Robert Kegan, In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life. (Harvard 1994) 58-70.


Adolescent Sexuality: A New Approach

Robert Kegan

The sexuality of adolescents seems to show up in adult consciousness as either a focus of lurid fantasy (as depicted in the advertising and entertainment of popular culture) or a social "problem" in need of our conscientious concern and solution. This unfortunate splitting of desire and responsibility on our part will do adolescents no good, since it is precisely the live connection between the two that they themselves need to learn.

The concerns we have about the sexual conduct of our culture's teenagers have never been more real or of such crisis proportions. The possibility of sexually transmitted diseases now includes the literally life-and-death risk of contracting HIV, the bubonic plague of the modern age. Teen pregnancy and births to teens are on the increase, despite greater support for the use of contraceptives and more widespread sex education. Less dramatic, less statistically documented, but no less legitimately worrisome are the injuries to heart and spirit of exploitative, self-involved, uncompassionate passion.

So there is a lot to be legitimately worried about, even alarmed about. But these concerns will count for little if they are not joined to our acknowledgment that, however newly arrived, however ambivalent they may be at finding themselves there, adolescents have entered a human realm, the allure of which we ourselves find unabating. They have entered a realm whose pleasure, power, warmth, heat, sweetness, stimulation, delight, and satisfaction our finest poets do not tire of trying to name. The more our worries about teen sexuality increase, the more the whole subject shows up for us as a "social problem" and the further we are removed from our understanding of what teen sexuality is to teens themselves. Sexuality to teens is not first of all a "problem" in need of a solution. Our anxieties about their sexuality (organized around themes of danger and risk) are not at all the same as their anxieties (organized around themes of their own acceptability and competence). Our unacknowledged prurience and projection about the pleasures of teen sexuality bear little relation to their pleasures in sexuality. (When a sixteen-year-old Brooke Shields is used to sell Calvin Klein blue jeans, and the camera pans slowly along her long legs while she recites suggestive lines such as "Nothing comes between me and my Calvins" and "If my Calvins could talk I'd be in big trouble," this strikes me less as an expression of a sixteen-year-old’s sexuality than as a copywriter's fantasy about adolescent sexuality.)

Let me suggest, then, two ingredients that must be present in any valuable new approach to our culture's concern for adolescents as sexual people: First, the approach will recognize from beginning to end that sex to teenagers opens a world of extraordinary allure, unexplored possibility, and scary but thrilling and companionable adventure. (Sex is what God gives to teenagers when the appeal of Disneyland starts to fade.) And second, the approach will recognize that adolescence is not synonymous with the third order of consciousness; rather it is a period in need of support for the gradual evolution of mind from the second to the third order of consciousness. Exactly what this new approach will be I cannot predict, but I guarantee that it will have these two qualities, which means that it will be sure to make many people uncomfortable: (1) it will treat sex as fun, friendly, tender, wet, warm, and wild; and (2) it will not assume from the start that teens are "responsible." When we find ourselves uncomfortable with the odd sound of such an approach, we would do well to be aware of how comfortable we are with the success of our current approaches. As I say, I cannot predict exactly what the new approach will actually be, but if for nothing more than concrete example, I will offer my candidate for a new cultural norm for adolescent sexuality at the dawn of a new century.

The current norms for teen sexuality we are trying as a culture to promote are either "abstinence" (which in translation essentially means "limit sexual activity to what you can do with your clothes on, hands above the waist, buttons buttoned, zippers zipped") or "safe sex" (which in translation means "if you are going to have intercourse, make sure the young man is wearing a condom"). These new norms are of course in conflict with each other, but what they share is that each is possessed of a certain undeniable wisdom, neither is proving particularly successful at being adopted, and each fails my test by omitting one of the two crucial ingredients.

