Here's a statistic to temper the perennial hysteria surrounding teen sex: condom use among teenage boys is on the rise.
As part of its National Survey of Family Growth, the CDC discovered that eight in 10 teen boys ages 15 to 19 reported they had used condoms during their first sexual experience. That's 9 percent more teenagers than the last time the CDC checked in, back in 2002. High school kids are still boning at the same rate they were 11 years ago—a little more than 40 percent for both genders—but they're getting smarter about it. Besides the rise of rubbers and the decline of teen pregnancy, the study also found that 16 percent of teen males "double up"—that is, use a condom in combination with a female partner's hormonal method—up from 10 percent in 2002.
In a just world, this heartening news would send a wake-up call to those who claim comprehensive sexual education promotes promiscuity. Teaching kids how to be safe doesn't encourage them to have more sex, just to protect themselves. Condom use is on the rise despite the fact that only 58 percent of schools give kids adequate information about STDs and pregnancy [PDF]; just imagine if that number was 100 percent.
Perhaps the study's most telling find is the number one reason teens gave for staying abstinent: It's not because they are worried about unplanned pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases, but because sex is "against their religion or morals." Teens seem to be aware that our country's push for abstinence has more to do with antiquated ideas of sexual purity than about young people's safety. We have a long way to go—abstinence should be presented as the safest option, rather than the most moral—but at least more sexually active kids have the willpower to wrap it up once they take the plunge.
It's time for us to not only accept that teenagers are sexual people, but also trust them to make the right decisions about their bodies. That is, of course, if we keep our end of the bargain by doling out the facts.