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Gay men start having sex much earlier than straight people – and it means they’re missing out on vital sex education

Nick Duffy July 14, 2020
The Rutgers study suggests sex education may be starting too late to help young gay people

The Rutgers study suggests sex education may be starting too late to help young gay people

Sex education may be starting too late to help young gay men, according to new research.

A study from Rutgers University, published in the Journal of Sex Research, highlights a disparity between young gay men and the straight population when it comes to the age at which people first engage in sexual behaviours.

Queer men become sexually active at an earlier age, researchers find.

Based on a sample of 600 young men who have sex with men, researchers found that on average, same-sex sexual encounters first happen at 14.5 years of age – before straight teens are typically sexual active. Queer men have their first experiences of penetrative sex at age 16 on average – one year earlier than their straight peers.

The researchers wrote: “We found that the mean age of same-sex sexual debut was between 14 and 15 years old, with mutual masturbation occurring earliest on average among this sample, followed by oral sex performed and received occurring at approximately age 15.

“Notably, we found that the debut of same-sex anal intercourse was approximately age 16, which is younger than the national mean of 17 for vaginal intercourse among heterosexual men in the United States.”

Queer Black and Hispanic men are also more likely to report an earlier age for the start of sexual activity.

Sex education: Men who have sex with men are sexually active from an earlier age on average
Men who have sex with men are sexually active from an earlier age on average

The study, which includes only “self-identified consensual behaviours,” also found that approximately 19 per cent of young men who have sex with men indicated that their first sexual intercourse before age 13 – more than double the upper range of national estimates.

Sex education may come too late for many gay men.

Researchers say the study emphasises a need for comprehensive and inclusive sex education to help young people make “informed choices about their sexual health and behaviour”.

Caleb LoSchiavo, doctoral student at the Rutgers School of Public Health, said: “As many schools are forced to redesign their classrooms and curricula to accommodate socially distanced or remote learning for COVID-19, this may be the perfect time to consider implementing comprehensive sex education programming to provide age-appropriate sexual health education for people of all genders and sexual orientations.”

The research also concludes that providers working with young gay men of all ages should consider beginning routine testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases at earlier ages than previously indicated, particularly among youth of colour.

Perry N Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health, said: “Our results suggest that health care providers can play an active role in mitigating sexual and health behaviours that are associated with the early onset of same-sex sexual behaviours; to date the medical profession is ill equipped to address the needs of LGBT+ people.”

More: bisexual, gay sex, Journal of Sex Research, Queer, rutgers university, sex education

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