The "abstinence" norm's biggest failing is that it denies how irresistible sexual experience is. Now, I never met a denial I couldn't feel sympathy for. There is always a very good reason why it would be more pleasant to assume that the denied reality is not real. The denial of teens' interest in sexuality is not the province of obviously out-of-touch, repressed, or parochial people alone. Sophisticated, urbane, progressive professionals in high schools and private schools frequently are alarmed by crises that require them to face a picture of teen sexual activity quite different from the one they have been carrying around in their heads. The expectation of abstinence is unrealistic because it asks adolescents to put on hold, disable, or disengage a qualitatively new medium for connecting to and experiencing the world. It is one thing to ask people to forego a feature of their diets, for example, to stop eating high cholesterol oils or high-fat meats. It is quite another thing to ask people to stop eating altogether.

The "safe sex" norm's biggest failing is that it unwarrantedly assumes an order of consciousness capable of such responsibility, far-sightedness, and future-mindedness. Given how infrequently even college-age youth make use of the condoms and dental dams passed out during freshman orientation week, is it not wildly unrealistic to believe that sexually active twelve-, thirteen-, fourteen-, fifteen-, sixteen-, and seventeen-year-olds are going to have the presence of mind to involve these devices regularly in their sexual activity when these devices are completely unnecessary to, and unenhancing of, the only real goals and interests they have in mind at the moment?1 This may be as big a denial on the part of "safe-sex" proponents as is the denial of sexuality's irresistibility on the part of "abstinence" proponents. As I said, I have never met a denial I couldn't sympathize with. It is frightening, but I think necessary, to consider that not only is a great proportion of teens' sexual behavior and judgment compromised by alcohol, spontaneity, susceptibility to a partner's pressure, and silencing embarrassment about the technical details of sex, but even when that judgment is completely free to do its best work, it is constrained by an order of consciousness that considers the future as the present-that-hasn't-happened-yet rather than as something real, right now, and commanding of their attention.

Discussing norms for adolescent behavior is not the same as discussing the means by which the norms are promoted or taught. How we shall engage adolescents on the subject of sexual behavior is not, at the moment, my topic. I am addressing the former issue. However directly or nondirectly, didactically or nondidactically, dialogically or unilaterally, mutually puzzling or authoritatively we present ourselves to teens on the subject of sexual behavior, there must, at bottom, be some set of convictions or values we hold on the matter. Adolescents need to hear from us, or sense in us, a place where we stand. In suggesting a new, third norm for adolescent sexuality, I am not now addressing adolescents. I am addressing us adults, the keepers of the cultural school. I am addressing our need to clarify among ourselves not how we teach our lesson but what our lesson should be.

In our culture, for whatever reason, we have come to equate sexuality with the act of genital intercourse. The vast variety of sexually pleasuring acts in which the penis does not enter the vagina are referred to professionally as "foreplay," as if they are mere appetizers and unacceptable as the main course. The meaning of "going all the way" suggests that the only complete realization of a sexual experience is intercourse. When adolescents today, and many adults as well, use the expression, "having sex," they mean that the penis went inside the vagina. The term "sexually active teenager" means not that the teens fondle each other's genitals or bring each other to climax with their hands or mouth. Apparently these acts do not constitute being sexually active. Only if the penis enters the vagina is a heterosexual couple said to be "sexually active." Yet there is nothing ordained by biology or divinity that says this is what sexuality should be. It is wholly a cultural invention. And it is even an odd one for this day and age, when sexuality is no longer fused with procreation. The reduction of sexuality to genital intercourse has come home to haunt us as we see it reflected in the sexual behavior of our adolescents.

All norms draw a line. In contrast to a norm that draws a line between behaviors which are or are not associated with sexual pleasure ("abstinence") or a norm that draws the line between protected intercourse and unprotected intercourse ("safe sex"), I suggest a norm that permits as wide a range of sexual pleasure as adolescents feel comfortable sharing, but that draws the line between sexuality with intercourse and sexuality without it.

