The gist of Amanda’s article (and, in a lot of ways, Mandolin’s post before it) is that American adult attitudes towards teen sexuality are a huge part of why American teen sexuality is all fucked up. Of course, I agree with this, and I have for quite some time, but what’s nice is that Amanda has (gasp) evidence:
. . . Dutch teenagers, who have sex at the same ages as American teenagers, do better on the common indicators of sexual wellness. They change partners less frequently, they get pregnant less often, they use birth control more consistently, and they don’t contract STIs as often. The interviewers decided to measure parental attitudes about teenage sex by asking parents if they allow the romantic partners of 16- and 17-year-old children to sleep over. American parents almost universally recoiled at the idea, and Dutch parents almost universally accepted it.
From there, the interviews went into more depth, discovering that Americans and the Dutch conceptualize teenage sexuality and love much differently from each other. Dutch parents tend to accept that teenagers fall in love and generally have the expectation that teenage sex is a legitimate expression of love. Americans, meanwhile, to put it bluntly, reject the idea that teenagers can love each other.
So that’s pretty much it, isn’t it? Our contempt for teenagers is what’s doing this. Our refusal to respect their intellectual and emotional depth and to treat them accordingly.
I was 16 when I first had sex (actually, the day before my 17th birthday), and although (in retrospect) I think my mom might have been okay with my girlfriend, Tiffany, spending the night, I certainly never would have asked. I was too caught up in the prevalent social attitude that sex is something to be feared and hidden. So instead, Tiffany and I drove home from the high school at lunch to have sex, had sex after school, skipped school to have sex . . . luckily, we were both smart enough to use birth control scrupulously, but still, we acted as though sex was a hidden illicit pleasure . . . because, if you’re 17, it is. We were in love, though, and it shouldn’t have been.
And, you know, I think that perhaps the impact of parental/social/adult attitudes on teen sex works in another way as well. If adults are telling you that you’re too young to fall in love, and too young to make major life decisions (except of course, for when they’re telling you that the grade you get in Chemistry will affect your future irrevocably) and you, as a teenager, know that’s that’s untrue, well, I think it makes it that much less likely that you’ll listen to what they have to say about avoiding pregnancy, avoiding STIs, avoiding abusinve relationships, etc.
I think of it like the war on (some) drugs. If the government is telling you that pot drives you crazy and makes you think you can fly, then once you try pot and discover that that actually it just makes you hungry and kinda goofy, you probably won’t believe the government when it tells you that heroin is really the bad stuff. See, because they’ve already said that everything is really the bad stuff.
I think teen sex is like that.