I was listening to the radio the other day, and the morning show was talking about the “Top 10 Worst Reasons to Marry Her” from AskMen.com. And the subject steered towards sex.
“Just because you’re doing the horizontal tango doesn’t mean that you have to consider staying together forever,” was the general consensus.
And a statement that is accepted by a good majority of the population suddenly seemed so crass. Two people are going to share something so personal with each other, and it’s ok if the subject of forever isn’t a thought, or even a planned thought, in that equation.
I’ve been giving the thought of sex a whole lot more thought because it has become a topic of general discussion in our household, especially between me and my 12 year old daughter. When it was first brought up, the sex talk was incredibly uncomfortable on all counts. But through time, we have revisited the conversation, allowing it to become a more familiar topic to touch upon. Now, my daughter and I are able to talk about this with minimal looks of disgust, and with actual shared discussion.
The most recent talk was actually a reflection on a friend’s wedding. In a move unheard of in much of our society, my friend had chosen to save herself for her wedding night. At 32 years old, she married the man of her dreams in a beautiful ceremony last weekend. And before any preconceived notions are made about this friend, let me tell you that she is a highly successful, incredibly beautiful woman. My daughter and I discussed the magnitude of such a decision she made, and how it must have been incredibly hard to wait. But the end result was that she was able to share something so personal with the man she would be with forever.
“She’s my hero,” my daughter told me.
Each year there are 19 million new infections of STDs among men and women. Nearly half of that number belongs to young people ages 15 – 24. In 2008, almost 350,000 women under the age of 19 contracted chlamydia, a disease that can affect future fertility and pregnancies, as well as being highly contagious and uncomfortable. (Center for Disease Control) An even more frightening statistic? One in five Americans has contracted herpes, a disease that has no cure at all. And 80% of that number has no idea that they even have the disease. Scarier still, two-thirds of that number is young people under the age of 25. (Stats on Herpes, by Global Herbal Supplies) Birth control pills, Depo-Provera, and the IUD do not prevent the spread of STDs. Condoms help to prevent the spread of many diseases, but are not 100% fail-safe. And some diseases can still be contracted even while using a condom.
Contracting a disease that might have a permanent effect on a young person’s life is only one of the reasons why NOT considering the promise of forever is a risky decision.
Of course, deciding to say no is much easier than actually saying no. As teens get older, the reasons to have sex start to multiply. Everyone is doing it (truth: less than half of teens are doing it). My sexuality will be questioned if I don’t do it. He’ll break up with me if I say no (truth: love does not include pressuring someone to do something they’re not comfortable with). She’ll think I’m less of a man if I tell her I’m not ready. I want to feel more mature (truth: sex does not equal maturity). I want to feel less lonely (truth: having sex can actually create deeper feelings of loneliness, especially if feelings of love are not returned).
The reasons to have sex include wanting to emulate the “fireworks” that exist on TV or in the movies. It seems like a way to seal a bond or hold on to someone. It’s wanting to get that first time over with, to lose that “virgin” status once and for all. What isn’t generally in that decision is what the future holds. What kind of person does your teen want to be? What are their ideals? Is the decision to have sex being made for themselves, or to please the other person? Will this be a decision they’ll regret once they actually do have sex? Is the person they are willing to share their body with deserving of it? Are they able to discuss sex, including what’s comfortable for them and types of protection, with their partner?
It is my personal wish that my daughter waits until marriage to have sex. At the very least, it is my wish that she respects herself enough to wait for someone who loves her just as deeply as she loves him. But this is a decision that she will need to make for herself, and one that I can only guide her in but NOT force ideals on her. At 12, she is of the frame of mind that waiting is the only answer she has for her love life. But that decision is going to be a harder one to live by as she gets older and relationships get more intense. She might suffer heartache because of it. She might change her mind and decide that she really doesn’t want to wait. When it all comes down to it, it is a decision that is hers alone to make. All I can do is share with her what I know, and let her go from there.
What are your thoughts on including abstinence as a part of your sex talk with your teen?