In the mornings I always have the TV switched on the Morning Show on 7. I appear on this program but also enjoy watching what’s going on and what people are saying. One of the segments I am drawn to is the dilemma, where a panel give their opinion about a particular topic or so called dilemma. This morning’s segment was on teens having sleep overs with their partners. Immediately I was paying attention.
I don’t like to be that person that is critical of other’s opinions and do think there is always space when it comes to sexuality for multiple views, but in this case I felt the need to speak up about one particular view on the panel, Dr Michael Carr Greg, a parenting expert. Please do not think of this at criticism or even attempting to discredit Dr Carr Gregg, but merely a counter view to consider.
It was the opening argument of telling teens to wait because of the risk of STIs and teenage pregnancy and that they might not be emotionally ready that slightly angered me. I recently was on the same segment discussing when to educate teens about sex, and I hold the same view then as I did with this topic. We focus so much on telling kids to wait that we begin to send the message that there is something, wrong and shameful about sex. Mistake number 1. We spend so much time telling them to wait and outlining the risks involved that don’t teach them too much about the actual positives of sex in fear they might actually want to do it. But this might then send them out in to the wide world not understanding how the pleasure part of this process works and maybe even impact on the satisfaction in future relationships. Mistake number 2. We tell them because of their age they are not emotionally ready, but yet how many adults are out there being sexually active that are not emotionally ready themselves? Being emotionally ready for sex is not something we can measure or define. It’s only something that the individual feels. But what happens when you feel ready but you are being told to wait? Mistake number 3. We tell them to wait, we tell them sex is not appropriate at their age, but yet their body is sending them a different message. Should we still be teaching a fear based approach or should we be more honest and give teens a better chance at navigating through these sexual obstacles in life?
I agree with Dr Carr Gregg, that teens should focus on high school, but I am also a realist and was once a sexually active teen in high school. It’s going to happen no matter how much you tell them not to, no matter how much you tell them they are not ready and no matter how important you stress focusing on school is. So we have a choice, we can either continue the banta of how bad sex is for teens and how they should wait until there are so called “ready” (keeping in mind the concept of ready being something we can’t tell actually tell them what is or measure) or educate them as much as possible for the now and also for the future. It’s not good enough just to inform teens about STI’s and the risks involved but also look at some of the pleasures surrounding sexuality. There are so many adults with a negative view on sexuality out there today, and maybe this is why? And before you wonder how we can tell teens there is a positive side of sex, please note we are living in the age of the internet, they will find out what all the fuss is about. It has also be proven that adequate sex education increase the age at which teens first have sex. But should “adequate” sex education involve pleasure education as well? Keep them in the dark or open the lines of communication so there is someone to turn to when their boyfriend/girlfriend is pressuring them, when they are wondering if they are “ready” and if something goes wrong? Sex is never going to be 100% safe, hence why we use the term safer sex, but we can increase their chance.
Dr Carr Gregg finished his argument with suggesting outercourse. For those who are not aware, his definition of outercourse is everything that isn’t intercourse. Does this mean oral and anal sex too? Which can still be just as emotionally powerful as intercourse and hold the same risks for contracting STIs. If you wanted to take the Wikipedia definition of outercourse of “physical intimacy including various forms of sexual and non-sexual activity, such as frottage, mutual masturbation, kissing or cuddling,” I would still challenge this advice. What teen is really going to stop there? That’s like saying, here are the keys to the car but don’t drive over 40, or here is the batter for the cake but don’t lick the bowl. I would also still think for a teen these acts to be just as emotionally loaded. We don’t have to just worry about the physical safety when it comes to sex, but also the emotional. Things such as kissing, cuddling and mutual masturbation can be just as emotionally damaging to a teen that is not ready or a teen that engages in this behaviour with the wrong partner. (But do they teach masturbation techniques at schools anyway?)
Dr Carr Gregg, please do not take this criticism or a attempt to have a go at you, but merely to outline that as a society when times are changing we constantly need to reassess out views on sex education, teen sexuality and if we are going to allow teens to have a sleep over. Times are scary and there are things happening that did not even when I was at school, but instead of taking the fear based approach, we need to look at another way that might be more powerful. We are not going to win the battle against sexual abuse, STIs or the impact of negative sexual imagery any time soon, so we are the best line of defence, educators, parents, teachers, psychologists and sexologists. But we need to challenge each other about our views and this is one subject where too many chefs don’t spoil the broth. We need to talk more, educate more and share our opinions with each other. I hope you have listened to mine.