SEXUAL ACTIVITY IN ADOLESCENCE
As already mentioned, children are capable of sexual responses well before puberty. For example, they may become aroused in the course of their games and other physical activities. Indeed, they may have an orgasm while riding a bicycle, climbing a tree, sliding down a bannister, or wrestling with a playmate. However, at first they do not define these experiences as sexual in the adult sense of the word. They learn to do so only gradually as they grow older. Indeed, boys and girls normally do not become fully aware of their sexuality until they have reached puberty.
Adolescence can therefore be seen as a time when many sexual attitudes and reactions that were rehearsed in childhood begin to reveal their true meaning. Most important of all, it is a period in which experimental and exploratory sex play turns into purposeful adult sexual behavior.
Unfortunately, in our culture young people are severely limited in their sexual opportunities. Because of social and religious taboos, most adolescents have difficulty beginning sexual intercourse with a partner of the opposite sex. Even if they find such a partner, they often feel that they have to restrict themselves to "petting", i.e., sexual contact that stops short of coitus. For the vast majority of adolescents, the main sexual outlet is solitary masturbation, although some boys may occasionally masturbate together in small groups. A few boys who live in the countryside may also have sexual contact with animals.
On the whole, adolescent girls engage in much less sexual activity than adolescent boys. One reason for this is undoubtedly the double standard of morality which threatens females with much harsher punishment for sexual infractions than males. (Also see "The Social Roles of Men and Women.") Furthermore, girls are usually not encouraged to develop sexual needs. It is true that they are taught to be sexually attractive, to move gracefully, to dress seductively, to experiment with flattering hairstyles, and to use facial makeup. At the same time, however, their own sexual feelings remain rather weak and unfocused. Instead, they tend to fantasize in a general way about their future roles as brides, wives, and mothers. At other times, they dream vaguely about some ideal lover or some romantic situation. In short, they are less concerned with the physical aspects of sex than with its social implications.
In contrast, the sexual fantasies of boys are much more specific. They are mainly interested in the sexual activity itself. For most of them, sexual desire and satisfaction are immediate physical experiences quite unrelated to any particular social setting. Their sexuality is detached, private, and personal. Thus, for a while, the two sexes are out of step in their personal development. Where adolescent girls may seem coquettish, conformist, and unresponsive, adolescent boys may appear inconsiderate, irresponsible, and selfish. It is only toward the end of adolescence that males begin to see sex as a means of human communication, and that females discover the full sexual potential of their bodies.
The hormonal changes of puberty produce a great increase in sexual responsiveness. Especially boys are very easily "turned on", and their bodies become ready to produce and release seminal fluid. In some cases, the ejaculation of semen occurs spontaneously while the boy is asleep. In other words, he has a "wet dream". There are boys who experience their very first ejaculation this way.
Since girls do not produce any semen, they do not ejaculate. Nevertheless, they also may have orgasms in their sleep, although for them this is a much rarer experience than for boys.
The same is true for deliberate masturbation. By the time they reach the age of 15 years, only about 25% of all girls have masturbated to orgasm, while the comparative figure for boys is nearly 100%. It can be said, therefore, that masturbation is a universal experience of male adolescence. However, there is much individual variation in regard to frequency and technique. Some boys masturbate regularly and often, others only occasionally or for a short period of their lives. As for technique, many boys use one or both hands to squeeze and stroke the penis. Some rub it against the mattress of their bed, a blanket, or a pillow. Others try to approach the feeling of coitus by inserting the penis into the wide mouth of a bottle, a toilet paper tube, or a pair of rolled-up socks. Still others try to take their own penis into their mouths, although they normally find this to be anatomically impossible. (Only about 1% of all males can do it.) It is not unusual for a boy to experiment with these and similar masturbation techniques and to switch from one to the other according to the circumstances. However, no matter what method is used, the adolescent male soon learns how to reach orgasm at will. He becomes familiar with the reactions of his body and gradually gains some control over them. Thus, he develops a sense of mastery over his new sexual capacities.
Girls also employ different masturbation techniques. In most cases, they move a finger or the whole hand gently over the clitoris and the surrounding area. Since a prolonged direct stimulation of the clitoris can become painful, many girls prefer to caress the entire vulva. Some of them insert a finger or some round, cylindrical object into the vagina and thereby try to approach the experience of coitus. They may also rub the vulva against the corner of a chair, some firm cushion, or a stuffed animal. There are girls who reach orgasm simply by pressing their thighs closely together while rhythmically moving one leg or contracting the muscies of their buttocks. Hardly any two girls masturbate in quite the same way.
