A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed 4,662 teenagers regarding sex, birth control, STDs and pregnancy found that the primary reason both males and females between the age of 15 and 19 abstained from sex was because sexual intercourse was “against religion or morals”.  Interestingly, they were least likely to be concerned about STDs.

As reported on CNN, “the report [also] found that the rate of teenagers having sex has declined slightly from the last report released in 2002, but this change was not substantial.  It follows the overall trend of decline in teenage sex in the last 20 years.”  According to the study, 43% of females in the 15-19 range reported having sex at least once and 42% of males reported having sex at least once.

I remember being surprised by the study’s results in 2002, and I’m surprised again. Whenever I work with teens, they seem to believe that all of their friends are hooking up, and many of them are experimenting sexually in ways people in my class never would have, which makes me wonder whether the CDC should broaden its definition of sex.  What would they find if they asked teens about oral sex, which seems to be “no big deal” among teens today, or even anal sex, which has become shockingly common on college campuses today?

Many of our teens, including the “good Christians”, may put off vaginal intercourse, to remain “virgins”, while engaging in every other sexual act imaginable.  Could this be why the study also found that while the percentage of teenagers who engage in sexual intercourse has declined, their STD rate continues to grow?  As the study revealed, although teenagers represent only about a quarter of the population, they compromise 50% of all new STD cases.

The fact that many teenagers shrug off or make light of STDs seems like a growing problem given the potential serious health risks associated with STDs.  For you parents out there, are you incorporating more than just “vaginal sexual intercourse” into your conversations with your kids?  Are you talking about STDs?  Oral sex?  Establishing boundaries that are beyond just saying no to “vaginal sexual intercourse”?  I hope so, for the emotional, spiritual and physical health of your kids.