pageok
pageok
pageok
Now Here's a Teen Oral Sex Scandal for You:

Here's data on the "Percentage of Never Married Teen Males Ages 15 to 19 Who Have Had Oral Sex, by Sex Type and Sexual Experience, 1995 and 2002" (table 1):

19952002
Given oral sexReceived Oral sexGiven oral sexReceived Oral sex
Total38.649.438.451.2
   Hispanic36.843.635.547.3
   Non-Hispanic white41.850.844.252.9
   Non-Hispanic black20.547.120.556.6
Have not had sexual intercourse11.715.412.820.7
   Hispanic8.79.65.414.8
   Non-Hispanic white12.816.715.122.9
   Non-Hispanic black1.15.65.919.9
Have had sexual intercourse60.877.465.583.5
   Hispanic57.468.359.773.2
   Non-Hispanic white70.584.680.490.2
   Non-Hispanic black26.159.128.275.6

Even in 2002, the "received" fraction exceeds "given" by nearly 13%, and even more among some ethnic groups. Say what you will about raising a generation of teenagers who have more premarital sex than before (in my view, that's pretty troubling in some ways, inevitable in many ways, obviously less troubling once we get higher in the age range, just fine and on balance quite pleasant for many teenagers who have sex safely and responsibly, and very bad for many teenagers and adults who don't have sex safely and responsibly). But regardless of all that, there's just no excuse for raising a generation of selfish cads.

Among girls, by the way (table 2), the direction of the difference is similar — more reported having received than given — but by a smaller percentage (6% overall). For whatever it's worth, among the richer teenagers (family income at 300% or more of poverty), both males and females have more oral sex, and the "selfishness gap" declines, though the data I cite doesn't control for race or for family structure.

The data of course reports only whether respondents have had oral sex at least once; it doesn't report on the frequency of giving and of receiving. My fear is that the selfishness gap there will be even greater ....

Justin (mail):
This evidence indicates, though does not explicitly show, that white teens are sluttier than african american teens and hispanic teens. I wonder what the rate of prosecution and conviction is, then, of teens convicted for having consensual sex. I also wonder what the percentage of those cases for each a) are settled on lesser charges b) result in jail time, and c) result in a decision to prosecute the defendant as an adult.
12.19.2006 1:46pm
Jay Myers:
During this holiday season we should all be reminded that 'tis better to give than to receive.
12.19.2006 1:48pm
bchurchhowe (mail):
There's bound to be a ton of hidden factors in studies like this. For example, if you took a survey of the entire population, male and female, would the self reported given and received numbers match up overall? Also, if a significant number of these encounters are taking place in cars, logistics and limits on human flexibility might play just as much of a role as selfishness.
12.19.2006 1:50pm
dr. kinsey:
The statistics seem odd. What's going on -- are there a small number of altruistic souls going around giving oral sex to thousands of people?
12.19.2006 1:53pm
Tennessean (mail):
Two thoughts:

1 - Although I first thought of this as reflecting heterosexual oral sex, that does not (from the copied table) appear to be the case.

2 - Keeping my initial assumption in mind, there is an a priori judgment being made that there is an equivalence between a male giving oral sex and a male receiving oral sex (put in terms of the male since that is apparently the data's perspective). A selfish cad, after all, is one who unduly receives more than he gives (as at least a limiting factor), but the only way we can make that comparison (from this data) is by assent to the initial assumption I mention. Although that assumption may be initially tempting, I think it should quickly crumble under interrogation, and I think it reflects a range of underlying judgments about value subject to significant controversy.
12.19.2006 2:03pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Justin: "Sluttier"? That's such a harsh word. How about "generous"?