While many boys are taught how to masturbate by other (mostly older) boys, girls usually develop the practice by themselves. Actually, in some instances girls masturbate regularly for years before they find out that this is what they have been doing. They may then be quite shocked and feel guilty about it. After all, most people in our culture consider masturbation wrong, and, in spite of all the propaganda to the contrary, many adolescents still adopt the moral values of their elders.
Since nearly all adolescent boys masturbate, the moral problem is particularly acute for them. Until a few decades ago, they were told not only that masturbation was sinful, but also that it could cause physical and mental illness. Even today they are sometimes warned that "excessive" masturbation can somehow weaken the body. (This "excess" is always left undefined.) As a result, many boys feel a double guilt: They seem to displease God and to ruin their health at the same time.
In view of these common worries, responsible adults have the duty to provide young people with the scientific facts: Masturbation as such cannot possibly cause any harm, and it can never be excessive. Some individuals can have more orgasms within a short time than others, but nobody can masturbate too much, because after a while the body simply no longer responds until it is given some rest.
Some adolescents are also disturbed by the sexual fantasies they have while they masturbate. Such fantasies are especially common among boys. They may imagine having sex with one or several girls, with other boys, with their brothers and sisters, or even with their own parents. They may picture themselves in bizarre and outlandish sexual situations, or fantasize that they rape somebody or are being raped themselves. These fantasies do not have to mean that a boy is sick, or that he will carry them out in real life. Many boys also dream of being a millionaire, a great movie star, a Roman emperor, or the strongest man in the world. Daydreams of this sort do not prove anything particular and do not deserve to be taken seriously. Still, pleasant sexual fantasies can strengthen the powers of imagination and creativity. They can also prepare an adolescent for future encounters with a real partner.
It seems that, on balance, adolescent masturbation has much to recommend it. It feels good, releases tension, and stimulates one's fantasy life. It is legal, always available, and not hazardous to anyone's health. It does not cause pregnancy and cannot lead to venereal disease. Moreover, it may help boys and girls to become better lovers. A boy who masturbates frequently can learn to delay his ejaculation by interrupting or slowing down his movements. This ability may later help him to provide greater satisfaction for his female sexual partners. A girl, on the other hand, can practice to reach orgasm quickly. This can also help her later when she engages in coitus.
The case against masturbation rests mainly on religious grounds. Traditionally, Jews and Christians have always disapproved of the practice, although this disapproval was never as strong as in the last two centuries. In any case, those adolescents whose religion does not allow them to masturbate are unlikely to derive any benefits from it. Masturbation is definitely bad if it causes fear, shame, anxiety, and guilt. Fortunately, some Christian churches have recently changed their attitude and are now much more tolerant in this matter. Finally, it should perhaps be mentioned that, occasionally, some adolescents masturbate almost obsessively because they are frustrated, lonely, or bored. They may be under great pressure at home or at school, or they may be experiencing some other nonsexual problem. Masturbating may then become a false escape or an excuse for not facing up to a difficult situation. Obviously, in such a case the underlying problem should be solved, if necessary, with the help of counseling. (For further details on masturbation, see "Types of Sexual Activity.")
It is not unusual for adolescent boys to masturbate in groups. Occasionally, two or more boys may also masturbate each other. Indeed, they may even experiment with oral or anal intercourse. Such behavior can be called homosexual because it occurs between members of the same sex. However, it does not necessarily follow that these boys are homosexuals and have no sexual interest in girls. Strictly speaking, to be a homosexual and to engage in homosexual behavior are two different matters. There are many homosexuals, i.e., people falling in love mainly with partners of their own sex, who never proceed to any actual sexual contact. On the other hand, there are many heterosexuals who, for one reason or another, participate in homosexual acts. For example, in prison, in a labor camp, or aboard a ship men may temporarily have sex with each other because no women are available.
Adolescent boys sometimes find themselves in a very similar situation. That is to say, when their sexual contact with girls is severely restricted, they may turn to the next best choiceŚtheir male friends. Such a relationship may then satisfy them for a while until they are a little older and have more opportunities for heterosexual intercourse. Most often, however, adolescent homosexual contact is even more casual than that. In many cases, boys simply enjoy demonstrating their sexual prowess to their buddies, or they try to defy adult moral standards by sharing some "forbidden" experience. A great number of boys have such experiences, but most of them just go on becoming "typical" heterosexual men.
