Teens today may not be growing up too quickly after all. A new study on German youth sexuality revealed on Thursday that boys and girls are waiting longer to have sex and then having less of it than they were just five years ago.
Overall German teens are less sexually active than they were in 2005, according to the Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA) study.
Not only are they older when they lose their virginity, they are also more diligent when it comes to using contraceptives, BZgA director Elisabeth Pott said at the study presentation in Berlin.
"This is an important message, because the impression is often that youths are having sex earlier and more frequently," Pott said. "It is very clear that sexual activity is happening later."
In 2005, some 10 percent of 14-year-old German boys reported having had sexual intercourse, but only four percent said the same in the new study. For 17-year-old boys the number went down by just one percentage point to reach 65 percent. Meanwhile for 14-year-old girls the number dropped from 12 percent to 7 percent, and from 73 percent to 66 percent for 17-year-old girls.
The findings also dispel the notion that today's youth deserve the moniker 'Generation Porno,' a title with which they have been burdened in recent years.
"The interest in pornography is much smaller than feared," said Pott.
Some 3,500 young people took part in the survey in 2009, among them about 1,000 teenagers with an immigrant background.
More boys from immigrant families were sexually active than their German counterparts (72 percent compared to 65 percent), though the numbers were still significantly lower than in 2005.
However, girls from immigrant families were more likely to wait for sex, with 53 percent of the 17-year-olds saying they were still too young. The number was down two percentage points from the 2005 survey and 13 points lower compared to their German counterparts.
Many teens named their own shyness and the lack of a proper partner as reasons for holding back.
“The desire for trust is huge,” Pott said, adding that most teens were in a steady relationship before they went to bed together.
The reasons for the shift to more responsible sexuality among teens are manifold, Pott said, explaining that greater knowledge is a main part of the trend.
“There were times when sexuality was revolutionised and people were against established structures, and that wasn’t just for the ’68 generation,” Pott said. This doesn’t necessarily mean that today’s teens are more conservative than previous generations, but that they have a dominant wish for intimacy and trust.
Just eight percent of German youths said they did not use contraception for their first sexual experience.
“Birth control is going better than ever,” Pott said, saying boys’ behaviour was beginning to be as responsible at that of girls.
A high proportion of German girls and boys (69 and 58 percent, respectively) said they had open conversations with their family about birth control. For children of immigrants this was less common, with half of girls and 41 percent of boys reporting such a conversation.
And for those who feel they can’t talk with their parents, help is often available in schools.
“There is often a trust for teachers, who can answer questions that otherwise no one would answer,” Pott said.
As we had a number of posts on sex and sex education recently, I thought I'd throw in another, optimistic one. I guess this study shows what sex education can do, both in school and outside of it.
The image I posted with the article is a poster by the same government agency which did this study. They have been using images like that for years (small image gallery with more examples), with a high recognition value. If you spend any time in public places in Germany, you have likely seen posters like this. I find they really brighten a dreary subway station. More recently, they have started a series of places where people might have sex, reminding people that they should use condoms in order to enjoy it without risking AIDS. Their campaign is specifically aimed at teenagers.
Accepting the fact that teenagers do have sex really makes it easier to tell them how they can do so safely. Our teen pregnancy rate, according to what I've read, is now at 10 of 1000.
I'm curious: Do you have similar campaigns where you are? If so, post pics!