It’s normal for the young to want to learn all about sex, especially during puberty and adolescence.
This is when reproduction becomes the brain’s top priority. For this we can thank the specifics of teen-brain development.
Think of an adolescent jungle primate watching another band with such fascination that he (or she, in some species) is willing to leaves his/her companions.
He/she is ready to endure the slings and arrows of being without allies at the bottom of another troop’s pecking order. All for a chance to get it on with exotic hotties in the future. The things our genes do to guarantee genetic diversity!
During adolescence a temporary neurological imbalance develops. The “sex, drugs and rock & roll” part of the brain is in overdrive. The “let’s give this some thought” part is still under construction, and won’t reach maturity until adulthood.
This recipe for impulsive and risky behavior rearranges other adolescent-mammal brains too. It is evolution’s way of driving the brash independence many young mammals need as they seek mates and carve out territories. In the brain’s cost-benefit analysis, the scale is tipping heavily in the direction of possible rewards.
Teen Brains Are Different
from Adult Brains
When we dig into the brain research on adolescents, it’s astonishing to realize how malleable teen brains are. Radical changes in the sexual environment hit them hardest.
The reward circuitry is the core of all drives (including libido), emotions, likes, dislikes, motivation…and addiction. In adolescence, sex hormones propel this ancient circuitry into a window of hyperactivity, which subsides by the early twenties.
We all like new and exciting things, but we never value them more highly than we do during adolescence. Here we hit a high in what behavioral scientists call sensation seeking: the hunt for the neural buzz, the jolt of the unusual or unexpected. This love of the thrill peaks at around age 15.
The brain’s sensitivity to dopamine, the “Gotta get it!” neurochemical crests, which spurs novelty-seeking, overrides executive control, and helps consolidate learning and habits.
In fact, teen brains respond to anything perceived as exciting with twice to four times the reward-circuitry activation of adults thanks to their extra dopamine sensitivity.
Both novelty and searching/seeking spike dopamine in all human brains, but web erotica/porn proves an irresistible lure for most teens.
Young teens (12
to 14 years old)
Five percent of 12-year-olds, 10 percent of 13-year-olds and 20 percent of 14-year-olds are sexually active. When you consider that less than half of 12- to 14-year-olds have ever been on a date, these numbers are staggering.
Though the proportion of sexually active girls ages 15 to 19 has decreased, the proportion of sexually active girls age 14 and younger has increased.
More than a quarter of sexually active 12- to 14-year-olds reported multiple sexual partners in the past 18 months.
Thirteen percent of relationships between same-age partners include sex, compared to 26 percent of relationships with a partner who is two years older, 33 percent of relationships with a partner who is three years older and 47 percent of relationships with a partner who is four or more years older.
Twelve percent of 12- to 14-year-olds involved in a romantic relationship are dating someone three or more years older.
About one-third of 14-year-old boys said they would have sex because of curiosity, and another third said they would do so to satisfy sexual desires.
Ten percent of girls said they would have sex to satisfy curiosity, and another 10 percent said they would have sex to satisfy sexual desires.