Although arguably more intimate than vaginal or anal intercourse, oral sex is the new third and a half base. To put off taking their relationship to the next level and all of its risky consequences – including pregnancy and STDs – teens are giving their male partners blow jobs and eating out their female partners like it’s no big deal. Unfortunately, they do not realize that these behaviors can also lead to some unwanted party favors.
Between 1973 and 2004, the rate of HPV-related oral cancers among people in their 40s has almost doubled, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins. By “bathing [their throats] with HPV-infected fluid” – possibly THE BEST description of oral sex, I might add – Dr. Bernadine Healy implies that teens are significantly increasing their chances of developing cancer in their tonsils and at the base of their tongues. This is based on the idea that the number of teens engaging in oral sex has significantly increased in recent years. However, sexperts at Guttmacher and SIECUS argue that this might be a misconception: it’s possible that this much oral masturbation has been around for a long time, but teens have just kept it to themselves. Regardless, it is known that rates of STDs are on the rise, and we must protect our youth.
According to Dr. Healy, the solution is simple: scare the beep out of them. In a recent U.S. News and World Report posting, Dr. Healy states that “providing our young people with graphic medical information and stern parental and medical guidance is long overdue.” That’s right, show them gruesome pictures of the worst cases of pharyngeal gonorrhea and oropharyngeal cancer ever documented and then try to convince them that this could happen to them. On top of that, have their parents remind them to abstain from any and all sexual activity, including oral sex, every time they leave their house. Right, that should totally work…
Wrong. As we all know, the scare tactics used by abstinence programs don’t work. Teens look at pictures of mouths, eyes, vaginas and penises with hideous blisters, patches of irritated skin, enflamed lumps, leaky pustules – well, you get the picture – and cannot conceive of the fact that their bodies would ever look like that after a few hookups. Although they need to be aware of the risks, it is more important to empower children to practice safe sex.
Also, what kid listens to everything their parents say? I mean, how many of you did things just because your parents told you not to, especially when their only explanation for not taking part in something seemingly fun was “Because it’s dangerous.” Does not the term adolescent refer to a developmental stage during which humans engage in rebellious acts? All hope it not lost, however; children do listen to their parents, but only when parents are truly willing to talk to them about things. Healy’s “stern guidance” is not the answer.
While Dr. Healy acknowledges that teaching safe sex is important, the doctor fails to recognize some of the less obvious downfalls of close-but-not-quite comprehensive sexuality education. The answer truly is a combination of comprehensive sexuality education for both parents and teens, including how to engage in open conversations regarding sexuality. Although some adults in positions of power do not know this, teens everywhere are beginning to fight the good fight. Just this week, junior high school students in Utah were lobbying lawmakers for better sex education. Because their parents know so little, they need teachers to tell them “how to have protected sex.” If children can understand that they will at some point need to know how to protect themselves from STDs and pregnancy, why can’t lawmakers?
Stephanie at Duvall