I want you to imagine a 15-year-old girl who thinks she might be pregnant. This was her first sexual experience. It was unplanned. It was even unwanted, but now she thinks she may be pregnant and she doesn’t know what to do.
Now imagine a 15-year-old girl who is on her sixth partner this year. She’s been lucky. She has not gotten pregnant. She’s thinking of getting tested for STDs. She may be regretting her choices, maybe not.
What is the difference between their motivations and ours as parents? There is really very little difference. The reality is that these girls are simply seeking, to the best of their ability, to find a lover of their soul.
We are relational beings. We desire to know and be known. We crave intimacy. We all want to be loved, recognized and accepted.
Teens are also looking for acceptance and recognition, and sometimes without knowing it, they are looking for the lover of their soul. They are going about it as they assume they must, based on the messages their culture sends out. Sex is everywhere: TV, music, movies. Kids talk about it all the time. The casual way in which it is discussed gives you a clue as to how it is approached. Many of the ways sex is acted out amongst teens may shock you.
What we see are girls using sex to try to fulfill relationship and intimacy needs, as well as the need for recognition and acceptance. They are looking for power and equality, not realizing that that is exactly what they are giving up.
Why do you think teenagers have sex?
These are the reasons they give: boredom, nothing else to do, a way to pass the time, hormones, bragging rights, goal setting, peer pressure, pressure from partner, curiosity, to get it over with, and sometimes, “they think they’re in love.”
They talk about sex, yet what they are most interested in is relationship skills. Most girls want to know how to tell a guy “no” without hurting his feelings. They also want to know how to deal with the pain of a breakup (because they know a breakup is inevitable).
But most teens are verbally sexually active, meaning they talk about sex as if they are participants. And recent studies show that just under 50% of 17-year-olds are physically sexually active.
Desperate for love
Many girls feel they don’t have the option to say “no.” And with today’s society so focused on sex and many girls so willing to accommodate boys’ requests, they may feel they have no choice. To refuse to “put out” is to lose the relationship, so many feel like it's their only option. As a result, sex loses its sacredness and beauty and becomes recreational and casual. It’s gone from being the culminating act of a loving commitment to a precondition or a tryout for future involvement.
There is a frequent complaint that boys rarely ask girls out anymore. Instead they go to parties, drink, pair off, and if the mood suits, have sex. Young women who feel sexually free can still feel powerless. Girls boast like boys of their sexual experience, but are aware that their reputations have been badly damaged and that the boys lose respect for them.
Some girls meet their intimacy needs by creating their own families. They aren’t meeting it through sex. Sex is just the vehicle. They are using men to have children, and are creating their own “family” so they can love, be loved and be needed. They are creating their own “community.”
Then there is the gang community. When a girl joins a gang, she is treated as the lowest on the totem pole. They have to be accountable to the gang and follow the rules. These rules are not for their own good, as they would be in a family, but the girls join anyway. For attention and acceptance, these girls find they need to be down and dirty. They laugh at the same jokes, even the sexually degrading ones, and treat sex as recreation, a conquest, not as an emotional commitment.
What can you do to help your teem make wise choices about their sexuality?
- Let them know your expectations of them in the area of sexuality. Be very clear about your own values and attitudes.
- Set definite boundaries for them in the areas of dating and weekend activities. Make them accountable to you as to their whereabouts and activities. Sometimes a lack of opportunity is all the help they need.
- Help them see the discrepancies between the media (Hollywood) and real life. Use time spent together watching TV or movies to facilitate a discussion on sex and dating.
- Learn to listen. Start communicating early and often. Keep discussions open; don’t over or under explain. Avoid lecturing.
- Show them what a good, responsible relationship looks like.
*Danielle Crittenden’s book, "What Our Mothers Didn’t Tell Us", is the source of much of the information in this article.
This article was written by: Jill Kulhawy (BN)Photo Credit: Jamie Brown