Fewer teens having oral sex
More than a third of teens engage in oral sex by the time they reach 17, according to the CDC.
August 17th, 2012
10:41 AM ET

Fewer teens having oral sex

Fewer teens aged 15 to 17 are having oral sex now than in 2002, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, but the number remains high.

The report, based on data from The National Survey of Family Growth, found that more than a third of teens had engaged in oral sex by the time they turned 17. That number climbed to almost 50% by age 19, and more than 80% for 24-year-olds.

The study - based on computer surveys given to over 6,000 teens - also looked at the timing of first oral sex in relation to the timing of first vaginal intercourse. It found that the prevalence of having oral sex before vaginal intercourse was about the same as those having vaginal intercourse before oral sex.

"This new CDC analysis debunks many myths about when young people are initiating oral sex," wrote Leslie Kantor, vice president for education at Planned Parenthood, a family planning advocacy group. "Although there has never been data to support it, there has been the perception that many teens engage in oral sex as a 'risk-free' alternative to intercourse. But the CDC analysis shows that sexually active young people are likely to engage in both activities," she wrote.

How Americans view teen sex

But oral sex, like vaginal intercourse, is not risk-free. According to the CDC's website, "numerous studies have demonstrated that oral sex can result in the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted disease," not the least of which is Human Papillomavirus (HPV), the disease known to cause both cervical and some throat cancers.

"It's widely accepted that there is an increased number of head and neck cancers today due to changes in sexual practices in the '60s, '70s and '80s," - specifically, an increase in oral sex, said Dr. Otis Brawley, the chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.

Regardless of whether teens have oral or vaginal sex first, Kantor says, it's imperative they have the knowledge to make an educated decision about their sexual health.

"We need to make sure that young people have the skills to negotiate what they do and don’t want to do in sexual relationships, as well as education about and access to condoms and birth control so that they can protect themselves from STDs and pregnancy and remain healthy," she wrote.

Sex education: Talking to your teen about sex

soundoff (780 Responses)
  1. sheswallows

    This story sure brought back fond memories of high school. Ah for the good old days when sexually communicated diseases were curable!

    August 18, 2012 at 05:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Keith

      Wasn't life good back then?

      August 18, 2012 at 10:05 | Report abuse |
    • Spike1382

      Umm, HPV isn't new, we just pay more than zero attention to it now. :p The only new STI in the last 500 years is HIV.

      August 18, 2012 at 13:07 | Report abuse |
    • Jack 2

      Spike 13182...It wasn't rampant or epidemic propsrtions like some are now.

      August 18, 2012 at 14:17 | Report abuse |
  2. MdrnPlgrm

    Since I must now pay for other's health care costs then they have an obligation not to impose the negative consequences of their recreational activities on me. Every decision comes at some price. In this case free love is worth just what you pay for it. STDs are the consequence of unconscientious behavior. This behavior is a key contributor to poor health. You don’t get conscientious behavior by telling kids their bodily urges are irresistible, which is what we do in our well intended but off the mark sex ed curriculums.

    August 18, 2012 at 06:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jebbb

      We need sex education starting before age 12 and becoming more explicit in the teen years, so young people understand the risks, and preventive measures, including among others the abstinence your fears and/or religion probably induce. And you might consider dropping the mean-mouthed opposition to public health measures. Public health is a benefit to the entire society, whether you're ill or not. For example, I'm sure childless people paid taxes that sent you to school, and carless people paid for roads you travel on. Drop the appeal to selfishness. Let's remember too that massive damage is done to public health to industry, from cigarettes, to alcohol, to coal burning, the fracking, to foods and personal care products containing carcinogens. Want to make a massive difference? Make more progress there. 'Course, that requires science, not religion, so its harder to do. Not to mention bucking the political payoffs from corporate lobbyists. We have many more problems than just young people enjoying sexual relationships.

      August 18, 2012 at 07:33 | Report abuse |
    • ckerst

      Could you show me copies of the healthcare bills you've paid for "others"? Quit whining. If you can't afford your bills change your lifestyle or ask for a raise.

      August 18, 2012 at 08:50 | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      Now that you pay others health insurance? You have been all along.

      August 18, 2012 at 09:17 | Report abuse |
    • Keith

      Yes we know, life is so hard for you and you are so burdened with the consequences of other people’s actions. All I can say is life is hard for some of us.

