November 1st, 2010
05:35 PM ET

Oral sex leads to other sex for teens

Oral sex is often a precursor to teenagers having intercourse, concludes a new study published in Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. The study asked more than 600 high school students in California to report on their sexual experiences by filling out surveys twice a year, from the beginning of ninth grade, in 2002, to the end of 11th grade, in 2005.

From the questions asked on the survey, and the six-month window in between each one, researchers learned that most adolescents have their first experiences with oral sex and vaginal intercourse in the same six-month period. They could not extrapolate which experience came first but discovered that among teens who initiated only one of the two types of sex during that six-month window, oral sex usually preceded vaginal intercourse. Additionally, having oral sex once made intercourse more likely to occur. Specifically, initiating oral sex by the end of their freshman year in high school gave teens a 25 percent chance of initiating vaginal sex around the same time and a 50 percent chance of initiating intercourse by the end of their junior year. The results of the study did not vary across any racial, ethnic or gender boundaries.

The goal of the study was to establish the relationship between oral and vaginal sex and whether teens used oral sex as a means of delaying intercourse or if oral sex increased the likelihood of having vaginal sex. The study found the latter to be true, partly because most adolescents don't consider oral sex to be sex in the first place.

"We don't talk about the risks that are inherent in oral sex," says Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, Ph.D, senior author of the study and a professor of pediatrics at the University of California San Francisco. "Teens think oral sex is less risky [than intercourse] and they're right, it's not risk free but it is less risky. But socially and emotionally, they're still being intimate."

Halpern-Felsher believes teenagers are most likely to initiate oral and vaginal sex during their first two years of high school. She advises concerned parents to talk to their teens about oral sex and not focus solely on the risks associated with intercourse.

"We have a disadvantage as health professionals and parents when teens do not equate oral sex with sex," says Halpern-Felher. "They think the messages don't apply to them and we need to make it apply to them, we need to talk to them about oral sex."

soundoff (1,228 Responses)
  1. blue

    "Gateway sex"

    November 1, 2010 at 20:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Anonymouse

    OH I SEE. The people doing the research never had any action during their teenage years and are now figuring it out.

    November 1, 2010 at 20:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Superguy

      Now that's a real possibility....you think????

      November 1, 2010 at 20:41 | Report abuse |
  3. Tommy

    Wait, this is news. Oral sex always leads to real sex; hence the phrase foreplay. Next subject please

    November 1, 2010 at 20:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Hoss

    Iffn you lick it, you kin stick it.

    November 1, 2010 at 20:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. B-dog

    STOP THE PRESSES!!!!!!! Oral leads to boning! WOW!!! What a Study!

    Attention world.... your teens are BONING!

    November 1, 2010 at 20:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Edward Nashville, TN

    Kids will have sex, so we need to encourage birth control and safe sex.

    November 1, 2010 at 20:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Vinnie

    News Flash, TEENS are going to do the exact same thing YOU did in High School. Double Standard much? Weren't we all trying to get some in HS? I know I was. Parents should just level with their kids and make sure they're careful. If they get pregnant, well, stupid them. There is such a thing called Adoption and Abortion. I don't care if someone abuses abortion either, better that then another idiot 16 year old on welfare.

    November 1, 2010 at 20:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Michael1066

      No, I didn't have sex in high school because I listened to my parents. I wasn't one of those stupid teenagers to take the chance of knocking a girl up....750,000 a year get pregnant. That's a good number of teenagers that screw the rest of their life up. I am glad I waited.

      November 2, 2010 at 00:25 | Report abuse |
    • davidw

      yes.. for some reason somewhere around 27 years of age most people like to pretend that nothing that happenned to them or their friends in high school reflects the way the world actually works. Its a cycle of stupidity through self inflicted ignorance.

      November 2, 2010 at 05:59 | Report abuse |
  8. drew

    No kidding? I work with a woman who was in a panic. Seems her daughter goes to a high school where the administrators sent home notes warning that some juniors and seniors were hosting weekend "sex parties," and to keep an eye on their own child.

    I reminded her that, back in the late 70s, we too had high school weekend sex parties; we called them "parties." The sex was just assumed.

    November 1, 2010 at 20:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Nick

    I'm shocked at the stupidity among commentators. Perhaps not stupid, no, but illiterate. No, not even that. They simply chose not to read the article.

    The study isn't about whether oral sex leads to intercourse – it's about which comes first in relationships nowadays.

    If at all possible, please try really hard not to be stupid. You're making us look bad in front of the other countries. Thanks.

    November 1, 2010 at 20:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kevin

      yes. you are right. It looks like a stupid f**king article.