Seriously, though, this is the data on oral sex -- according to this source (and echoed by Michael et al., though for older cohorts), 15-to-19-year-old blacks are more likely to have had sex than 15-to-19-year-old whites, and the total number of sexual partners generally is somewhat higher for blacks than for whites. I don't attach any moral labels to this, but I mention it to respond to Justin's assertion.
12.19.2006 2:06pm
BGates (mail) (www):
Also, 92% of the boys reported their sex partner was "this totally hot chick but from, like, a different school-you don't know her," and 96% reported that the sex partner was "totally scared at first because my [penis] was the biggest she had ever seen."
12.19.2006 2:07pm
Justin (mail):
Thank you, Professor.
12.19.2006 2:07pm
Houston Lawyer:
There must be a large BS factor in these numbers just given the group queried.
12.19.2006 2:08pm
Al (mail):
>>according to this source (and echoed by Michael et al., though for older cohorts), 15-to-19-year-old blacks are more likely to have had sex than 15-to-19-year-old whites, and the total number of sexual partners generally is somewhat higher for blacks than for whites.

I guess that makes black teens "sluttier" than white teens, right Justin?
12.19.2006 2:16pm
shecky (mail):
Sounds like now is a good time to be young, to me.
12.19.2006 2:18pm
James Dillon (mail):
Finally, objective confirmation of what I've always suspected-- I was the only one not getting laid in high school.
12.19.2006 2:19pm
hey (mail):
BGates: Thread winner!

Seriously though, Georgia should just indict every male who attended highschool prior to 2006. Send the entire state to jail, except for those who were so spotty and overweight that they didn't even have a "band camp" story. An excellent reason to stay away from jurisdictions that are so repressive as to outlaw behaviour between consenting adults or between similar age peers who are almost adults. This is likely constitutional, as the old Texas Sodomy law should have been, but profoundly silly and stupid.

Prof. Volokh is deeply wrong in accepting that this behaviour should be illegal. A just and equal application of the law would see dramatic fractions of the population locked up, and thus the law is simply a tool for prosecutorial oppression and abuse.

It is bad enough when we don't enforce the speed limit laws because they are unrealistic and illiberal but keep them on the books and apply them unevenly and unpredictably, but it is fundamentally evil when serious crimes (I think a year in jail for a misdemeanour is serious punishment, though much less than 10 years) are crafted and applied in this manner.
12.19.2006 2:22pm
cathyf:
I'm wondering if this is some sort of statistical artifact from having relationships where the two have different levels of experience, combined with some significant levels of people who are generous and open-minded but don't enjoy oral sex.

Example -- you have a couple where one party has both given and received, and did not enjoy receiving. The other party has neither given nor received. Party #1 is not interested in receiving, so Party #2 does not count as a giver. They both are game for Party #2 to try the experience. So in this case, Party #1 gets counted as both a giver and a receiver, while Party #2 only gets counted as a receiver. (This is true even in those cases where Party #2 does not enjoy the experience and they never repeat it -- since the question is about "at least once").

In one of the earlier posts, a statistic was quoted that 60% of Americans enjoy oral sex. If true, the 40% who don't make up a sizeable block of people...
12.19.2006 2:24pm
RainerK:
Hmm, numbers didn't change much over seven years. Whatever happened to the rampant teenage oral sex panic-du-jour the media have been breathlessly spreading?
These numbers are just so dry. How about some juicy details to perk the interst?
12.19.2006 2:29pm
Tek Jansen:
cathyf: That 60% of Americans enjoy oral sex does not mean that 40% do not enjoy oral sex. More likely, they are old, have different morals, and yell at the neighbor's kid for the whiffleball getting on their lawn. Because really, who doesn't like receiving oral sex?
12.19.2006 2:32pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Prof. Volokh-

But regardless of all that, there's just no excuse for raising a generation of selfish cads.

Is this based solely on the give/receive discrepancy, or are you somehow blaming males for mutually consensual sex? Or are you saying its bad for males to be a receiver and not a giver but its OK for females?
12.19.2006 2:44pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
A woman walks into a pet store and there's an aquarium with several frogs in it. The sign on the aquarium reads....
12.19.2006 2:51pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I guess some kids just aren't being brought up to be gentlemen.