Under the circumstances, it seems sensible to avoid any labeling of same-sex behavior among adolescents. Indeed, it is downright foolish to call a boy homosexual just because he has sex with another boy, Such a label can have serious social consequences and thus become the main reason for later heterosexual failure. An adolescent who is told that he is "queer" may feel compelled to live up to the image society has of him, even if it is false.
Because of the widespread fear of homosexuality in our culture, males are usually not allowed to show love and tenderness for each other. While men in some other cultures freely hold hands, kiss, and embrace in public as an expression of friendship, Americans are conditioned to see sexual implications in such behavior. Indeed, when they discover it in their own country, they are likely to have the men arrested for "lewdness." In this poisonous atmosphere of general apprehension, many boys sooner or later begin to question their own proper sexual development. For instance, if they feel a special affection for another boy, they may wonder whether they are turning into homosexuals. Such idle worries can torment an American adolescent for years and ruin many friendships.
In this respect, a girl enjoys a definite advantage over a boy. When two girls are seen touching, hugging, and kissing each other, nobody thinks much of it. As a result, girls are free to develop intimate friendships. Even a relationship with clear erotic overtones may attract no special attention, and no social label may be attached to it. A few girls actually have sexual contact with other girls, but since they themselves normally do not dramatize such experiences, they rarely come to light. In any case, the social condemnation of adolescent female homosexuality is relatively mild, and a later heterosexual adjustment is almost never ruled out.
If our society had the same attitude toward male adolescents, their lives would undoubtedly be much easier. Their occasional homosexual contacts would no longer be seen as a threat to their basic sexual orientation, and a great number of them who are now trying to conform to some rigid sexual stereotype would learn to be proud of their individuality. A generally more relaxed approach to the problem would, of course, also benefit the small minority of adolescents who actually do turn out to be homosexuals. (For further details on homosexuality, see "Types of Sexual Activity." "Conformity and Deviance." and "The Sexually Oppressed.")
Beginning with late childhood, boys and girls in our society become increasingly separated in their daily activities. Even where they attend the same schools and receive the same instruction, they join exclusively male or female athletic teams, are encouraged to take up "masculine" or "feminine" hobbies, and attend sexually segregated summer camps. By the time they reach puberty, they live in different worlds with different values and concerns. As a result, adolescent boys and girls often know little about each other and have to go through a difficult period of reestablishing personal contact.
In many parts of the United States, these efforts follow a rather formalized pattern known as dating. A boy asks a girl for a date, then borrows the family car, picks her up at her home, takes her to a movie or a dance and, by a certain hour, brings her back to her parents. It is understood by all concerned that, while the boy and the girl are alone, they may have some close physical contact, such as holding hands, embracing, and kissing. In some cases, even more intimate caresses are permitted, as long as they do not lead to coitus. This is where both families and the girl herself usually draw the line.
The specific forms of dating vary a great deal according to region, social class, and ethnic background. Furthermore, in recent years America has seen a great general change in young life-styles. An increasing number of teenagers today do not care to repeat the almost ritualistic dating patterns known to their parents, but prefer more spontaneous meetings and associations. Indeed, it cannot be denied that the traditional form of dating had a number of undesirable features, and that in many cases it took on competitive aspects, or even turned into a popularity contest or a fight for social success. Thus, instead of contributing to a better understanding between the sexes, it could lead to a disregard for the dating partner, whose availability became a means to some egoistical end. In the future, young people may very well try to develop new, more meaningful forms of dating. However, in one form or another the custom itself is bound to survive because it also serves some very useful purposes: It gives boys and girls an opportunity to meet each other, it strengthens their self-confidence, it develops their sense of courtesy and good manners, and it can help them to find a suitable partner for marriage.
Some boys and girls feel apprehensive about their first dates because they do not know how to behave. They fear that they will find themselves in some embarrassing situation and lose the respect of their partner. This problem is easily solved by double-dating or group dating. When several boys and girls go out together, they find it much easier to be entertaining and to overcome awkward moments, and once they have gained some experience, they have little difficulty enjoying a single date.
