24, according to the CDC.

The agency says African-American teenagers ages 15-19 had the highest rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea in 2008, followed by African-American females ages 20-24.

Much of the data for the new report were collected via computer-assisted interviewing, which avoids the necessity of respondents giving answers to a person. Among women ages 15 to 44 in the 2006-2008 period, only 11% said they had never engaged in any form of sexual activity with a male partner.

Other key findings:

  • 6.1% of women in that age group had engaged in sex in their lifetime, but no sexual activity in the past 12 months.
  • 69% had engaged in sex with one male partner in the past year, about 8% two partners, and 5% three or more.
  • Among women 25 to 44, only 1.6% said they had never engaged in any form of sexual activity with a male partner, 6.6% reported having sex with a male, though not in the past year, and 82% reported one partner in the past 12 months.

Researchers say that having one partner in the past year was much more common among older women, presumably because more of these women were married. About 11% of men reported no sexual contact of any kind with a female partner in the past year, 6.6% had no opposite-sex partner in the past year, 63% had engaged in sexual activity with one partner, 8.6% with two, and about 10% with three or more.

The CDC says the new report will be useful for planning programs aimed at preventing the spread of sexually transmitted infections and to prevent unintended pregnancies.

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