Around one quarter of sexually active high school students have reported an experience of unwanted sex, a new survey has found.
The fifth National Survey of Australian Secondary Students and Sexual Health shows an overall positive shift in the sexual behaviour, attitudes and health of young people at secondary school.
However, the percentage of sexually active students who have ever had unwanted sex is still substantial and alarming.
The survey, taken by over 2000 Year 10, 11, and 12 students from government, Catholic and independent schools in Australia in 2013 found of the students who reported having sex when they didn’t want to, 49% attributed it to inebriation, 20% attributed it to drug-related substances, 28% reported it was due to fear, 53% cited peer pressure from their partner and 13% claimed it was due to influence from their peers.
The study also found young women are somewhat more likely to have experienced sex when they did not want to than men, however the numbers of young men have increased from previous years.
Lead author of the survey Anne Mitchell says the rate of unwanted sex caused by alcohol, drugs or peer and partner pressure is a cause for concern.
Professor Mitchell told Catalyst that although most young people are having positive sexual experiences, there are instances where youth are getting drunk and doing things they regret or feel pressured to do.
“It is an unacceptable statistic and it is something that we want to work on to make sure that young people are confident about negotiating safe sex and not doing things that they’ll regret,” she says.
In an interview with Fairfax Media, Catharine Lumby of Macquarie University says there is a lot of confusion among secondary school students. She says boys are expressing anxiety about not understanding what’s appropriate and what’s expected of them with young women.
Professor Mitchell agrees, saying the key is to open these conversations through school education. She argues for an improvement in the way students are taught to negotiate and discuss relationships.
“Helping young people to have ethical relationships, to treat others in an ethical way… those core things about how you treat others and how you treat yourself become very important,” she said.
She says the missing link in sexual education in secondary schools lies in the personal, soft aspect of sexual relationships, as opposed to the primarily biological and textbook approach that many schools are known to adopt.
By Casey Nguyen