Yay For Teen Sex!

When I read this excellent article by Amanda Marcotte, I couldn’t help think of Mandolin’s post last October, “Children Fucking Children“.

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.

This entry posted in Feminism, sexism, etc. Bookmark the permalink. 

44 Responses to Yay For Teen Sex!

  1. 1
    r@d@r says:

    i’m great with teenagers having sex…..with each other.

    i’m not so OK with adults in their 20s and even 30s having sex with teenagers, which is how old most of the fathers of babies were in a teen parenting program my wife used to work for. whenever politicians and other social engineers talk about the teen pregnancy rates, they rarely seem to discuss who the father is, and why the ones that (from a legal standpoint) have committed “statuatory rape” are so rarely prosecuted. (anecdotally, or so my wife reported, it was often because the cultural attitude among the majority of the families of the teen mothers were that babies were blessings under any circumstances, and so the parents of the teen moms didn’t wish to press charges. occasionally the fathers would actually step up and be responsible parents, but those were clearly in the minority.)

    i was in love as a teenager plenty of times, and it was real, and i was very sexually active, and practiced safe sex. however, if i had had sex with someone twice my age – or, if at 25 i had had sex with someone who was 16 – my judgment would have been questionable.

    the Dutch have a more modern view of sexuality than we do, but AFAIK they also have a social infrastructure that supports women’s healthcare and sex education in general, whether they’re teenagers or not.

  2. 2
    Ampersand says:

    I completely agree, Myca (and I agree with r@d@r’s followup points, as well). The USA’s panic over teen sex is creating many of the problems it’s supposed to be solving.

  3. 3
    Jake Squid says:

    … American adult attitudes towards teen sexuality are a huge part of why American teen sexuality is all fucked up.

    I would extend that to say that it is also a huge part of why American adult sexuality is all fucked up.

  4. 4
    MisterMephisto says:

    Americans have a fucked up view of sexuality? Why wasn’t I informed!?!?

    Honestly, though, I totally agree with Myca’s OP. American sexuality (teen or adult) is a pretty deranged animal that doesn’t know what it wants. Look at the teenage sex-symbols that we keep being spoon-fed via the media… but remember guys, sex with a teenage-sex-symbol is bad, m’kay?

    And not just because they end up going crazy later.

  5. 5
    Myca says:

    I would extend that to say that it is also a huge part of why American adult sexuality is all fucked up.

    *DING* *DING* *DING*

    We have a winner!

  6. 6
    Deb says:

    Ditto that point about the adult men fathering children with teens. I wonder how common that is among the Dutch?

    Also, I often wonder how much actual enjoyment American teen girls get out of sex? I don’t recall any of my girl friends talking about orgasms they were having while we were in high school. Most of the talk centered around who got their period, who was late, what birth control they were on, etc., etc. Mostly it was about fear of pregnancy and being dumped by boyfriends.

  7. 7
    Robert says:

    Meh. Teenagers are (by and large) too immature to make these decisions. They aren’t too young to experience the emotions, but they are usually too young and inexperienced to place those emotions in a larger context, which leads to bad decisions and all the rest of it.

    It’s great that the Dutch approach has somewhat better outcomes; it’s the approach I’m likely to take with my own kids. But you know, you get better outcomes with the mentally ill if you humor them and rely on persuasion than if you taser them into the wall and lock them up, too. That doesn’t mean that the patient really is the Duchess of Elminster, or that the teenager isn’t actually a hormone-addled moron. The best way of handling something does not always map strongly to the best way of understanding it.

  8. 8
    r@d@r says:

    Meh. Teenagers are (by and large) too immature to make these decisions. They aren’t too young to experience the emotions, but they are usually too young and inexperienced to place those emotions in a larger context, which leads to bad decisions and all the rest of it.

    robert, while i generally would agree with what you are saying here, you have not mentioned any qualities that i would not readily find in almost any 40 year old i stopped on the street. in fact, it strikes me that an inability to place emotions in a larger context, leading to bad decisions and other suffering, seems to be a part of the human condition.

    it’s true that the young lack experience; what they also lack is the same quality of jadedness and cynicism that you and i enjoy. sometimes this translates into reckless and risky behavior; sometimes, into poor character judgment (choice of friends, etc.) and worst of all, “i understand this law, but it doesn’t apply to me” – including the laws of physics.

