Among sexually active teens, more girls wish they'd waited

May 18, 1994|By Tamar Lewin | Tamar Lewin,New York Times News Service

High school girls are less comfortable with their sexual experiences than their male counterparts, according to a new nationwide survey of high school students.

In a random telephone survey of 503 teen-agers in grades nine through 12 by Roper Starch Worldwide Inc., 36 percent said they had had sexual intercourse, and an additional 5 percent reported having engaged in sex other than vaginal intercourse.

But while 81 percent of the sexually active boys said that "sex is a pleasurable experience," 59 percent of the girls said they felt that way.

Only 46 percent of the sexually active girls said they "really feel good about their sexual experiences so far," compared with 65 percent of the sexually active boys.

In addition, 62 percent of the sexually active girls said they "should have waited until they were older" before having sex, and 48 percent of the boys said that. And 71 percent of the girls said they were in love with their last sexual partner, while 45 percent of the boys said that.

"The gender differences are fascinating," said Dr. Jacqueline Darroch Forrest, vice president for research of the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit group concerned with reproductive health.

"The question is whether it reflects what they're comfortable saying, or whether it's continuing evidence of the differences in how guys and girls feel about sex."

Although the percentage of sexually active teen-agers was lower in the new survey than in previous ones, experts cautioned against drawing any broad conclusions about teen-age sexuality.

"This was a telephone survey of 500 teens, in which there is naturally going to be some underreporting compared to a survey of 11,000 teen-agers using sealed envelopes," said Debra Haffner, executive director of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, a nonprofit group that promotes sex education.

The study, commissioned by "Rolonda," a syndicated television talk show, in association with Ms. Haffner's organization, was conducted last month and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The margin of error for subgroups would be higher: for the 208 sexually active teen-agers, for example, the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 7 percentage points.

"Rolonda" will feature the results today. The show airs at 10 a.m. today on WJLA-Channel 7 and at 11 a.m. on WJZ-Channel 13.

Among the sexually active teen-agers, the average age they re

ported for their first intercourse was just under 15 years. Most of the high school students who said they had sex reported doing so in family homes, with 41 percent saying sex generally took place in their parents' home, and 31 percent saying it was generally at their partner's. Nine percent said they usually had sex in a car.

Dr. Forrest said those findings were "not out of line with what other researchers have found."

Of the sexually active teen-agers, 59 percent reported that they always used birth control, and 11 percent said they "practically never" did.

Ten percent said they had had a sexual experience for which they had not given their consent, and 8 percent said they had been under the influence of alcohol or drugs when they first had sex.

Only 2 percent said they had had a sexual experience with someone of the same sex.

Asked their opinions about the right age to start having sexual intercourse, the high school students, on average, said 18 years old. The teen-agers who had already had sex said 17, but the virgins said 19 years old.

The report "Teens Talk About Sex" is available for $12 from SIECUS Publications, 130 W. 42nd St. Suite 2500, New York, N.Y. 10036.

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