Sometimes being a sexologist is difficult, especially when you have different opinions to those close to you. Even more so when these opinions are about young adults and sex. We live in a society where we try and prolong the age at which teens first have sex and want our sons and daughters to wait till they are “ready” (and past the age of 16). We see young adults engaging in sexual practices sometimes as a bad thing and this is where we do so much damage to their thoughts about sex. This is when we attach the shame and guilt. When will people learn – sex is not such a bad thing!
It is a bad thing however, when teens are sexually involved for the wrong reasons, and also without the right knowledge of how to protect themselves both physically and emotionally. This is something I will always be passionate about, and I’m not sure we will ever be giving our teens enough of the education they need. A lack of education is a recipe for disaster. We don’t want teens to be harmed as a result of sexual activity. If we withhold the facts and the truth, we are not giving them the adequate tools to help make decision around their sexuality that could change their life.
Let’s compare it to math or science. You need to know certain things when it comes to math to make sure you can compute an equation. You also need to know what various compounds are in science before you start mixing concoctions. You do not half teach math or science, so why then do we half teach sex and put our teens at a risk? New Flash –teens will be teens, their bodies are made to crave, want, desire and start having sex. We can push onto them all the shame, guilt and negativity we want, but it still might, and could happen. We do more damage to them with this guilt. If we go about it the wrong way, it’s not going to be a positive experience for them.
So why another rant on teen sex now? I was asked not to say anything (I couldn’t help myself), and I will not be mentioning any names, but recently someone in my life set off on an exchange program, (who is also over the age of 16). I was shocked to hear that some of the guidelines were that they were not able to seriously date or have sex, and that if they were caught having sex they were to be sent home. Little to say, I started to go a shade of angry red. What infuriated me further were the conversations after with some adults in agreement to these guidelines. This is the problem being a sex positive sexologist in a world that does not always get your point of view, you don’t not always see eye to eye with people over coffee or at cocktail parties and they look at you like you came from the moon or are talking another language that they don’t understand.
But understand this, sex is normal and natural for teens and by asking them to refrain from it (for a long period of time) is like asking them not to breathe or eat. Another comment was made that they are “representing their country so it would not be a good look if they were having sex”. I think that’s when my frustration levels went from medium to worse! Why is it so bad if they are representing our country and were to have consensual sex? This is what I’m talking about! This is where the shame and guilt and negativity of one’s sexuality really sets in. By making statements such as this and making guidelines that restrict our sexuality, we are evidentially saying sex is a bad thing. You are a good person, going to represent your country and having sex would make you look bad? Rubbish! If a child is of legal age in that country, then it is their body, and up to them to decide what they wish to do with it.
A part of me does understand why this organization says what it does, however I think they have approached it in the wrong way. I agree that it would not be a good look to have an American Pie scenario, where the naked exchange student is broadcasted over the internet in a compromising position or an exchange students arrives back to Australia with a bun in the oven. But maybe someone needs to discuss with these young adults the challenges that they might face instead of banning the act altogether.
There is the debate that if you don’t agree with these guidelines than you don’t have to go. I see the point, but I also think merely having these guidelines is enough damage in itself. Instead of demanding a no sex policy, why doesn’t this program educate their teens before they go with the right sex information. Sex 101 before they make their journey! Oh, but that would mean someone would have to tell them the truth about all of this! Silly me! (I hope you picked up on my sarcasm there).
These children are young adults and deserve to be treated like that. Maybe this particular organization is too afraid (like so many others out there) to talk to young adults about a subject such as sex. What is worse, being afraid and not talking about it or giving them information and possibly having a giggle or feeling a little embarrassed? I can handle a bit of embarrassment in order to help someone else with their decisions in life, I only wish others could do the same.
When I go out on a limb, and make comments about this, I also receive the comment back “you will change your mind when you have children”. I hope I don’t! I hope I bring up my children to see sex as something beautiful and amazing not shameful and bad.
There are certain scenarios where we need to discuss the possible negative outcomes of sexual activity, however by banning sex altogether we are attaching to it with such a negative message. Harmful things such as alcohol, drugs and cigarettes should be banned. Sex should not be lumped into this same category! What message do you think that sends?
Let’s be real, young adults and teens will be having sex and will be thinking about having sex, they are only giving in to their body’s biological urges. We can stop them, send it underground and stop the lines of communication and information, or we can support them and help them through the process. We can be fearful of what might happen, or we can be real about what is!