CNN Health recently published an article entitled “Girls’ First Sexual Encounters Are More Likely to Be Unprotected”. A study done by doctoral student Nicole Weller, at Arizona State University, found that adolescent girls were 30% more likely than boys to have sex without contraception during their first sexual encounter. While Weller frames her findings in the context of girls being equally as risk taking as men, this can also be seen in a different light.
Laura Lindberg, senior research assistant at the Guttmacher Institute stated adolescent girls are actually less likely than boys to want to have sex when it happens for the first time and may not always advocate for birth control, if their male partner does not want to use it. Lindberg also found that contraception at first sex is 80% condom usage, a method which depends largely on the boy being willing to use it. These findings indicate that it is not girls being as “rick-taking” as boys, but rather, girls being coerced into unprotected sexual activity.
As a recent post on this blog discussed, reproductive coercion is often a manipulative strategy many abusers use to maintain control over their victims. The feminist blog “The Curvature” discusses how comprehensive sexual health education is important, but without discussion of healthy relationships among adolescents, we will in all likelihood continue to see these increased rates in unprotected sex with young women as well as large numbers of unplanned pregnancies and STI contraction.
When we start to use stigmatizing language to describe first sexual encounters of women as “risky” we negate the very real issue that for as many as 10% of young women’s sexual activity is involuntary (Center for Disease Control, 2009.). This rhetoric reflects victim blaming culture which pervades our culture around issues of sexual assault and relationship violence. In discounting societal and sexist pressures which have a dramatic impact on young girl’s view of themselves and self esteem, we do a great disservice to attempting to understand young women’s difficulties surrounding sexuality.
At FVPC we are committed to working with adolescents on a variety of topics including what healthy, respectful relationships look like. Our Start Strong and Save the Date programs address the dating concerns of middle and high school students as well as topics such as violence in the home, bullying and safe dating practices.