Here is a bit of welcoming news: American teenagers are not having sex at the same rate teens did a decade ago, according to Newsweek.
The story was actually about the proliferation of erotic magazines on college campuses, including Boston University. But, the ironic thing is these same students who are writing sex columns are not actually having sex, which is part of a larger trend among teens.
Apparently, when it comes to sex, write what you know doesn't always apply. "Everyone assumes because of the magazine that I'm sleeping with everything that walks," says Alecia Oleyourryk, editor of Boston University's Boink, who posed nude for the first issue. The magazine claims 40,000 subscribers, and has spawned the new book "Boink: College Sex by the People Having It." "It's not the case. Respective to my girlfriends, I'm the most prudish." Oleyourryk's comments reflect the findings of a new survey by the American College Health Association. When asked to estimate how many sexual partners their peers had had during the past schoolyear, college students guessed three times the number of partners they'd had. "Even people involved in extreme behavior think their friends are more extreme," says Kathleen Bogle, author of "Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus." The study also found that for male students, the number of sexual partners in the previous year has dropped, from 2.1 in 2000 to 1.6 in 2006. According to a Centers for Disease Control survey, the number of ninth- to 12th-grade students who have had sex dropped almost 10 percent, to fewer than half of respondents, between 1991 and 2005. And a 2001 study found that 39 percent of freshman college women were virgins, and 31 percent of those women still hadn't had sex by senior year. In 2006, nearly half of Harvard undergrads who responded to a survey reported they had never had intercourse.
The slight decline may be explained by increased awareness of the potential downsides of sex, such as STDs or on-campus abstinence movements such as Harvard's True Love Revolution student group, says Victor Leino, research director for the ACHA.
While a good chunk of teens are having sex, I bet our perception of how widespread it is is shaped by media hype. The statistic on how even students thought their peers were having more sex is very telling.
Why, then, are these college students writing about sex they are not having? The obvious answer is to distribute more information about sex. But the shrewd students said it would bring them job opportunities following graduation.
"People think it's a stigma, but I think we're in changing times, and it can open doors for me," says Oleyourryk, who recently moved to New York and is looking for work as a waitress while she continues publishing Boink. "I continually tell my mom this is a great résumé builder," she says, though she's vague about what she'll use her résumé for. Though the young sexpert's optimism may seem naive, it's not necessarily misguided, says Pepper Schwartz, a sociologist at the University of Washington. "Maybe their generation will take this a lot less seriously than we do," she says. In the age of MySpace and Facebook, sex may be just one more way to network. "To me, talking about sex and one-night stands is superficial. What I keep out of the column is the intimate stuff," says Bromberg, adding that she wouldn't write about a serious relationship.