The rate at which young people engage in sexually risky behavior has increased at an alarming rate over the years. This prevalence observed among teenagers in middle school, and high school levels has continued to rise despite the health dangers associated with the practice. At this age, most individuals lack comprehensive information on sexual intercourse and its risks. They engage in reckless sexual encounters which increase the chances of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, the HIV virus or getting pregnant (Moles, 85). Most of them only realize this when it is late, and the damage has occurred. This paper analyzes the prevalence of sexual practices in the middle and high schools in the USA; it has a main focus on how sex impacts the lives of these youths. These individuals are not fully developed thus an analysis of the impact on every aspect of their lives is crucial. I have selected an article by Stephen and Shelagh Genius “Why is Teen Sex a Problem?” to shed light on the situation.
Situation at hand
Genius (1) explains the case of a 12 year old girl in his article. She was rushed into the hospital where he was newly posted. She was in labor yet had no loved ones at her side to help her. On further inquiry after the delivery, he found out that she was impregnated by a fourteen year old boy who had at the moment moved on to his next girlfriend leaving her to bear the burden alone. As unrealistic as it is, this is the reality of sex among our teens. Risky sexual practices are significant problems in our schools, alongside crime and drug use.
An analysis of the situation in middle schools shows that the practice begins quite early. Young people between the ages of 10 to 14 confessed to have engaged in these activities out of curiosity. The need to know more about this ‘sex’ that adults refuse to talk to them about drives them to discover on their own. By the time they reach high school, they have improved in their knowledge on sex and its consequences. Even with information on the risks involved, they still engage in the practice.
Understanding the impact sex has on teenagers requires a look through the statistics provided by researchers over the years. Genius (2) elaborates that though many are aware that unprotected sex leads to pregnancy, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and HIV infection, they seem ignorant of the effects the STDs have on their bodies and overall health.
A survey done in 2011 by CDC shows that up to 47.4% of teenagers in USA have engaged in sexual intercourse at a point in their lives. This is nearly half of all teenagers, a shocking percentage. Of the individuals who have had sex, 33.7% confessed to have had sex within 3 months of the interview. Among them, 39.8% did not use condoms as a method of protection against infections and unwanted pregnancies. A further 76.7% did not prevent pregnancy through the use of birth control pills or Depo-Provera (CDC, 1). These statistics show that youth know the risks involved and how they can be prevented, but they still choose to act irresponsibly; putting their lives and lives of their partners at risk. These numbers continue to rise.
Effects of sexual practices among teenagers
What is the risk of engaging in sexual activities in the middle and high school? Between the ages of 10 and 18, an individual’s mind is not fully developed. He or she may have knowledge on various subjects such as sex, and even some experience, but he or she is still not ready to handle the issues associated with it. Engaging in sex affects their growth and development in every aspect as explained below.
These activities have put many at a risk of contracting the HIV virus. Sexual intercourse has been rated as the primary way the virus spreads from person to person. Most teenagers take this for granted assuming that if their partners look healthy, there is no way they can be infected (Moles, 85). They know that they should use protection but ignore this in the heat of the moment. Statistical data acquired from 40 states show that over 3,800 individuals between the ages of 13-24 were infected by the HIV virus in 2009.
The youths expose themselves to infection and re-infection of STDs like syphilis, gonorrhea, and herpes. These diseases put their health at risk as some of them go undetected during the early stages. The lack of protection will facilitate their spread without the teenagers’ knowledge. Close to half of all STD infections recorded in healthcare facilities have occurred between the ages of 15-24 (CDC, 1).
Unprotected sex leads to unplanned pregnancies. Though most girls do not consider the possibility of getting pregnant, when they do not use effective contraception methods, they end up getting pregnant. Many individuals shun the use of condoms due to the myth that it reduces pleasure. They opt for birth control pills, but even these are not properly used. Once pregnant the girl has to deal with the reality of motherhood in the middle or high school where they are still physically and psychologically immature to handle it. This causes stress and many opt for abortion while few choose to carry the fetus to term and give it up for adoption or keep it according to Moles (85).