Altho I don't know if I'd trust ANY poll given to 15-19 year olds.
12.19.2006 2:51pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
American Psikhushka: I didn't speak expressly to whether it's OK for girls to act this way, because I thought it would be ungentlemanly. But you are free to draw a similiar inference (though recognizing that the gap is different there).

As to blaming the males for mutually consensual sex, I'm not proposing that someone pass a law criminalizing giving but not getting -- I'm just suggesting (partly tongue-in-cheek) that it's not very nice. And not very nice behavior can happen even if it is "consensual" in a legal sex.
12.19.2006 2:54pm
Glen Whitman (mail) (www):
Does "cad" only mean a selfish male, or could it also mean a selfish female? Looking at the data from Table 2 (which has numbers for males that differ slightly from Table 1), I backed out the following:

Males, 2002:
35.2% had both given and received
3.6% had only given
16.3% had only received (the "cads")

Females, 2002:
38.9% had both given and received
4.7% had only given
10.7% had only received (the "fem-cads"?)

So it is true that males have a higher cad-to-altruist ratio than females. But it's also true that a substantial number of both males and females demonstrate cad-ish behavior (16.3% and 10.7% respectively).

We should also note that the largest subgroup for both sexes is the "both given and received" cadre. Of coursed, we don't know anything about the frequency; maybe there are lots of males who have only given once and received every time. The data aren't specific enough to answer that question.
12.19.2006 3:08pm
John (mail):
Well, this is all quite amusing. But my question is, are our kids going to have to stop all this after the Muslim takeover of the West?
12.19.2006 3:21pm
just lurking:
Statistics like these are dangerous to put much faith in, for some reasons mentioned above and some not yet mentioned. I'll detail 3 problems:

1)Truthful reporting across key cross-sections: Since Eugene's post is about the comparative rate of giving/receiving across gender and race, it doesn't really matter if teenagers lie about their sexual experience, as long as the lies are symmetric cross-sectionally. However, we have good reason (mostly cultural) to believe that teenage boys will overstate the case while teenage girls will understate the case. I have no idea about race, but it is entirely possible (again, for cultural reasons) that race might affect boastfullness or bashfullness in question answering.

2)The "slut/stud" factor: these types of surveys are often statistically off, because although many teens have had a few sexual experiences, the majority of teens have not had many partners, while a small minority teens have had a large number of partners. This explains why the classic "how many heterosexual sexual partners have you had?" question routinely shows men with more partners than women. It's simple: if all of the 2000 boys in the high school sleep with some percentage of the same 30 girls, we have 60000 sexual encounters total for both girls and boys. But if we take a 10% sample (plenty large for polling purposes), we will find that 100% of the boys have had sex, with many reporting more than 5 sexual partners, some reporting more than 10, and some reporting more than 20, but 98% of the girls will have had zero partners and 2% will have had "more than 20"). Turn those kind of statistics into a bar chart, and it looks very strange. Most people just assume that kids are lying, but it's really an artifact.

3)Attitudes about oral sex: This is related to #1, and I was surprised Eugene had not mentioned it. Many girls (and many women) are squeemish about receiving oral sex. It might be that a large part of the selfishness gap is girls/women refusing to accept oral sex that is offered by their partner. Very few men behave as such. I would like to see some stats on the number of women 15-19 who have been offered oral sex by their partner but turned it down. It's a non-trivial amount, I'm betting.
12.19.2006 3:40pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):
Heavens! I'm just in a state!
12.19.2006 3:42pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
This data is hopelessly unreliable. That the chart is so badly mislabeled is a clue that there may be other problems with the methodology. It's not a chart about whether teens have had oral sex, it's a chart about whether they claim to have had oral sex with someone of a different gender. So the data tend to show that black teen males are less likely to admit to having given oral sex to a female, which in turn might relate to a cultural difference in how such claims affect one's reputation capital (wuffie.) A term for denying being sexualy active is being on the down low. Perhaps there is a greater fear among blacks of social or legal retaliation for being sexually active generally or for performing oral sex on females.
Had an interesting conversation one time with my friend Butch (called that because he isn't very.) He claims that when one is young, the focus is on getting oral sex (and so giving might be more about reciprocity) but that as one ages, the focus tends to shift to being more interested in giving.
So who's doing who a favor isn't clear just from the behaviors. Questions for further research include who's doing what to whom, why, and what do they claim or admit to.
12.19.2006 3:46pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Glen Whitman-

