Many 'detached' young womenoften get no sense of pleasure
TEENAGE girls commonly feel fear, shame and panic after their first sexual experience, a conference on adolescent sexual behaviour in Dublin was told yesterday.
Dr Paula Mayock, senior researcher at Trinity College's Children's Research Centre, explained how sex is seen as establishing masculinity among young boys.
Young women, however, were more detached in their response, and often had no sense of pleasure. "Fear, shame and panic are the most commonly expressed emotions."
Dr Mayock told the one-day conference, organised by the Research Centre, that evidence would suggest one third of 16-year-olds were sexually active, but there was lack of detailed evidence to back this up.
"We don't know enough," she added, pointing to the dearth of research which reflected a historical conservatism.
Ireland had changed rapidly in recent years. The Catholic Church appeared to have very little influence, with young people dismissing the notion of waiting until marriage for sex.
She was concerned, however, by indications that many young people knew very little about contraception, for example, and used it inconsistently or not at all. One study showed up to 54pc of young people did not use a condom the first time they had sex.
There was also a belief among some teenagers that they were invulnerable to HIV infection once they were not gay or using intravenous drugs. Young people turned to their friends as their key source of sexual information.
Referring to gender differences, she said young women were reluctant to carry condoms because it implied they were interested or prepared for sex. Teenage boys on the other hand were under considerable pressure to lose their virginity.
Dr Mayock felt while more studies were needed, there were "compelling arguments" in favour of a sexual health education programme to empower young people.
Professor Sheila Greene, director of the TCD centre, agreed there were "a lot of gaps in our knowledge" and services for adolescents were "patchy". More information to ensure the needs of young people were being properly addressed in this country was necessary.
Adolescent sexuality was "a contentious, difficult area for adults to deal with in a frank and open manner".
All too often adults talked about it in negative terms, but it was important to create a context to support young people towards mature, confident sexuality.
Prof Peter Aggleton of the University of London said international studies had rubbished the myth that more information about sex encourages promiscuity.
Instead, it had been shown that school-based programmes were effective in reducing unwanted teenage pregnancies.