ABC News Poll: Sex Lives of American Teens

Strikingly, girls and boys alike share this stereotypical view. Indeed, girls are especially apt to say that having sex gives girls a bad reputation -- and to say that it gives boys a good reputation. Among older girls in particular, 47 percent say having sex gives boys a good reputation.

EMOTIONS -- Teens express conflicting emotional associations on the subject of sex, with deep differences between girls and boys. The two most cited are "natural" and "dangerous," but with a big spike among older teens, particularly older boys, who also call it "exciting" and "fun."

Sixty-two percent of girls call sex "scary"; that drops to 28 percent of boys. Just over a quarter of young girls call sex "fun"; that doubles to 54 percent of older girls, and it's 72 percent among older boys. Similarly, 32 percent of younger girls call sex "exciting"; it's 60 percent among older girls, and 78 percent among older boys. About four in 10 girls, and three in 10 boys, call sex "sinful." About a third of girls call it "embarrassing"; that drops to 17 percent of boys. Eighty-three percent of girls, and 69 percent of boys, call it "dangerous."

These views are associated with behavior. Sexual activity, from kissing to touching to oral sex to intercourse, is much more prevalent among teens who call such activities "fun" and "exciting," and much less prevalent among those who call it "scary," "sinful," "embarrassing" or "dangerous." And teens who are sexually active are much more likely to call sex fun and exciting.

There's also a very striking difference between girls and boys in their focus on sex. While 18 percent of teenage girls think about sex at least once a day, that jumps to 48 percent among boys -- and 66 percent among 17-year-old boys. (This difference only grows between adult men and women.) And thinking about it is correlated with doing it.

WHEN, WHERE -- On average, teens who've had sexual intercourse (girls and boys alike) say it first was at age 15. Twenty percent report that it occurred at age 13 or younger, and the youngest reported in this survey is age eight. Fifty-one percent of those who've had intercourse wish they'd waited longer; as noted, especially girls. (The other half, though, say it was about the right age.)

Drugs and alcohol do not appear to be very strong factors in first-time intercourse; 88 percent say they were not using either. On oral sex, the average first-time age also is 15, with 22 percent at age 13 or younger, and a youngest age of seven -- all about the same as for first-time intercourse.

Teens report that most of their sexual activity occurs at a home: Twenty-eight percent at their own home, 33 percent at someone else's home. Specifically among teens who've had oral sex or sexual intercourse, the numbers are higher: four in 10 at their own home, another four in 10 at someone else's home.

Clearly, age is the strongest factor in teen sexual activity, but there are others. Despite the notion of prevalent casual sex and an aversion to dating, nearly four in 10 teens have a boy- or girlfriend, and sexual activity spikes in this group.

Among teens with a current girl- or boyfriend, 30 percent say it's a sexual relationship (rising to 39 percent of older teens). By contrast, among teens who don't have a girl- or boyfriend, far fewer -- six percent -- are currently sexually active.

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