Teenage sex survey reveals shocking facts

Published Mar 9, 2001


Three out of 10 South African children are having sex by the age of 13. Of those, 9 percent have had sexual intercourse before they turned 12.

These shocking figures are part of a disturbingly illuminating report based on the largest ever national survey, in which 2 000 teenagers between the ages 12-17 took part.

According to the report - published by loveLife, an Aids awareness organisation focusing on children between the ages of 12 and 15 - almost 80 percent of all sexually experienced teens had their first sexual experience by the time they were 15.

The youngsters say peer pressure and coercion play a significant role in their sexual behaviour. For many of them, sex is seen as a commodity that can be exchanged for money or other forms of payment.

Dr Michael Sinclair, senior vice-president of the Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation, which commissioned the survey, says it is essential for people to know these facts about adolescents because parents, especially, often deny them.

"This is fundamental information that can guide us in understanding and working with the youth. We know so little about what drives adolescent behaviour," he says.

He says loveLife's main rationale is to restore responsibility to the family, where there needs to be open communication about sex, backed up by sex education. It is clear from the survey, he believes, that children want to get that information at home and not from their teachers, which is often embarrassing.

loveLife spokesperson Judi Nokwedi says parents need to take control, and that it is what they do, not what they say, that counts.

"Sex education for your children is not an event that occurs with your daughter's first menstruation, or when you decide your son is becoming a man. It's a process - one of open communication."

The survey showed that 20 percent of youngsters having sex admitted to having given a girlfriend pocket money, or buying her drinks or food for sex, while 16 percent of the girls say they have had sex in exchange for these things.

Around 22 percent of sexually experienced youngsters said they have sex with their partners because they are afraid of what their friends will say if they don't. In fact, 35% of them agreed with the statement that "Having many sexual partners means I am cool or hip".

One in three sexually active boys and 16 percent of the girls believe they can demand sex even if their partner doesn't want to have it.

At least four percent of all teenagers between 12 and 17 reported having been pregnant or making someone else pregnant.

Most children learn about sex from their friends, while 9% find out from television. Although most of the sexually active adolescents said they are concerned about HIV/Aids, half indicated they don't always use contraception.

Most sexually experienced youngsters (68 percent boys and 54 percent girls) said sex without condoms is more enjoyable, and only 55 percent always use condoms.

The survey revealed that slightly fewer girls (28 percent) than boys (33 percent) report being sexually active, and those in rural areas are more likely to be sexually active at younger ages than those in urban areas.

Also astounding is the number of sexually experienced youth: 22 percent had more than two partners before they were 17. About one in five reported having more than one partner at the time, according to the report.

Related Topics: