New trends in sexuality show that half of teenage girls have had sexual intercourse before the age of 16. Abortions and pregnancies have also shown a big rise in spite of the increased use of contraception.
A review published yesterday by the Family Policy Studies Centre shows a marked increase in the proportion of teenagers who claim to have had sexual intercourse in their early teens.
One in two girls now claims to have lost her virginity before the age of 16. In the mid 1960s that figure was one in 50. Among boys, during 1988, the figure among under-16s was one in three compared with one in 17 in the 1960s.
The number of marriages forced by pregnancy has dropped since the early 1970s because girls have opted to have abortions.
The review, by Valerie Estaugh and John Wheatley, says that many sexually active teenagers do not use contraception consistently. One study found that only one-third of males and two-fifths of females aged 15-19 had always used contraception.
By saying that, from the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles 1994, the average age of first sexual experience is now 14, gives the impression that this means the average age of first intercourse.
The survey in fact says that the median age for first sexual experience (kissing, cuddling and petting) is 14, but that the median age at first sexual intercourse was 17. The data in the survey indicate that sexual experience in the broader sense tends to precede sexual intercourse by several years. For this reason, and for many others, there is good reason to increase the age of consent to 17 rather than reduce it.
This is a far cry from exaggerated statistics of the involvement of children put out by those who seek further to reduce the age of consent for heterosexual and homosexual intercourse.