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OC HIGH / STUDENT NEWS & VIEWS : SEXUAL ROULETTE : Today's teens face sex-related issues and concerns barely talked about--and even unknown--a generation ago. So how are they coping with their sexuality? The reality is that while many teens are prudent in their behavior, others casually take chances that could change their lives forever. : Confusion and Peer Pressure Make Choices More Difficult

January 27, 1994|KIRA LEWIS | Kira Lewis is a senior at Fullerton High School. This article first appeared in the student newspaper, the Pleiades.

Why are so many teen-agers having sex? The question seems to come up time and time again.

"It's mainly peer pressure," said Fullerton High School sophomore Brandon Jette.

The cases of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies among teens in the county have been increasing. In 1992, there were 4,781 births to teen mothers and nearly 1,200 cases of STDs recorded among those 10 to 19, according to the County of Orange Health Care Agency.

Statistics give only part of the answer. There is confusion among teen-agers in making decisions about sex.

So what should a teen do? Although there is no definitive answer, Jette offered this assessment: "Stop necessitating the need to do it just to be accepted."

Many psychologists say the growth in the number of sexually transmitted diseases might deter the practice of multiple partners.

Also entering the debate is whether sex education should be taught at home or in school.

Fullerton High senior William Ovando said, "It's got to begin at home, because it's more personal, and who knows you better than your parents?"

However, another senior said, "It should start at school because many parents don't know much about sex and are uncomfortable talking about it with their children."

Despite the differences of opinion, most say sex education is important because of the sexual activity and its risks.

One of the biggest risks is teen-age pregnancy. A Fullerton High School graduate who became pregnant while still in school said: "I was really scared and confused, and I didn't know what to do. My life changed dramatically, and my dreams were broken. It was the worst experience of my life."

If they found themselves pregnant, a majority of Fullerton High School female students interviewed said that they would have an abortion.

"I would have an abortion because I wouldn't give birth to a child I couldn't take care of," said a senior.

Most male students said they didn't know what they would do.

"I would face up to the consequences of my actions and do everything in my capacity to help raise the child," a male junior said.

Practicing abstinence is one method to prevent pregnancy and avoid sexually transmitted disease.

However, a recent survey of 276 Fullerton High students showed that 63% felt it was acceptable to have sex before marriage.

Although birth control pills are very effective as a contraceptive, they cannot protect someone from contracting an STD.

"A latex condom, only if it is used properly, is one of the best ways to do so," said a UCI medical student who recently presented a program on AIDS at Fullerton High School.

Because of this, many suggest that condoms should be distributed in schools.

"Condoms should be available in schools because teen-agers are going to (have sex) anyway, and a lot of teens aren't responsible enough to go out and buy protection for themselves, mostly because they're embarrassed," he said.

Fullerton High counselor Tammy Messineo said, "Both people need to be responsible and willing to accept the consequences for their behavior. Safe sex is important."

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