Study Reports Anal Sex on Rise Among Teens

Even though the topic of anal sex is often considered taboo, Lescano urges "open discussion" of its consequences in doctor's offices, within sexual relationships and with parents.

Anecdotally, young adults confirm the reports of a rise in anal sex, including the perception that it is safe.

"I know some teens who did it just to try, and some who didn't have a condom available," said one 18-year-old Californian who did not want her name used.

"I think that it's less taboo simply because people are more open to trying new things," said her 23-year-old sister. "The younger crowd might be scared by the idea of getting pregnant, so they assume it's safer."

"It takes a great amount of trust to try something new with somebody that you may or may not like," she said. "I'd consider it if there was a ring on my finger. Otherwise, I feel I'd be losing some of my dignity as a woman."

One recent graduate of a New England college said one of her classmates was a "hard-core" Catholic who was rumored to have engaged in risky behavior.

"She only had anal sex with her boyfriend until they were married because that technically kept her a virgin," said the 25-year-old who wanted to remain anonymous.

Indeed, another well-publicized 2005 study using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health found that teenagers who take "virginity pledges" were more likely to engage in oral or anal sex than nonpledging teens and less likely to use condoms once they became sexually active.

STDs Same for Pledgers, Nonpledgers

Conducted by researchers at Yale and Columbia universities, the study found that although teens who made the pledges had sex later than those who had not pledged and had fewer partners overall, both groups had similar rates of sexually transmitted diseases.

In the Hasbro study, females who had anal sex were more likely to be living with their partners, to have two or more sexual partners and to have previously experienced coerced intercourse. Males who engaged in this behavior were more likely to identify themselves as being homosexual, bisexual or undecided.

"These findings suggest that the factors associated with anal intercourse among females in the study relate to the context and power balance of sexual relationships," Lescano said. "We must teach teen girls and young women how to be assertive in sexual relationships, such as refusing unwanted sexual acts and negotiating for safer sex, whether it's anal or vaginal."

Megan Carpentier, who writes about politics and women for Jezebel.com, said girls negotiating with boys for their attention is as old as time.

"Young women are concerned as much about being liked and loved as getting pleasure out of sex," Carpentier, 31, told ABCNews.com. "It certainly was going on when I was in high school: 'Do this if you love me.'"

"Putting it out there -- either oral or anal -- is not a consolation prize," she said. "You are giving up something."

Carpentier said the dismantling of comprehensive sex education programs in the public schools is to blame for teen ignorance about the hazards of anal sex. And it is unrealistic to expect doctors to talk to teens about this touchy topic.

"How many times do teens go to a pediatrician, not a gynecologist?" she said. "And when I was 18, my mother was still in the room."

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