      November 1, 2010 at 23:27 | Report abuse |
  10. Albert Einstein

    A finer study has not been done in many years. Every generation this story is reiterated. In my generation it was: Letter writing leads to dry-humpery.

    November 1, 2010 at 20:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. smeckell

    "We don't talk about the risks that are inherent in oral sex," You'll shoot your eye out kids.

    November 1, 2010 at 20:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Patricia

      ... and keep those wet-wipes within reach.... and mouth wash.. and make sure you have gum for afterwards.

      November 2, 2010 at 00:03 | Report abuse |
  12. Malacki


    November 1, 2010 at 20:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Larry Kamp

    This should be in the video section.
    I'd like to see a video of what they're talking about...

    November 1, 2010 at 20:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Arsio

    What the hell is wrong with you Americans?

    November 1, 2010 at 20:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dazed n Thoroughly Confused

      where do you wanna start? how about the beginning. well, in 1776......

      November 2, 2010 at 09:12 | Report abuse |
  15. laptopmobsta

    FreedomBaby, kids already know HOW and WHAT sex is, nobody needs to teach them that. It's the dangers and how to protect yourself you can teach.

    November 1, 2010 at 20:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. ofcourse

    Who ever knew, you have to lick it before you stick it.

    November 1, 2010 at 20:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Hussain

    This is common sense. Just look at your own sexual past.

    November 1, 2010 at 20:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. John

    The American schools are making real sluts

    November 1, 2010 at 20:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Superguy

      Separate HS for boys and girls...

      November 1, 2010 at 20:40 | Report abuse |
    • rbnlegend

      If it bothers you that much, you should avoid women who are sexually active. If that starts to get difficult, just let them know how you feel about them, and I am sure the sluts will help you keep your vow of chastity.

      November 2, 2010 at 08:21 | Report abuse |
  19. Eric2

    What's next, 'The spit vs. swallow study of affection'??? OR 'Could possible road hummers cause vehicle wrecks'?

    I can promise that between my wife and I, 9 times out of 10 oral sex DOES lead to intercourse, it's just the ramp up to a toe curling/hanging on for dear life moment. And we are in our mid 40's. So this study is not that overly earth shattering when it concerns teenagers...but who'duh thunk! Jeez....

    November 1, 2010 at 20:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rbnlegend

      I have noticed a similar thing with my wife. I have also noticed that the oral sex is often preceeded by watching television, doing dishes and walking the dog. After the sexual activity, there is tooth brushing, medication taking, alarm clock checking, and falling asleep. Do you think the teens in the study follow that same trend, from dinner and washing the dishes all the way through to complaining about the first alarm clock to go off in the morning? Of course not. They are teenagers, not adults who have been married for a decade or more.

      November 2, 2010 at 08:27 | Report abuse |
  20. Sam

    All I can say is...YOU GO KIDS!!!!

    November 1, 2010 at 20:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Andre

    Studies show that if you give candy to a baby, it will likely eat it.

    November 1, 2010 at 20:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. rand

    Did tax payer money go to fund this idiotic study, too? What a ridiculous story..................anybody with brains knows this.........especially PARENTS.......

    November 1, 2010 at 20:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. More

    The world needs more kids making more kinds, who keep making more kids and more and more and more ......
    We shall overcome aids and all other problems, by just keep f"ing.

    November 1, 2010 at 20:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Kevin

    Oral sex is not sex. I heard that back in the 1990s. Isn't that true?

    November 1, 2010 at 20:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. David

    See religious right you had it all wrong. Instead of preaching abstinence all you had to do was get teens to stop having oral sex.

    November 1, 2010 at 20:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Abbyka

    If we ever needed proof that scientists do not get laid, this is it. I mean, cmon, duh!!! It's called foreplay!

    November 1, 2010 at 20:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Dirty Doggg

    They needed a study for this? Seriously, sex is a whole lot of fun. Otherwise, no human would make the irrational decision to have babies. As far as the relationship between oral sex and full-out intercourse, as a male, I have long ago learned that when a girl says "no" it does not mean "yes"; it means "lick me first."

    November 1, 2010 at 20:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lija

      that is funny

      November 1, 2010 at 22:34 | Report abuse |
  28. Ryan

    They needed a study for this? They should have spend the money on educating kids that two weeks before a girl has her "time of the month" is when she is most likely to get pregnant. That and pass out free condoms.

    Really people, kids are going to do it anyway at that age, just give them the information that they need to know but are too embarrassed to ask about BEFORE they need it. They may not act like they are listening, but they are.

