Teenagers and Sex
From Encyclopedia of Sex and Sexuality
Whether American society approves of it or not, sexual activity is common among adolescents. Teenagers are at a biological apex of energy, enthusiasm, and sexuality, and stern adult warnings to control their behavior do not often succeed. Physically, teenagers are biologically ready for sex. This does not mean that teenagers must engage in intercourse or that they cannot learn to approach sex responsibly or practice abstinence until they are married. It simply means that sexuality is a force that must be considered.
The number of adolescents having intercourse has steadily increased during the second half of this century. A generation ago, fewer than half of young Americans had sexual intercourse before marriage. Today, one-third of all adolescents have had intercourse by age fifteen. By age twenty, nearly 80 percent have experienced sex.
Adults must recognize that sexual feelings are a natural part of growing up and sexual curiosity and exploration are natural results of maturation. Yet, however natural sex may be for teenagers, there is good reason for adults to be concerned. More than one million teenage girls become pregnant each year in the United States, and 84 percent of these pregnancies are unintentional. The Center for Population Options estimates that 41 percent of these pregnancies could be avoided if all sexually active teenagers used contraception, but only one-third of all sexually active teenagers say that they always use contraceptives.
There is also a growing problem of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Every year, 2.5 million teenagers are infected with a sexually transmitted disease - approximately one out of every six sexually active teenagers. Young people may believe they are invulnerable, but the fact is that when they engage in sex they are at risk. AIDS, too, is on the rise within the teenage population.
It is not a good idea for teenagers to deny their sexuality - sex, after all, is a natural part of life - but they must understand that a sexual relationship can have consequences and must, therefore, be approached in a responsible manner There are plenty of ways to be sexual without endangering oneself or becoming pregnant.
Teenagers who have made the decision to have intercourse must use contraception. The most common methods of birth control for teenagers are oral contraceptives and condoms. Of sexually active teenage girls who practice contraception, 64 percent rely on the pill, while 21 percent rely on condoms. Both methods are easily available: condoms can be purchased in any drug store and, in most cases, girls can get prescription contraceptives a Planned Parenthood without the clinic notifying their parents.
Teenagers must never feel obligated to engage in intercourse. If a teenager has doubts or thinks that he or she might later regret having sex, it is probably a good idea to wait. The decision to become sexually active must not be based on what others think. After all, there are always other sexual options.
Masturbation is an acceptable way of releasing sexual tension. About 80 percent of adolescent girls and 90 percent of boys masturbate with frequencies ranging from once a day to once a week. Masturbation is a normal, safe, and readily-available sexual experience (although some religions forbid it). For most teenagers, masturbation is the most frequent sexual outlet. It is also a good way for a young person to discover t he kinds of touching that bring him or her the most pleasure.
Some adolescents especially boys, masturbate together or masturbate each other. This kind of experimentation is normal and does not mean they are gay. Girls may also touch or rub each other and it does not mean they are lesbians. Sexual curiosity is very intense during adolescence, and can naturally lead to different types of exploration. Of course, if a teenager is certain that he or she is gay, it is probably a good idea to find someone with whom he or she can talk about it. Many cities have support groups for young people who think they might be gay. But it is also important for teenagers to know that many heterosexual adolescents experience crushes on a person of the same sex.
While teenagers often rush headlong into sexual intercourse, sometimes before they are really ready to handle it, this is often because there is not a lot of good information available on safer sex. Teenagers are often pressured by peers or influenced by the media to thing that intercourse in the only way to have sex. For many teenagers "outercourse" (bringing a partner to orgasm without intercourse) is actually a better option. Outercourse can involve an entire range of sexual activity - playing with a partner’s genitals, exploring their whole body, Kissing, or Oral Sex. It reduces the chances of STDs and can be extremely pleasurable. Girls consistently have more orgasms and boys have the opportunity to learn better love-making techniques. Outercourse compels a couple to slow down and explore the kinds of touching that give the most pleasure, and it teaches sensitivity to a partner’s needs. Outercourse is a wonderful way for teenagers to enjoy their sexuality.
If teenagers to decide to engage intercourse, they must recognize some important ground rules. If they think they are old enough to have sex, then they must be adult enough to do it with respect - for themselves and their partner. They must respect their partner’s tastes, and never do things just for their own pleasure. They must not pressure their lovers into doing something they do not want to do. They must not lie to get what they want. They must protect their partners against pregnancy and STDs. Sex should never become just "scoring".
 Teenage pregnancy
Sometimes, even when acting responsibly, a teenage girl becomes pregnant. An unwanted pregnancy can be a frightening experience. When a boy makes a girl pregnant, he is likely to be anxious or even terrified by the situation and ignorant about where to turn for help. The first thing he should do is talk things over with the girl. The pregnancy is taking place in her body, and ultimately she is the one who will have to decide what to do, hopefully with his agreement and support. For the girl, pregnancy can cause fear and guilt. She must not waste a lot to time trying to deny it. If a teenage girl thinks she may be pregnant, the first thing she must do is find out whether she really is pregnant. If she feels she cannot discuss this with her parents, she should talk to a counselor or other health professional. Counselors at Planned Parenthood will keep their meetings with a girl confidential. If a girl discovers that she is pregnant, she should ideally discuss her options with her parents. Sometimes, however, there are compelling reasons why she cannot, and Planned Parenthood’s counselors can offer further help.
There are generally four options available to a teenage girl if she becomes pregnant:
- Have an abortion.
- Keep the baby and raise it by herself.
- Keep the baby and marry the father.
- Have the baby and give it up for adoption.
The girl should consider her options carefully, weighing all the pros and cons. She may be pressured by her parents, boyfriend, girlfriends, and others, but the decision is hers alone She must live with whatever follows her decision.
Four out of ten teenagers with unwanted pregnancies have abortions. The decision to have an abortion is never easy, and many girls feel sadness or guilt over it. But the overwhelming emotion most teenagers feel is relief. They can choose to have babies later in their lives, when they are able to provide them with lots of love and care.
 Keeping and Raising the Baby
Each year more than half a million teenagers decide to keep their babies. Some of them end up feeling trapped, resentful, and cheated of their childhood. It is not easy to raise a baby even under he best of circumstances. A teenage girl may ask herself is she prepared for the responsibility of motherhood. For some, however, this is the best choice, and a very rewarding decision.
 Marrying the Father and Raising the Child Together
For older teenager girls, and especially ones who are already engaged the chances of feeling good about keeping the baby are better than if they are young and alienated from the baby’s father. Many couples who marry because a baby is on the way end up in miserable or broken marriages. Marrying for the sake of a baby is very risky.
 Giving the Baby up for Adoption
Each year thousands of teenagers choose this option. They realize that they are too young or too alone to be the kind of mother they would like to be. Some may ask how they can give their baby away. But for girls with religious or other objections to abortion, it is, in fact, very courageous to offer their baby to a couple that desperately wants a child and is able to give on the future it deserves.
None of these choices is easy. Certainly the best situation for a teenage girl is never be forced to make such a decision. But pregnancy, is a real possibility if one is having sexual intercourse, and contraception must always be used. If a teenager is not ready to deal with that fact responsibly, then he or she is not ready for intercourse.