Research Reveals Disturbing Trend Involving One Sex Practice Among Teens
In the current issue of the medical research journal BMJ Open, researchers have discovered a particularly disturbing trend involving one sex practice among 16-18 year-olds―anal sex coercion from males to females that showed apathy for whether the female found it painful and/or harmful to her health.
In a longitudinal study involving 16-18 year-olds, researchers used one-on-one and group surveys to explore the expectations, experiences and circumstances of anal sex among young people.
According to an earlier recent survey, researchers found that nearly one in five 16–24 year-olds have had anal intercourse in the past year. However, in spite of the high number reported, little is known regarding what motivates anal sex among teenagers and what the health implications may be.
To investigate this practice further, researchers chose 130 subjects ranging in age from 16-18 from a wide range of social backgrounds for multiple in-depth interviews over a 2-year period in a project dubbed as the ‘sixteen18’ project.
The interviews were performed in two waves. The first inquired about what sexual practices they had engaged in, the circumstances of those practices and how they felt about them. The second wave of interviews focused on anal sex― whether or not the interviewee had admitted to having had anal sex during the first wave―with questioning about their perception and attitude about it and what their experiences were if they had ever had anal sex. Approximately one-in-four admitted to having experienced anal sex.
What the researchers gleaned from the surveys was that:
1. Anal practices reported usually involved penetration or attempted penetration by the male with his penis or finger.
2. Anal practices generally occurred between young men and women in ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’ relationships.
3. Initial anal sexual experiences were rarely narrated in terms of mutual exploration of sexual pleasure, with the majority of females reporting it as painful. Only one female reported sexual pleasure after subsequent experiences.
The disturbing trend following reports of how and in what capacity anal sex occurred reveals itself with what the researchers reported as “Normalization of coercion and ‘accidental’ penetration.” In other words, in spite of the male knowing that anal sex would be painful for his female partner, many resorted to actively or passively doing whatever it took to achieve anal penetration ranging from taking small steps with digital fondling and repeated requests, to forcing it in and claiming it was an “accidental penetration.”
The research further revealed that the explanation that males desire to have anal sex is due to the explosion of explicit pornography and the wish to try out what is shown online is too simplistic and may not be accurate. Rather, the researchers derived the 5 following observations of motivation and action:
1. Mutuality and consent for anal sex were not always a priority for the males studied.
2. Women being badgered for anal sex appears to be considered normal.
3. Both sexes share the circulating idea that ‘everyone’ enjoys it, and that women who do not are either flawed or simply keeping their enjoyment secret. This in turn supports the erroneous idea that a man pushing for anal sex is simply ‘persuading’ his partner to do something that ‘most girls would like’.
4. Anal sex today appears to be a marker of (hetero) sexual achievement or experience, particularly for men.
5. Many men do not express concern about possible pain for women, viewing it as inevitable.
The result of such motivations and actions also revealed that many of the female study participants were confused by their experiences and unable to recognize or reflect on potentially coercive behavior. This was especially shown in one female subject who demonstrated how women might absorb potentially negative experiences and reimagine them into a narrative of control, desire and pleasure, thus lessening the impact of what was in truth damaging to the self.
The authors in the paper concluded that in this young age group, mutuality and women's pleasure are often absent in narratives of anal heterosex and that their absence is not only left unremarked and unchallenged, but even seems to be expected by many young people.
They state that anal sex among young people in this study appeared to be taking place in a context encouraging pain, risk and coercion and thereby necessitates harm reduction efforts through education targeting anal sex that may help encourage discussion about mutuality and consent, reduce risky and painful techniques and challenge views that normalize coercion.
For more about teens and sex and risky behavior, here is an informative article about another common teen sex practice.
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Reference: “Anal heterosex among young people and implications for health promotion: a qualitative study in the UK” BMJ Open 2014;4:e004996 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-004996, C. Marson & R. Lewis.