teen_pregnancy.jpgWASHINGTON (PRNewswire) — Black youth report considerable pressure to have sex, according to a new survey of 1,500 black youth ages 13-21 released by ESSENCE Magazine and The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

Of those who have had sex, 47 percent of those 13-21, including 21 percent of those 13-15,  say they have been pressured to go further sexually than they wanted to. The survey findings are featured in the October issue of ESSENCE magazine.

In the article, Our Teens' Secret Sex Lives, ESSENCE senior writer Jeannine Amber interviewed dozens of kids to uncover the truth about teens and sex.

Overall, the survey found that almost half of black teens ages 13 to 21 reported that they have lied to get out of a sexual situation and 54 percent of black males said they feel pressure from their friends to have sex.

When it comes to sex, pregnancy and contraception, the survey finds that the intentions of black youth don't always match their actions. Even though more than 90 percent of them say it is important to avoid a pregnancy at this point in their lives, 67 percent have had sex without contraception, 45 percent report using birth control inconsistently and 20 percent say they will likely have unprotected sex with someone in the next three months. 

The reasons for not using contraception vary: 38 percent of black females who have had unprotected sex have done so because their partner doesn't want them to use contraception; 29 percent of sexually active black females say they don't

worry about contraception because they “haven't gotten pregnant so far;” and 18 percent say it doesn't matter whether you use protection of not — when it's “your time” to get pregnant, you will.

Respondents overwhelmingly believe that the TV shows and movies they watch paint a negative picture of black youth: 72 percent believe that the media send the message that black females' most important quality is their sex appeal; 64 percent agree that the media send the message that it is OK for black males to cheat in relationships; 73 percent say the media portray black youth as sexually aggressive, compared to 39 percent who believe the media portray whites as sexually aggressive. Just 18 percent say they see themselves in the TV shows and movies they watch.

Black youth, particularly younger teens, say there is much their parents can do to help:  31 percent of those ages 13-21 say their parents are most influential about deciding whether or not to have sex, compared to 27 percent who cite partners and five percent who cite friends.

Parental influence seems to wane as youth age: 47 percent of those ages 13-15 say their parents' opinions matter most, compared to 28 percent of those 16-18 and 17 percent of those 19-21.

Other findings from the survey include: 66 percent of black males say that sex is a “big deal” and 73 percent would rather be in a relationship with no sex than have sex with no relationship; 91 percent say they feel valued by their parents; 92 percent expect to be very successful in life; and 94 percent say the quality that most makes them feel good about themselves is “how smart I am.” Also, 46 percent of those ages 13-21, including 34 percent of those 13-15,  say they have seen pornography online when they were not looking for it.

The teen pregnancy rate among African-American youth has plummeted 44 percent since 1990 and the teen birth rate has dropped 47 percent since 1991.  While teen pregnancy and birth rates dropped overall over the past two decades, rates among African Americans declined more than those of any other racial or ethnic group.

“The truly extraordinary declines in too early pregnancy and parenthood among African-American youth should be recognized and celebrated as one of the nation's great success stories of the past two decades,”said Sarah Brown, CEO of The NationalCampaign.

“Still, the rate of teen pregnancy remains disproportionately high among African-American youth, suggesting that the nation needs to explore more targeted and

innovative approaches that will help.”

• For the full survey report, questionnaire and tips for parents, visit www.TheNationalCampaign.org/ UnderPressure. For the ESSENCE article on the report and related content, pick up the October issue of ESSENCE or visit www.essence.com/love.