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Response to maddiemom (Reply #65)

Fri Nov 30, 2012, 02:21 PM

68. Yes. We're of about the same age.

It was an interesting time in the late 50s and early 60s. No birth control pills, and where I grew up, you had to be 21 to buy condoms, which were sold "for the prevention of disease only." And still, adolescents were actively experimenting with their own sexuality, both boys and girls.

You're right that parents weren't teaching much about actual sexuality, although a lot of kids new the basic facts of reproduction, one way or another. Peer education was very common, and some kids had accurate information to share. So, kids were learning about their sexuality on their own, and often together. It was a time of couples "going steady" during the high school years, at least in small town California where I grew up. It was common for high school kids to form relationships that lasted for a year or two, or sometimes even longer. My sister and her husband "went steady" from my sister's freshman year, for example, and married at ages of 19 and 20. My brother-in-law was in my class. They're still together, and have a great family. I had a steady girlfriend for a bit over two years, until I went off to college and the relationship gradually disintegrated. There were tons of similar stories.

The bottom line is that if a couple had a steady relationship for a year or more, the likelihood that they were engaging in serious sexual activity approached 100%. My sister and her boyfriend never moved on to actual intercourse until later, but my girlfriend and I did, after about 18 months. Some couples did and some didn't. Either way, the relationships involved a thorough exploration of sexuality over a long period of time. In the years since then, there have been many long continued friendships, and contemporary and later conversations with other friends from that time indicate that about half of the kids in long relationships were having intercourse.

We learned about our sexuality through a long, slow process of exploring it with each other. For the couples who did have intercourse, contraceptive information was known through exchanges between peers. Most guys, like me, knew someone who was old enough to buy condoms. In some cases a parent supplied condoms. They were commonly passed around. In a few cases, less effective contraceptive practices were used.

Looking back at my high school yearbook from my senior year, I can identify at least 25% of my class of 106 who were in relationships that lasted over a year. The number was probably about 30%, though, since I didn't know everyone well enough to know what relationships they were in. What that means is that at least 25% of my high school class was almost certainly engaged in fairly extensive sexual behavior. And yet, I know of only 6 pregnancies from my own class. What I think that means is that knowledge of contraception was more extensive than many adults thought at the time.

Talking to other classmates in the past several years, almost 50 years later, what I'm saying has been pretty well confirmed. We're all older now, and discussing what we never discussed at the time is pretty common. There are still at least 8 couples in my class from that time period who are still together, or who remained a couple until the death of one of them.

A few years later, the birth control pill changed contraceptive practices, but I wonder if it really changed the percentage of sexually active high-schoolers. I have no data on that. I do know, though, that nobody thought of any of the girls in those long relationships as sluts.

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