The Kids Are Boning Less

Photo: Getty
Photo: Getty

Kids these days just aren’t that into each other, according to a new report released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report, based on nationally representative survey data of children living in 29 states, found that the “proportion of high school students nationwide who had ever had sexual intercourse decreased significantly during 2005–2015 overall.”

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In 2005, 46.8 percent of high schoolers from grades 9-12 said they had ever had sex; by 2015, that number dropped to 41.2 percent. The drop continues a steady pattern of waning teen lust—in 1995, about 53 percent of teens said they had gone all the way. The decline in sex wasn’t spaced out evenly by age or gender, though.

White students of any grade, after accounting for other factors, didn’t have significantly less sex in 2005 than they did in 2015. Black students did experience a significant drop across all grades, as did Hispanic students in three grades. Overall, the decreases in teen sex were only noticeable among students in the 9th and 10th grade. The rate of teen sex in the 11th and 12th grade stayed about the same.

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Why exactly this behavioral shift is happening is still a bit of mystery, though scientists have reached for explanations ranging from the positive (less lead poisoning) to the negative (the rise of smartphones killing teen romance). The CDC authors, for their part, note that the U.S. has experienced profound shifts in technology, the use of social media by kids, and how sex ed and teen pregnancy prevention programs have been run and funded since 2005 (for example, the decline of Bush-era abstinence programs, which actually led to more kids having sex).

Health-wise, less teen sex tends to be a good thing. These numbers square with reported lower rates of teen pregnancy in recent years.

This report is only the latest to suggest that teens today are actually more responsible than their parents were at their age: Other studies have shown they do drugs less and commit less crime than kids did in the 1990s and 1980s.

Science writer at Gizmodo and pug aficionado elsewhere

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DISCUSSION

I wonder how much the fear of being accused of sexual assault is playing a part. Back in my day, we never really heard much of it in the news, but it’s become an increasingly public story (well deserved). You didn’t worry about someone saying you assaulted them the way they might today since it wasn’t as in the public consciousness as it is now (and no, I am not condoning initiating sexual contact without permission or saying that’s just what happened back then, just that the fear based on what’s happening now is impacting things differently)

Back then if you were making out with someone and put your hand on their butt you might get a “slow down” but I could see kids now being afraid of much stronger consequences and that fear leading to less initiation of sexual activity.

It’s a very weird, apathetic time—kids don’t want to drive as much, have sex as much, go outside, etc.