    but i don’t define love as an emotion, i define it as an action that may be emotionally motivated – a mode of behavior reflected in results. actually i think children understand this better than we do. we tell them “if you really loved me, you would follow my instructions without question so as to avoid later suffering,” and they reply, “if you really loved me, you would allow me to live my life and make my own mistakes without judging me.” we show our love by trying to control them; they show their love in different ways. if they’re smart, they completely ignore what we’re trying to teach them about love; and if we’re smart, we pay attention to what they’re trying to teach us.

    we can teach them not to cross the street on a red light, not to eat stuff off the floor, and to wear a condom, but we can’t teach them how to love.

  9. 9
    Beth says:

    I can’t comment too much on American ideas of teenage sexuality, but from what I’ve heard/seen you have it about right. Banning anything or condemning it is just going to make people want to do it more – fair enough don’t let people take heroin or shoot people, but (safe) sex isn’t such an awful thing. I personally don’t give a damn when people start to have sex, as long as they are sensible about it.

    I do agree with you that adults tend to dismiss the idea of teens being in love, which is silly – you CAN be in love as a teen, it’s just statistically unlikely to last for the rest of your life. As long as you realise that, there’s no harm in it. :) Hopefully my ideas on this make some kind of sense, I’m awful at expressing my opinions on this sort of thing.

  10. 10
    Myca says:

    you CAN be in love as a teen, it’s just statistically unlikely to last for the rest of your life.

    I think that this is sort of also tied into our culture’s idea that anything less than ‘the rest of your life’ is meaningless. There is this weird assumption that unless your goal at the very least is long-term, then the relationship doesn’t really ‘count’.

    I mean, I very rarely hear the phrase “meaningful short-term relationship”, and yet I’d venture to say that some of my short-term relationships have been extremely meaningful to who I am as a person and my personal growth . . . and sadly, at least one long-term relationship was not meaningful in that way.

    Anyway, I think that this assumption is also a big part of where Robert is coming from.

    —Myca

  11. 11
    RonF says:

    Americans, meanwhile, to put it bluntly, reject the idea that teenagers can love each other.

    This makes a statement not supported by what’s presented in the post. Americans don’t have to think that teenagers can’t love each other to think that they shouldn’t be having sex.

  12. 12
    Sailorman says:

    Sounds like a “least worst” strategy.

    Even if you think teens shouldn’t be having sex (which I think is, as a general rule, true for 13 year olds, false for 19 year olds, and changes between those ages) you might realize that treating kids like adults and asking for the same in return is better than losing control altogether.

    Makes sense to me, but then again I was raised in that kind of household. My mom would give us condoms (mortifying my 14 year old, never-french-kissed-yet, self).

    Actually, it’s pretty similar to the pros and cons of forbidding teens to experiment with alcohol.

  13. 13
    Myca says:

    This makes a statement not supported by what’s presented in the post. Americans don’t have to think that teenagers can’t love each other to think that they shouldn’t be having sex.

    Ron, did you read the research Amanda cites? It says, among other things:

    As an interviewer, it was striking to hear American middle-class parents express extreme skepticism about the possibility of love during the teenage years. Parents frequently say that while teenagers, particularly girls, may think they are in love, they are not truly in love. Instead, the American parents stress the ways in which girls and boys have opposing, even antagonistic, desires and interests.

    The report is here, and that quote comes from the bottom of page 7.

    —Myca

  14. 14
    nobody.really says:

    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.

    [W]e 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….

    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 abusive relationships, etc.

    i was in love as a teenager plenty of times, and it was real, and i was very sexually active, and practiced safe sex. however, if i had had sex with someone twice my age – or, if at 25 i had had sex with someone who was 16 – my judgment would have been questionable.

    [A]dults tend to dismiss the idea of teens being in love, which is silly – you CAN be in love as a teen, it’s just statistically unlikely to last for the rest of your life. As long as you realize that, there’s no harm in it. :)

    [I]t was striking to hear American middle-class parents express extreme skepticism about the possibility of love during the teenage years. Parents frequently say that while teenagers, particularly girls, may think they are in love, they are not truly in love. Instead, the American parents stress the ways in which girls and boys have opposing, even antagonistic, desires and interests.