In contrast to the stance of "abstinence" ("limit sexual activity to what you can do with your clothes on, hands above the waist, buttons buttoned, zippers zipped") and the stance of "safe sex" ("if you are going to have intercourse, make sure the young man is wearing a condom"), I would suggest that there are merits to a stance more like this:

Adolescents have become sexual people. It's only natural that this powerful new way of experiencing and expressing themselves is going to be an important addition to the ways they relate to others and to themselves. Their sexuality might naturally become one of the ways they explore a variety of important personal interests, needs, concerns, and issues, including their developing sense of themselves as a man or a woman, their wish to feel attractive, accepted, or loved by another of their own age, their need to express their fondness, affection, attraction to, or love for another of their own age, and, of course, their desire to experience and share the physical pleasures of sexuality. Their sexuality is an understandable and natural way of expressing or pursuing any and all of these. Some percentage, in every culture at every time in history, will naturally feel drawn sexually to those of the same sex; most will be attracted to those of the opposite sex.

How adolescents will express this new capacity will be shaped to a large extent by interaction between the "curriculum" of their culture and the way they understand that curriculum. As makers of that curriculum we must be aware that the wish to exercise this new capacity is irresistible and that the ways adolescents will understand our curriculum will vary. If our curricular aims (that people express their sexuality respectfully and responsibly, with concern for the other's feelings and with regard to the future implications of present acts) are somewhat over the heads of the entering "student," then we must build a transitional or bridging context for younger sexuality that is both meaningful to those who will not yet understand that curriculum and facilitative of a transformation of mind so that they will come to understand that curriculum. We cannot simply stand on our favored side of the bridge and worry or fume about the many who have not yet passed over. A bridge must be well anchored on both sides, with as much respect for where it begins as for where it ends.

A bridging context might somehow convey a message such as this one concerning the particulars of how sexuality among teens is expressed: So what, you may ask, do we think is okay and not okay for you to actually do? What does your culture tell you? First, your culture tells you that you should not do anything more than you want to or feel comfortable doing, and obviously that may involve some trial and error on your part. But within the limits of your comfort, and the comfort of your partner, your culture says that what you actually do is almost entirely up to you. As you will see, there is a continuum of sexual arousal and satisfaction that begins with the slightest degree of excitation and ends, for both young men and women, with the unusually intense satisfaction and release of orgasm. Obviously your own comfort and imagination, and those of your partner, will suggest a variety of ways you can touch (and even talk to) each other that will lead to your both becoming more and more aroused. If the question "How far can we go?" refers to this continuum of arousal, your culture's answer is, "You may go just as far as your comfort and that of your partner permit." If "all the way" means experiencing the climactic end of this continuum—you or your partner, or both of you, having an orgasm—then your culture is saying, "When you are ready to go 'all the way' you can; this is not prohibited behavior." Nor does your culture seek to impose a limit on the number of partners you may have, whether the relationship is casual or committed, whether you are in only one sexual relationship at a time or have multiple partners. That is all your choice. Of course, your culture does not condone lying to your partners about your true feelings for them or your sexual conduct with others, but that is a particular instance of the more general cultural norm against lying and deceit, which applies to, but is not peculiar to, norms of sexual behavior. The only line your culture wishes to draw regarding your sexual behavior is that until such time as you are ready to enter into a serious relationship, you do not engage in intercourse. Bluntly put, the penis does not enter the vagina or anus. A serious relationship is marked by a different intention toward each other (for example, to remain together, or to decline other sexual relationships, or to be held by one's community as a couple, or to create a family), and by a different order of responsibility for each other (including, for example, responsibility for one's sexual relationship through the practice of protected intercourse). Your culture makes a distinction between sexual relationships marked by this seriousness of commitment and those that are not. It values both. Each may have its proper time. The culture does not reserve a greater degree of sexual pleasure for one kind of relationship over the other—both kinds may engage in fully pleasurable sexual expression. It simply reserves one form of sexual expression, intercourse, as an exclusive marker of the more serious relationship.

