Dr. Heidi Lyons presents a lecture on adolescent and emerging adult sexuality today

To know Heidi Lyons is to love Heidi Lyons. As a member of the Oakland University (OU) faculty since 2010, Dr. Lyons has taught Sociology and Women and Gender studies while focusing on Family, Population, Social Demography, Sex and Gender, Quantitative and Qualitative Methods, Intimate Dyad and the Life Course.

Dr. Lyons has the unique ability to reach all of her students in core, departmental and interdisciplinary settings while utilizing her quick wit, engaging demeanor and vast expertise on various sociological topics.

On Tuesday, Oct. 9, The Feminists of OU hosted Dr. Lyons as she presented a lecture on adolescent and emerging adult sexuality today.

“I call myself a family demographer,” Lyons said. “When we think about traditional demography, it tries to look at the ways that populations change. Traditional demographers study fertility, mortality and morbidity.”

Lyons considers herself a feminist demographer as she analyzes the methodological implications of feminist theory for demographic research.

“I want to make sure that our populations are healthy and have healthy behaviors,” Lyons said. “I’m able to apply these really rigorous statistical techniques to the study of sexual behavior, and then I can start understanding things like who’s more likely to get HIV and why, as well as who’s most at risk in minority groups and why.”

When speaking on the topic of teenage pregnancy, Lyons explained that society has a misconception on the rate within the US.

“If we ask the general population about teen pregnancy, they often think that teen pregnancy is going up,” Lyons said. “We’ve seen a decrease across the board, but the biggest decrease is happening within our ethnic minority population. America as a whole still cares a lot about teen pregnancy, despite its decreasing rate, which leads us to understand that there’s something larger structurally going on.”

Part of the reason why teenage pregnancy has decreased is due to the age that people are getting married in modern society.

“The median age at first marriage was 18 years old in the 1950’s and it now 10 years later not childbearing,” Lyons said. “The biggest difference isn’t that teens aren’t ready, it’s that they aren’t married as early as people used to get married.”

Surprisingly enough, contraceptive use is higher among teens than ever before.

“People say, ‘Kids these days’ but the data shows that kids these days are actually doing it better than before,” Lyons said.  “In 1982, only 48% of 15-19 year old females used contraceptives at their first sex, which is terrifying. Now at 80%, we’re way better than what was previously at 48%.”

Within her research, Dr. Lyons has seen an increase in the amount of college graduates that are more likely to identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual.

“The coming out process often comes during the college years,” Lyons said. “The acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community has grown immensely. If we look at acceptance of gay marriage and people being okay with having a gay daughter or son, it is increasing. Not only is it attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ community, but we are seeing a bigger shift in the amount of younger people identifying as a sexual minority. I’m excited to watch this unfold; it’s a great time to be alive.”

As emerging adulthood currently presents a unique developmental shift for sexual orientation and identity development in current society, there’s truly no better time to study this demographic.