In Today’s Society…More Teenagers Are Delaying Sex

11.02.2011, 3:18 PM

People who make the case for chastity are frequently greeted with an assertion that goes something like this: ”In today’s society, it’s unrealistic to expect young people to not have sex. You can’t put the genie back in the bottle.”

But an October report by the Centers for Disease Control shows that that assertion is wrong.

From 1988 to 2006-2010, the percentage of never-married males aged 15-19 who have ever had sexual intercourse dropped from 60 percent to 42 percent.

For never-married females aged 15-19, it dropped from 51 percent to 43 percent.

From 2006-2010, of teenagers whose mother has some college or higher, 37 percent of males and 40 percent of females have ever had sexual intercourse.

Of teenagers who live with both biological or adoptive parents, 35 percent of males and 35 percent of females have ever had sexual intercourse.

The latest CDC data remind me of  a 2010 study from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. It found that 87 percent of teenagers agree that “it is important for teens to be given a strong message that they should not have sex until they are at least out of high school.” Yes, you read that right: that’s teens who are saying that their cultural elders need to give them a strong message about waiting to have sex.

In other words, if one opposes chastity, he cannot oppose it in the name of “in today’s society, that’s impossible.” Because the data show that in today’s society more teenagers are waiting to have sex.

11 Responses to “In Today’s Society…More Teenagers Are Delaying Sex”

  1. nobody.really says:

    Search for:
    Center for Marriage and Families
    In Today’s Society…More Teenagers Are Delaying Sex

    Have these teens been talking to my wife again? While I appreciate her many youthful qualities, I appreciate some more than others….

  2. Mont D. Law says:

    Except this totally misrepresents the conclusions the study reaches, which are as follows:

    The trend is up not down:

    Compared with data from 2002, the 2006–2010 NSFG shows that fewer changes occurred in the determinants of pregnancy and STD risk (sexual activity and contraceptive use) as well as the nature and circumstances of sexual experiences. These stand in contrast to the long-term trends from 1988 through 2002 that were more consistently toward reductions in sexual risk behaviors.


    This is a departure from the trends during prior years (for example, 1988 through 2002), when there were declines in sexual activity and increases in contraceptive use among teenagers, consistent with declines in teen pregnancy and birth rates during that period. The lack of change in risk behaviors between 2002 and 2006–2010 is consistent with recent trends in teen pregnancy and birth rates, when despite small fluctuations in rates between 2005 and 2008, the birth rates were essentially the same in 2002 and 2008—years that correspond to the last two NSFG years.
    In 2006–2010 fewer

    Also the study shows:

    A wider use of birth control by teens of both sexes at the same time.

    However, the use of some specific contraceptive methods increased: males’ use of the condom and of dual methods at first intercourse increased, as did their reporting of female pill use and use of dual methods at last intercourse. The 2006–2010 data showed that female teenagers were using a wider array of hormonal methods than was available in previous years: a larger proportion used hormonal methods other than the pill at first sex, and a higher percentage had ever used emergency contraception (14%), the contraceptive patch (10%), and the contraceptive ring (5%).

    And finally it shows:

    That the USA really sucks at keeping it’s teenage girls not pregnant.

    The U.S. birth rate for females aged 15–19 was 39.1 births per 1,000 females in 2009, based on birth certificate data collected in NCHS’ National Vital Statistics System (see Table)(6). Although this was a historic low for the United States, that rate was higher than in a number of other developed countries. For example, according to the latest available data from the United Nations Population Division, the teen birth rate in Canada was 14, or about one-third of the U.S. rate, the rate in Germany was 10 and in Italy, 7, less than one-quarter the U.S.rate.

  3. Susanna says:

    In response to Mont D. Law, I think you will find, if you check the tables after the conclusion, that the numbers are accurate. Your interpretation may vary, but the numbers of sexually active teenagers have dropped significantly since 1988, and slightly since 2002.

  4. Phil says:


    The way that you interpret this study and what it means, in reality, hinges on how you view oral and anal sex, and whether you think these are significantly different from vaginal sex when it comes to “chastity.”