Dating teaches boys and girls a great deal about each other, but it also helps them to understand themselves. For example, they may realize that they can get along with partners of very different character. Furthermore, they may learn to accept the fact that not everybody likes them, and that this is no reason to be upset. Being able to live with an occasional rejection is the mark of adulthood. They may also learn that some people like them for what they really are, not for what they pretend to be. This experience can relieve them of many unrealistic fears and help them to be true to themselves.
Eventually, many young couples decide to "go steady," i.e., to stop dating other partners and to spend most of their leisure time together. Such a decision has its advantages and disadvantages, and both deserve to be considered. The case for a steady relationship of this sort is obvious: It provides emotional security. The boy as well as the girl can stop worrying about dates. They know that their partner is always available, and that they do not have to get used to a new face every time they want to go out. Neither do they run the risk of ending up with unpleasant company. On the other hand, going steady also may deprive them of many interesting and broadening experiences, and they may miss meeting an even more suitable partner. These arguments have to be weighed by the adolescents themselves. However, knowledgeable adults can perhaps point out to them that, as a general rule, it seems best for young people to keep their options open.
Couples who go steady normally wonder how far they should go in their physical relationship. There are very few parents who like their adolescent sons or daughters to engage in coitus. However, they often tolerate or even encourage other forms of sexual contact, such as "necking" and "petting". These terms may mean different things to different teenagers, and today they sound slightly stuffy and obsolete. Originally, they were meant to describe caresses that avoided "real intercourse". (Necking usually just involved the face and the breasts, petting the whole body, including the sex organs, and heavy petting implied reaching an orgasm. In any case, the point was always the same: preserving the girl's "virginity".)
There are still many males today (although their number seems to be declining) who insist that they will only marry a "virgin". Unfortunately, the concept of virginity is not as clear and simple as it may seem at first glance. In the past, the word "virgin" was used to describe a girl or a woman who had had no sexual intercourse, and who was therefore sexually "innocent". Proof of this innocence was her unbroken hymen (i.e., the thin membrane that stretches across the vaginal opening). Today, we know that such proof is inconclusive because the hymen may be torn not only by sexual intercourse, but also by masturbation, or as a consequence of certain athletic activities. In some cases, the hymen may even be absent. Furthermore, the hymen of some girls stretches so easily that they can have coitus without tearing it. There are also some girls who preserve their "technical virginity" by avoiding coitus itself, while freely engaging in oral or anal intercourse. (The French call such girls derni-vierges or half-virgins.)
In view of these facts, the traditional obsession with the hymen seems rather misguided. Basically, it is a relic of former times when a man bought his bride like a piece of property and therefore demanded some physical evidence that she was free of "damage". However, as we have seen, this demand rested on false assumptions. On the other hand, a new definition of virginity can hardly serve any useful purpose either. This becomes especially clear when the term is applied to males, as is sometimes done today. At what point does a boy lose his virginity? When he has his first orgasm? When he first ejaculates in his sleep? When he begins to masturbate alone? When he masturbates with other boys? When he has an orgasm caressing a girl? When he has his first coitus? It is obvious that the answer can only be arbitrary.
As these examples show, the discussion of a person's virginity can easily degenerate into a quibble over technicalities. It is therefore more reasonable to approach the issue from an entirely different angle. Instead of worrying about the distinctions between necking, petting, heavy petting, making out, intercourse, and real intercourse, young people would be better advised to examine their motives. After all, a boy can do wrong even by simply kissing a girl, if he knows that she is not ready for it and that it upsets her. In other words, it is not the type of sexual activity that counts, but the intentions behind it.
It is also important to realize that not everyone has the same sexual needs, and that some people can live quite happily without sex. Adolescents are often too self-centered to respect such individual differences. Moreover, they may want to live up to the standards of their peer group, and thus try to "go all the way" simply because they hear that "everybody's doing it". In fact, this kind of pressure can cause some boys and girls to feel inferior or inadequate if they do not follow the crowd. However, conformism is never a good basis for personal growth, and sexual conformism is no exception. Sexual intercourse of any kind is, above all, a means of communication between individuals, and it is therefore their individual needs, wishes, hopes, and fears that must be considered first. For instance, when a boy finds that his girl friend is not so much interested in coitus than in human warmth, understanding, tenderness, and sensitivity, he should try to develop these qualities. Only then can he expect a corresponding effort on her part to understand his expectations too. In short, any intimate persona! relationship requires some mutual adjustment and shared responsibility.
