Heterosexual Adolescent Sexual Behavior in the United States Anthony Berry
Introduction to Cultural Anthropology: ANT 101
Professor Mitra Rokni
June 3, 2009
The research conducted in this paper outlines the negative consequences experienced by heterosexual adolescents in the United States while engaging in sexual activity. Focus was placed on the causes attributed with teenagers becoming sexually active and the repercussions of their decisions to partake in the activity. Some of the negative consequences for engaging in the sexual activity, and the frequency of risky behavior associated, are increased contraction of sexually transmitted infections, pregnancies due to inadequate protection, and emotional damages. To substantiate these findings, an inductive approach was used to obtain data utilizing multiple academic library databases, internet resources, scholarly journals, and a textbook. Heterosexual Adolescent Sexual Behavior in the United States
Adolescent innocence has been lost, and the research supports the claim! In the United States, one out of every two adolescents is engaging in sexual behavior, 750,000 become pregnant annually, and fifty percent will contract a sexually transmitted infection. Research of heterosexual adolescent sexual behavior in the United States is leading to alarming proof of negative behavioral and emotional consequences. The prevalent and socially accepted adolescent sexual behavior in the United States has resulted in misguided views, risky activities, negative consequences for those involved, and a lack of effective sex education.
Adolescence in the United States is defined by Miller (2007) as “. . . a person between puberty and marriage” (p. 157). The majority of studies involved in this research are teenagers between the ages of 14 – 19 years of age; their age group will be the focus of this research paper. These adolescents are becoming sexually active in large numbers. According to a study of 15-19 year old teens, they found that “. . . 50% had engaged in vaginal sex, 55% had engaged in oral sex and 11% had engaged in anal sex” (London, 2008, ¶ 2).
Many sexually active adolescents become active because of growing personal stress in their lives. Stress among adolescents is often dismissed by adults but has been proven to be a cause in higher non-monogamous relationships, more unprotected sexual activity, and higher pregnancy rates (Larue & Herrman, 2008, ¶ 12).
In addition to the causes of stress, teens are engaging in sex due to social and partner pressure. In a 2002 survey, adolescents were asked to describe their feelings regarding their first sexual experience: 56% had mixed feelings, 37% said they “really wanted that activity to happen” and 7% said that their first time was “unwanted altogether” (Kaestle, 2009, ¶ 4). This study indicates that some adolescents take part in sexual activity without desiring to do so, either to please their partners or to satisfy perceived social expectations.
Whether the teenagers enjoyed the sexual activity they engaged in or showed restraint by practicing abstinence, there were consequences for their decisions. A 2002 study of high school 9th graders discovered that a large percentage of teenagers experienced both positive and negative emotional or social consequences for their decisions to practice abstinence. The positive consequences for the students’ abstinent behaviors were that “. . . they had had a good reputation, their friends had been proud of them or they had felt responsible.” The negative consequences were “. . . a partner became angry or participants had had a bad reputation, felt regret, felt left out of their group, or felt let down by a partner.” The age of the adolescent did have an affect on the consequences they experienced. The study showed that as the students aged the females reported higher rates of positive consequences than the males, and overall they all experienced less positive...
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