The Italian Almanac

kissin in the open

Clueless About Sex

One in three young Italians believe having sex while standing up or in water is effective in preventing unwanted pregnancy, the Italian Gynecology and Obstetrics Society (SIGO) said Speaking at the European Congress of Gynecologists under way in Lisbon, SIGO president Giorgio Vittori described the sexual ignorance of Italians under the age of 19 as ''extremely alarming. According to our statistics only 0.3% of young people have a good level of sexual education, while over 70% have very little understanding,'' Vittori said.

Other widespread misconceptions among Italian adolescents include the belief that it is impossible to get pregnant if it is the first time they have sex or if they do not have an orgasm, and that Coca Cola is an effective contraceptive douche. Alongside such ''do-it-yourself'' contraceptive methods, around 30% of Italian adolescents use no contraception at all, while 20% use the withdrawal method, Vittori said.

In an effort to dispel sexual myths among the nation's adolescents and to set out the hard facts, SIGO is launching an 'anti-tall-story' guide to sex this month. Entitled 'Sex without surprises - everything you should (not) know to avoid getting pregnant', the guide will be distributed in universities, at discos and during large pop concerts. SIGO representatives also plan to meet with the Ministry of Education to discuss improving early sexual education programmes in schools.

One women in three takes the contraceptive pill in the rest of Europe, but Italians avoid it as they believe it is fattening. According to a report SIGO released last September, around 90% of Italian women have become sexually active by the age of 17. Sex was an ''act of love'' for 60% of those interviewed, while only 2% said they were opposed to premarital sex.