Booty calls aren't so harmless
She'd sleep with him when they were officially on; she'd sleep with him when they were off.
Stephanie had pretty much grown accustomed to having sex with a guy who didn't like her back in the same way. She'd feel hurt when he treated her as just a friend beyond the bed. She'd fumble awkwardly when peers would ask what exactly was going on.
But for six months, this 19-year-old from Bellevue accepted the confusion and heartache that came with being intimate friends with her on-again, off-again partner, wondering regularly what was going through his head.
She remembers feeling mad one day when the guy, with whom she was on a weekend trip, received a phone call from another girl - a girl Stephanie later learned he was seeing.
Technically she had no right to get mad or to claim territory. So she didn't.
I felt frustrated because I couldn't control the situation, Stephanie said. And I was upset, but I didn't want to show my emotions in front of him.
Talk about murky.
Though it seems, on the surface, that arrangements between friends with benefits can wrap up as tidily as a sitcom ending, teens in the Puget Sound area say that casual sex often backfires emotionally.
People always associate sex to being close or being loved, and a lot of people, especially at this age, don't know what that's like, said 17-year-old Molly Franey, a member of Planned Parenthood's Teen Council. I think it's a need to feel close to someone or to feel special.
Linden Griffith, 19, hears about people having one-night stands and
mutual parties who agree on a no-fuss sexual deal. But she's seen friends
go through the emotional fallout that almost always strikes at least
though teen relationships generally don't last as long as those between adults, studies show that teens in committed relationships are less likely to use protection or contraception than those having casual sex.
In general, the number of kids using protection and contraception has gone up, said Tim McLeod, a health educator in Olympia for Planned Parenthood, inferring that more teens are having more casual sex.
But in general, studies show that teens are engaged in less sexual activity than they were 10 years ago. A report last May by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy shows that 20 percent of teenagers have had sex before turning 15. The organization also reports that in 1991, 57 percent of high-school boys had had sex. By 2001, that figure was 49 percent. When it came to high-school girls, 51 percent had had sex in 1991, compared with 43 percent in 2001.
But the flip side to this whole thing is we also know there's a greater percentage of kids that are getting involved sexually at a younger age, McLeod said.
Which means that more young kids are wrestling with the question: Can platonic friends have sex, or engage in non-intercourse sexual activities, with no confusing emotional strings attached?
I think the very young, who have no goals, can often do some of this without too much impact for a while, said Pepper Schwartz, professor of sociology at the University of Washington. But if this becomes your social life, it becomes alienating.
Griffith added that the lifestyle can lead teens to feel insecure, as they're never emotionally fulfilled.
The promise of a future relationship also may be why many teenage girls consent to casual sex.
Then there's the attitude that it's the next thing to do - especially if a teen's peers have had sex. Franey said that girls often feel the need to impress a guy with their sexuality to feel that they're worth something.
According to a survey conducted by Seventeen magazine in its July 2003 issue, slightly more than 40 percent of sexually active teenage boys between the ages of 15 and 17 have had two to five sexual partners. Almost 38 percent of sexually active girls in that age range had that same number of partners. About 3 percent of boys in this category have had 10 or more partners, compared to about 5 percent for girls.
This same survey showed that most teens lose their virginity between ages 16 and 17.
Stephanie, who is in a relationship now with her on-again/off-again guy, said she prefers to be part of an official couple before having sex.
I think I kind of go back and forth, she said. Because
being a teenager, I'm battling with what I think is right and wrong
and the morals I've been brought up with.
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