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Abstract

Objective To describe the characteristics of Australian adults' first vaginal intercourse and contraceptive use on that occasion, as well as first oral sex.

Method Computer-assisted telephone interviews were completed by a representative sample of 10,173 men and 9,134 women aged 16–59 years. The overall response rate was 73.1% (69.4% men, 77.6% women). Respondents indicated their age at first vaginal intercourse (if ever), the partner's age, their relationship to their partner, the duration of the relationship before first intercourse, and what contraception (if any) was used. Respondents also indicated their age when they first had oral sex.

Results: For men, the median age at first intercourse declined from 18 among men aged 50–59 to 16 for men aged 16–19. For women the decline in median age was from 19 to 16. For women born between 1941 and 1950 the difference in median age at first vaginal intercourse and subsequent first oral sex was six years but for women born between 1981 and 1986 the difference in medians was one year. For men, a similar convergence was observed. Contraceptive use at first intercourse has increased significantly, from less than 30% of men and women in the 1950s to over 90% in the 2000s. For men, first intercourse before age 16 was significantly associated with greater numbers of lifetime and recent sexual partners, ever having paid for sex and having had a sexually transmitted infection (STI), and for women, with greater numbers of lifetime and recent sexual partners, ever having been paid for sex and ever having had an STI.

Conclusion Sex education should be given so that all young people have information about contraception and disease prevention before they begin their sexual careers.