"Cad" is an adjective used exclusively for men, which is why I asked for clarification. I think its out of place in this context. First, because it is archaic. Second, because it doesn't accurately describe what is going on. Since what we are talking about is consensual, there could be all kinds of things going on. Some women may not like or be comfortable receiving, in which case it isn't the male's fault if he was willing. And if it was a real concern the giver could stop giving to the non-reciprocating partner.

Now "cad" could apply to some other behavior in modern dating, most centering around dishonesty - like lying to someone to get them in bed, cheating on someone you have an exclusivity agreement with, etc. (Which is why I, for one, don't do these things.) Of course modern women basically do as much cheating as modern men, so using the term "cad" is inaccurate since it is focused on males.
12.19.2006 4:00pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
I'm unconvinced by the selfishness point.

For instance many girls I know are much more hesitant to recieve oral sex than to give it. Receiving in some sense puts you in a more vulnerable position and requires greater trust than merely giving.

As an aside oral sex is definitely something that ought to be presented to kids as a good alternative to actual sex. It has very low incidence of HIV transmission and almost no pregnancy risk.
12.19.2006 4:23pm
Randy R. (mail):
"Selfish cads" ? What does Miss Manners have to say about this?
12.19.2006 4:23pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Randy R.

Miss Manners has said this "There is a moral underlining to manners but the sex life is not part of that." She has also said this, "I'd like to make a case for prudery." And so, I think she would decline to participate in this discussion.

Now, since I am not Miss Manners, I would like to add I am dubious of theseclaims that young women are declining offers to receive while being perfectly willing to give.

I should think the opposite is more likely. After all, I have heard rumors that some men, particularly young ones, often can't perform satisfactorily after receiving. Might this not be a reason some young men prefer to give but not receive? Thus clearing those poor girls of the slur of caddishness?
12.19.2006 5:09pm
Kim:

As an aside oral sex is definitely something that ought to be presented to kids as a good alternative to actual sex. It has very low incidence of HIV transmission and almost no pregnancy risk.

How about, *no* sex should be presented as a good alternative to actual sex for "kids"? Good grief. Oral and other sex is still sex, and still has a lot (albeit less) of the same physical and emotional consequences you might want to encourage kids to be avoiding, at the very least while they're still teenagers.

Sorry, I'm supposed to be taking this all tongue-in-cheek, but even if the statistics aren't skewed, they're still too high.
12.19.2006 5:38pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Wow... the number of people who seem to be taking this post seriously is alarming. Thanks for the light-hearted post, Prof. My friends and I got a great laugh out of it.

And it's true... BGates wins.
12.19.2006 5:42pm
abb3w:
I will throw out that I've been acquainted (non-intimately) with a few females that, while they said they enjoyed giving oral sex, claimed they felt receiving it was "icky". A few guys had a similar objection, although their reason was more often due to the intimate proximity of teeth. This, however, was a decidedly minority view, and I doubt it can fully explain the bulk of the gap. Incivility seems more likely to be a wider cause.

I'd think surveyors specifically wanting to measure the indicated civility gap accurately would want to include a query for those who have either received/given oral sex, as to how often they offered reciprocation or were offered by the partner.

But it's just a matter of prurient interest....

While I doubt Ms. Manners would be inclined to be specific about this matter, I believe she might be willing to offer more general advice:
If reciprocation of any favor is desired, it may be politely requested. If not returned after such request, a favor ought not be offered again with any expectation of any return, but only for the sake of the favor itself. If a favor is specifically requested by one who has declined to reciprocate, it may be politely refused on that basis; and anyone who would treat such refusal with any manner of surprise is probably not the sort of company one would wish to maintain an active social acquaintance with.