    It is unclear to me that each of these references to “being in love” refer to the same thing.

    - I suspect some people refer to “being in love” as an emotional state of sexual attraction, affection, and some fantasy projection. When people say “I was in love as a teenager plenty of times,” I read it to have this meaning.

    - I suspect some people refer to “being in love” to mean the excitement that comes from making a psychological commitment to a candidate for marriage or other long-term relationship of combined resources.

    - And I suspect other people to use the term “being in love” as a conclusory label given to any group of people whom the speaker regards to be entitled to have sex with each other. To such people, all wedded couples are presumptively “in love” all the time, without any independent evidence of emotional state. It would hardly surprise me that people who use “being in love” in this fashion might object to the idea that teenagers can “be in love.”

    I question the claim that Dutch parents tend to accept that teenagers fall “in love.” Given that most Dutch parents don’t speak English, a lot rides on how the phrase “fall in love” gets translated. And given that I’m note persuaded we have a uniform meaning within the US, I’d be astonished if any social scientists could fully translate the concept into Dutch.

  15. 15
    Gilliebean says:

    Ron, did you read the research Amanda cites?

    In all fairness, it seems to me that Ron is not denying that teenagers can be in love (forgive me if I’m wrong here, but based on the quote you provided to respond to Ron, it seems that you are reading him as saying something about teens in love). Now, I could be wrong about Ron’s intentions here, but I read him as saying, “sure, teens can be in love — might even be real love. Still don’t think they should be having sex.”

    With that said, I disagree — well, sort of. I mean, I think it probably is better for teens to wait until they’re older (or, at least into their upper teens) from a physical standpoint. Emotionally, I think it’s fine if you do it the way the Dutch do it — that is, teen-age-style love = love, sex = expression of love. And, in the end, it’s probably physically better to be open about sex in order to fully teach about safer sex than the way American culture tries to hide it away so that it becomes a “risky adventure” to kids.

  16. 16
    Holly says:

    I guess it explains a lot about the American sexual psyche if we’re much more likely than others to have first encountered and experienced sex as a tantalizing, gossiped-about, forbidden illicit activity. I mean, the lure of the naughty and forbidden is a gigantic component of what our culture considers erotic. Is that not true elsewhere, i.e. in the Netherlands? I would be kind of surprised, but it sounds like it would make sense. Do Dutch couples have fewer affairs and have less public sex or other kinds of rule-breaking sex too?

  17. 17
    dutchmarbel says:

    I can’t remember when I didn’t know the ‘facts’ about sex; my mum used to have books next to our bed as from when we could read.
    When I was 11 and in the last class of primary school, I remember us having ‘classroom talks’ about who wore bra’s, had periods or had wet dreams. That was exceptionally open though, not many of my friends had the same experience, even in Amsterdam. Most education was rather factual though, nog much about the feelings and uncertainties around it. I relied on my teenage magazines for those and they were quite open.

    I do know that the fact that you had sex was more or less understood as a given. But the message was also that YOU were in control of it. We had commercials saying things like ‘sometimes when a girl asks you in for coffee she just wants to drink coffee’, there were a lot of teenage magazines with articles and lettersections about how it was supposed to happen when you wanted it. I grew up pre-aids, so condoms were not promoted much (the last few years we had extensive programs, especially aimed at youth) , but when I thought *it* could happen I went to my doctor and asked for the pill. My friend was too late, but she went to the GP the next day and got the morning after pill. We knew what we needed and we could get it easily and for free, I think that helps.

    These days we still have informative and open commercials (the girl is a well known singer), but we also warn about the new dangers. There is a whole campaing, specially for youth, about how to avoid an internetSTD (STD = SOA in Dutch) (beware of what you say and show on the internet).

    We do believe that teenagers fall in love, the general attitude is that most people don’t think they will stay in love very long. But I think the general feeling is that the emotional investment in teenage relationships can be hugh (“the first love cuts the deepest”), and can be very important for the teenager. But the attitude between for instance the bible-belt or religious minoritie-groups or city-bred progressives will differ a lot.

    Teenagepregnancies (and abortions) are low. I looked up specifics: In 2006 35 percent of the pregnant teenagers gave birth, 65% had an abortion. We had no 10-14-yo mothers, 47 15-yo mothers , 132 16-yo mothers, 346 17-yo mothers, 717 18-yo mothers and 1432 19-year old mothers.

