One way to figure out what is really going on in their community is to create some candor about sex. I ask them to answer some brief questions on an index card, anonymously, and ask me their own questions they have about sex.
I've gathered remarkable data over the decades— much of which contradicts the politically-engineered stereotypes you hear about teenage sexuality in the mainstream media.
The main trends I've charted from 1985 to today, are these:
a) fewer young women are orgasmic or masturbate,
b) young people are having sex for the first time later in life, and,
c) some men are reporting that they do not have orgasms, which did not appear at all the first ten years of my survey.
In general, students are less knowledgeable about all aspects of sexuality today than they were fifteen years ago. More significantly, they are more misinformed about basic information like birth control, STD's, pregnancy, etc.
I've done my survey at public and private schools, with students from very different backgrounds. Recently I had a chance to speak to a health class of seniors at a high school in the Central Valley of California. Since the school is so small, and I do want to protect their privacy, I'll leave it at that. Like many schools in this region, all the students were either born in Mexico and raised in the US, or first generation US, with Mexican parents.
As seniors, this is their final semester. Their class is an intensive anatomy and physiology class for kids who want to pursue careers in healthcare after high school. Many of them had a very good idea of where they would be going to college or professional school after graduation.
1. Your gender?
2. Your age?
3. Do you masturbate?
4. Do you have orgasms?
5. Are you attracted to men, to women, or both?
6. Have you “had sex” with another person?
(A consummate sexual experience with another person, according to your definition)
40 students total
All 17-18 years old
83% do masturbate
17% do not masturbate or have orgasms
100% are sexually attracted to girls
33% have not had sex with another person
67% have had sex with another person
71% do not masturbate
44% have orgasms
53% do not have orgasms, or are not sure if they do.
20% are attracted to both men and women
80% are attracted to boys
53% have not had sex with another person
47% have had sex with another person
(1 Female Student Married with Child)
SEX QUESTIONS FROM STUDENTS:
(Underline means male student, italic means female)
What’s the best way to feel pleasure when I have sex?
Can masturbating affect you in the future, like becoming less sensitive?
Why is it when guys have sex it just makes them cooler to their friends, but when girls do it they are labeled sluts? I just don't think it’s fair.
Why do women bleed when they have sex for the first time?
What’s a good way to make yourself relaxed while having sex?
What is the white stuff?
Is it normal to have sex— when once you finish having sex, you still want to have more sex, and you end up having sex twice in a while?
When you get an orgasm what actually happens?
Is the white fluid running out of the vagina an orgasm?
When you have penis-in-vagina intercourse, does it feel like the same as getting an orgasm?
Do wearing cock rings hurt?
Do you have any tips about how to make sex fun? As well as what NOT to do during sex?
How does the guy know how to put his penis in correctly?
What does an orgasm mean?
Why do some penises have a funky taste when you're giving head?
Is sex something you have to learn to do or get good at it— or can you just have sex and hope the both of you like it?
How is it supposed to feel when a girl comes?
What’s a good way to know you really love someone, and not just want them as a close friend?
Why is it so hard to talk about sex with my mom?
Is having a threesome fun?
My boyfriend refuses to use a condom because he say it takes the pleasure away from sex. I refuse to use the pill because of all the funky side effects. Of course I don’t want to get pregnant but that’s where I’m heading. What should I do?
Does sex really tell you whether you love someone?
Why is it that guys are “the man if they have sex, and girls are considered “sluts”?
Do you think culture has a lot ot do with sex?
Why do some teenagers think they’re lame if they don't have sex? I mean, why does it seem wrong to be virgin?
My sexual life with my boyfriend is great. But sometimes he wants me to do stuff that makes me uncomfortable. He understands me, but I wonder if he is bored of the way we do it. He says, “not to worry,” that he understands me, but I still feel uncomfortable, I’m not sure why. Overall we have a really good communication and love each other very much.
Why do a lot of guys not listen to when a girl says “no” to them?
Is it okay to watch porn movies even if you are not interested so much, but you are just curious?
If you’re in a relationship for less than a year, do you think you’re going too fast if sex is already an issue?
When you really DO want to do it, what if you are worried about what other people will think, or say, or if they call you a slut?
Why do some women get sexually aroused by the idea of men having homosexual sex?
What can I do to be better at sex? I don’t feel like I satisfy my boyfriend all the time. Maybe I’m not doing it enough— Like I’m just laying there or something. We’ve been together for a year and a half and I am on the pill because I definitely don’t want to get pregnant.
Is sex really what I need right now or do I just want someone to talk to?
Did you enjoy the first time you had sex?
How old were you the first time you had sex?
How old were you when you had your own sex experience?
Don’t you get tired of so much sex?
Lately we've seen a lot of stories in the mainstream media about white, middle-class young adults who are reluctant to take on the mantle of being "grown-up"— who don't want to drive, seek commitment in a relationship, live on their own, or support themselves financially.
These news features don't mention their race or class background, but it's obvious. The analysts debate whether American young adults are being forced into these decisions because of the terrible economy, or whether it's because they're spoiled, and other hybrid theories.
There's another aspect these surveys have overlooked. In addition to other ways that young adults are staying "kids," they are also avoiding sexual experience with themselves and other people. They are refraining from gaining sexual maturity. It's a strange part of our culture, because in the past, we expected 20-somethings to have a certain maturity from their social/sexual relationships. Now we're seeing 30-year-olds talking and behaving as their parents did as seniors in high school.
This generational group is having a "delayed growing up." The challenge is that of course, our young people's bodies are maturing earlier, and women's fertility is not changing at all, except getting more compromised by age and environment.
Young people have a conflict between their body's "readiness" and their mind readiness. Now, I'm not promoting that all women should get pregnant at 18, just to take advantage of their healthy uterus... please don't misunderstand me. I'm talking about something psychological that's happening on a big scale.
When young people first have sex, and begin to experience the world of intimacy with another, they have these "A-ha!" experiences where they develop a new, more grown-up sense of introspection, insight into others, responsibility for another person, and so on. You cut the cord in a new way with your parents, you begin to love someone else in a way that you didn't know outside your family before. You develop your own new family, that is chosen.
When this experience is delayed, en masse, what does that do to everyone's consciousness? What is it like having a giant generation of 20-something "virgins"?
This group of teens I surveyed in the Central Valley were not part of this trend. I would say they are typical of most immigrants in this respect, as well as any non-immigrant familes who would be defined as working-class, or poor. These parents literally cannot afford to "infantilize" them.
The students I talked to at this school think of sex, jobs, car-driving, financial power, having their own children, etc., as all part of being grown-up— which is something they feel is inevitable, in both its pleasures and burdens.
In some cases they plan to continue living at home, but they will be a critical part of their families' support, not dependent upon it. I'm not saying they're thrilled with these prospects-- they're worried about all the various pieces of it-- but it's taken for granted, much like what any class of seniors would have been in years past. They reminded me of myself and my friends when we were in high school in the 70s-- a school that was mostly Jewish, middle class, with maybe 25% black, Chicano, and Japanese-American students.
Some other notes on this data:
Interesting that the masturbation stats from men and women are almost exactly reversed.
Young women are incredibly preoccupied with whether they are pleasing their man, rather than being pleased themselves with sex. I find this to be the case in virtually every group of women.
The young men's most urgent questions did not have anything to do with assuring female satisfaction, or what "other people" would think of them for having sex. When I talk to older men students, in college, they tend to get more interested in how to "make a woman come," but it is within the framework of their own orgasm.
I'd love to hear your thoughts about this. Thanks again to the students I surveyed who were so generous and kind with me.