Disclaimer: I am not Judith Martin, and don't even have half of her level of class.
12.19.2006 5:45pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
No question that there's some selfish boys out there. But at the same time, I would note that girls tend to be more sensitive and insecure about their bodies in general, and so they may not want to receive, out of embarrassment and insecurity. They don't want the boys to see them "down there". Betty Dodson would tell them to get out their compact mirrors and get over that, but it is still a factor.....
12.19.2006 5:45pm
davod (mail):
These statistics, however flawed, go some way to explaining the skyrocketting rates of venereal diseas.
12.19.2006 5:56pm
lucia (mail) (www):
All these questions regarding the possibility of caddishness among our youth must be answered! Clearly, the survey should be modified to ask teens whether they offerred but were turned down or vice versa. Let each and everyone of us write our congressional reps and request funding!
12.19.2006 6:00pm
steveh2:
Let's also not forget that there are certain mechanical and logistical differences that might lead to males receiving more than giving.

For example, if the participants find themselves in a parked car, it will simply be easier, as a
physical/logistical matter, for the female to give than receive.
12.19.2006 6:37pm
Malvolio:
As an aside oral sex is definitely something that ought to be presented to kids as a good alternative to actual sex. It has very low incidence of HIV transmission and almost no pregnancy risk.
"Almost" no pregnancy risk? Uh, uh, maybe even less.
How about, *no* sex should be presented as a good alternative to actual sex for "kids"? Good grief. Oral and other sex is still sex, and still has a lot (albeit less) of the same physical and emotional consequences you might want to encourage kids to be avoiding, at the very least while they're still teenagers.
Do you think that is a good alternative for yourself? I wouldn't recommend to anyone else that they give up oral sex, because I would never, never take such advice. Would you?
Sorry, I'm supposed to be taking this all tongue-in-cheek
Sort of.
12.19.2006 9:02pm
wait a sec (mail):
this is all jolly, but we're forgetting that some 17-year-old kid is in prison for a decade because of this. ridiculous.
12.19.2006 11:14pm
Lev:
of course, oral sex is not sex


In any event, the WashPost had a series of stories about sex...and not sex... in the Northern Va...Virginia suburbs, and, if memory servies, the percents of males and females getting and giving...not sex...was about the same.
12.20.2006 12:06am
Cornellian (mail):
I originally read about this story on another blog where the posters at first thought it was from the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. It never crossed their minds that a US state could have such a barbaric statute on the books.

Criminalizing behavior that virtually every teenager today engages in just breeds contempt for the law as a whole, and in the case of that law in particular, and the legislature that enacted it, the contempt is richly deserved. Hell would freeze over before I'd vote for a prosecutor that brought that case. Heck, I'd donate money to his opponent.
12.20.2006 3:59am
Cornellian (mail):
Here's my favorite paragraph from the ABC news story of the Wilson incident:

And in Georgia, that they'd had oral sex made matters worse. Until 1998, oral sex between husband and wife was illegal, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. In Wilson's case, even though he is only two years older than the girl, she was 15 and — willing or not — could not consent legally that night.

I guess down in Georgia they call that "traditional values." Well thank God I don't live in Georgia.
12.20.2006 4:11am
Kim:

Do you think that is a good alternative for yourself? I wouldn't recommend to anyone else that they give up oral sex, because I would never, never take such advice. Would you?

I'm not sure how you mean this question, but I have no problems recommending that teenagers, in particular, stay away from oral sex. I don't know how telling my kids that they shouldn't have sex, but it's okay to stick their faces in someone's genital area for similar effect, would really square. Stick to kissing. As for myself, sure, since I also have no problem following that advice for myself (being committed to waiting until marriage to have sex). But while the vast majority of people would disagree with my decision as an adult, I don't see why it should be at all controversial to state that it's not a good thing to be encouraging teenagers to have oral sex (or sex at all), and it's not a good thing these numbers are so high.
12.20.2006 9:28am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
What must be remembered about the difference between male and female behavior here is that for some girls, giving oral sex is a way to avoid intercourse, whereas receiving it increases her chances of such.
12.20.2006 9:32am
!!!:

What must be remembered about the difference between male and female behavior here is that for some girls, giving oral sex is a way to avoid intercourse, whereas receiving it increases her chances of such.