      August 18, 2012 at 10:04 | Report abuse |
    • Right minded

      I think modern pilgrim has a point! We will be asked to pay more for others and THIS WILL come at the expense of working Americans saving for retirement. I have to pay into social security as a 30-something and I have no expectation that I will see the benefits of doing this when I retire. In light of this, concerned taxpayers who work hard and earnestly save for the future are being penalized and it is very umfair to make them pay for other's poor choices.

      You know what the problem really is? Americans don't care anymore. They just want to feel good by having crazy sex, eating rich food and getting fat, buying expensive cars and homes....then they expect no consequences! Let the government pay for it!!

      August 18, 2012 at 10:11 | Report abuse |
    • jjaz

      Since I must now pay for the roads you drive on, you must follow the speed limit set by me, oh, and no more driving in the left lane at 10 miles below the speed limit.
      Since I must pay for the police, you can no longer call 911, except for the emergencies that set priority for. Since I must pay for the fire department, you may not call them except if I think it is a real fire. If there is indication that the fire was negligence on your part, they must let the house burn down. Since I must now pay for your kids schooling, they must take courses designated by me. You think you speak from moral superiority, with all the smugness and self righteousness that goes with it. You are wrong, I am actually your moral superior and you must do as I say (because I say so!).

      August 18, 2012 at 10:39 | Report abuse |
    • Pumaman

      @MdrnPlgrm, so...since you believe sexual urges are not irresistible, please explain the 7+billion people roaming our gentle Earth.

      August 18, 2012 at 12:01 | Report abuse |
  3. Kenny

    Now this is really "FRONT PAGE NEWS". I guess it can be said that since teens are eating out less today that we will have fewer over weight young people in the near future.

    August 18, 2012 at 06:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Yuck

      You are missing the point. Teens have traditionally chosen oral sex rather than intercourse to avoid pregnancy. Since they are engaging in less oral sex the teen pregnancy rate will rise.

      August 18, 2012 at 08:57 | Report abuse |
  4. hannah1

    Who cares???!! and why am I seeing something so vile, perverted and disgusting on CNN?????

    August 18, 2012 at 06:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Gaunt

      Oral sex is 'vile, disgusting and perverted' to you?

      That sound you hear is your spouce getting ready to leave you.

      August 18, 2012 at 07:56 | Report abuse |
    • Sane Person

      lol, you clicked it honey. You searched down thru all the small topics, found it, and decided "Yes, lets read that one!" then are shocked at the debauchery! Oh, I love CNN's comments people.

      August 18, 2012 at 08:08 | Report abuse |
    • Keith

      Hanna, it is an unfortunate thing that anyone choose you for a partner

      August 18, 2012 at 10:07 | Report abuse |
    • noone

      Ewwww, sex gross! I'm offended! Now I must go to my prayer closet and flog the vile thoughts from my head!

      August 18, 2012 at 10:28 | Report abuse |
    • jjaz

      My wife and I have been married for 30 years and we still engage in oral sex. It's fun! What part is vile and disgusting?

      August 18, 2012 at 10:42 | Report abuse |
    • sunsohot

      "seeing something so vile, perverted and disgusting on CNN" was the exact thing that prompted you to click on this story...admit it.

      August 18, 2012 at 10:44 | Report abuse |
    • rob

      Go back to your hand job...

      August 18, 2012 at 10:53 | Report abuse |
    • Pumaman

      You're under the mistaken impression that "CNN" stands for Church Nazi News

      August 18, 2012 at 12:03 | Report abuse |
    • James PDX

      hannah1, I didn't know monastaries had internet access.

      August 18, 2012 at 12:06 | Report abuse |
    • Martin

      Not to mention immoral, reprobate and disobedient activity.

      August 18, 2012 at 12:24 | Report abuse |
    • maybe me

      Re; hannah1. "oral sex; vile and disgusting"

      Yes i have to agree that hannah1's thinking or frame of mind is one I hope to avoid in any relationship.

      But I think she just wants attention.

      I'd happily "Eat her Out" just to see the look on her face ;p

      August 18, 2012 at 12:58 | Report abuse |
  5. chedar888

    Head and neck cancer is due to HPV? this is interesting. So you get cervical cancer if you get HPV as well. Wonder why male doesn't get cancerous in their sexual organ?

    August 18, 2012 at 06:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ari hal

      Actually, HPV infection does put males at risk for penile cancer. This, along with the head & neck cancer risk, is a strong argument in favor of HPV vaccination for males.

