What are the different expectations for guys and girls? A survey by seventeen magazine and the Kaiser Family Foundation of more than 500 young people nation-wide shows that more than a third say there is a "double standard" for boys and girls today, when it comes to being sexually active. Even more (four in five) agree that parents have different expectations from their daughters and their sons. How far have we really come?
Who's Role is it Anyway?
Most young people agree that things haven't changed much --traditional "gender roles" are still the norm in their relationships today. Guys are generally the ones asking out the girls, paying for things on the date, and making "the first move." Gals are more likely to be bearing the responsibility for starting the conversations about sexual health issues like STDs and using contraception. Both sexes agree that it is the girl who is usually the one saying "no" to sex-in fact three in five think that it is "easier" for girls to say "no" to sex than boys. Making sure that birth control is used is more often left to the girl-although it is usually the boy who actually carries the condom.
Girls today seem to face a "Catch-22" situation when it comes to sex. While nine in ten agree that girls get "bad reputations" because they have sex, many also say that girls often lose their boyfriends if they won't have sex. Boys who do have sex don't seem to face the same outcomes, for either their reputations or their relationships. Only half say boys lose girlfriends because they won't have sex and even fewer (two in five) say boys who have sex face bad reputations. What about saying no to sex altogether? When it comes to virginity, the message is similar. More than nine in ten boys and girls agree that it is a "good thing" for a girl to be a virgin -- while fewer think the same applies to boys who are not sexually active.
Young people have conflicting views when it comes to condoms and what carrying one might imply, whether you are a guy or a girl. On the one hand, eight in ten say a girl carrying a condom looks "prepared" and almost seven in ten say she would seem "responsible"-yet seven in ten also say she seems "easy" and six in ten say it implies she is "expecting sex." The mixed feelings seem to apply to boys as well. Eight in ten teens say that a boy carrying a condom seems "prepared" and seven in ten say he looks "responsible"- similar percents say he would look like he was expecting sex.
When it comes to sex and relationships both boys and girls report feeling pressure-from their friends and partners-but both tend to say that the pressure that girls feel from boys is the greatest. But, peer pressure tends to affect boys greater, with two-thirds of boys agreeing that they feel pressure from other boys to have sex.
The Waiting Game
About two-thirds say people their age wait less than six months before having sex -- including more than one in five who say they wait less than a month. Boys are nearly twice as likely as girls to say people date for a month or less before having sex (28% vs. 16%). Nine in ten agree that most young people have sex before they are really ready, and nearly two-thirds say once you've had sex with a partner it is hard to say no in the future.
Sexual Health Risks: Who's Worried?
Young people are juggling these pressures to become sexually active with concerns about pregnancy and disease. Three-quarters of boys say that getting a girl pregnant is at least somewhat concerning for boys their age and six in ten say they worry about HIV/AIDS and other STDs. Girls do tend to worry slightly more about the possible consequences of sex than boys-nine in ten say girls their age worry about getting pregnant and more than eight in ten say they are concerned about HIV/AIDS or other STDs. When it comes to what each gender is thinking about the other, it appears girls may underestimate how much boys worry about these sexual health issues, while boys may slightly overestimate the level of concern for girls.
Sexual Health IQ: Who Knows Better?
Although both boys and girls both seem to hold some dangerous misconceptions when it comes to sexual health issues, girls are generally more knowledgeable than boys about sexual health. More girls are aware that STDs can be spread even when a person has no symptoms and they are also more likely than boys to know that birth control pills provide no protection from STDs. But, girls are more likely to underestimate the protection that condoms provide -- both in terms of pregnancy and STDs. Only half of teen girls think condoms are effective at preventing HIV/AIDS and other STDs (which they are), versus three in five boys. And, while four in five boys consider condoms to be effective at preventing pregnancy, only two-thirds of girls agree.
Want to brush up on your own Sexual Health IQ? Take the Fight For Your Rights: Protect Yourself Sex Quiz online here and see how you do.