Now, before I consider whether it is psychologically plausible that such a norm actually could be adopted by adolescents at the dawn of the twenty-first century, let me quickly make note of the array of concerns that would be significantly affected if just this single norm were made viable:

  1. The incidence of sexually transmitted diseases—especially contracting the most frightening of these, HIV, the virus that currently leads inexorably to AIDS—while not eliminated would be dramatically reduced, and without the intermediation of prophylactic devices. Is oral sex a risk-free sexual practice? According to experts and the best evidence on HIV transmission, it is not absolutely risk-free. It certainly involves a higher risk than protected intercourse. But is this really the relevant comparison? Given the unlikelihood of the universal use of condoms by twelve- to eighteen-year-olds, the more realistic comparison is between the safety of oral sex and that of unprotected intercourse. Oral sex is a much less risky sexual practice than unprotected intercourse. Faced with our concern about a deadly virus, if we could choose whether adolescents would practice only safe sex or only oral sex, of course we would choose the former. But if the former is not realistic, the latter is enormously preferable to the current situation of widespread unprotected intercourse.
  2. The incidence of unplanned pregnancy. would be greatly reduced, and without the need for contraceptive devices, because the single prohibition affects not only those who would have intercourse without regard to pregnancy but also those countless teens who now employ ineffective prevention methods such as "withdrawal" or having intercourse during "safe" times of the month.
  3. Shifting the focus, purpose, conclusion, or even the very meaning of shared sexual intimacy away from genital penetration and toward the feelings and, if desired, the sexual satisfaction each partner is giving and receiving may eventually promote the mutuality, reciprocity, sensitivity, thoughtfulness, and even technical skillfulness of adolescent sexual activity. It offers a much greater likelihood that youthful sexuality would be an arena in which one would come to understand the other's sexuality; that each partner would keep the other, as well as him or herself, in mind; that each partner would make the other's experience, as well as his or her own, central to what shared sexual activity is about.
  4. The new norm redraws a distinction that many value and are concerned has been lost between premarital and marital intimacy or, at least, between casual and committed relationship; and, in its own fashion, it reasserts the sanctity of the family, which many feel has been profaned. It fosters the idea that one conducts oneself differently in committed relationships such as those that bear or care for children.

Thus, by drawing this single new line, the culture addresses its own concerns about disease, unwanted pregnancy, emotional insensitivity, and the decay of the institutions of marriage and family. It addresses issues dear to a variety of positions on the political spectrum. It speaks to the concerns of advocates of both the current contesting norms, incorporating features of each (although I am sure it will please neither, since it is neither as "safe" nor as "abstinent" as either would want).

But is it plausible that a new norm of fully pleasurable sex without intercourse could actually be internalized by teens of the future? (I am thinking now of tomorrow's teens, of those who are today young children or not yet born). My answer is that the greater barrier to its being internalized rests in the minds of adults who themselves equate sexuality with intercourse, not in the minds and bodies of teenagers whose motives and interest in sexuality carry no necessary demand for the particular act of genital penetration. Nothing that calls adolescents to sexual expression requires genital penetration for its satisfaction. Not the motive to feel loved or lovable, to be taken care of or care for, to give or receive pleasure, to win or confer a valuable prize, to make another person jealous, to hold boyfriend or girlfriend, to establish one's identity as a sexual person, to satisfy curiosity about another person's body, to fill the gaps in the conversation, to become more separate from one's parents, to experience physical tenderness, to have something to do on Saturday night, to have an orgasm, to have an orgasm with another person, to create and sustain an intimate relationship—not one of these requires the act of intercourse for its satisfaction. (In fact the only motive I can think of that does is the motive to have a baby, which does exist among some adolescents, usually disadvantaged girls who do not consider having a child a further burden but view it as an opportunity to assume a preferable social role and have an object to love. But this is more an instance of a claim to readiness for a "serious relationship," challengeable or not, than of needing intercourse to be part of one's noncommitted sexuality.)

