Teens Mistakenly Consider Oral Sex Safe, CDC Says
Many teens mistakenly consider oral sex safe, according to a new report by the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Teens view it as a safe alternative to vaginal sex, but are not aware that many diseases can be transmitted through the act.
Researchers found that in the 15-19-year-old group, 41 percent of females and 47 percent of males admitted to having oral sex. Forty-three percent of females admitted to giving oral sex, compared to 35 percent of males.
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As the teens got older, the rate of oral sex increased -- approximately 80 percent of both males and females had engaged in oral sex, according to the report.
Experts said that oral sex doesn't have the stigma that vaginal sex does, and that teens view it as a safe alternative to intercourse.
"In our culture, there was a time when the president suggested that oral sex wasn't sex, and that is still with us, to some degree," Geoffrey Michaelson, a psychologist who specializes in sexuality, told ABC News. "Intercourse, frankly, is considered more intimate, the last step in the baseball analogy. "
However, Michaelson said that teens who consider oral sex "safe" are deluding themselves.
"There is a whole mystique about what is OK and what is not OK, but it's all self-delusion," he said. "From my point of view, any exchange of body fluid, touching, fondling or arousal, that is sex."
Oral sex can transmit the human papillomavirus, genital warts, herpes and hepatitis, according to the CDC.
Deborah Tolman, a professor of psychology at Hunter College in New York City, said we need to better understand why teens are engaging in these risky activities if we want to curb the rate.
"In order to support safe decisions, we have to recognize the meaning of these behaviors and how heterosexual relationships are negotiated," she told ABC News. "Our girls need to know they are entitled to make a choice. They are engaging in behaviors out of various forms of pressure -- relationship and emotional pressure."
Ultimately, parents need to teach their children about safe sex, Leslie Kantor, vice president for education for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told NBC News.
"We need to make sure that young people have the skills to negotiate what they do and don't want to do in sexual relationships, as well as education about and access to condoms and birth control so that they can protect themselves from STDs and pregnancy and remain healthy," she said.
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