The STD Map
An 18-month study that mapped out the sexual activity and relationships of an entire high school has some sociologists shocked. The unidentified school, labeled “Jefferson High School,” has 1,000 students, about half of them sexually active. That’s not the shocking part—nor the fact that sexually active teens at the school began having sex at about age 15. (This is considered “normal” by societal standards.)
Researchers were most surprised at how widespread and multi-layered the “sexual map” of the teen community was. For 18 months, according to Time magazine, “researchers tried to document every romantic and sexual liaison among high school students” (February 7).
Mapping the “sexual geography” of this teenage community revealed why sexually transmitted diseases (stds) spread more rapidly among teens than among adults. Of the 573 students who said they had had at least one relationship in the previous 18 months, an incredible 288 were all connected together in an interlinking chain. “Adult sexual networks look very different and usually involve clusters of wanton individuals known to public-health experts as ‘core transmitters’” (ibid.). The teen sex network is less clustered—which is why stds are spreading faster among young people.
Yet, in listening to some health “experts” and media commentators, we are sometimes left with the impression that teenagers are becoming more responsible with sex. Even a former U.S. president boasted, “Teens in every state, across ethnic and racial groups, are making more responsible life decisions. As a nation, we can be proud of these encouraging trends.”
While it might be true that the teen birth rate has gone down in recent years, mainly because of the widespread availability and knowledge of contraceptives, this worldly wisdom has done nothing to slow the alarming spread of stds. In fact, as Mary Eberstadt brings out in her book Home-Alone America, “The very contraceptives that have made the teenage birth rate go down have also made casual sex easier than ever, thus making the std rate simultaneously rocket up.”
She points out in her book that of the top 10 reported diseases in the U.S., five of them are stds. And of the 18 million or so new cases of std infection reported each year, half come from those in the 15-to-24 age bracket.