      August 18, 2012 at 07:34 | Report abuse |
    • Pumaman

      I guess this explains how I gave my wife Breast Cancer

      August 18, 2012 at 12:06 | Report abuse |
    • TailsOrHeads

      Oh, Pumaman, thank you. That was both sobering and hilarious!

      August 18, 2012 at 12:15 | Report abuse |
  6. Sooj

    The "safe" alternative in a teen's mind is usually in regards to making babies. That's what I thought about oral sex when I was 15. So I was one of those teens who did oral and avoided intercourse thinking only about no babies. Lucky for me, my girlfriend and I were first timers and lasted together up to college when I learned about reality, so we remained STD free. But many of my friends who were more promiscuous did not fair so well. With the U.S. education system being as lame as it is, scaring teens into believing condoms never work and birth control will make you sterile, only encourage stupidity. And then by having teachers demonizing or flat out not informing correctly, teens make mistakes that can cost them. If anyone can remember what it was like to be a teen, you'd remember your hormones. Physically, that is when your primal endorphins flood your brain for the first time and trying to scare teens instead of inform them, only leads to ridiculous new problems. Remember American Pie? Stopping teens from wanting to fool around is like stopping a train with a post it note. It's not going to happen, so why try? Why not instead protect them my informing them properly the risks and solutions to staying safe? Oh that's right, because Jesus. . .

    August 18, 2012 at 06:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Miller Henley

      a train could easily be stopped with a post-it note. wad the thing up and stick it in the fuel line. and kids' promiscuity can be reduced as well.

      August 18, 2012 at 09:51 | Report abuse |
    • Pumaman

      @Sooj, well said! @Miller, please please pleaaase go stand on a train track and perform your "fool" proof method of stopping trains with a post-it note.

      August 18, 2012 at 12:09 | Report abuse |
  7. dajowi

    I guess teens have a short memory. Wasn't it just yesterday that President Clinton was going on about how oral sex wasn't sex?

    August 18, 2012 at 07:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Josh

      Ancient American history, 20th century, isn't covered in all that great detail, since they cut back in teachers.

      August 18, 2012 at 12:09 | Report abuse |
  8. CNNisinAtlanta

    Don't write me write the CNN folks in HOTTLANTA, must be that this generation hasn't heard or seen the use of Saran Wrap extensively. Maybe they don't know what Saran Wrap is used for.. They are more worried about DEBT- Student Loan bills and the Deficit that totals 15 Trillion that their generation will have to pay back to the Chinese!!! The Bush Cheney policies of 2001-2008 2 wars and a Tax Cut to Millionaires and Billionaires has consequences. Look at Romney making 8 figures and claiming he only paid 13% tax.. When Regan was President Romney would have paid 39% tax as a minimum.
    Yet today he gloats that even with Charitable contributions he only pays 20% .
    This country and our military cant run on buzzards like him only paying 13% and having offshore accounts to hide the other 200 Million. while he lives off the interest. Thats what CNN should be reporting about..

    August 18, 2012 at 07:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • James PDX

      This article is about having oral sex. Are you implying that you want to give Romney oral sex?

      August 18, 2012 at 12:05 | Report abuse |
  9. Brent Bushburner

    Well this is the most depressing news story I have ever read.

    August 18, 2012 at 07:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rob

      Loneliness... Self gratification... you're right, pretty depressing...

      August 18, 2012 at 11:01 | Report abuse |
  10. Dafuq CNN

    Dafuq CNN, is this seriously making news...

    August 18, 2012 at 07:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Keith

      It is news to me.

      August 18, 2012 at 10:10 | Report abuse |
    • James PDX

      People are reading it, so apparently CNN made a good call.

      August 18, 2012 at 12:04 | Report abuse |
  11. Andeea

    They're just missing out! Better have oral sex and not get knocked up, then to bring more babies into the world that they can't take care of!

    August 18, 2012 at 07:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. The Question Remains...

    Are fewer Ex-President Bubbas?

    August 18, 2012 at 08:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Sane Person

    Poor teens..

    Short news week I guess.

    August 18, 2012 at 08:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. al

    Well if they practiced more oral there would be less welfare babies running around with the mommy saying I don't know who the daddy is.

    August 18, 2012 at 08:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jorge washinsen

      I do not think they want to know who the daddy is.

      August 18, 2012 at 09:56 | Report abuse |
  15. Ted

    Remember – alawys floss after eating.

    August 18, 2012 at 08:46 | Report abuse | Reply

      That's what pubes are for !

