What Is True/Slant?
275+ knowledgeable contributors.
Reporting and insight on news of the moment.
Follow them and join the news conversation.
 

Oct. 29 2009 - 12:14 pm | 380 views | 0 recommendations | 4 comments

Teen girls and sex: the body image dilemma continues

Calhan High School seniors in Colorado, USA.

Image via Wikipedia

Another study to make body image advocates (and parents, and…uh…women) sigh with frustration today. According to the research team behind the 2005 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance survey, teen girls who perceive themselves to be at “weight extremes”, are not only more likely to have sex – but more likely to get freaky without protection.

The survey polled 7,193 high school girls on their weight, body image and sexual behaviors. They found that girls who were “overweight” according to the BMI Index were less likely to engage in sexual activity. However, among those who were sexually active, those with a higher BMI were also more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors: more than four partners, skipping condoms and combining alcohol with sexual activity.  Ditto for girls who were actually “underweight” but self-reported their body size as “overweight.”

Among sexually active girls, those who had low BMI and perceived themselves as overweight or had overweight misperceptions were less likely to report condom use at last sex. Sexually active girls who perceived themselves as overweight were also more likely to have had sex before age 13…

Based on previous studies regarding the link between body image and self-esteem, the researchers concluded that “girls with a negative body perception may have a limited capacity or willingness to negotiate effectively with partners, resulting in higher rates of sexual risk behaviors.”

Yet another example of cultural body ideals that have become so powerful, and so pervasive, that they can actually destroy the lives of teenaged girls. And I don’t think I’m being over-dramatic, either: low self-esteem, eating disorders and abusive relationships have already been linked to warped body image. Now, young women are apparently more likely to contract STD’s or become pregnant – or, more fundamentally, give in to sexual preferences of their partners – if they perceive themselves as “overweight.”

Weight has become the buzzword tied to every measure of self-worth. Since when did a number on the scale have such a profound impact on the very important, life-changing decisions that teens and young adults will make? The fact that research teams even think to study such topics – “hey, we ought to run a poll on the effect of weight perception and high-risk sexual activity” – is a sad one. I can only hope that there more research meets the public eye, the more we’ll become aware of just how damaging our weight-centric norms have become.


Comments

4 Total Comments
Post your comment »
 
  1. collapse expand

    I share your outrage at the problem, although not your surprise. Teen girls get so many confusing, overstimulating messages. For example, when I clicked to read the link there were several ads being served. First was “Big and Beautiful Singles – Free to Join. 1000’s of pictures & video’s of Big & Beautiful Singles followed by a couple of ads for Gastric Bypass Surgery.

    Hopefully, knowing weight misperceptions correlate with risky sexual behavior will lead to harm reduction interventions.

  2. collapse expand

    If being, or thinking you are, overweight = ugly/unlovable you’ll likely grab whatever attention you think you can. Sad indeed.

Log in for notification options
Comments RSS

Post Your Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment

Log in with your True/Slant account.

Previously logged in with Facebook?

Create an account to join True/Slant now.

Facebook users:
Create T/S account with Facebook
 

My T/S Activity Feed

 
     

    About Me

    I'm a full-time heath & science writer at Sphere and a contributing editor at True/Slant. I also contribute military health news to Danger Room at Wired.com, and have recently written for Marie Claire, World Politics Review and Next American City.

    My first foray into journalism came in middle school - at a French-speaking plaid-kilt-wearing educational institute somewhere in the Canadian tundra. It was there that I decided to start my own newspaper, to disseminate my sarcasm and attitude problem among my peers. We lasted three issues.

    From there I started to freelance, and when I became a medium-sized fish in a small Canadian lake, I decided to move to New York, and become a spore in a vast journalistic ocean. The adventure continues.

    I try to parallel my personal interests with my professional work - so most of my writing has some connection to health, science and animal rights.

    Email me Extreme story ideas at

    katiedrumm@gmail.com

    You can also find me:

    At Danger Room on Wired's website.

    Or on Twitter @katiedrumm.

    Otherwise, I'm either triathloning, eating, breaking my pelvis, or sleeping. Extreme, I know.

    See my profile »
    Followers: 203
    Contributor Since: May 2009
    Location:N to the YC

    What I'm Up To

    • Danger Room at Wired.com

      wired-logo-2I contribute coverage of the military medical beat at Wired.com

       
    • World Politics Review

      3818788252_e035c9a711I contribute military/defense coverage to World Politics Review

       
    • On Twitter

      twitter_logo_header-2

       
    .<
    • +O
    • +O
    • +O
    >.