Sex survey finds students tend to be more cautious than liberal

Sophie Bates, Editor in chief

While rates of sexual activity in some categories are increasing locally, an anonymous pen and paper survey of students in all grades and academic levels finds that when it comes to sexual intercourse, sexting and oral sex, students here are less active than their peers nationwide.
Among the salient findings of a survey of 217 students in February: nearly a third of females and 43 percent of males reported that they’ve had intercourse. The National Center for Health Statistics website reports that between 2011 and 2013, 44 percent of American females 15 to 19 and 47 percent of males in that age group had sexual intercourse.
Still, this year’s stats are higher than those found with a similar Griffin survey given here three years ago. For girls, the 2017 rate inched up about a percentage point. For boys, the rate jumped 12 percent. In 2014, 31 percent of females and 28 percent of males reported having sex.
On a related note, the Griffin’s 2017 survey found that most students here – 76 percent – report that they have never had unprotected sex. That’s good news, according to science and health teacher Laura Braly.
“With so many people testing positive for sexually transmitted infections, and sexually transmitted infections, most of them have no symptoms,” she said. “It’s really important for kids to use protection.”

While national figures on the rate of sexting are notoriously difficult to verify, the results of the Griffin survey suggest students here are either on par with peers or may be exercising more caution than peers elsewhere. Fewer than a third of students here (29 percent) indicated that they had ever sent nude photos of themselves.
A 2014 Drexel University study detailed in TIME Magazine found that 54 percent of teenagers nationally admit to sexting. But in a New York Times op-ed a year ago, Amy Adele Hasinoff, author of “Sexting Panic: Rethinking Criminalizaton, Privacy, and Consent,” cited a series of surveys suggesting that only 20 percent to 30 percent of American teens have ever sexted. As TIME noted, the Drexel survey polled college students about their past behavior, which may make that survey’s results more accurate.
Of course, any sexting raises concerns.
“I think nude pictures are not really safe, especially in high school,” senior Taelon Um said. “Nowadays if you send one, then they are probably never going to go away.”

Tirzah Khan

While Braly conceded that generations who didn’t grow up with cellphones have a different attitude to sexting, she too expressed concern that some students may learn only from a hard-life lesson.
“Unfortunately I think that for some people it will take the experience of having somebody do something with a picture that you did not intend for the world to see, something that might cost you the respect of your parents, or your grandparents, or your pastor,” she said. “Or perhaps somebody distributes that picture in such a way that it compromises your employment.”
As for oral sex, this year’s survey found that 35.6 percent of females and 40 percent of males have participated. These numbers are up from three years ago, when 22 percent of females and 38 percent of males reported having oral sex.
Yet, this is a category in which local figures are much more conservative than national figures. A 2005 survey by the government’s National Center for Health Statistics reported that more than half of all teenagers between 15 and 19 have had oral sex, according to a news item published in the New York Times.

Editor-in-chief Meera Rothman, deputy editor Emma Walz, sports editor Patrick Fitzgerald and staff writers Vinny Arciaga, MyKayla Mitchling, Jane Peterson, Emily Levitt, and Lauren Kuhr contributed to this report.