Let’s Try to Calm Down About Teen Sex

Parents, I know it’s hard to let your kids grow up and make their own decisions. You can’t just flip that switch from being omnipotent protector to laissez-faire bystander. Specifically, it’s hard to realize – I mean, really realize – that your child has grown into a sexually mature person.

There has been a lot of pearl-clutching and hand-wringing over the past few years about the so-called “hook-up culture” sweeping college campuses. Oh no! Promiscuity! Casual sex! All the bad things ever!

It turns out that we might be working ourselves into a tizzy for nothing. A recent study indicates that campus hook-up culture may not be a thing after all.

Researchers at the University of Portland collected data from 1,800 18- to 25-year-olds who have completed at least one year of college from 2001-2010 and compared that data to data collected from 1988-1996. They found that students in the more recent group are, in fact, not having any more sex than the earlier group.

That’s not to say that some things haven’t changed. As Hanna Rosin of Slate points out, young adults today are having sex differently than the previous generation:

What has changed is how they choose partners. They are more likely now to have sex with a “casual date” or a “pickup” or a “friend.” (Which might explain why they don’t have sex once or more a week–that’s what boyfriends or girlfriends are good for). That’s how “hookup” 2010 is different from “hookup” 1996.

Even before college it’s good for teens to take control of their sexuality and, if parents or guardians can get over the taboo, it can bring families closer.

It may seem like an anathema, but letting your teenager have a sleepover with his or her significant other might not be a bad idea. As Amanda Marcotte reported in the USA Today, bringing the existence of sex right out in the open and having honest discussions about it is really quite beneficial:

Letting your teenager have a boyfriend or girlfriend sleep over, or even move in, takes away the “sneaking around” aspect of teenage romance, and that also is a good thing. The research overwhelmingly suggests that the more secretive a teenager feels she has to be with her parents about her sex life, the higher her chances of having unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted infection. Various studies compiled by Advocates for Youth show that parents who frequently talk about sexual health and relationships with their children have kids who take fewer sexual risks.

In addition, parents who were accepting of their children’s sex lives and who refrained from judgmental lectures had kids who were more likely to confide in them and were less likely to have unprotected sex. Though letting your kids have romantic sleepovers doesn’t necessarily mean you’re having these important conversations, research from the Netherlands shows that sleepovers and healthier communication correlated with fewer pregnancies.

Notice, of course, that you can’t just let your teenager’s S.O. sleep over and everything will be fine and dandy. You need to talk about sex and acknowledge that it’s a natural part of life. Pretending that those desires and urges don’t exist doesn’t help the matter.

The teenage years are difficult. Everyone involved is forced to go through a lot of changes, physically, socially and emotionally. We don’t need to make it harder by enforcing the sexual taboo, whether it manifests as warnings against the non-existent “hook-up culture” or demanding that teens be abstinent until marriage.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

65 comments

Jeanne R
Jeanne R18 days ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R18 days ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R18 days ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R18 days ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R18 days ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Lindsey O.
Lindsey O3 years ago

Kathy P, parents do indeed look back on their own teen years - and often shudder at the risks they foolishly took when they were too young to have developed a fully-mature judgment.

And not all teens have sex - some are actually able to see that the risks of pregnancy and STDs - risks that can completely alter the rest of their lives - aren't worth taking when they're too young to deal with the situation entirely on their own. And that's another reason parents worry - because they know if the worst happens they'll be responsible for looking after their child's problems (and potentially their new grandchild as well.) Parents shouldn't have to be "open and accepting" about things they don't approve of and know to be major problems in the making - it isn't their job to be your best buddy, it's their job to be your guide and protector until you're grown and on your own.

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Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson3 years ago

I am not sure why parents freak about older teens having sex anyway. We ARE sexual beings, don't they remember what they were doing at that age? The best solution is to realize teens will have sex, and be open and accepting

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Amanda S.
Amanda S3 years ago

Of course that comment was not only sarcastic but completely facetious.... but the facts were true.
Teens, if so inclined, WILL have sex - like it or not. Most of them will keep it a secret.
* A responsible parents duty is to insure that their child is thoroughly and properly prepared to make rational decisions about sex. *
The teen must know:
- Sex is a natural and normal act - nothing to be ashamed about,
- He/she must discern who is a "good" partner,
- Sex is NEVER an act of "obligation" to someone for any reason. Sex is never "owed''.
- Wicked will pounce at the opportunity just to USE you for their own selfish pleasure,
- ALWAYS practice contraception plus good condoms (never be ashamed to discuss it). -
- People get pregnant all the time even when they "pull out" or putting in "just the tip" . Don't be dumb.
- Sex will NOT make a partner like you, stay with you, or love you any more. It's usually the opposite!
- Recognize the symptoms of STD's and pregnancy. If there's a possibility of pregnancy/disease following an "accident" - have it tended to right away - etc.

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Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Amanda S.
Amanda S3 years ago

That's right, parents. Lock away your teen daughters.
Install utter terror and guilt into their hearts about their sexual urges.
She needs to know she's sinning against God if she is a "filthy" tramp is she can't "keep her legs closed" Jesus will turn his eyes away from her since she has now lost her purity.

Yep, this is the onoy sure-fire method of preventing your teenaged daughter from one day becoming a prostitute or being labeled as the "town bicycle". Remind them daily. Force them to read from the bible. Effective 100% of the time. If you've been "good parents" and have done all of this... sexual education of your child is completely unnecessary.

One day, a good Christian virgin man will come into her life, and deflower her in a holy way - but only after following the Godly act of matrimony. AMEN!

My BFF's parent's did this, but I guess that they just didn't pray hard enough. I guess they didn't restrict their daughter enough... that little "tramp" became pregnant at 16 and at 17 years old she gave birth to unholy twins. Of course, these ''children of shame'' were promptly adopted out. My friend must of learned her lesson by then, or not, because she proceeded to contract HPV and had several more unplanned pregnancies in the following years.

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