Teenagers: Sex and snogging
Whether they're just thinking about it or doing it, sex takes up a lot of a teenager's time. This new, unknown territory is a cause for concern, excitement and exploration.
For both boys and girls, the key to sexual drive is the sex hormone 'testosterone'. When testosterone levels reach a certain threshold, teenagers start thinking about sex. But this does not mean they start having sex. Girls are only likely to get involved in sex if their social environment encourages it - if their friends are already involved, or if their parents are permissive, for example.
But in boys, high levels of testosterone seem to lead to sexual activity regardless of their social surroundings. This may be because boys grow up in an environment in which sexual behaviour is tolerated, even encouraged, so it only takes the biological trigger to start their sexual activity.
Changing role models
Attitudes towards sex in the adult world have a huge influence on teenagers. Many of the taboos about sex that operated thirty years ago have almost completely disappeared.
Teenagers know that adults have sex outside marriage and they understand the sexual references being made in much of the advertising that surrounds them. Often these are connected with lust rather than the traditional values of love.
So it's no surprise that they themselves are following the trend and becoming much more open about sex. As well as taking part in sex earlier, teenagers are experimenting more and are often participating in oral sex.
Protection and sex
Since the campaign to prevent the spread of AIDS, teenagers have become more aware of safe sex issues, but this does not mean they are responding to the messages.
Most teenagers know they should use a condom, yet they still find it excruciatingly embarrassing to buy them. There is a reluctance to carry condoms because of the implication that they are expecting to have sex. Plus, in the heat of the moment, a young person may well lack the confidence to interrupt proceedings and ask for a condom to be used.
The difficulty parents and children feel when discussing sex is part of the problem. Studies have shown that teenagers get the vast majority of their information about sex from their friends. This is likely to be less accurate than information from their mum and dad.
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