Dare to Ask: Which race is doing it? They all are
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
Are white girls more aggressive when it comes to sex?
TJ, 19, Puerto Rican male, Swarthmore, Pa.
I think there may be a misconception among most girls my age that white girls
are not supposed to be as "exciting" as those of other races, so maybe we are
just trying to rebel against that image.
Kathryn, 15, white, New Haven, Conn.
Teenage girls of every ethnic group are having sex.
R., black female, Greenville, S.C.
[White girls] seem to think being sexually aggressive and outrageous will get
them the most popular guys. A perfect example are Girls Gone Wild videos. It's
always white girls flashing their breasts. Their parents must be so proud.
T.M., 36, white female, Indiana
We assume TJ is talking about younger females, so here are some statistics:
- The Centers for Disease Control's surveys since 1991 have found that black
females in grades 9-12 are more likely to report having had sexual intercourse
than Hispanic and white students. In the latest findings, for 2005, 61.2 percent
of black girls in those grades reported ever having had sexual intercourse,
compared with 44.4 percent of Hispanic girls and 43.7 percent of white girls.
Meanwhile, 18.6 percent of black teen females reported having had sex with four
or more persons in their life, compared with 11.1 percent for whites and 10.4
percent for Hispanics.
- However, more white female teens than girls of other races report having
had more sexual experiences that fall short of intercourse. For example, among
all female teens ages 15-19, whites were twice as likely to report this than
African-Americans were, and 50 percent more likely than Hispanics, according to
a 2005 CDC report.
Some thoughts on all this from Jennifer Manlove, Ph.D., who researches teen
sexuality for the Washington, D.C.-based Child Trends, a non-profit,
non-partisan research center focusing on youth issues:
White teen girls actually now report being more sexually active than their
white male counterparts - but the reverse is true for other races.
"That may give the impression that white girls are more likely to have sex
because they've 'caught up' with the boys in sexual experience," she said.
That, combined with the fact that white girls more often engage in sexual
practices that nonetheless fall short of intercourse, may create the impression
in males (of any race) that white girls are more promiscuous, Manlove noted.
With respect to teen sex overall, poverty increases the chances of having
sexual activity at an earlier age, and because poverty hits African-Americans
harder, that may partly account for higher sexual activity rates, she said.
In poverty-level households, teens' activities are, unfortunately, less
likely to be as closely monitored, Manlove said.
"For teens whose parents tell them very clearly not to engage in sex, it
makes it less likely they will."
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to phillip. firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also hear his
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