      August 18, 2012 at 13:10 | Report abuse |
  16. Mike

    The CDC doesn't know anything conclusively. These numbers come from surveys. Do they really trust teenagers to give completely honest answers to government surveys?

    August 18, 2012 at 08:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Josh

      All they needed, was a Facebook page on oral sex, and ask teens to "like" it. 🙂

      August 18, 2012 at 12:11 | Report abuse |
  17. Joe

    When I was in high school, all the girls were taking it in the butt to keep from getting pregnant. Good times, good times.

    August 18, 2012 at 08:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • OTIS

      But were you able to walk after they got done with you?

      August 18, 2012 at 09:15 | Report abuse |
    • Nicko

      Those were some good girls

      August 18, 2012 at 12:29 | Report abuse |
  18. Captain Hindsight

    and then when these kids get married, the oral sex rate goes to zero!!!!

    August 18, 2012 at 08:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • IndianaGreg

      D@man it...you stole my joke right after I entered it.

      August 18, 2012 at 09:43 | Report abuse |
  19. lannistercurator

    Oral sex does not transmit hiv. Those who claim so have been up to other deeds.

    August 18, 2012 at 09:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • James PDX

      You are clearly the most unsafe sex partner in the world.

      August 18, 2012 at 12:02 | Report abuse |
  20. Austin Danger

    As long as I there is free sex with many anonymous partners i"ll be sound as a pound.

    August 18, 2012 at 09:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. OTIS

    So how come the accompanying picture doesn't match the story??

    August 18, 2012 at 09:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Josh

      If any minors read this story, they will think that "oral sex" is simply kissing, and thus, the picture.

      August 18, 2012 at 12:20 | Report abuse |
  22. IndianaGreg

    In other news, the percentage of wives engaging in Oral Sex remained unchanged....right around 0.000001%

    August 18, 2012 at 09:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Josh

      You just aren't buying your wife large enough diamonds.

      August 18, 2012 at 12:13 | Report abuse |
    • Indiana Greg's Wife

      Sure I still give head, Honey. Just not to you. Pretty much all your friends, though...

      August 18, 2012 at 14:04 | Report abuse |
  23. Oral Rob Burts

    These 'surveys' always make me laugh. How the hell could they possibly know this?

    August 18, 2012 at 09:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Skeptimist

      Maybe they have a lot of braggarts on their contact list.

      August 18, 2012 at 10:12 | Report abuse |
  24. jorge washinsen

    The last 4 years have been the years of enlightment.

    August 18, 2012 at 09:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. sim namore

    This is a national tragedy.

    August 18, 2012 at 10:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Consequence

    not all teenagers with raging hormones resort to dangerous sexual activity made degrading outside the bonds of marriage.. some are educated and more than capable of reserving these powers by staying focused on the right time, right place, right person and under the right condition for sexual expression and the expectation of child making. there is nothing wrong with doing it right.

    August 18, 2012 at 10:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • James PDX

      Sex is just for baby making? Damn, my wife is too old to be fertile. Now I'm going to have to cheat on her with a younger woman so I can keep having sex.

      August 18, 2012 at 12:01 | Report abuse |
    • Martin

      Agreed. Mainly trailer trash kids with single moms that end up down this road.

      August 18, 2012 at 12:30 | Report abuse |
  27. loleveryday

    I didn't know you can make an article from such a stupid topic

    August 18, 2012 at 10:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Geo

    I bet the boys are still munching the carpet .

    August 18, 2012 at 11:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. James PDX

    I knew teens were getting more stupid. This proves it.

    August 18, 2012 at 11:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Ben

    Wrong verb in the headline there. Should be "admitting".

    August 18, 2012 at 12:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. John Blackadder

    I saw a sign on the Internet: "Anal is the new Oral!"

    I hope the religious right didn't get too ecstatic about this

    August 18, 2012 at 12:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Pro Death

    And std's are still at an all time HIGH!!!

    August 18, 2012 at 12:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Nicko

    Do they not know how? Someone should teach them. A 69 is glorious.

    August 18, 2012 at 12:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Martin

    I'd like to know how they have the time, opportunity and place availability to conduct this? Where are their parents?

    August 18, 2012 at 12:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Roger Ogilvy Thornhill

    sexting + masturbation has taken its place?

    August 18, 2012 at 12:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. wassup

    Regardless, it's great to see that teens – and likely early teens too – are hard at it! A little less oral is just a temporary lull in otherwise fun stuff. Glad to also see the world is finally getting realistic about that good ol' teen sex issue – they're not celibate like their folks insist! LOL No such thing as too much fun!

    August 18, 2012 at 12:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Mark

    I'm thinking we should lower the age for when people can get married to around 12. That would totally take care of teens having oral sex!

    August 18, 2012 at 12:47 | Report abuse | Reply

    If it smells like fish....run. It's probably a bacterial infection. If smells like cologne, leave it alone.......

    August 18, 2012 at 13:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. crazeelegs

    What is the difference between love, true love and showing off?

    Spitting, swallowing and gargling.

    August 18, 2012 at 13:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Kay Bee


    August 18, 2012 at 13:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Wisdom

    I think instead of a drivers license, people should be made to carry a certificate of health ID. It's your health records and any infectious diseases you may carry. They would have a go-no-go swiper before you can enter certain establishments. That way clubs could be 'disease free' clubs. It's called quarantining, and it works! If people want to chance sex with a stranger, they can go up to an 'alter' and swipe their cards to see if the other partner is lying. Perhaps people who have mouth disease should be prevented from drinking from the same cups as you at a restaurant in case the moron dishwasher forgets to wash that cup. Every got a cup with lipstick still on it? Public swimming pools, showers, bathrooms. It's too bad that people have got these diseases, but it's worse if they spread. They won the negative lottery with their bad gambling, let them keep their winnings and not spread the loosing. Spreading a disease should be seen as assault, poisoning someone's body and future. People would make better decisions then when they are accountable for their actions.

    August 18, 2012 at 13:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. THX1953

    Sucks to be them

    or not

    August 18, 2012 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Jack Mehofff

    Perhaps they are blowing smoke up the survey takers skirt

    August 18, 2012 at 14:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Jack Mehofff

    Today's teens blow

    August 18, 2012 at 14:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Donnab

    The only thing that I cared about at 15 was pitching on my girl's softball league. And I'm not that old.

    August 18, 2012 at 14:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mike Hock

      wanted to be on the girls wrestling team

      August 18, 2012 at 14:19 | Report abuse |
  46. Mike Hunt

    My girlfriend loves Colonel Angus

    August 18, 2012 at 14:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Mike Hunt

    Boys have a peapea and girls have agina

    August 18, 2012 at 14:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. mork

    how about ANAL wheres the stats for that 😀

    August 18, 2012 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. To be young

    My girlfriend told me she was leaving me, she said she loves Mike Hock so I said then why would you leave me? does not make any sense he professes loving Mike Hock so much.

    August 18, 2012 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Jack 2

    They should separate the statistics from the gays.

    August 18, 2012 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Greg

      That is actually one of the smartest insights I have ever read

      August 18, 2012 at 15:48 | Report abuse |
    • Religion = insantiy

      Actually, they should separate the Christians, since statistics show that children of Christians are more likely to have sex earlier, contract STDs, become pregnant as teens, and engage in generally risky sexual behavior than children of non-Christians... Guess that lack of sex education is really paying off for you, huh??

      August 18, 2012 at 18:39 | Report abuse |
    • G

      It would be reasonable to separate out guys/girls, gay/straight, public/private school, races and religions.....separating stats helps figure out which groups need better education not to pick on any particular group!

      August 18, 2012 at 19:40 | Report abuse |
    • Marcus

      Religion=...cite your sources please. Congrats on squeezing ridiculous, baseless assumptions into your delusional response.

      August 18, 2012 at 19:43 | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      Separate the statistics from the gays? Does that sentence even make sense? Too funny. Drink *after* you post next time, lol.

      August 18, 2012 at 19:52 | Report abuse |
    • Really "Religion = insanity"?

      No way you're going to make foolish assertions like those without backing them up with facts and figures from a reputable source, "R = I" You sound absurd, and I guarantee no such numbers exist, no matter how bad you wish they did.

      August 18, 2012 at 22:31 | Report abuse |
    • shawbrooke

      The responses asking for data are right on. However gays are such a small proportion of the population (1% of women and 3% of men despite some wishes that the numbers were higher) that taking out gay sex is unlikely to change the trends. If people in the 70's and 80's had realized the downsides of oral sex, it's highly unlikely that the push to increase oral sex would have happened. As it is, guidance in schools needs to include the downsides of oral sex. Ask your 17 year old what the downsides of oral sex are. If they don't know, your school is doing a poor job of sex ed.

      August 18, 2012 at 23:05 | Report abuse |
    • Ms

      This is for Marcus:


      August 20, 2012 at 16:45 | Report abuse |
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