What Percentage of Teens Lose Their Virginity In High School?

Americans have a tendency to massively overestimate how much sex teenagers are having. Blame 'American Pie.'

fatherly logo Father Figures

Parents worry about teenagers having sex. Parents have worried about this since time immemorial, but the fear was certainly exacerbated by late 1990s teenage sex comedies. American Pie exacerbated concerns. So did Dazed and Confused. Also, Friday Night Lights. But just because teenage sex flows freely in movies and on television shows, that doesn’t mean that every pubescent kid trying to find an angle through geometry homework is losing his virginity at speed.

The reality, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is less theatrical. Only about half of teenagers have sex before graduating high school. That figure has been constant for at least a decade. And, while LGBT teens aren’t having any more consensual sex than anyone else, the CDC data suggests they’re at nearly double the risk of sexual assault.

Here’s some data that will put most parents’ minds at ease (and some that will worry the parents of queer children).

Roughly 40% Of Teens Haven’t Had Sex By Graduation

It’s a trend that hasn’t changed much since 2005, CDC data suggests. Only about 1 in 4 ninth graders report that they have ever had sex. That figure climbs steadily throughout high school, culminating in the twelfth grade when about 60 percent claim to have had sex. If nothing else, this data debunks the myth that high schoolers are all sexually active—nearly half are still virgins by graduation! It is important for parents to convey this information to their children, to help combat the pressure they may feel to have sex before they are emotionally ready.

LGBTQ Teens Are Getting Laid About as Much as Everyone Else

Fatherly IQ
  1. Do you think schools should expel children whose parents cheated to get them in?
    Yes, they didn't earn it
    No, it's not their fault
Thanks for the feedback!

The CDC only started keeping tabs on the sex lives of gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens in 2015, so data showing how this demographic’s sexual activity rates have changed over the past ten years are not available. But we do have the next best thing: a side-by-side comparison of the percentage of heterosexual and homosexual teens who report having had sex at least once. Although studies have shown that LGBT teens are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, the CDC data suggest that queer high schoolers aren’t having significantly more sex.

Yet Queer Teens Are At Double The Risk Of Sexual Assault

It is telling that, despite roughly equal rates of consensual sex, lesbian, gay, and bisexual teens are at significantly higher risk of sexual assault—defined here as the percent of high school students who report being forced to have sex at least once. The data highlights the importance of educators and psychologists devising specific interventions for sexual minority teens.