Caring, romantic American boys

Why are boys behaving more “like girls” in terms of when they lose their virginity? In contrast to longstanding cultural tropes, there is reason to believe that teenage boys are becoming more careful and more romantic about their first sexual experiences.

For a long time, a familiar cultural lexicon has been in vogue: young women who admitted to voluntary sexual experience risked being labeled “sluts” while male peers who boasted of sexual conquests were celebrated as “studs.”

No wonder American teenage boys have long reported earlier and more sexual experience than have teenage girls. In 1988, many more boys than girls, ages 15 to 17, told researchers that they had had heterosexual intercourse.

But in the two decades since, the proportion of all American adolescents in their mid-teens claiming sexual experience has decreased, and for boys the decline has been especially steep, according to the National Survey of Family Growth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Today, though more than half of unmarried 18- and 19-year-olds have had sexual intercourse, fewer than 30 percent of 15- to 17-year-old boys and girls have, down from 50 percent of boys and 37 percent of girls in 1988. And there are virtually no gender differences in the timing of sexual initiation.

What happened in those two decades?

Read the full story in the The New York Times.

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