A new study shows that teens who have sex with both male and female partners are more likely to experience dating violence, and less likely to use condoms.
According to the AP, experts analyzed 17,220 surveys of New York teens, and found that those who reported sex with both genders suffered more dating violence than others, and were more likely to be sexually assaulted. They were also more likely to have unprotected sex — of teen boys who'd had sex with male and female partners, only 44.1% had used a condom the last time they had sex, compared with 79.8% of boys who only had sex with women, and 62.3% of those who only did so with men. The AP didn't provide the corresponding data for girls, and the study raises a lot of questions — for instance, did the authors take into account encounters between two girls where a male condom would've been inappropriate? Did it differentiate between vaginal, anal, and oral intercourse, or consider other forms of sexual activity? It's hard to get a full picture of kids' practices from the numbers provided, but teens with both male and female partners do appear to face some above-average risks.
Many of these kids do not identify as bisexual — 39.8% of those who reported partners of both genders also listed themselves as "heterosexual or straight." As Dr. Susan Blank of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene explains, this means "our public health prevention messages really need to look at behavior, not identity" — that is, teens need sex ed geared to what they're actually doing, not what sexual orientation they fill out on a form. The lack of resources for kids who don't feel their sexuality fits into a specific box — or who aren't yet ready to identify as anything but straight — may contribute not just to unsafe sex practices but to violence too. It's possible that teens are unwilling to come forward about abuse if they feel their relationships don't fit in to predetermined models. In order to help them, we need to deemphasize restrictive categories of sexuality, and emphasize that every sexual encounter needs to be consensual, respectful, and safe.
Teens Who've Had Sex With Boys And Girls At Risk, Study Suggests [AP, via USA Today]
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