Girls lead way in tearing down sex taboos (USA)
Young women lead the way in tearing down sex taboos: new US survey
Oct 04, 2005 2:09 AM US/Eastern
Young women are leading the way in tearing down sexual taboos in North America, where teenagers are having more sex at a younger age than their parents and grandparents, a new survey showed.
Freewheeling young women in the United States and Canada first have intercourse at the age of 15, partake more in oral sex than previous generations and are far less prudish, according to a landmark new report by researchers at California's San Diego State University.
Between 1943 and 1999, the age of first intercourse dropped to 15 from 19 for females, while the percentage of sexually active young women rose to 47 percent from just 13 percent in 1943, according to the study that appears in the most recent issue of the Review of General Psychology.
"Feelings of sexual guilt plummeted, especially among young women. Attitudes toward premarital sex became dramatically more liberal over the same period," the analysis of 530 studies spanning five decades and involving more than a quarter of a million young people said.
Over the same 56-year period, approval of premarital sex increased from 12 percent to 73 percent among young women, while the figure rose from 40 percent to 79 percent among young men, according to the study.
"The change in young women's beliefs about premarital sex was enormous," said Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University who co-authored the report with Brooke Wells of City University of New York.
"Cultural influence was so much stronger for women than men, and that was true across behaviors. The attitudes that parents have is also an influence," Twenge said about the report that tracked "Baby Boomers," "Generation X" and the current generation of young people, whom Twenge calls "Generation Me".
The study revealed that the massive cultural revolution that swept North America in the past 30 years had contributed dramatically to the shift as movies and television shows tacked formerly taboo topics such as teenage pregnancy, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases and rape.
"This shift to more liberal sexual attitudes and behaviors, commonly deemed the 'sexual revolution', has dramatically altered American culture, especially for women," the report said.
The Baby Boomers of the 1950s and 1960s began having sex for the first time in college, while youngster of today are having sex for the first time in high school. "There's been a major shift there," Tweng said.
But, while their baby-boomer ancestors were having less sex with more people, young people now, faced with an AIDS epidemic, have more sex with fewer partners, the report indicated.
The sexual revolution has meant that sexual practices that were frequently reviled by earlier generations -- especially oral sex -- were becoming far more acceptable and widespread.
The percentage of teenagers and young adults having oral sex increased from 48 percent in 1969 to 72 percent in 1993 among young men, and from 42 percent in 1969 to 71 percent in 1993 among young women, the report said.
"Oral sex has become so popular. In previous generations, oral sex was considered disgusting. Now young people see it as another way of being sexual," Twenge said.
"It's also part of the general trend of sexual behavior moving away from marriage and reproduction and toward pleasure."
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