    November 1, 2010 at 20:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Peter Wolfe

    Simple research methods in college can show us that cause and affect with coorilation doesn't mean the same result cause of the inherent variables in a forumula could change or alter in nature and scope in terms of end results. I agree with another poster that children like teenagers are having more sex like of ages of thirteen-fourteen and even younger not so much the risk pool anymore in the 9th grade. Perhaps they should redo this research from the Ph.D's own pockets to have more of a age range differentual? Anyways, I don't think all research is funded by the federal dole cause professors have to do research for have th full time positions at university work. The more research the more possabilities of either federal, local or state funded research and it helps with advertizements of the university on presteige of the university nationally and internationaly on scores as criteria of picking a university. Looking at U.S World Repots just to name one such example has muliple reasons for this as well. Plus, the legalization of marijuana jabber wanted a reason to link amorality to another amoral topic with virtually no corilation except for the afrodisiac affect myth of marijuana cause of the norm like peer pressure of this generation against the establishment on all fronts like against organized religio, proper grammar, intelligence, manners, healthy diets, respect of authority and etc is being thrown to the way side in the United States of America. Medical marijuana should definitely be legalized witout any questions and recreational in some states ispossible like Proposition 19 can attest to lately has a shot at passing.

    November 1, 2010 at 20:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. misterdemand

    JESUS CHRIST!!! what's that?!...Water is wet!! how can that be!! did taxpayer money pay for this?

    November 1, 2010 at 20:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. NamVet

    I don't think the headline just applies to teens.

    November 1, 2010 at 20:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Adot

    Curious, what is "other sex?"

    November 1, 2010 at 20:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. dubld

    Why not just say kissing leads to sex? Anyone can skew a poll, lol. no pun intended there but that was funny.
    There is no mention if these were virginal acts or if oral became more likely to happen more often than vaginal if the same couple were to repeatedly do these sex acts.

    November 1, 2010 at 20:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. bob

    Why don’t we ask someone that was raised in the 40’s or 50’s how they handled sex because this generations values are what we all are wishing the children have. I myself am a gen x child. I learned what the best and latest drugs were, what the latest sex moves were and how to do it all from watching tv. The just say no theory seems to only teach kids how to do thing rather than keep them from doing things. Did we ever think we are giving the children too much information too quick in life? Let’s just let kids be kids.
    I remember back in school we were all separated and then told about the birds and the bees’s and guess what I learned things and I just went out and tried. Why don’t we just try to shelter kids like they did a long time ago. Rather than give kids all the information and let them make their own decisions. This is apparently not working. If it worked in the past why not try it again. Let’s try innocence again.

    November 1, 2010 at 20:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kat

      The problem is that they no longer teach about "the birds and the bees" anymore and parents seem to just turn a blind eye and think "Oh, my child would NEVER do that".
      Schools think that teaching "Abstinence Only" is working, but it's not. Teen pregnancy rates are higher than ever and it's because kids aren't being taught the risks or prevention methods. They're just being told "Forget about it, don't think about it" as if they'll magically know everything they need to know on that special night.

      Ignorance does much more harm than education.

      November 2, 2010 at 05:57 | Report abuse |
  35. michael

    In most states Oral sex is againts thr law just like anal sex. What say you wantta be parents!

    November 1, 2010 at 20:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. concernedchild

    wow this is funny that this is on a news site. i am a teenage boy and all i can say is wow. maybe this isn't obvious to your generation but you should realize that socially oral sex more commonly known, to our generation, as "head(for blowjobs)" and "eating out(for vaginal oral sex)" is a much smaller deal than sex. i am a sophomore in high school in los angeles and i have received many blowjobs from girls i was not dating. they are fairly common especially at parties with lots of drinking. at every party, averaging around 100 girls, anywhere from 3-8 give blowjobs that night. however, very few if any have sex. now alot of girls don't engage in this but alot do and if you are in an exclusive relationship then at least oral sex is to be expected anytime after a few weeks. while my current girlfriend and i didn't engage in oral sex for two months i was an outlier. most of my friends thought i was crazy for staying in that relationship but it has now been five months today(we have been having sex for the past two months) and we have once again lined up with the norm. i gues what i'm saying is you should realize that standards are changing sexually and you ought be aware. however, if you try to stand in your child's way as opposed to accepting this to some degree, I can GUARANTEE that it will severely damage your relationship with your kid. speaking from the point of view from a straight a student, one of the top debaters in the country, and water polo team captain who has a great relationship with his parents, understanding that you can't control us and thus you are going to have to give in a little bit in order to have any say. many of my friends parents have realized this and many have not and in EVERY SINGLE CASE the ones who have are the ones who don't need to lie to their parents. am i saying that you have to accept everything, no, but what i am saying is being the parent who will not over react and will tolerate things is the only parent who is going to be able to mold their child in a positive way. i haven't lied to my dad in a long time and that is because he trusts my decision making and i can trust that he will be rational with me. i have smoked a fair amount of pot, drunk alot of beer and never lied to my dad once if he asked me. the first time i smoked pot my dad asked and i told him i had. he was not happy but understanding and laid down firm, but not unfair, rules with me and that has made my actions with regards to drugs, alcohol, and sex much safer. had he reacted with anger, it would not have stopped me for long and he would have no say in what i do and no ability to make me act responsibly. i hope that i am hitting home with one parent who reads this because i have been trying to get parents to understand this for a long time. if you just say no all the time we will just lie to you and do it anyway. if you try to spy on us and restrict us not only will you likely fail but you will destroy your relationship with your child and when they do get free you will have serious issues. if you, however, don't always react badly and rationally discuss it you will be able to positively affect our choices and we will never have to lie to you because we never really want to anyway. so please the next time you catch your kid doing something that you feel is "wrong" don't react angrily and you will get better results in the long run. I love you mom.

