Support for Teen Sexual Experimentation — Inside and Outside the Current Context

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Debbie says:

Melissa Kravitz’s informative article in Teen Vogue addresses “Why LGBTQ Inclusive Sex Education Is So Important, Experts Say.”

Nearly half of sexually active New York City high school girls could be hooking up with other girls, according to a sample survey in a new study. … The study, published in August in the Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, found that of 4,643 female public school students surveyed, almost half of the sexually active students reported “some same-sex experience.” One in four of these girls can be classified as women seeking women. With only 4.1% of Americans identifying as LGBT in 2016 according to Gallup, these numbers are huge.

In case you don’t click internal links, this study population was about 4600 New York city high school females.

Let’s start with not slut-shaming teens. From Kravitz’s article:

“It’s a reality that many young people are sexually active, and it’s important to not stigmatize sexual behavior or the idea that young people are having sex,” Brittany McBride, senior program manager of sexuality education at Advocates for Youth, said in a phone interview. “Sexuality is a normal, natural part of adolescent development,” McBride said.

But what happens when teenagers experiment within their identified gender?

Regardless of how girls identify, the study found that girls engaging in same-sex activity are at higher risk for suicidal ideation, substance use, intimate partner violence, pregnancy and STIs. Girls who were “not sure” of their sexual orientation reported “engaging in more high-risk sexual and social behaviors” which may lead to girls questioning their sexuality being “particularly vulnerable.”

The rest of the article is spent discussing the barriers to inclusive sex education, the emotional/psychological/social risks of coming out, and a good basic list of resources for supportive information for LGBTQ or questioning teens.

By sticking to New York City and not addressing the national climate, Kravitz is able to close on an optimistic note. And yet, I recently read an unrelated article by the reliably thoughtful Binary This, which quotes Gayle Rubin from “Thinking Sex,” which she wrote 1984: “…it is precisely at times such as these, when we live with the possibility of unthinkable destruction, that people are likely to become dangerously crazy about sexuality.”

Binary This is writing about marriage equality, not teen sexuality. But they make the clear, unambiguous point that we have to confront homophobia and transphobia to move forward. I know how tiresome it can feel to always be confronting the opposition. At the same time, Kravitz’s article is not obviously different than it would have been a year ago, when we didn’t have active hatred for queer sexualities and particularly transpeople as a national position. That feels incomplete to me.

Thanks to @scarleteen on Twitter for the pointer to the Kravitz article.