  18. 18
    Myca says:

    In all fairness, it seems to me that Ron is not denying that teenagers can be in love (forgive me if I’m wrong here, but based on the quote you provided to respond to Ron, it seems that you are reading him as saying something about teens in love).

    Ah, yes . . . I wasn’t addressing the second part of his post, where he said:

    Americans don’t have to think that teenagers can’t love each other to think that they shouldn’t be having sex.

    I agree with that statement.
    You don’t have to believe A in order to believe B.
    (Personally, though, I don’t believe either of them, and the research linked says that American adults, on average, believe both of them.)

    I was addressing the first part, where he said:

    Americans, meanwhile, to put it bluntly, reject the idea that teenagers can love each other.

    This makes a statement not supported by what’s presented in the post.

    This statement makes no reference to ‘belief B’, and it references a statement that is supported in Amanda’s post, the post she links to, and the research material they both link to.

    —Myca

  19. 19
    james says:

    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.

    This is a classic example of a bullshit study which people are agreeing with because it confirms their prejudices, rather than for any substantive reasons.

    It is quite obviously wrong. If you look at the table at the back of the report you will see that Dutch pregnancy rates much lower than those in the US predate their liberal attitudes, which the study claims arose in the 1970s. Since the Dutch had much lower pregnancy rates than the US even when – like the Americans – they were not respecting the intellectual and emotional depth of their teens, I can’t see how you can claim this is the cause of the difference. A couple of dozen interviews carried out by some hack sociologist in order to produce some propaganda does not change these facts.

    I feel the actual cause of the difference is more likely to be higher levels of volitional pregnancy and indifference about pregnancy among teens in the US than in the Netherlands. The cause of that isn’t adults not being hippyish enough.

  20. 20
    Myca says:

    I do know that the fact that you had sex was more or less understood as a given. But the message was also that YOU were in control of it.

    What a lovely attitude, dutchmarbel! I wish it was more widespread.

    —Myca

  21. 21
    Antigone says:

    It’s funny, my friends and I were having this exact same conversation over dinner, right down to the comparison of DARE and abstience only education.

    I think both of them come down to the same thing: taking down to teenagers, justifying lying to them. We remember, (even us mid-twenty year olds) what idiots we were as a teenagers. But, I think as you get older, you forget WHY you were an idiot as a teenager. Children are not stupid, and teenagers are less so. Even though most of their decisions are based on emotions doesn’t mean they’ll believe in fairies.

  22. 22
    RonF says:

    No, I didn’t look at Amanda’s post on the study. Thanks for pointing that out. Although that wasn’t quoted in your post, mind you.

    Now, I still haven’t read though the study, but you said “Americans, meanwhile, to put it bluntly, reject the idea that teenagers can love each other.”, but the study quotes “middle-class American parents”, not all Americans. “Americans” != “middle-class American parents”. I’d be interested in two things:

    1) how the sample was selected (was it across different economic classes, religions, races/ethnic groups, and geographical regions)?

    2) What’s love? Note the different opinions on that in this very posting. To say that a certain group of people reject the concept that teenagers can be in love means different things to different people here, and I’d therefore guess meant different things to the different people who responded to the question. Not to mention different from what the people who wrote and asked the questions.

    3) and, just what was the question or questions that were asked, and the answers to them that led the study author to decide that this is what the middle-class Americans meant? Because what we see from what you’ve quoted is not how people answered certain questions, but what the study author interpreted those unknown answers to those unknown questions to mean. You and I might interpret them differently.

    Me? I’m sure that teenagers can fall in love. And out of love, too. God knows I did. She was 15, of Italian heritage, about 5′ 9″, gorgeous, and was in my advanced math and science classes. My heart beat faster if she just held my hand. If I hadn’t moved halfway across the country after my sophomore year, who knows what would have happened?

  23. 23
    annajcook says:

    RonF, the study (which you haven’t yet read) answers those questions!

    1) In order to have a uniform sample for the qualitative (in-depth, semi-formal interviews) study, the authors deliberate selected predominantly white middle-class parents. Their reasons are outlined in the study, but one I thought interesting was their point that it’s this demographic that has a lot of power in setting school board and national policy–so they have a disproportional impact on how the mainstream narratives about teen sexuality are developed.