    November 1, 2010 at 20:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Miguel

      Next time you feel compelled to write a 600-word essay on blowjobs, pause–take a deep breath–and do your homework instead.

      November 1, 2010 at 20:53 | Report abuse |
    • Wonder

      I graduated from high school in the early 90s. I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't even KNOW about oral until college. Didn't try it until grad school!

      November 1, 2010 at 20:56 | Report abuse |
    • teresa, ohio

      wow.... as a parent who could have handled the truth from both of my kids fairly sanely and rationally, we parents dont care what youre doing. in fact, we would love it if we didnt know or THINK we know. we are merely counting the days you can go off to live on your own. go about having sex w/ your galpals and get all the bj's you want, just PLEASE when you come down with a STD or a whining BABY to ruin YOUR life, dont drag the kid home to us, your parents, to raise. ok? : ) thanks. we love you, son.

      p.s. a teen boy is only measured by HIS friends by how many bj's and partners he has. keep talking....ODD THAT in yer ID you call yourself a "child". hmmmm

      November 1, 2010 at 21:31 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      You lost me at 'Wow'

      November 1, 2010 at 21:58 | Report abuse |
    • JJ

      I love straight-A students who are unable to compose gramatically correct essays. Must be the pot.....

      November 1, 2010 at 22:38 | Report abuse |
    • Patricia

      Revealing your adolescent tendency to think older people "don't get it" only tells me that you don't get people older than you. These slang references you used are as old as the hills. Believe it or not, we were doing it all at your age, and younger. Kids think they're the only ones having sex!

      November 1, 2010 at 23:31 | Report abuse |
    • dustbuster

      Agreed? please post cliff notes next time. mucho thankyous, mama

      November 1, 2010 at 23:43 | Report abuse |
    • rbnlegend

      Capital letters, kid. You aren't e.e.cummings and you aren't texting on your phone.

      I hate to break it to you, but you aren't describing anything new. What you say sounds just like high school in the 1980's. Not all the stories were, or are, true, but enough were to terrify any uptight parent. These days, all my classmates seem to have forgotten what they were doing back then, and are busy trying to figure out how to keep their kids pants on, but trust me, you haven't come up with anything new. You haven't changed the rules. You aren't getting more action. You have changed the slang some, that changes all the time. The thing no one is saying here is that nothing has changed, and the same people who are so worried about teen sex now were having it or dreaming about it when they were younger.

      November 2, 2010 at 08:41 | Report abuse |
  37. michael

    Some of you really are apemen!

    November 1, 2010 at 20:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Miguel

    OH REALLY? Foreplay leads to intercourse?

    November 1, 2010 at 20:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Wonder

    I've been happily married 12 years and husband's never done it on me (oral, that is). I'm totally clean, shaven (bald) in that area. He likes it when I perform oral on him and also likes vag sex. I'm happy...I just don't know what to do to get him to want to do it.

    Jealous that girls half my age are apparently getting it all the time. Noone did that to me until graduate school and I did love it!

    November 1, 2010 at 20:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Miguel

      Wonder, I'll be frank: that's a bummer. Good sex is unselfish sex. I'm a married man, and the very best motivation I have for performing oral sex on my wife is that she adores it. The ability to stimulate and satisfy your partner strikes is, to me, the biggest reward sex offers. It's a great two-way street.

      For the record, the study proves true, for me. My wife and I dated in high school, and long before we ever had intercourse, I was, as the kids say, "eating her out."

