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Over Half of Today’s Teenagers Are Virgins

• November 15, 2013 • 4:00 PM

(PHOTO: ARTENS/SHUTTERSTOCK)

College students are far less sexually active than all of the moralizing makes it seem.

In my lecture about the sex lives of college students, I remind students that they didn’t invent casual sex. This always prompts some snickers. The fact that today’s students have about the same number of sexual partners as their parents did at their age evokes an even stronger response. About 1/5 of college students will be virgins when they graduate college.

In fact, college students aren’t as sexually active as the moralizing makes it seem. And neither, it turns out, are teenagers. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 57 percent of girls and 58 percent of boys age 15 to 19 have never had penile-vaginal intercourse. Moreover, the percent of teenagers that have had intercourse has been dropping consistently over the last 20 years.

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So, despite the fact that young people are more likely than earlier generations to engage in oral sex before initiating penile-vaginal intercourse (especially fellatio), they continue to take intercourse very seriously. This may be, in part, because men are becoming more like women in this regard. Men’s numbers have dropped much more sharply. In addition, for the first time the CDC study found that boys’ number two reason for not having engaged in intercourse was that they were waiting for the right person. Men cited this reason 29 percent of the time, compared to 19 percent for girls. For both boys and girls, the number one reason is that it’s against their religion (41 percent of girls and 31 percent of boys). Concerns about pregnancy come in third.


This post originally appeared on Sociological Images, a Pacific Standard partner site.

Lisa Wade
Lisa Wade, Ph.D., holds an M.S. and Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an M.A. in Human Sexuality from New York University. She is an associate professor at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter @lisawade.

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