Sex as a responsibility – Part 2

Yesterday I wrote the introduction to this series. Today I am writing about how talking with teenagers about sex as a privilege can lead to a discussion of responsibility to the physical aspects of a sexual relationship.

Once a teenager acknowledges that sexual activities are inherently different from non-sexual activities, the most obvious way to talk about these differences is the actual physicalness inherent in sexuality: sexual activities are inherently physically different from non-sexual activities and carry certain physical risks.

The question to ask:

“What responsibility does one have towards the physical well-being of one’s sexual partner(s)?”

Not many teenagers get asked this question, but I suspect that safe sex would be much more common if they were. This question could prove to be particularly revolutionary if teenagers responded by truly pondering the implications. While I generally suggest that adults keep their questioning to a bare minimum of one question, if the situation allows, I might try to slip in this second question into the conversation:

“What responsibility does one have towards the physical well-being of one’s own body, sexually speaking?”

I am sure that I never considered my responsibility towards my own physical, sexual health as a teenager, and I don’t think I ever overtly considered my responsibility towards my partner’s physical well-being.  What about you?  How did you conceptualize these issues as a teenager, or how have you guided your teenager in conceptualizing them?

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.


  1. I don’t think I ever considered those issues as a teenager, and they would have been good things to think of.

  2. I’m still hung up on talking about sex as a privilege. I think teenagers will see right through this! Here are some definitions of privilege:

    * a special advantage or immunity or benefit not enjoyed by all
    * prerogative: a right reserved exclusively by a particular person or group (especially a hereditary or official right); “suffrage was the prerogative of white adult males”
    *A privilege–etymologically “private law” or law relating to a specific individual–is a special right or immunity granted by a government to a restricted group, either by birth or on a conditional basis

    So, I don’t think sex is a privilege (its a basic human attribute), but I really like this discussion that you’re having. It is so important to talk to teenagers about everything you’re talking about! And while concern about one’s own physical, sexual, emotional health is critical, so is concern for the other person’s physical, sexual, and emotional health.

    I really love the Third Mindfulness Training by Thich Nhat Hanh:

    The Third Training: “Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I vow to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct.”

    Although I think that sexual intimacy without love and a long-term commitment can be just fine, staying mindful to potential future suffering can help to hold one back from impulsive behaviors.

  3. […] social responsibilities. You can read the introduction in part 1, the physical responsibilities in part 2, and the relational responsibilities in part […]

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