    2) Again, the authors describe the language of “love” (including the Dutch terms, untranslated) that Dutch parents use to describe their teenagers emotional relationships. And we are given concrete examples of what sort of behavior the adults consider appropriate or responsible in that context.

    3) The interviews were not strict Q-and-A, but a more open-ended discussion. The specific question that led to this one small article (part of the larger study) was a question to the parents about whether they would allow boyfriend/girlfriend sleepovers for their older teens. Most of the quotes in the article are in response to that question and from the conversations that ensued.

    I highly recommend the article; it’s really interesting and I’m looking forward to seeing further articles published on the results of the broader comparative study.

  24. 24
    RonF says:

    O.K. Well, then, I’ll have to read the article. However, there is still one point to consider. To offer judgements on what all Americans think or even what all American parents think based on interviews with only people who are a) white, b) middle-class and (for those statements that simply reference all Americans) c) parents seems invalid to me.

    the authors deliberate selected predominantly white middle-class parents. Their reasons are outlined in the study, but one I thought interesting was their point that it’s this demographic that has a lot of power in setting school board and national policy–

    White middle-class parents only have power to set school board policies where they are in the majority. There’s plenty of school districts within 20 miles of me where the majority is either not white, not middle-class, or both. I can’t endorse the concept that you can extrapolate what while middle-class parents think to all American parents or all Americans.

  25. 25
    Ampersand says:

    I somewhat agree with RonF (is there a blue moon?). Myca’s post (which I like) would have been better had it included a note about the sample design, imo.

    However, it’s clear that the original study did make its sampling design clear to its readers.

    Also, Ron, a study does not have to apply to 100% of parents to be meaningful and interesting. Given US demographics, a study of white middle-class parents is far more likely to be representative of the plurality of the population “that has a lot of power in setting school board and national policy” than a study of (say) “plenty of school districts within 20 miles” of RonF’s computer station.

  26. 26
    SamChevre says:

    May I just note that the last 2 paragraphs sound like someone channelling my dad.

  27. 27
    mythago says:

    Why are we talking about love? Seems to me that’s a big part of the reason teenagers get in trouble–irresponsibility, especially sexual irresponsibility, in our culture is acceptable as long as you’re In Love, it’s not slutty if you’re In Love, sex is something people In Love naturally do, etc.

    Teaching teens to wait until they’re ready to act in a responsible, mature fashion is one thing–along the lines of “Yes, you can have a car, as long as you’re willing to share the responsibility for car maintenance, insurance costs and renewing the license plates”. (One sex ed book that my mother bought me in lieu of actually talking about sex cautioned “Sex is for men and women, not children,” which I thought was a pretty good summary.)

    But that’s not what we do. Anyone remember Hillary Clinton joking about how she didn’t want Chelsea to have sex until she was 30 and then she didn’t want to know about it? “Abstinence-only” teaching suggests to teens that they not even CONSIDER sex until they’re in their 20s.

  28. 28
    RonF says:

    I didn’t say it wasn’t meaningful and interesting. I’ll comment on that if/when I read the study. But I don’t think I have to read the study to hold that extrapolation from white-middle class parents to “Americans” (as is done in the statement “Americans, meanwhile, to put it bluntly, reject the idea that teenagers can love each other.”) isn’t necessarily valid.

  29. 29
    Mary says:

    I read both the link and the paper by Dr. Slater, and it really opened my eyes to the common sense of the teen sleepover. I have seven year old twins, and the more I think about the Dutch approach the better it sounds.

    My children would be under my roof with the protection and guidance of parents when they started sexual intimacy, instead of sneaking around. This makes a whole lot of potential problems less likely. If we normalize sex and talk about it as a stage of growth they are reaching in their midteens, they won’t be held hostage by ignorant peers or abstinance only educators. If we allow them to be sexual at home they are in a safe and comfortable environment and have more control over the situation. Always having access to condoms. Help if a partner tries to pressure or hurt them. Parents who help them make good contraceptive choices. I first fell in love at twelve. Respecting that young people do form romantic attachments and really can experience intense love for each other is very powerful in a culture that often dismisses their experiences as insignificant “phases” instead of deeply experienced realities.

