Hello! And welcome to Part 3 in a 3-part series on:
What I Think About Parents and Sex Education!
On Tuesday I introduced the series, and today I’m talking about my third point:
Sex is not all bad. Even for teenagers. In order to maintain credibility, parents have to acknowledge that fact.
This is a scary point for lots of parents. But the fact is that all adolescent sex does not end with rape, pregnancy, and AIDS.
Being sexually active does not increase the likelihood that a teenager is going to be raped.
Most sexually active teenager girls do not get pregnant. Most sexually active teenage boys do not get someone pregnant.
Lots and lots of teenagers are sexually active without ever getting or giving an STI. (There’s no good information out there on many teenagers have ever had an STI, though, so it’s hard to say if it’s most or not.) And most common STIs are treated pretty easily these days, so it’s not such a big deal even if they do get one!
Now, can all these bad things happen? Of course. Should we be diligent as parents to help our teenagers avoid them? Absolutely. Part of being diligent is making sure our children know that we know that every single time they do something potentially dangerous something horrible might not happen to them.
Otherwise, something like this happens:
Lucy’s mother has told her to never, ever have sex without a condom. Ever. Lucy understands from her mother’s warning that if she ever – EVER! – has sex without a condom she’ll get pregnant and get and STI.
Lucy’s best friend Marisol and her boyfriend Johnny have sex without a condom. A lot. Marisol does not get pregnant and does not contract an STI (that she knows about).
Lucy’s understanding of her mother’s warnings are now in direct contradiction with Marisol’s proven reality.
So good sex education needs to acknowledge that you don’t get pregnant every time you have sex without a condom – but then ask the question of whether the teenager is willing for this time to be the one when she does get pregnant.
“Part of being diligent is making sure our children know that we know that every single time they do something potentially dangerous something horrible might not happen to them.”
I think that’s covered under “accuracy” or “telling the truth”.
To use Internet speak…
1.) The only way to be 110% sure you don’t get pregnant or get an STD is to abstain from sexual contact (intercourse, oral, or anal).
2.) Using protection reduces your risk of pregnancy and STDs.
3.) It is possible to have sex w/o any form of protection and to not get pregnant and/or not get an STD. It’s a crapshoot, though, and one that’s really not wise to gamble with.
And I think it’s point 3 that parents struggle with when it comes to teenage sex. Because when you’re a teen, you’ll (sometimes… oftentimes?) make decisions that are more risky. (I know I did.) You’re more willing to take your chances. Perhaps that’s why parents lie and say that if you ever have sex w/o protection, you’ll get knocked up (or get some girl knocked up) or some horrible disease.
“So good sex education needs to acknowledge that you don’t get pregnant every time you have sex without a condom – but then ask the question of whether the teenager is willing for this time to be the one when she does get pregnant.”
I really like that way of putting it.
Also, I noticed that you brought up the point and then wrote about pregnancy and STDs (when talking about not all sex is bad).
However, I had hoped that you’d also write on the emotional side of it. That not all teenage sex is bad, from an emotional and relationship standpoint. Not to sound clicheed, but there comes a time in a person’s life where they’re ready enough to start having sex. (I don’t think anyone’s ever really fully ready, at least not until they’ve been having it a few years.) Not all teenage sex ends in emotional scarring, not all teenage sex ends in drama or issues.
I lost my virginity at 17 to a young man from Germany. I do not regret losing my virginity at 17, and I do not regret losing my virginity to him. I was lucky to have a partner who was caring, patient, and kinky in the same ways I was. (The kinky part is important. Too many kinky people had non-kinky partners who reacted badly and were shamed into the Kink Closet for years, sometimes decades.) We were both virgins, so neither of us were experienced, but we were both willing to laugh at ourselves and not take it too seriously when we had some physical difficulties due to our inexperience. And, I think, most importantly, I was lucky to have a partner I genuinely loved and who genuinely loved me back. We cared about each other and we explored together. And my first experiences with sex I really don’t think could have been better.
So, yeah, adults need to acknowledge to teens that, no, not all teenage sex is something to regret. It doesn’t always end in shameful tears. Sometimes it ends in a greater knowledge about your body, your emotions, and life itself.
Interesting that you put rape into the same category as pregnancy and STDs.
One of the main preventative action that teens (and all women) can take to prevent rape is to stay unimpaired by drugs and/or alcohol. A high, high percentage of women are raped when they are impaired, because they lose their natural caution and end up in much riskier situations.
Also, I’d like to mention that the level of conflict between their parents is a huge indicator in how the children will turn out, regards substance abuse, mental health impairments, etc. Parents, are you listening? If you are in conflict with your child’s other parent, you are damaging them, and increasing their risks for navigating their adult lives.
Other than my website: http://www.threetrusts.com, a terrific trio of website are:
http://www.uptoparents.com (for divorced/separated parents)
http://www.proudtoparent.com (for separated, never-married parents)
http://www.whileweheal.com (for parents who just might be able to stay together)
I think something you said earlier would fit here. The fact is that sex when done properly feels very, very good. And that’s a really hard thing to talk to teenagers about. But I think it’s important to be honest about the positive side if we want them to listen to us when we talk to them about the negative side.
And most common STIs are treated pretty easily these days, so it’s not such a big deal even if they do get one!
I find this statement to incredibly irresponsible. While it is true that chlamydia is easily treated if you have access to care, HIV, HPV, HSV all have no cure. Treatment for moderate to severe cervical dysplasia caused from HPV can lead to an incompetent cervix and infertility. Chlamydial infections are also a major cause of tubal infertility even if they are “treated pretty easily”.
As a health care provider to an adolescent population, I have to completely disagree with the “no big deal” mentality. A very dangerous attitude.
Heidi, I appreciate your concern.
And by the time teenagers get themselves to a health care provider, the situation is somewhat different. However, the stigma that exists against STIs prevents many teenagers from seeking help. I and other sex educators have found that decreasing the intensity of our response to STIs often increases teenager’s willingness to seek help early, before an STI rages out of control and they have no other choice but to seek help. I and others have also found that encouraging regular testing, regardless of a lack of symptoms, is more easily encouraged when the threshold of freak-out is very, very high.
Please also note: There is a significant difference between “not such a big deal” and “no big deal.” Teenagers’ emotional energy about STIs is generally very high, even if they aren’t willing to admit it. What they need is calm adults who take things in stride and help them to get regular STI testing.
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