Researchers say teenagers are not using oral sex as means of preserving their virginity, the Washingtonpost.com reports.

A federal survey of more than 2,200 males and females aged 15 to 19, found that teens who described themselves as virgins were less likely to say they had tried oral sex than those who said they were not virgins.

More than half of the teens included in the survey, which was released Monday, said they'd had oral sex.

"There's a popular perception that teens are engaging in serial oral sex as a strategy to avoid vaginal intercourse," Rachel Jones of the Guttmacher Institute, a private, nonprofit research organization based in New York, who helped do the study, told the Washingtonpost.com. "Our research suggests that's a misperception."

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Sexually experienced teens were almost four times more likely to engage in oral sex and 20 times more likely to engage in anal sex than their peers who were self-described virgins, the research found.

Previous studies, based on small samples or anecdotal evidence, had suggested that oral sex was gaining popularity with teens as an alternative to intercourse, the Web site reported.

The new study was based on a nationally representative sample of 1,150 females and 1,121 males aged 15 to 19 who were questioned in detail for the federal government's 2002 National Survey of Family Growth, the report said.

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