DEAR ABBY: I have a problem. All my friends have started having sex, and I haven't even been kissed yet.
I'm beginning to think that maybe I should tell guys I'm experienced, so I can have sex and be like my friends. What do you think? -- OUT IN THE COLD UP NORTH
DEAR OUT IN THE COLD: I think it's a bad idea. You should thank your lucky stars you haven't been subjected to the pressure that your friends have. Being a teen-ager is tough enough without worrying about getting a sexually transmitted disease or accidentally becoming pregnant.
I can think of no worse reason to have sex than the fear that you're being left out. While we're on the subject of sex, read on for an eye-opener:
DEAR ABBY: After reading the letters in your column concerning teens and safe sex or abstinence, I sometimes chuckle at the naivete of parents.
Yes, it's mandatory to have frank discussions with your children about sex, birth control, abstinence -- all of it. Sharing whatever moral values you want to pass on to them is extremely important. However, having been a teen-ager and then a college student, I think it is naive to think that young adults make important decisions about sex only when they are sober.
The truth is, many of my friends lost their virginity at a party and barely remembered the experience. When alcohol or drugs are introduced into a social situation, a normally mature young adult may not make decisions wisely.
Abby, please remind parents how important it is to talk to their sons and daughters about alcohol, drugs, and finding themselves in party situations. The combination of alcohol and sex really can be dangerous. -- REALISTIC IN MAINE
DEAR REALISTIC: You're absolutely right. American culture abounds in images that link alcohol with romance and celebration, from movies to television shows to romantic images portrayed in alcohol advertising.
According to the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information, teen-age girls who drink are more likely to have unprotected sex than those who do not drink.
Sexually active teens who average five or more alcoholic drinks daily are three times less likely to use condoms -- placing them at greater risk for sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS. Binge drinkers appear to engage in more unplanned sexual activity than students who do not binge-drink.
Researchers estimate that alcohol use is involved in up to two-thirds of cases of sexual assault and acquaintance or date-rape among teens and college students. A survey of high school students found that 18 percent of females and 39 percent of males (a frightening statistic!) say it is acceptable for a boy to force sex if the girl is stoned or drunk.
A Centers for Disease Control study analyzed changes in gonorrhea rates among teens 15 to 19 and young adults 20 to 24 in the year following an increase in the state beer tax or a raising of the drinking age. States that changed policy were compared with those that didn't. Among states that increased the tax on beer, two-thirds showed a decrease in gonorrhea rates for teens and three-fourths showed a decrease for young adults.
A final thought: Two-thirds of the people who get STDs are under 25, and more than 3 million young people are infected annually -- and all of them LOOK healthy.