    The CDC Study defines “sex” as “heterosexual vaginal intercourse” only, and disclaims several times that the data do not reflect other type of sexual activity. That clear, bright-line definition might make it easier for surveyors to ask the questions and tally the data, but it does not make for an apples-to-apples comparison between 2006-2010 and 1988.

    Among other things, studies have documented a significant increase in anal sex among American teenagers, a large increase in oral sex among American teenagers, and a drop in the age at which young gay men and lesbians “come out” to their peers and family.

    If your interest is strictly in preventing pregnancy, then a decrease in PIV sex among teens is probably a good thing, provided there is also no decrease in contraception rates. But in that case, only data about pregnancy rates would be relevant to your interest.

    It is technically true to say that “in today’s society, more teenagers are waiting to have sex.”

    It is also true to say, “In today’s society, teenagers’ sexual repertoire has increased, and there has not been a decrease in teen sexual activity since 1988.”

    Interpreting the study also depends on your views about teen marriage. You’ll note that the study tracks “never-married males” aged 15-19 and “never-married females” aged 15-19. I would contend that getting married at the age of 15, 16, and 17 is far more likely to have negative impacts on your life than engaging in an act of sexual intercourse, and while having sex at 18 or 19 is potentially ill-advised, getting married at 18 or 19 is also ill-advised, and probably moreso.

  5. David Lapp says:

    Mont D Law, as Susanna pointed out, you should look at Table 1 on page 14 of the report. You’ll see that the trend from 2002 to 2006-2010 is downward.

    In 2002, 46 percent of never-married males ever had sexual intercourse.

    In 2006-2010, 42 percent did.

    In 2002, 45.5 percent of never-married females ever had sexual intercourse.

    In 2006-2010, 43 percent did.

    The point is that the trend in the last twenty years is that fewer teens are reporting ever having had sexual intercourse.

    That seems like something we can all celebrate and be encouraged by.

    Phil, I realize that many of those people who are waiting to have sexual intercourse are having some other kind of sexual contact. But even with any sexual contact, the trend from 2002 to 2006-2008 is that more people ages 15-24 are reporting “no sexual contact with another person.”

    Specifically, a March study put out by the Centers for Disease Control found that in 2002 22 percent of males and females reported “no sexual contact with another person.” In 2006-2008, 29 percent of women and 27 percent of men reported no sexual contact with another person. (See Table 7 at this link:

    In other words, in the last decade, more young adults are seeking to practice chastity.

  6. David Lapp says:

    Phil, I should add two other stats from the March CDC study.

    I should have specified that in 2002 22 percent of females and males 15-24 years old reported “no sexual contact with another person.”

    In 2006-2008, 45 percent of females 15-19 and 41 percent of males 15-19 reported no sexual contact.

    The report doesn’t give historical data on “no sexual contact” among males and females 15-19.

  7. Christopher says:

    David, I think that says a lot more about is defined as sexual contact by teenagers. Perhaps you are too young to remember “I did not have sexual relations with that woman. Miss Lewinsky.”? Many straight kids now feel that oral or anal sex is not sex per se and “preserves their virginity”. These studies don’t address that reality at all.

  8. Mont D. Law says:

    I didn’t say your data was incorrect just that it misrepresented the conclusions reached by the study. Which I quoted.

  9. People who make the case for chastity are frequently greeted with an assertion that goes something like this: ”In today’s society, it’s unrealistic to expect young people to not have sex. You can’t put the genie back in the bottle.”

    I don’t see how the results you quote disprove this statement. I think that if we give the anti-chastity people the benefit of the doubt, it’s not likely that they’re saying that 100% of young people will inevitably have sex. Obviously, in any group of young people, there will be some who have sex and some who don’t.

    Rather, they’re saying that it’s inevitable that some significant proportion of young people will have sex. And, as the numbers you quote show, they’re right.

    I’m wondering about the context of the conversation, too. If someone is arguing that it’s a waste of time to ever encourage teens to consider chastity, then obviously they’re mistaken; some teens are willing to be chaste.

    On the other hand, if someone is arguing that (for example) abstinence-only education is a bad idea because not all teens will be chaste, then they’re obviously correct.

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