Fully pleasurable sex without intercourse, implausible though it may sound in our current cultural climate, is actually quite responsive to both the irresistibility of sexuality and the inevitable variation in adolescents' consciousness capacities. More than this, it represents a way for the builders of the culture, acting as more responsible keepers of "school" in relation to the hidden consciousness curriculum, to foster the arena of sexual behavior as yet another supportive context for the gradual evolution from the second to the third order of mind. How?

Consider that efforts to get teens to abstain from drug use by "just saying no" or to "stay in school" by appealing to the importance, down the road, of a high school diploma, are not likely to be too compelling to adolescents organizing reality at the second order of mind. Adolescents of categorical consciousness do not "say yes" to drugs primarily because of peer pressure but because of their own interest in the experience they derive from getting high. If I construct the world out of the short-term, quid pro quo logic of categorical consciousness, you are proposing that I give up something I value in return for exactly nothing. Why would I want to do that? There is no short-term reward for giving up getting high. You want me to give up something I like and you leave me with nothing but the internally or externally depressing condition I was seeking to escape in the first place. Stay in school? Why? If I don't like school, if I am humiliated or bored there, what is the short-term pay-off? There is none. Appeals to the long-term consequences of drug abuse or of dropping out of school are not compelling when the future is constructed as the present-that-hasn't-happened-yet.

Now consider that the norm of fully pleasurable sex without intercourse does not require cross-categorical knowing to be immediately meaningful and that it is not first of all about privation. The culture advocating a provisional or bridging context for adolescent sexuality would stand in welcome in the doorway of an alluring and valuable activity offering the prospect of highly attractive personal reward. It is only when one is drawn into this unusual kind of sexual behavior, that one comes gradually to learn that the increase one sought might amount to a change not just in what one "gets" but in who one is. This is the more Zenlike or Eastern approach to one's curricular goals, an approach that moves with rather than against the natural direction of the student, but in doing so uses the student's own momentum as a resource for his or her transformation.

In sanctioning a provisional or transitional arena for youthful sexuality, the culture would not be setting as the price of admission the ability immediately to understand and identify with a set of prosocial values. Nor would values such as "act respectfully and responsibly, with concern for the other's feelings, and with regard to the future implications of present acts" even be what teens "see" first when they "enter." What they would see first is an alluring opportunity for self-enhancement and the pursuit of their own ends. What they would perceive their culture seeming to say sex was all about is precisely what it would seem to them to be about. The fact that there is a rule involved would not be fatal to this student-curriculum match in meaningfulness. As I have said, not a single motive that draws an adolescent into sexual experience requires the act of intercourse. That it sounds strange to say the rule does not reduce the number of available goodies might only be a sign of how embedded we are in the equation of sexuality with intercourse.

"But doesn't the very act of excluding something," some may object, "make it that much more alluring? Adolescents are going to want to have intercourse all the more if you try to reserve it to some later time in one's life." Actually, it is not true that reserving something until later in life automatically makes it more appealing. Adolescents do not want the long-term, day in and day out responsibilities of childcare, for example (but they do want to earn money babysitting); they do not want to carry a monthly mortgage (but they do want a room of their own); they do not want to have to sustain themselves economically (but they would like an allowance or a part-time job). There are many activities already reserved for later in life that are not made one bit more alluring by being so. What adolescents of categorical consciousness want is not actually a function of whether adults reserve it for later; it's a function of whether it meets their immediate needs. The culture reserves the commitment to full-time employment until later in life, but in doing so it doesn't make this activity more alluring. Teens may want the culture to provide more part-time jobs so they can generate more spendable cash, but they have no heightened need for full-time employment. Aside from the money, they may have a need to "try on" the experience of work, but they have no real need to take on the full trappings of employment. Teens may want to have sexual experience, may feel the need for sexual experience, but, odd as it sounds, they may have no real need for genital penetration unless the culture builds a dazzling shrine to it. If we continue to believe that the climax of sex is genital penetration, rather than that the climax of sex is climax, then it is true that in toying to get adolescents to forego intercourse until they are more responsible we will simply make intercourse even more alluring. But it will not be because the act of reserving something until later in life automatically makes it more desirable, It will be because we are being dishonest and disingenuous, and adolescents will know it.