If this is true, I am very worried. If you don't want to have intercourse, then don't! Don't let a guy push you and manipulate you and demand it of you. There is absolutely no reason that she can't reciprocate in kind if that is what she would prefer.

In the end, though, I agree with Kim: kids shouldn't be having sex of any sort.
12.20.2006 10:36am
???:
Why do researchers continually rank teenagers as 15-19 year-olds? I understand that is technically what a teenager is, but the data is obviously flawed without a breakdown of 15-17 and 18-19 year olds. Obviously, people are more likely to have sexual experiences of all kinds when they are college-aged than they are in high school. Parents who read these stats worry about their kids who are sophomores in high school when the stats are most likely skewed by college kids.
12.20.2006 11:45am
WHOI Jacket:
Cornellian: It was totally unenforcable.
12.20.2006 12:31pm
Tom952 (mail):
"Until 1998, oral sex between husband and wife was illegal, punishable by up to 20 years in prison."

I'm not going back until they declare amnesty.
12.20.2006 1:47pm
Cornellian (mail):
Cornellian: It was totally unenforcable.

I think recent events in Georgia have shown that its citizens cannot rely on prosecutorial discretion or jury nullification to protect them from insane statutes.
12.20.2006 3:27pm
Proponent of pre- and post-marital grammar:
It is equally disturbing that certain law professors have forgotten good grammar: "data" is plural, cad.

The data of course REPORT only whether respondents have had oral sex at least once; THEY DON'T report on the frequency of giving and of receiving.
12.20.2006 9:15pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Proponent: Data as singular is fully standard these days. You might not like that for esthetic or historical reasons, but I don't see what your authority is for the proposition that I've made a grammatical error (as opposed to just using a usage that you dislike).
12.20.2006 11:26pm
Greg S. :
Is it true that lawyers don't know enough about statistics (and perhaps social-science research methods more generally)? There's something about this thread that makes me wonder.

For the cad-factor analysis, I think you're using a needlessly poor proxy. I went to a different report on the same data in order to source the cohort sizes (the cohort sizes proved to be quite similar hence unimportant; you could actually infer what turns out to be a reasonable estimate from the report Prof. Volokh cited).

The cad factor analysis should really use a statistic more along the lines of:

A) the number of teenagers who reported having any oral-sex experience,
B) the number of those teenagers who reported giving oral sex, and
C) the difference between the first two statistics ("cad" = had oral sexual experience but didn't "bother" to give).

In which case the cad factor looks like this:

All ages 15-19 (2002)
Population: 55% of teenagers has some oral experience (male = 55%, female =54%)
Cad factor: 25% of teenagers having some oral experience did not give (male = 30%, female = 20%)

15 year olds (2002)
Population: 31% of teenagers has some oral experience (male = 35%, female =26%)
Cad factor: 45% of teenagers having some oral experience did not give (male = 56%, female = 30%)

19 year olds (2002)
Population: 74% of teenagers has some oral experience (male = 74%, female =74%)
Cad factor: 20% of teenagers having some oral experience did not give (male = 26%, female = 14%)

Anyway, using this method yields a substantially more selfish population. Just what I suspected (tongue in cheek).

N.B. this data differs from the earlier report in that it includes both married and unmarried teenagers (but the overall incidence didn't vary from the narrower estimate).
12.21.2006 2:58pm
amativus (mail):
Judging by the lack of tongue-in-cheek, I would judge many of the posters here haven't "received" in quite a while.
12.22.2006 5:42am
NickM (mail) (www):
The racial gap is far more inteesting sociologically than the gender gap.

Nick
12.22.2006 7:43am