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Study: Lesbians have sex younger, more partners and engage in riskier behaviors

Study: Lesbians have sex younger, more partners and engage in riskier behaviors

A Pride parade in Pretoria, South Africa's capital.

Lesbians and bisexual adolescents lose their virginity younger, have more sex partners and engage in risky sexual behaviors at higher rates than heterosexual girls, according to a study released in the March issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Researchers from the University of British Columbia and the Graduate Center and City College of the City University of New York (CUNY) used data from the 2010-2011 Teen Health and Technology Study, which surveyed 2,823 girls aged 13-18 in the US.

Lesbians were found to be significantly younger on average (13.8 years) when they first had sex, compared to bisexual (15.1) and heterosexual (15.5) girls. Bisexual teen girls were more likely to have had sex than their heterosexual peers, and both lesbian and bisexual girls had more lifetime partners.

‘Our findings highlight that sexual orientation labels and sexual behavior don’t always align – especially during the teen years,’ said lead author Michele Ybarra, president of the non-profit research incubator Center for Innovative Public Health Research, in San Clemente, California.

‘This means that lesbian and bisexual girls may be having unprotected sex with boys – and with girls.’

About one in five lesbian and four in five bisexual teen girls who are sexually active had a recent male sex partner.

The study also showed about a third (32%) of lesbian teens discussed using barriers such as condoms or dental dams with their most recent sex partner, compared to 62% for bisexual teens and 73% for their straight peers.

‘Experimentation is normal, which is why adolescent health professionals need to make sure that every young person has the skills she needs to keep herself safe, said co-author Margaret Rosario, a professor of psychology at CUNY.