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Teen girls less likely than boys to use protection during first-time sex

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Illustration by Thomas Pitilli

A study at Arizona State has some surprising results: teen girls are more likely than boys to forego protection when having sex for the first time, by a startling 30%. As doctoral student and study author Nicole Weller points out, "boys are usually more likely to engage in risky behaviors across the spectrum, both in drinking and sexual behaviors," so this is a bit of a curveball. (Please appreciate my restraint in not headlining this post "Teen girls riddled with STDs," even though that apparently would've been accurate.) Weller speculates that girls often lose their virginities to older boys (from our own extended study: true) and may put an undeserved trust in their partners' greater experience.

Her study also concludes that sex education doesn't increase condom use, but that makes me wonder what sex education she studied; Arizona's abstinence-only sex ed has been hotly contested, with Democratic former governor Janet Napolitano's 2008 decision to refuse federal abstinence-only sex-ed funding overturned by Republican governor Jan Brewer in 2009. A recent Slate piece covered the vast gap between U.S. anti-sex sex ed, which often links condoms to promiscuity, and more progressive European sex ed, noting that 64% of Dutch teens use protection, compared to only a quarter of U.S. teens. That contradicts the Arizona State study, and is also pretty depressing. Keep that head in the sand, America.