Behind The Decline In Teen Sex


Teens are apparently getting it on less often than they used to — and while abstinence-only education may be a factor, it’s not the whole story.

In a study released by the National Center for Health Statistics, 27% of men and 29% of women ages 15-24 reported that they’d had no sexual contact with another person — anal, oral, or vaginal. According to USA Today, that’s up from 22% for both genders in 2002. So teens and young adults are slightly less likely to engage in sexytimes than they were in years past. And all of us crusty old grownups are left wondering why. Some possibilities:

Abstinence-only education

Bill Albert of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy tells the AP that this could be a factor. But since teen sexing actually began to drop back in 1988, it’s probably not the only factor.


Didn’t you know kids all just have sex via cell phone now? But back in 1988 they still had to do it with their human-parts, so this isn’t a real explanation either.

They’re just not telling us about it

The study was based on self-reported data, not on spying on teenagers (which would be creepy and illegal), so it’s always a possibility that the kids are lying. Maybe they’re just sick of all the media coverage of rainbow parties and souping and shit. Maybe adults these days are so obsessed with teen sex that teens are trying harder than ever to keep it to themselves.

They want it to be good

This is kind of a charming interpretation, courtesy of Albert: “more young people may be choosing to wait for a more quality sexual experience, knowing it is more likely to come with maturity.” It’s not clear why more teens would be holding out for quality now than before, though.

Regular sex ed

Even if it’s not explicitly abstinence-only, sex ed can be pretty fucking terrifying. I’m actually surprised anyone from my high school ever had sex at all. Relatedly…


One thing that was happening around 1988 was increased awareness of HIV and its sexual transmission, which could easily have scared some kids off of sex. Also, it seems like nary a day goes by without another scary story about HPV — like that half of all men could be infected with it. Sure, STDs have existed for centuries, but the years since 1988 have seen a growing understanding of exactly how they can fuck you up, and it’s certainly possible that kids are a little more leery about sex as a result. And no doubt they’re turning to safer, more wholesome activities — like drugs.

Sex Study: More Teens, Young Adults Are Virgins [USA Today]
Fewer Teens, Young Adults Having Sex, Study Says [AP, via CBS]

Image via F. Krause/

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