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For Many Teens, Oral Sex Leads to Riskier Activity
Date:11/1/2010

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Nov. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Most teens who engage in oral sex for the first time will have vaginal intercourse within six months, a new poll indicates.

And half the teens who initiate oral sex in ninth grade will have vaginal intercourse before the end of junior year, the survey of California high school students finds.

"Oral sex among adolescents happens," said study lead author Anna V. Song, an assistant professor in the school of social sciences, humanities, and arts at the University of California, Merced. "But there's two contradictory ways it can go from there: There's the possibility that for adolescents oral sex is a gateway to vaginal sex, or instead that it's being used to stave off vaginal sex."

What the researchers actually found was less clear-cut. "Most of the kids report that they're having oral sex and intercourse for the very first time within the same six months," Song said.

Freshman and sophomore years appear to be the critical time period. "Among those who initiate oral sex between 9th and 10th grade, we found that oral sex is significantly related to vaginal sex," she noted. "But once you get through that particular period, that relationship is not there anymore. And that's also true among kids who initiate oral sex before the 9th grade. They are also no more or less likely to engage in vaginal sex."

So, while kids may think of oral sex as "low risk" with respect to sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, its initiation may have a strong predictive tie to future high-risk activities. This finding should guide sex-education and preventive health programs directed toward teens, the authors said.

The study, partially funded by the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, is published online Nov. 1 ahead of print in the Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine.

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