    Encouraging teen sleepovers once my kids date exclusively wasn’t on my radar before, but now that it is I’m very grateful for the characteristically sensible Dutch attitude toward sex for teens.

  30. 30
    christina B says:

    Seems to me that’s a big part of the reason teenagers get in trouble–irresponsibility, especially sexual irresponsibility,

    I don’t know much about Dutch culture and how children are raised or treated there, however this seems like it may be a huge factor to me. I am an ESL teacher. I’ve lived/worked in Japan and right now in Mexico. There are differences in maturity levels regarding specific topics, for example studying on your own, your responsability for your future, sex, relationship, etc. More mature teenagers are going to be more responsible. The maturity level of teenagers (kids in general) has a lot to do with the amount of responsibility that their parents and teachers think they can handle and expect from them.

    Perhaps the difference isn’t the difference in attitudes about sex. Perhaps the Dutch think that teenagers can handle more personal responsability than we (Americans) do and therefore expect and foster more maturity and responsability in teenagers.

  31. 31
    Moni says:

    To be honest, as an American teen, I can identify with the idea that teens don’t fall in love. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, I just feel like the majority of sex that occurs isn’t a “legitimate expression of love,” as I believe you referred to it. I’m also not saying that sex is terrible and must be avoided at all costs, I think it is at times a healthy and necessary; I just feel like in the majority of cases [at least the ones I've been exposed to] it’s more detrimental.

    Perhaps this is in reaction to the puritanical views of our elders, but I don’t think that their views are entirely unwarranted. It seems like a positive feedback loop to me.

  32. 32
    Cylphi says:

    Humans, especially teenagers with all of those lovely hormones rushing through their pubescent bodies, like sex., and lots of it. Its healthy and completely normal, luckily for us we have modern conveniences such as birth control. To deny the irresistible human urge to express love in a physical manner is to deny being human.

    Americans are very hung up about sex to begin with, and sadly, i don’t think we’ll see a sexual revolution for at least a few decades.

  33. 33
    Branwyn says:

    AS a parent of 2 teen sons & a son in grade school, I have to admit that our prevailing attitudes about sex are unrealistic. Both of the older boys are sexually active. I welcome their girlfriends into my home over night. What I have found from my experience with teens is that they will be sexually active whether we try to stop it or not!

    As a parent, I remember how my teens were. Sex was furtive & something to be hidden away! This is one of the most beautiful acts between two people who care about each other! I believe that sex is a sacred expression of love & trust. How do we expect our children to learn this if we don’t teach them!

    I have done everything I can to educate my sons (and their girlfriends) about the need for STD protection & birth control. I wanted them to know that sex is a natual expression of caring & not something to be ashamed of!

    The Dutch attitude towards teen sexuality is much more healthy, in my view. I would hope that more American parents would realize how badly we are twisting our children.

  34. 34
    mythago says:

    luckily for us we have modern conveniences such as birth control

    Birth control doesn’t always work, and it doesn’t magically prevent STDs. Recognizing that sex has risks, and being willing to consider and accept those risks, is part of being mature enough to have sex.

  35. 35
    Cylphi says:

    Thank you mythago. Understanding the risks of sex is certainly a necessity before engaging in such activities.

    But we shouldn’t throw birth control out the window, proper use of oral contraception has typically over a 91% success rating. Such pills can be obtained easily at a Planned Parenthood along with condoms (which many agree should always be used during intercourse)

  36. 36
    mythago says:

    Who said anything about throwing birth control out the window?

    And yes, condoms should absolutely be used, in preference to the Pill. Which, being a hormonal prescription drug, is more difficult and less safe for teens to use than alternatives like condoms.

  37. 37
    Mandolin says:

    “Which, being a hormonal prescription drug, is more difficult and less safe for teens to use than alternatives like condoms.”

    I find it odd that you’re willing to say that as an absolute without allowing variance for individual teens — who are not all a monolith, and will not all react to the use of something like birth control the same way. I sense there are two parts to your argument here. 1: That teens are too irresponsible for meticulous use of the birth control pill — this, of course, obviously varies by teen. 2: That the birth control pill is unhealthy for teens — which, speaking as one of those teens who was on the b/c pill for medical reasons, is not necessarily going to be true all the time either.

