The Truth about Sex

The following material contains mature subject matter and may not be suitable for young audiences.

Teen Sex Talk
As casual sex becomes more rampant among adolescents, the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and becoming pregnant greatly increases, as does the risk of suffering emotional consequences from engaging in sexual activities at such a young age.

A group of teenage girls whose ages range from 15 to 18: Jackie, Brooke, Jazzy, Nicole, Sky, Bronte and Nikki, sit down with youthologist Vanessa Van Petten for a candid discussion about their sex lives.

The group discusses STDs, sex acts that are prevalent among their peers and the pressures they feel to have sex.

The girls reveal details about what happens at sex parties, their views about kissing other girls and how they define the word "slut."

When the girls discuss the pressure to perform oral sex in order to keep a boy's interest, ER physician Dr. Travis Stork says he is concerned that girls often place more value on their boyfriends' feelings and desires than their own.

"It's not about what he wants," Dr. Travis says. "It's about what you want ... The one thing I didn't hear is what you [girls] wanted, what you want for yourselves. We're highlighting all of this, because what we want to do, hopefully, is empower all of you, empower all teenagers at home," Dr. Travis adds. "In the end, you have the power to say no."

Vanessa is concerned about the trend of teens creating checklists of the people they want to "hook up" with, and noting the sexual acts they'd like to perform.

"That's a risky behavior that really concerns me because it takes the intimacy out of it," Vanessa says. "When it feels casual, it's much easier to make decisions where you don't use protection."

Another trend gaining traction among teens is the rainbow party, an oral sex party during which each girl wears a different shade of lipstick and each boy attempts to collect every shade.

"Back in the day, like five years ago, you were hearing about parties where people played spin the bottle and truth or dare, and now it's escalated to a whole other level," says psychotherapist Stacy Kaiser. "There's definitely a competition in how many girls [a boy] can get, how many different colors you can get. I want you all to know this is happening everywhere. It's happening in private schools. It's happening in the suburbs. It's happening in the cities. Kids are doing it everywhere."

In addition to potential emotional issues that can arise from teens having intercourse and oral sex with multiple partners, there are many physical dangers as well.

Oral sex is not a risk-free act. The human papillomavirus (HPV) can be passed through both oral and genital contact. The American Cancer Society states that in 2008, 39 percent of cases of oral cancers were linked to HPV. The Gardasil vaccine, intended to protect against four types of HPV, is currently available for girls and young women.

"The thing about the HPV vaccine is that it only covers four of the viruses," OB-GYN Dr. Lisa Masterson says. "There are a lot of other high-risk HPV viruses out there. It's not complete protection against it. The HPV vaccine does not cancel you out from [getting] STDs, and there are a lot of other STDs that are out there."

Using a condom or dental dam during oral sex can help protect against some STDs.

Stacy suggests parents keep their kids safe by maintaining an open dialogue about sex. She recommends you start the conversation when the child is in elementary school and discuss how babies grow in a womb and begin having the sex talk with them in middle school.

"By high school, you need to be able to have every conversation," she says. "But [parents] have to be informed," Stacy says. "I encourage parents to educate themselves, to listen and to keep the communication open all the time."

"I cannot tell you, as a doctor, how frustrating it is," Dr. Lisa says. "I saw so many young girls coming into my office, that I went out into the schools to teach. I realized we had to start talking to our teens earlier, before they get to the point where at 15 and 16 they are in my office and they have something that may take away their fertility for the rest of their lives. Even the things like chlamydia and gonorrhea that may be treatable; they can affect your fertility by scarring your tubes and when you finally want to have a child, you can't."

Anal Sex Risks
Many teens who don't want to lose their vaginal virginity consider anal intercourse as an alternative. Sky, 17, asks about the risks of anal sex.

Anal sex can cause lacerations and tears to the area. "That area is very vascular and it can bleed, so you may have a lot of bleeding," Dr. Lisa says. "That's also why it's not safe sex, because [there is] a high risk of passing sexually transmitted diseases."

STDs that can be contracted through vaginal intercourse can also be passed through anal sex.

Morning-After Pill and Teens
The morning-after pill, or Plan B, is a form of emergency contraception meant to be taken within 72 hours of having unprotected intercourse. It helps prevent pregnancy by stopping ovulation and is about 89 percent effective. The morning-after pill will not terminate an existing pregnancy and is not as effective as birth control pills or condoms as a birth-control method. It also does not protect against STDs.

In 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allowed Plan B to be sold to 17-year-olds without a prescription, and sales have skyrocketed. "Some people believe that it will lead, especially teenagers, to be more promiscuous," Dr. Travis says, "because [they may say], 'Hey, I'll just go take a pill tomorrow and I won't get pregnant."

"It goes back to the fact that we have to educate our kids," Dr. Lisa says. "The morning-after pill is not contraception. It is emergency contraception."