Human sexuality is much more complex than the biological forces that initiate the sexual maturation process. As such, the development of adolescent sexuality includes not only physical development but also cognitive, emotional, social, and moral development.
Healthy adolescent sexual development trajectories prepare a person for a meaningful, productive, and happy life. Healthy sexual development involves biological, psychological, and socio-cultural processes. Like all aspects of adolescent development, sexual development occurs both within an individual and through interaction with the environment. For example, the biological triggers of puberty are genetic, and are also affected by the available food. Psychological and social processes occur through interactions with family, cultural institutions, and peers, and are also affected by brain development. Adolescent sexual development is likely to be healthy, and to lead to positive sexual health, when each of these processes is appropriately supported in a young person's environment.
The study of adolescent sexuality has been divided into two important areas:
During adolescence it is essential that individuals form a sexual identity and a sense of sexual well-being. These processes determine adolescents' comfort with their own emerging sexuality as well as that of others. It is important for adolescents to become comfortable with their own changing bodies, learn to make good decisions about what, if any, sexual activities they wish to engage in, and how to be safe in the process.
Possible domains for intervention include these factors which are associated with safer sexual activity:
Puberty involves the physical changes of a girl becoming a woman, or a boy becoming a man. There are a variety of common behaviors that many consider elements of healthy adolescent sexual development, preparing youth for positive sexual lives:
To reduce sexual risk behaviors and related health problems among youth, schools and other youth-serving organizations can help young people adopt lifelong attitudes and behaviors that support their health and well-being, including behaviors that reduce their risk for HIV, other STDs, and unintended pregnancy.
An article released by Social Forces titled, "Casual Contraception in Casual Sex: Life-Cycle Change in Undergraduates' Sexual Behavior in Hookups" by Jonathan Marc Bearak, a doctoral candidate in Sociology at New York University who's research addresses interdisciplinary topics in class and gender inequality, focusing on sex, fertility, education and earnings, explores the changes in undergraduate uncommitted sexual behavior during years 1 to 4 of college. The article provides reasoning for the decline in the use of condoms, and explains how changes in the odds of coitus and condom use depend on family background, school gender imbalance, and whether the partners attend the same college.
The results show that the odds of unprotected intercourse in hookups doubles between freshman and senior year. Among the factors which contribute to this, freshmen from less advantaged socioeconomic backgrounds more frequently protect themselves with a condom when they have intercourse in a hookup than freshmen from more advantaged backgrounds, but by sophomore year, they adopt the same lower condom use rate of their peers from more advantaged backgrounds.
These results are consistent with the view that college is perceived as a safer environment. An interpretation equally consistent with the data is that it may take longer for lower socioeconomic status students to integrate into the social activities on their campus, which, conceivably, may not encourage condom use. This research also highlights an oft-overlooked issue in sexual research: the probability of intercourse within the normative contexts in which adolescents and young adults sexually interact contributes to cumulative risks over and above their contraceptive practices.
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