The consequences of sex bring with them massive financial implications. Contraction of STDs requires immediate and quality medical treatment to eliminate their effects. A school-going teenager may have difficulty in raising the money required for treatment. Approaching parents or older guardians with such an issue is close to impossible for most individuals. They opt for other ways of raising the money; often illegal means. This may push them to engage in activities like theft, drug sale or violence. In the case of a pregnancy, the maintenance of the mother’s health until she gives birth and after is very costly (Genius, 1). Many opt for abortions which are also quite expensive. At their age, teenagers haven’t completed their education and do not have good jobs to sustain them and their babies.
Engaging in sexual activities from an early age distracts students from their academics. They have a problem concentrating in class as their minds constantly drift away to what they have been doing. Instead of using their free time to study and engage in productive activities, they sneak around engaging in sexual activities without their parents’ or teachers’ knowledge. Most of them seem focused on the present without regard to future responsibilities (Genius, 1). This results in poor grades and a waste of opportunities for excellence. Focus on sexual activities also reduces student participation in activities outside the classroom such as sports.
In the case of a pregnancy, education may be interrupted or fully terminated. STDs may make an individual stay out of school during treatment depending on the gravity of the infection. The pain and discomfort may make it hard to concentrate in class thus poor grades (Moles, 85).
This is the most evident impact of sexual activity in the middle and high schools. At this level, the need for acceptance dictates how individuals behave. Every individual seeks to identify with specific groups. In school, engaging in sex is regarded as cool and a sense of maturity. Purity and abstinence are shunned values. This mounts pressure on those trying to maintain their chastity. Ridicule and alienation drive many to try out and be part of the group.
Without regard to the risks, they are putting themselves in; they have sexual intercourse mostly with multiple partners (Genius, 1). However, the social concept of sex among teens is biased; when a boy has sex often, he is regarded as cool but when a girl does the so, she is labeled cheap.
Engaging in sexual activities with someone often leads to attachment. This is common in girls who consent to have sex with boys under the illusion of love only to be left for someone else. This causes the feeling of low self esteem and stress and they blame themselves for not being good enough for their partners. This feeling makes an individual vulnerable, and she is more likely to give in to others as well just to prove to herself that she is worthy. In the case of boys, the popularity they obtain from having several sexual encounters may push them towards sexual aggression. The consequences of sex are significant causes of trauma. Depression may result from the realization of an infection or pregnancy. If this is not handled correctly, it may lead to cases of drug abuse or suicide as easy solutions.
In his article, Genius has supported his stand in a variety of ways. Through the use of the pregnant 12 year old girl’s story, he has been able to incorporate the aspect of reality and gravity of the risk of sex among youth. He has provided statistical evidence throughout the article to back his opinions as well as factual information. These further serve the purpose of reliability and eliminate the myths and assumptions about sex that seem rampant among the youth. Last but not least, the author has provided reflection questions at the end of the article to enable the reader explore further the points discussed in the article (Genius, 1).
All these consequences are products of a drive, a curiosity to try out something new. In middle school, this is mostly due to the desire to test out new-found knowledge on the forbidden topic of sex. In high school, peer pressure plays a crucial role in sexual activity. There is a need to sensitize young people on sexuality and ways of ensuring they protect themselves from infections and unplanned pregnancies (Moles, 85). This can be done by ensuring sex education classes get enough time on the timetables and are carried out by well-informed teachers and resource persons. The youth need to have a defined vision of the future dreams and responsibilities to ensure they are not derailed by irresponsible sexual practices. These efforts can be supported by organizations sponsoring educational programs and partnering with healthcare facilities to provide free treatments and awareness training.
CDC. Sexual Risk Behavior: HIC, STD, & Teenage Pregnancy Prevention. Adolescent and School Health 2012, Web. 16th Feb. 2013 < http://www.cdc.gov/../sexualbehavior/ >
Genius, Stephen and Genius, Shelagh. Why is Teen Sex a Problem? Catholic Education 2002, Web. 18th Feb. 2013 < http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/sexuality/se0083.html >
Moles, M. Teenage Sex and Pregnancy: Modern Myths, Unsexy Relations. ISBN 031335610, Web. 16th Feb. 2013 < http://books.google.com >