      November 1, 2010 at 21:02 | Report abuse |
    • really?

      yo, ill eat that right now

      November 1, 2010 at 22:58 | Report abuse |
  40. Lynn

    Oral sex was icky 55 yrs. ago and still is yucky. There's no appeal for women, it's basically a man thing.

    November 1, 2010 at 20:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Miguel

      Interesting. My wife (and, frankly, other women I've dated) attest that it's the very easiest way for her/them to climax with a partner.

      If you're uninterested in satisfying your partner because it's "yucky," you're sexually selfish, whether you're a man or a woman.

      November 1, 2010 at 21:04 | Report abuse |
    • dustbuster

      Agreed. I'll pass on the century old cooch, also.

      November 1, 2010 at 21:21 | Report abuse |
    • Patricia

      you're kidding ... right?.....

      November 1, 2010 at 23:41 | Report abuse |
  41. Billy

    That makes sense. Survey a state where the HS kids are 75% minority, immigrant, and poor about their sexual habits as a "proxy" for teen behavior nationwide.

    November 1, 2010 at 20:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Miguel

      Billy, are you suggesting that oral sex involving wealthy white kids doesn't lead to sex? It leads to sex for me.

      November 1, 2010 at 21:05 | Report abuse |
  42. ScottDickson

    Please read! This is not that far off in the distance. It's probably closer than we think.

    November 1, 2010 at 20:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Doug

    Kids must be figuring out something else to along the way.

    In 2002 the abortion rate among teenager mother was 50 percent lower than its high point in 1988.
    Among black teenagers, the pregnancy rate dropped around 40 percent since 1990.
    Among Hispanic teenagers the pregnancy rate dropped around 19 percent since 1990.
    Among white teenagers, the pregnancy rate dropped around 34 percent since 1990.

    November 1, 2010 at 21:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Justin

    Mmmmm, put it in yer mouth!

    November 1, 2010 at 21:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. srfdude

    I find it so hilarious that so many "adults" find this "news" so alarming. HELLO??? WHERE'VE YOU BEEN? Guess what parents, you're kids have been having sex since prob. they were 13. NO. LIE. As a college student, I know of kids who lost their virginity in 6th and 7th grade. Did you really have to waste money and do a study on this particular topic when you could've alternatively just opened your damn eyes? What's even more funny is that school districts all over this country of ours still feel it appropriate to have "Sex Education Classes" in 11th or 12th grade when in fact (and due to kids losing their virginity in earlier years), they should be educating students on sex safety in 8th or 9th grade. Seriously, when I was in Sex. Ed. in 12th grade, it was more of a review than a new education.


    November 1, 2010 at 21:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Justin

    Open your mouth, now open the other end of that digestive system.....yeah...thats it! Mmm.

    November 1, 2010 at 21:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Gerry

    Drinking water is now considered a "gateway beverage" as it leads to drinking heavier beverages.

    November 1, 2010 at 21:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Descarado

    And dancing can lead to sex while standing up...

    I am amazed at how stupid some of the youthful comments are on this board concerning religion and culture. Big, big opinions from a generation that no longer reads, but gets most of its operational information from the boob tube.

    They didn't answer the roll call for math and science and they are totally lacking in language and world history.

    I think the current 20-35 generation has to be the dumbest generation of Americans since World War One.

    We are witnessing "The Decline and Fall of America" in real time.

    November 1, 2010 at 21:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Keep on thinking that

      Thats what every generation says about the next one.

      November 1, 2010 at 21:17 | Report abuse |
  49. the solution

    Why is everyone giving up on changing the behavior? Once teens are convinced to remain celibate until their mid-twenties all of our social problems will go away. The war on teen sex just needs a slogan. Unfortunately "just say no" is already taken. How about 'wait before you mate?' Anyone? This could work with a focused community effort.

    November 1, 2010 at 21:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. mier kahn

    oral sex is gross. its disgusting. all this premarital sex is making our country full of psychological issues compounded over the the 4-5 generations. THe middle east and India is only starting to get a taste of this shitty lifestyle –

    November 1, 2010 at 21:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jess

      Well oral sex is not necessarily premarital sex. But I just wanted to comment that if you haven't tried it, you are missing out. If you are in a committed relationship right now, give it a shot. There is nothing disgusting about it.

      November 1, 2010 at 21:11 | Report abuse |
    • Miguel

      I find your prudishness "gross." I'll say a prayer for you before performing oral sex on my wife tonight.

      November 1, 2010 at 21:13 | Report abuse |
    • dustbuster

      Agreed, sh*tty oral does taste gross

      November 1, 2010 at 23:39 | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.