I'm not ready

Alex Brownrigg, 16, chooses not to have sex because her father would disapprove.
Alex Brownrigg, 16, chooses not to have sex because her father would disapprove, and because of her religious beliefs. Both are common reasons Minnesota teens give for choosing not to become sexually active.
Photo By: Victoria Turcios
“If my dad found out I was having sex, he would be like ‘What the hell.’ ” -- Alex Brownrigg, 16, of Washburn HS

Alex Brownrigg, 16, chooses not to have sex because her father would be against it.

“If my dad found out I was having sex, he would be like ‘What the hell,’ ” the Washburn Senior High sophomore said.

“I know how he feels about it and I don’t like to disappoint my parents. He wasn’t big on his beliefs when he was young, but he became more religious and that’s why he doesn’t believe in pre-marital sex now,” she said.

Alex’s reasons for staying abstinent – parents would object and religious beliefs – are two of 13 reasons teens can select on the Minnesota Student Survey for why they choose not to have sex. The survey is given to high school students every three years, including in 2010. The results of that survey came out at the end of 2010.

Teenagers who don’t have sex are asked why on the survey. They could choose as many of the answers that apply to them. The answers range from just not wanting to have sex to wanting to wait until marriage to being afraid of getting caught, and more.

In 2010, the most popular reasons why freshman boys stayed abstinent were their parents’ objections – 51 percent – and feeling too young for sex – 46 percent. For freshman girls, the most common reasons were feeling too young – 70 percent – and fear of pregnancy – 69 percent.

For senior girls, the most popular reason for staying abstinent was fear of pregnancy – 61 percent. For senior guys the most popular reason was “Other.”

Researchers added “Other” to the survey in 2007 after realizing there were probably reasons teens remain abstinent that weren’t covered. For example, a teen may be abstinent because he or she just doesn’t have the opportunity to be sexually active, said Ann Kinney, a senior researcher for the Minnesota Department of Health who works on the survey.

From 1992 to 2001, the number of sexual active ninth and twelfth graders fell steadily. From 2001 to 2010 it has remained the same for ninth graders – about 19 percent – but the number of sexually active seniors increased slightly in 2007 and 2010. Sexual activity among seniors hit its low point in 2004 with about 45 percent of senior guys reporting being sexually active and about 47 percent of senior girls.

According to this year’s survey, 20 percent of ninth graders are sexually active compared to 50 percent of seniors.
“A lot of things happen from ninth to twelfth grade,” said Jen O’Brien, the adolescent health coordinator from the Minnesota Department of Health.

O’Brien said the change in the reasons students give for staying abstinent between freshman and senior year are probably just related to getting older. Seniors are more independent, and more likely to be influenced by the experiences of friends who’ve had STD or pregnancy scares, O’Brien said.

But ninth graders are still greatly impacted by what their parents think, she said.