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Video: Tyra Banks ‘shocked’ by teen sex crisis

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TODAY contributor
updated 11/14/2008 9:04:37 AM ET 2008-11-14T14:04:37

Parents, brace yourselves: The survey results are in, and you may not like what they reveal about girls and sex.

More than 10,000 teenage girls and young women took part in an anonymous survey over the summer on TyraShow.com, the Web site of “The Tyra Banks Show.” Survey questions focused on sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy, as well as drinking, drugs and violence among females. Here are some findings from the survey:

  • On average, girls are losing their virginity at 15 years of age.
  • 14 percent of teens who are having sex say they’re doing it at school.
  • 52 percent of survey respondents say they do not use protection when having sex.
  • One in three says she fears having a sexually transmitted disease.
  • 24 percent of teens with STDs say they still have unprotected sex.
  • One in five girls says she wants to be a teen mom.
  • About 50 percent acknowledge that they’ve hit someone.
  • One out of three teens has tried drugs.

“What surprised me most on the survey is that the girls were so honest, and I think the reason why they were so honest is because the survey was anonymous,” retired model and daytime TV host Tyra Banks told TODAY co-anchor Matt Lauer on Friday. But when some of girls surveyed came onto her show and described their sexual activities, “I was shocked again,” she added. "I don’t think they were trying to be sensational. I really do believe that they were telling the truth.”

Open talk about diseases, pregnancies
On “The Tyra Banks Show” airing Friday, eight girls ranging in age from 14 to 17 discuss the survey findings and share their own personal experiences. Seven of the eight say they are sexually active; of those seven, just one says she uses protection when having sex.

“A lot of the guys, if I didn’t have unprotected sex with them, they would get mad at me and I still wanted that closeness with them,” one girl says during the show. “I was afraid if I didn’t do what they wanted, they wouldn’t be my friend.”

The same girl talks about how she tested positive for chlamydia twice and also contracted genital herpes.

“I’m ashamed that I have it, but it’s something I want other people to be aware of,” she says.

Another girl, a 17-year-old mother of a 7-month-old boy, says she lost her virginity on a school lunch break and deliberately planned her pregnancy by monitoring her menstrual cycle.

“I had helped teach a sex-ed class to a class of freshmen my sophomore year,” she explains. “We taught how … there’s a week [in] the month you are more likely to get pregnant than any other time of the month. I had calculated that out and I decided on two days I was most likely to get pregnant.”

Girls on the show also talk about experimenting with the drugs salvia and Ecstasy and getting into violent fights with other girls.

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‘Adolescents need help’
Dr. Elizabeth Schroeder, executive director of Answer, a teen sex education program based at Rutgers University, said the survey results sound plausible and are consistent with other research on teen sexuality.

“This so clearly points to the need for comprehensive sexual education for kids,” Schroeder said. “An adolescent … is supposed to be making poor decisions. Developmentally this is the way they’re supposed to be behaving. They need help ....

“Parents need help talking with their kids about sexuality, and schools need to be talking to kids about sexuality.”

Banks told Lauer that this kind of communication simply isn't happening for many teens.

“They are not talking to their parents; they’re embarrassed to talk to their parents,” Banks said. “And more than them being embarrassed to talk to their parents, their parents are embarrassed to talk to them. So they're finding all [about] sex education with their friends, with their peers.

“I asked one of the girls, ‘Where are you doing it?’ ” Banks added. “She said, ‘In the bathroom, and the janitor caught us.’ ”

But Schroeder said it’s important to keep the issue of teens actually having sex at school in perspective. “If 14 percent of teens are having sex in school, that means 86 percent are not having sex in school,” she says. “People have to hear the statistics and hear that it’s not everybody.”

Banks also told TODAY that girls appear to be more sexually active than ever before. A 16-year-old girl interviewed on “The Tyra Banks Show” says she had sex for the first time at 13. Since then, she has had nine sex partners and has contracted sexually transmitted diseases, including genital herpes.

“When they told me I was crying really bad … because it was something I have to live with for the rest of my life,” the girl says during the episode.

The girl also says she’s never addressed the issue with the boy who gave her herpes.

“I never confronted him about it,” she says. “I’ve always been scared.”

“It hurts me, because my mission in life is to raise the self-esteem of young girls,” Banks told Lauer on TODAY. “But I didn’t know that it was that low.”

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