New study debunks 'technical virginity' among teens

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A study that will be published in the July issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health found that teenagers do not appear to commonly engage in oral sex as a way to preserve their virginity, contrary to a claim by abstinence opponents that such pledges had resulted in a generation of so-called technical virgins.

The study, ironically conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, the research arm for Planned Parenthood, said analysis of a federal survey of more than 2,200 males and females age 15 to 19 found that 55 percent reported having oral sex. But those who described themselves as virgins were far less likely to say they had tried it than those who had engaged in intercourse, The Washington Post reported.

"That suggests that oral and vaginal sex are closely linked," Rachel Jones of the Guttmacher Institute said. "Most teens don't have oral sex until they have had vaginal sex."

Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, said the study invalidates the suggestion that technical virgins account for the rise in oral and anal sex among the nation's youth.

"Sexually experienced teens were almost four times more likely to engage in oral sex and 20 times more likely to engage in anal sex than their peers who were virgins," Huber told The Post.

The NAEA called on health professionals and educators to address the risk of sexually transmitted diseases associated with oral and anal sex by redoubling abstinence education efforts in light of the study.

"Teens are confronted with the dominant cultural message that says that sex, in all its varieties, is expected behavior and without consequence," Huber said. "It's a message young people receive not just from mainstream media but in classrooms that teach so-called comprehensive sex education. ...

"This research shows that risk begets risk, so the risk avoidance approach of abstinence-centered education remains the healthiest message for teens to receive," Huber said.