More women report experimenting with bisexuality, CDC survery finds

Increase in bisexuality reported among women

September 16, 2005|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

LOS ANGELES - More than half of American teens age 15 to 19 have engaged in oral sex, increasing to nearly 70 percent for those who are 18 and 19, according to the largest federal study of the nation's sexual practices.

The study also found that 11 percent of women age 18 to 44 reported having at least one homosexual experience in their lifetime, up from 4 percent in the last study conducted in 1992.

Taken together, the two findings suggest a possible shift in sexual practices, in which females are using oral and gay sex "as a safer alternative than [vaginal] sex with men," said epidemiologist William D. Mosher of the National Center for Health Statistics, the study's lead author.

"If it is seen as a safer alternative, it is an interesting response to the campaigns to reduce teen pregnancy and to reduce sexually transmitted diseases and HIV," he said.

The study, however, found that only 9 percent of the teens reported using condoms during oral sex. Studies have shown that gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes and the human papillomavirus can all be transmitted in this manner.

"They have not been given a strong enough message about the health risks of oral sex," said Dr. Claire Brindis of the University of California, San Francisco.

James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, a reproductive health organization in Washington, said the study showed that society is undergoing a social transition sexually, with women and girls becoming more sexually confident.

"It calls into question the stereotype of boys as hunters and girls as prey. Something going on here is creating more balance between the sexes than we have seen before."

But Brindis cautioned that some of the apparent increases may represent an increased comfort level in discussing intimate behaviors rather than an actual increase in activity.

Some people may just now "be disclosing information that had probably occurred for decades," she said.

The study, conducted between March 2002 and March 2003, involved in-home interviews of 12,571 people by trained female interviewers.

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