When seen from this standpoint, all forms and degrees of sexual contact can be meaningful and rewarding in their own right. Thus, a young couple may, for a while, very well be content with few and simple caresses. Then, as they become accustomed to each other, they may gradually progress to ever more intimate forms of lovemaking without necessarily comparing themselves to others or worrying about some abstract rules and regulations. This deliberate and individualistic approach to sex gives both boys and girls a freedom of choice and allows them to make intelligent decisions. Once they have learned to appreciate each other as persons, they are much better equipped to decide whether they really want to engage in coitus.
Coitus (i.e., the insertion of the penis into the vagina) is the only form of sexual intercourse that can lead to the conception of a child. This puts a great deal of responsibility on a young couple because an unwanted pregnancy can have very serious consequences, especially for the girl. In our society, unwed mothers and "illegitimate" children still encounter much public and private discrimination. On the other hand, an abortion is never a happy experience, even under the best of circumstances. Putting the baby up for adoption may not be very pleasant either, and the only other possible choice, a premature "forced" marriage, may be the worst solution of all.
As previously noted, boys may remain sterile for a while even after their first ejaculation, and for girls this adolescent sterility can even extend over a period of several years after their first menstruation. However, this is not something to be counted on. It is much safer for adolescents to assume that they become fertile as soon as they reach puberty. By this time, at the latest, they should also have acquired an adequate understanding of contraception. Fortunately, today many parents, schools, and church groups provide young people with all the necessary information. In addition, there are Planned Parenthood centers in almost every city offering their assistance. Under these circumstances, responsible teenagers no longer run the risk of unwanted pregnancies.
However, even the careful use of contraception does not necessarily make coitus "safe", harmless, and desirable for unmarried adolescents. For one thing, they may encounter unexpected legal difficulties. If they are over the age of consent for sexual intercourse (different from state to state, but usually 16 or 18 years), they may be violating the law against fornication. Many states in the United States have such laws, and the punishment can range up to 1 year in prison. If both adolescents are under the age of consent, they may still be treated as delinquents, and the same fate may await them in states where fornication as such is not a crime. (If only the girl is underage, the boy may be convicted of "statutory rape".) The existence of these laws may come as a surprise to many people, and it must be admitted that they are very rarely enforced. Nevertheless, they can be used at any time against "undesirables" who, for one reason or another, displease the authorities. (For further details, see "Conformity and DevianceŚLegal-Illegal.")
Another point to be considered is the danger of venereal disease. While it is true that venereal diseases can be transmitted by oral and anal intercourse and, indeed, in some rare cases by kissing, coitus offers by far the greatest opportunity for an infection. There is, unfortunately, a venereal disease epidemic among young people today, and boys and girls therefore have the duty to learn all they can about the symptoms, the treatment, and the prevention of gonorrhea and syphilis. (For details, see "Venereal Diseases.")
Still another potential source of trouble is the repressive, anxiety-laden atmosphere in which adolescent sexual intercourse often takes place. As long as young people live with their parents or in college dormitories, they may find neither the right place nor the right time for true intimacy. Thus, their attempts at coitus may turn into hurried, frustrating, and ultimately disappointing experiences. Furthermore, religious condemnation and strong social disapproval of sex without marriage may create deep feelings of guilt. Finally, it must be recognized that adolescents of both sexes may have intercourse for nonsexual reasons, and that they can use it as a means to manipulate, hurt, or degrade their partners. Such behavior can only lead to misery and distrust and therefore condemns itself.
However, it is a fact of life that many teenagers do engage in all forms of sexual contact, including coitus, and that by no means all of them suffer any negative consequences. On the contrary, those that go about it in a mature, responsible manner can find strength and happiness in their sexual relationships. There is also little doubt that males as well as females find it much easier to train their own sexual capacities and to adjust to each other while they are still young. In this sense, early regular coitus can be seen as an excellent preparation for marriage.
In sum, there are valid arguments not only against, but also for unrestricted sexual intercourse between adolescents and, in the final analysis, the decision is theirs. All any adult can hope for is that they make this decision in full knowledge of all its implications. (For further details on heterosexual intercourse, see "Types of Sexual Activity.")
