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Young people in the Netherlands start having sex at a later age

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20 June 2017

At the age of 18.6, half of all young Dutch people aged between 12 and 25 have had sexual intercourse. In 2012 this was the case at the age of 17.1. This is one of the findings of the third edition of the large-scale representative survey Sex Under 25 that will be presented by Rutgers and Soa Aids Nederland on Tuesday 20 June. Girls appear to choose more consciously for a contraceptive method that suits them, because the use of the pill has declined in favour of IUDs. Worryingly, 40% of young people do not use a condom during one-night stands. Compared to 2012, the number of young people who have been forced to do, or submit to, something sexual has decreased. However, the number of young people who have sent nude pictures or sex videos of themselves has increased sharply.

Young people start at a later age

Young people in the Netherlands do not only start having sexual intercourse at a later age in 2017 compared to 2012; this is also the case with other forms of sex, such as kissing. The number of young people who have their first sexual experiences at a very young age, between 12 and 14, has decreased. That is good news, because young people who start having sex at a very early age are more often forced or persuaded to do so and more often have unprotected sex. Another positive finding is that young women as well as men enjoy sex: 94% of sexually experienced young men and 90% of sexually experienced young women find sex pleasant.

Better protection against pregnancy

Compared to 2012, more young Dutch people use a contraceptive method when they have sex for the first time. Although the pill is still the most used contraceptive method, its use is decreasing sharply: from 61% to 50% among girls with experience of sexual intercourse. Instead of the pill, young women more often choose other contraceptive methods, especially IUDs (11%). Because the pill has to be taken every day, which is easy to forget, an IUD can be a good alternative for young women.

No condom during one-night stands

70% of young people in the Netherlands use a condom when they have sex for the first time. But after that, condom use strongly decreases. 40% of young people do not use a condom during a one-night stand. When young people with a sexual partner stop using condoms, 75% of young men and 66% of young women say they have not been tested for STIs.

More sexting than in 2012

In the Netherlands, 12% of young women and 13% of young men have sent a nude picture or sex video of themselves to someone else in the past half year. That is much more than in 2012, when these figures were 4% for young women and 6% for young men. Also, 24% of young men and 19% of young women received a personal nude picture or sex video. Out of the young people of whom a nude picture or sex video was passed on to others (2% of young men and 1% of young women), well over half of young men and three quarters of young women report that they found it distressing.

Sexual coercion has decreased slightly

In the Netherlands, 2% of young men and 11% of young women report having ever been forced to do, or submit to, something sexual. This is a slight decrease compared to 2012, when 4% of young men and 17% of young women had ever been forced to have sex.

Homophobia has declined

The number of young Dutch people who disapprove of expressions of homosexuality has decreased strongly. In 2012, half of young men and a quarter of young women disapproved of two young men kissing in public. In 2017 this percentage has almost halved to 27% of young men and 13% of young women.

Representative study

The 2017 edition of Sex Under 25 provides a representative picture of the sexual health of young people in the Netherlands aged 12-25. The first editions of Sex Under 25 were conducted in 2005 and 2012. The study was carried out by Rutgers and Soa Aids Nederland in partnership with the regional public health services. For the first time, more than half of the regional public health services recruited additional respondents to be able to provide representative figures for their own specific region. As a result, well over 20,000 young people participated in the study. Sex Under 25 is part of the Lifestyle Monitor of the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM).

Action plan

The findings of Sex Under 25 are used to improve information and support for young people in the Netherlands. Professionals who deal with the sexual health of young people in research, professional practice or policymaking provided input on the questionnaire and the themes it covers. At the conference Sex Under 25 on 20 June we will present the findings to all parties involved. Together with them, we will develop an action plan supported by all stakeholders in order to make sexuality education aimed at young people relevant and up to date.

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