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Let’s talk about sex

April 7, 2010

A study released earlier this week by the University of Kentucky found that out of nearly 500 college students, only 20 percent of them said they considered oral sex as “having sex.”

The report is troubling, to be sure, mainly due to the fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently found that one in six Americans between 14-49 has genital herpes, and rates of syphilis are on the rise among women of childbearing age.

In the study, the researchers say that attitudes about oral sex have changed in large part because of what they call the “Clinton-Lewinsky” effect.

“Unlike respondents in the previous samples, our respondents were adolescents after the Clinton-Lewinsky era, which our comparisons of data over time suggest may have been a turning point in conceptualizations of oral-genital contact,” the study reads.

Robert Bettiker

Robert Bettiker, professor of infectious diseases at Temple University, said that doctors need to be more specific when talking to patients about their sexual activity, especially when talking to adolescents and young adults.

“Right now, we ask, ‘Are you sexually active?’” he said.  “It needs to be more compartmentalized than that, less general.  Ask about the other types of sex as well, in order to get a better sense of what’s going on.  It’s important to talk to kids openly about sex.  If we’re too vague, it allows them to be free to define ‘sex’ however they want, so that when they engage in other sex acts, they don’t feel they’re breaking the rules.”


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