Sexual Contact with Adults
Throughout human history, there has always been sexual intercourse between partners of widely different ages. For thousands of years, middle-aged men married girls in their early teens, and boys who had just reached puberty were quite often introduced to the "art and science of love" by experienced older women. These practices are still alive today in many "primitive" societies where an adolescence in our modern sense of the word is unknown, and where children are granted the status of adults as soon as they become capable of reproduction. This change in status may be rather abrupt, and usually it is connected with certain magic ceremonies or initiation rites. Indeed, these rites themselves may include some sexual contact with adults. For example, girls may be "deflowered" by some priest or chief, and boys may become "passive" partners in anal intercourse with older members of the tribe. A variation of this latter custom could also be found in ancient Greece where a male adolescent sometimes entered into a sexual relationship with a man who then became his spiritual mentor. Similar arrangements existed in some traditional Asian societies. More recently, young men in Mediterranean and Latin American countries were often expected to "establish their manhood" with prostitutes.
However, in the last 200 years most Western societies have developed the belief that even physically mature teenagers need protection from sexual contact with older persons. Thus, many countries have established age limits for sexual partners. That is to say, outside of marriage a person over a certain age (called adult) may no longer have sexual intercourse with another person under a certain age (called minor). The exact age at which a minor becomes an adult varies from country to country.
In the United States, full legal adulthood is usually not reached before the age of 21. Nevertheless, young people may acquire a number of adult privileges well before that date. For instance, they are granted the privilege to consent to sexual intercourse as soon as they reach the "age of consent". Unfortunately, this age is not the same in every state, but can range anywhere from 12 to 18 years. Furthermore, it is often different for males and females as well as for heterosexual and homosexual intercourse. As a result, some "minors" and "adults" unexpectedly find themselves in frightening and absurd situations.
A good example is the crime of "statutory rape". (This curious term can perhaps best be translated as "rape created by statute" or "rape by nobody's definition but the law's".) Before a girl has reached the age of consent to sexual intercourse, the law believes her to be unable to give such consent. Since sexual intercourse without the girl's consent is known as rape, any lover of hers is automatically considered a rapist. The following case may illustrate the point: An 18-year-old boy is seduced by a 17-year-old prostitute. The state in which the seduction occurs has established 18 as the age of consent for girls. Therefore, the boy is guilty of statutory rape. The fact that she took money from him and that he was a rather reluctant participant makes no difference. She is a minor who needs to be protected, and he is an adult who needs to be punished. On the other hand, if the state's age of consent for girls is 16 or younger, he cannot be accused of rape at all. (However, depending on the state, both he and the girl may have broken several other sex laws.)
Cases like this one make it quite obvious that the "protection of minors" can be carried too far. In fact, when examined closely, the whole problem seerns to be more a matter of arbitrary legal definition than anything else. From a logical standpoint, it is hard to understand why a 17-year-old girl in one state should be judged unable to consent to sexual intercourse when a 12-year-old girl in another state is legally entitled to such a decision. What the law seems to be saying here is that emotional maturity is a matter of geographical location, and that a morally incompetent girl can win instant competence simply by crossing a state line. Even more ironic, in some states a girl can consent to marriage several years before she is allowed to consent to sexual intercourse. Fortunately, in the meantime, a number of states have abolished some of these irrational laws and have adopted a more realistic attitude. Thus, the new criminal code of Hawaii, which can perhaps serve as a model for the nation, has lowered the age of consent to 14 years for both sexes. As a result, many unnecessary problems have disappeared in that state, and its youth-oriented counseling and health services have become much more effective.
Boys and girls who understand their own sexuality and who know the various methods of contraception are not very likely to be sexually exploited by adults. Where sex between adolescents and older persons nevertheless seems to create problems, counseling can often be helpful. Unlike the law, such counseling can address itself to the specifics of each case and thus avoid the danger of attaching inappropriate social labels to individuals and their actions. For instance, a teenage girl who develops a "crush" on her teacher, or who actually starts dating a middle-aged man, may very well profit from a personal, open discussion with another, disinterested adult. She may not realize that few responsible older men would consider very young girls adequate partners.
Counseling can also dispel many misconceptions and needless fears. There is, for example, great concern among many parents that their adolescent son or daughter might become a homosexual as a result of seduction by a homosexual adult. However, most scientific opinion today doubts this possibility. Isolated sexual acts in adolescence do not seem likely to establish a permanent sexual preference, unless there is a definite predisposition which would manifest itself sooner or later even without premature encouragement. Moreover, the great majority of reports by homosexuals themselves show that seduction has not been decisive in their own development. In short, a few homosexual acts (whether with adults or other adolescents) do not, in themselves, cause or indicate a homosexual orientation.