Sexual activity rises among young people

It’s on the cover of all the magazines: “Orgasms Guaranteed,” “The Bag-Your-Man Plan,” “Secret Sex Strategies.”

It’s in the movies, and it’s all over Thursday night television.

Sex is everywhere.

Young people are having sex more often and at a younger age, according to a recently released study. And despite the risks of pregnancy and disease, college students are doing it, and some are doing dangerously.

Most American teenagers have sex by the time they’re 18 years old, according to a recent review of sexual behavior in the United States published by the American Psychiatric Press Inc.

The findings go along with what most students say – sex is common on college campuses.

The report also found that the majority of young adults ages 18 to 24 have “multiple, serial sex partners.”

“It’s like kids in a candy store,” freshman Randy Shefshick said.

“I’ve come back to Thurston and seen some crazy (sexual) stuff,” said Shefshick, an international affairs major. “There’s no restrictions and sex is easier to have.”

“Sexual encounters are definitely greater (in frequency) in college than in high school,” sophomore Chad Silver said. “Alcohol has a lot to do with it, though, because it lowers your inhibitions.”

With these increased encounters, however, comes the increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. According to the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, it is estimated that one in five Americans is infected with an STD.

With the rapid spread of STDs among 18 to 25-year-olds, it’s essential to use protection, said Abba Sarhan, who volunteers as a Peer Educator through HIV and Other Sexual Health Peer Educators (HOPE).

“First we preach abstinence, but if you do decide to have sex you need to use protection,” Sarhan said. “It’s not a mixed message, it’s just being realistic.”

Trojan Condoms reports on its Web site that condom use among non-married women tripled between 1982 and 1996. What do these statistics mean for students?

Most students who were asked about protection from the dangers of sex had little to say. The consensus seemed to be that protection is necessary, with no need to elaborate.

“It’s a necessary evil,” Shefshick said.

“Protection comes from caution,” Silver said.

“The safest sex is abstinence, and not many people can argue with that,” said Jeff Marootian, a sophomore peer educator. “In college, students are making their own decisions and relying on their own intuitions, and we encourage healthy responsible decisions.”

In regards to contraception, the facts look a bit grim.

The National Organization for Women reports that birth control pills fail six percent of the time, and condoms fail 14 percent of the time.

“Early college-aged women show the highest percentage of contraceptive failure during the first 12 months of use (25.9 percent),” state E.F. Jones and J.D. Forrest, who co-authored a 1992 article in Family Planning Perspectives. “Older college-aged women rank second, not far behind at 18 percent.”

Obviously, not everyone practices abstinence.

HOPE deals with safe sex and HIV/AIDS issues and does on-campus presentations in residence halls and freshman advising workshops.

“It’s difficult to organize a definite idea of how many people are having sex,” Marootian said. “Personally, I know many people who have chosen to be abstinent for their own ideals or because they haven’t found anybody they want to be intimate with. And I know many people who engage in exclusive sexual relationships.

“It’s an issue that needs to be addressed,” he said. “And as peer educators, we don’t preach anything. We just give students facts.

“I lived in Thurston last year, and the truth of the matter is that there’s no way to get a definite feel for what goes on in Thurston,” Marootian said. “I can tell you that not everybody lives up to the Animal House image.”

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