It’s the age of safe sex…right? Not exactly.
Natalie Stevens, MD, a gynecologist from New York, was recently talking to a patient in her 30s about oral sex. The patient mentioned that many people in their 20s aren’t using condoms during oral sex. “She told me how no one her age would have considered not using a condom, but it is not as common among persons in their 20s,” Stevens said.
In her own practice, Stevens said many patients are unaware about the risks of transmission—especially from oral sex. And especially younger women.
“They report a stigma related to condom use as well as an underlying sense of invincibility,” she said. “Very few patients are using condoms with oral sex.”
Stevens said the fact that teens and women in their 20s aren’t using condoms during oral sex is concerning due to rising numbers of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Sexually active students in the 15- to 24-year-old age group reporting condom use decreased from 63 to 57 percent between 2003 and 2015.
“This trend is causing a major health risk for this generation,” she said.
Why Are We Skipping Safe Sex?
A study published last year in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that adolescents and young adults who regularly engage in oral sex weren’t using condoms.
When researchers looked at how many heterosexuals were using condoms, they found that not many were using protection. In fact, of more than 7,000 Americans between the ages of 15 and 24, more than half of them had oral sex in a one-year span—but just 8 percent of gals and 9 percent of guys used a condom.
“Many studies show that adolescents and young adults are unaware of the health risks associated with oral sex,” said Giuseppina Valle Holway, a sociology professor at The University of Tampa in Florida, told Reuters.
Unsafe Sex Prevalent Across Orientations
The news comes on the heels of a more recent report about female teens being unaware that they can get STIs from those of the same sex.
Of 160 teens 14 to 18 years old who self-identified as being gay or bisexual, many said they were unaware about safe sex practices between same sex partners because school education focuses only on safe sex between partners of the opposite sexes.
“Participants told us, they ‘literally had never heard of dental dams,’ or thought STIs weren’t a concern when having sex with girls. Of those who knew about protective barriers, many said using protection made sex awkward or less pleasurable, and so they left them out during sex,” Jennifer Wolowic, a researcher at the University of British Columbia, said in a statement. That study also was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
“What surprised us was their overall lack of knowledge when it came to safe sex practices with female partners,” said Wolowic. “When we asked why, many told us they didn’t find their sex ed programs–if they even had one–to be very informative. And even when they asked questions, the focus on heterosexual sex made them feel uncomfortable.”