Defining Sex, and What is Safe

I think it’s time for a reminder.  Sex is NOT just about losing one’s virginity.  A Fox News article out today had this confusing (to me) title:  “Teens Who Don’t Have Sex Still at Risk for HPV Infection.”  Since HPV is a sexually transmitted disease, what did they mean?  The problem was that the article didn’t clearly define what was meant by “sex.”  Generally, our society defines sex the same way teens do…as intercourse.  However, as we clarify to teens in our classroom discussions, thinking of sex in terms of “sexual activity” is a more valuable way to think about sex, since other kinds of sexual activity bear risks as well.  The article went on to clarify that a recent study indicated that HPV is being “transmitted through genital-to-genital, or hand-to-genital contact” as well as the more common modes of transmission: vaginal or anal intercourse.  The article didn’t cover the transmission of several STDs orally, including HPV, but that is happening as well.  SO…here’s our definition of sexual activity (all behaviors that carry risk):

Intercourse, Oral Sex, Anal Sex, AND Touching of Private areas (whether genital to genital, or hands to genitals).

Abstinence is choosing to avoid all of those behaviors.

(To learn why condoms are not a safe solution, see this 2011 Amplify Youth Development newsletter article.)