Every healthy culture must create provisional environments for its youth.2  The practice of unprotected sexual intercourse among teens does not create a safe, wholesome arena for provisionally experiencing and expressing one's sexuality. The norm of safer sex creates a wholesome provisional arena, but it also creates a barrier to entry that is beyond the mental reach of practically all adolescents during at least some portion of their teen years. The norm of abstinence creates no provisional environment at all. The norm of fully pleasurable sex without intercourse creates a safer environment with an "entry fee" whose cost the adults in the culture can reduce to affordability. Given our own initiation to sexuality in an "intercourse-centric" culture, it takes an act of imagination to consider what happens to sexuality when this center is shifted. If we placed orgasm rather than intercourse at the end of the sexual continuum adolescents would correctly see that the arena of provisional sexuality the third norm creates is one that offers them a full range of expression. We would not be saying (or meaning), "You can go almost ‘all the way’ but not quite."

I do not pretend that adolescents who are closer to the second order of consciousness than the third will suddenly be less exploitative or more responsible because they practice their sexuality within this provisional context. I fully expect them to be as captive of their short-term interests as ever. That is one reason a provisional environment is provisional; people can make poor choices and be mistaken at less cost. Teens of both sexes will continue to make use of each other for their own ends. Some will still want to "score"—there is no way to abstain from categorical consciousness. But there is a way to make its expression less dangerous. Exploitation of one sort or another will continue. But it could continue with less actual intercourse, less HIV transmission, less unplanned pregnancy.

And it could continue in a context that is actually more conducive to overturning categorical consciousness. A well-schooled culture is a tricky culture. It not only creates environments that are intensely meaningful to the current way its members construct their experience, it also increases the likelihood that interacting with this environment will disturb this very way of constructing reality and promote its transformation. When the goal or aim or end of sex is shifted from the purely bodily cooperation of fitting one's genitals together to a goal aimed at pleasure, sensation, and satisfaction, the form of cooperation also shifts by necessarily requiring fitting minds together as well as bodies. I am called to think about you, what feels good to you, what you need, at the same time I am thinking about me, what feels good to me, what I need. This is just the sort of activity that comes to relativize categorical consciousness and promote the cross-categorical consciousness that makes the values of mutual respect and responsibility more meaningful.

At this point the adolescent is ready to pass out of the provisional environment into a new realm of sexual practice, a realm that not only sanctions intercourse but warrants that those who have intercourse—be they more mature teenagers or adults—if they wish this to be a part of their sexual expression, are responsible enough to do so in a way that abjures the risks of disease, unplanned pregnancy, and exploitation. The idea is not that genital penetration is somehow itself the acme of mature sexual expression, or that this is what people should do when they are more mature (women whose partners are women, for example, would be the first to attest to this), but only that if intercourse is part of one's sexual expression it should occur in relationships where partners have the capacity to love each other responsibly.

Promoting a new cultural norm is hard work, to be sure. Discouraged, we may say, "How can we get people to change their behavior?" But it is not impossible. Were I to have said fifty years ago that Americans as a group would radically reduce their smoking or significantly alter their diets to reduce fat intake, my prediction might have seemed as incredible then as this suggestion may seem now. Not a single food company in America sat down and said, "Gee, our customers don't know it, but our products aren't really that healthy for them. Even though these consumers are making us rich, let's see if we can sour them on our existing products. Let's promote an altogether new health consciousness in them and then design a new set of more wholesome products for them to buy." The great corporate engines didn't throw themselves into reverse. They were thrown by the one market force more powerful than the conglomerate producer: the shifting cultural values of consumers themselves.

