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Study: More teens waiting to have sex until they’re older

Maria Sanchez


Fewer teens are having sex in high school, continuing a decades-long decline, and boys in particular are waiting to have their first sexual experience with a girl, according to the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

Data from the National Survey of Family Growth from 2015 to 2019 found that 38.7% of boys and 40.5% of girls between 15 and 19 had engaged in heterosexual, vaginal sex before marriage.

The government focused on heterosexual sex because it uses the survey to look at the health, economic and social costs of pregnancy and childbearing among the teen population.

Teen pregnancy and birth rates have been declining since the early 1990s and have reached historic lows.

There are many reasons for this, said Cary Archer, director of education for Planned Parenthood of Illinois.

“No one factor can be pointed to as the cause of this reduction,” Archer said in an email. “However, there is very strong data that when teenagers have had comprehensive sex ed, they are more likely to delay sexual activity.”

Junior illustration major Symphony Ely had been with her male partner for about a week when she had sex with him for the first time. She said she was comfortable and ready “to see what the hype was about regarding sex.”

She was not nervous at all and knew what she needed to know about being safe, Ely said. “After a couple seconds, I was fine and was able to go three rounds. While I do regret dating him and having sex with him specifically, I don’t regret my first time and I’m glad I was able to have a good experience.”

Nearly four out of five teenage girls said they used contraception in their first intimate heterosexual encounter, according to the research, and more than 90% of teenage boys used contraception during their first sexual experience with a girl.

Senior social media and digital strategy major Robbie McClain was 16 when he had sex for the first time and said he now wishes he had waited.

“It was with some guy I barely knew and who was definitely not near my age,” McClain said.

They had sex at 1 a.m. in his garage on a bare mattress on the concrete floor that had just been taken out of a spare bedroom.

“I remember the garage being pitch black, smelling like gasoline and freezing inside. It was honestly a typical, sloppy, gay experience. Looking back, I wish I had saved my first time for a better moment.”

Archer said younger people benefit from “medically accurate and more inclusive information.”

“They can make decisions that are best for themselves and for their bodies,” Archer said.

First-year film major William Molina expressed how he lacked the education needed to have a comfortable experience, but nonetheless had no regrets.

“The first time I had sex was when I was 15 years old and still closeted to my parents,” Molina said. “I had a boyfriend that lived almost an hour away. After a few months of dating, we ended up having sex. It wasn’t bad because I was doing it with someone I trusted, but at the same time, it was kinda weird because it was the first time I ever bottomed and no one teaches you about how that works and how to prepare yourself. But after that relationship, I wouldn’t say I regret it, I’m just happy it wasn’t bad.”

First-year art history major Ken Amos had sex for the first time at 14 on a dare. 

“It was very weirdly the result of a Truth or Dare game at a friend’s house after school with my first girlfriend,” they said. “It wasn’t what I had expected and nothing like what happened in movies and on TV between straight people.”

Amos remembered being glad for it to be over.

“I do, personally, wish I would have waited to be in a different situation,” they said. 

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About the Contributors
Perla Mía Valdez, Social Media Content Creator
pvaldez@columbiachronicle.com   Perla Mía Valdez is a communications major, concentrating in advertising. She joined the Chronicle in September 2023.   Hometown: Miami, Florida