    Further, since we have data suggesting that abusive teenage boys sometimes use condoms as a method of control, I’m not sure that it’s reasonable to assume that male-controlled birth control is necessarily preferable.

  38. 38
    william costello says:

    The evidence from international comparisons is utterly conclusive; accepting teenage sexuality and educating teenagers about how to express it safely, helps reduce teenage pregnancy and improve a young persons well-being. That pretty much makes those who insist on pretending that teenagers are little sexless infants guilty of child abuse.

    Some of the reader’s comments are a little inconsistant on the issue of an adult man having sex with a 16 year old. On the one hand Teenagers are not mature enough to make adult decisions so need to have sex with people there own age, at the same time you’re saying that having sex with an older guy is wrong because the teen is more likely to fall pregnant. Surely a guy in his 20′s would be more able to take responsibility for ensuring his 16 or 17 year old girlfriend doesn’t get impregnated than a spotty 16 year old boy who doesn’t know how to put on a condom and only wants to brag to his mates that he got laid?

    Mayby Britney Spears went crazy because she was in the media spotlight from an early age, not because she was a teen sex symbol. A lot of child stars go crazy.Though good point about the hypocricy of the media in putting out the image of teen sexuality when also pretending that anyone who looks at a teenager is an evil pervert.

  39. 39
    Mandolin says:

    “Surely a guy in his 20′s would be more able to take responsibility for ensuring his 16 or 17 year old girlfriend doesn’t get impregnated than a spotty 16 year old boy who doesn’t know how to put on a condom and only wants to brag to his mates that he got laid?”

    Power dynamics.

  40. 40
    mythago says:

    I find it odd that you’re willing to say that as an absolute without allowing variance for individual teens — who are not all a monolith, and will not all react to the use of something like birth control the same way.

    The Pill is prescription-only everywhere in the US, and it works by affecting a woman’s normal hormonal balance everywhere.

    That teens are too irresponsible for meticulous use of the birth control pill

    I didn’t even imply this. Are you just trying to pick a fight?

    What I *was* responding to was Cylphi’s post, which seems to suggest that the Pill is the very bestest form of birth control and takes care of any problems sex might cause. I’m all for the Pill being available to women, and it may be a good or even the best choice for many women, including teens.

    I do have a problem with the way the Pill is pushed as something women are supposed to choose first, not because it is the best for them (it has a very high drop-out rate) or because it protects them from disease, but because it fits neatly into the notion that women are supposed to make sex as simple and trouble-free for men as possible, even if that means doing all the work and coping with all the side-effects. Controlling your own fertility? Great. Jacking up your system with hormones because your partner doesn’t like to wait for you to put in a diaphragm and whines that he can’t feeeeel anything with condoms? Not so great.

    An abusive boyfriend is not likely to be cautious about giving his partner an STD either, but that’s kind of another topic.

  41. 41
    Cylphi says:

    Stating a percentage like 91% does not imply I believe that the pill is the “bestest” form of birth control. Nor does it imply that I am under the assumption that the pill magically reverses and prevents STDs. How you arrived at such a conclusion i do not know.

    I do know however that the pill is not a male chauvinistic plot to rid women of their sexual independence.

    Two healthy STD free teens in a monogamous relationship should consult with each other and a medical professional before trying oral contraceptives. But the pill is certainly an effective form of birth control and should definitely be considered.

  42. 42
    Kyle says:

    Excellent post here!

    America has such ridiculously unhealthy attitudes about sex, and especially about teen sex. This is a big part of our huge unwanted pregnancy/STI issue. America is one of the most sexually unhealthy western nations.

    You make an excellent point about not using protection. I know so many teens and adults, even, who don’t use them, and when I ask them why, they literally just shrug it off.

    I think a big part of the issue is also that we don’t push protection in such a way that says, “If you do it, you are respecting one another, and you are prolonging your life.”

    We need to freaking evolve!

  43. 43
    mythago says:

    But the pill is certainly an effective form of birth control and should definitely be considered.

    I agree with you completely. But your post seems to suggest that “birth control” = “the Pill”, and zipped right by the question of STDs–something the Pill does nothing to prevent. That’s why ‘many people’ promote condom usage.

  44. Pingback: Tinkering « Chaos is Normal