Why did our smoking habits and food choices change? It takes a compelling, simple, and clear signal to effect a change like this one, preferably a signal of alarm. More people stopped smoking and eating so much fat because they came to believe if they did not it would kill them. The threat of death is a compelling signal. And it is the threat of death, above all, that fuels our culturewide concern about adolescent sexuality.

Who can be moved by this threat of death? Not the adolescent of categorical consciousness, for whom the future is not a part of the present. So why spend time trying to create fear where there is none? I would spend it trying to mobilize fear where it is already present or latent, in the minds and hearts of parents capable of assuming the responsibilities that are ours as keepers of the cultural curriculum. It is we adults, not adolescents, who are failing to create the wholesome provisional experimental spaces adolescence needs to make mistakes and learn safely. I admire those relatively few adults who, by actively promoting the norms of safe sex or abstinence, are without doubt seeking to assume some responsibility for this important aspect of our cultureas-school.

Promoting a new cultural norm is very hard work, daunting, slow, incremental, fraught with failure amid only intermittent success. But if we are to take up the work of promoting the internalization of a new norm, then let us elect one, unlike abstinence or safe sex, that reflects the realities as well as our concerns. Let us elect one that reflects the realities of the irresistibility of sex and the consciousness constraints of adolescence. And let us elect one that makes of this important and highly frequented arena of adolescent activity a hospitable environment for the mental growth our culture requires of people of this age. When it comes to sexuality and adolescents it may be that the way we will "get them to change" their behavior tomorrow will depend on our changing the way we think today.



1. "Today, 72 percent of all high school seniors (and 40 percent of the ninth-graders) have had sex, according to a 1990 survey released Friday by the Federal Centers for Disease Control . . . The birth rate among girls age 15 to 17 rose by 19 percent between 1986 and 1989. . . Recent research is clear about what doesn't work. Two studies, published in 1990 . . . found that teenagers didn't change their sexual behavior when exposed solely to moralistic programs (such as Sex Respect . . . and Teen Aid) that urged them to abstain from sex before marriage . . . Neither program prompted the participants to delay intercourse or reduce the frequency of intercourse, the studies found" (Boston Globe, January 6, 1992, story by Alison Bass). "Premarital sexual activity among adolescent women has accelerated during the last two decades—with a sharp jump since 1985—despite an increase in sex education and AIDS prevention programs, Federal health officials reported Friday . . . 51.5 percent of women ages 15 to 19 said they had engaged in premarital sex by their late teens—nearly double the 28.6 percent reported in 1970 . . . The largest relative increase occurred among those 15 years of age" (Los Angeles Times, May 16, 1992, story by Marlene Cimons). "My 15-year-old patient with pelvic pain lay quietly on the gurney, as I asked her the standard questions. 'Are you sexually active?' `Yes.' 'Are you using any form of birth control?' `No.' Her answers didn't surprise me. . . Condoms are not being used. Many studies confirm this, including one survey among college women—a group we might presume to be as well-informed as any on the risks of herpes, genital warts, cervical cancer, and AIDS. In 1989, only 41 percent insisted on condom use during sexual intercourse! If educated women cannot remember to use condoms, how can we expect teenagers or the uninformed to do so?" (Boston Globe, July 18, 1993; from a public health column by Dr. Steven J. Sainsbury originally appearing in the Los Angeles Times).

2. Anthropologists tell us that adolescents were successfully inducted into a practice permitting orgasm by both partners but scrupulously abstaining from genital penetration among the Kikuyu in Kenya, East Africa, and several other Bantu societies, particularly in East and South Africa. The advent of Western educational practices and Christianity in the early part of the twentieth century led to the loss of the community's training adolescents in the practice, called ngweko, and it disappeared. See C. M. Worthman, and J. W. M. Whiting, "Social Change in Adolescent Sexual Behavior, Mate Selection, and Premarital Pregnancy Rates in a Kikuyu Community," Ethos, 15 (June 1987): 145-165.