Talkin’ Teen Sex Blues

Margie Nichols, Ph.D.by Margie Nichols, Ph.D.

The Guttmacher Institute tells us that 13% of teens have had sexual intercourse by age 15, and that by age 18 nearly 60% have. At my sex therapy and research conference two weeks ago Surgeon General Dr. Jocelyn Elders told us that after a number of years of decline, teen pregnancy is beginning to rise again. And every media venue possible assaults us with news of changes in adolescent sexual mores, from ‘hooking up’ to’sexting,’ ‘friends with benefits’ to ‘oral sex is the new third base.’

Depending on your perspective, these facts are interesting, alarming, signs of decadence or signs of the failure of ‘abstinence only’ sex ed.

But if you are the mother of teenage girls, you have a VERY different take on things. You know deep inside you that your job is to get your girls to postpone sex for as long as possible, preferably age 30, you know that is impossible, you worry constantly. Until recently, my only experience with adolescence was raising my now 26 yr old son. Then, four and a half years ago I adopted a pair of sisters from a Guatemalan orphanage. They are now 15 and 12, and even the twelve year old is definitely pubescent.

Being my son’s mom did very little to prepare me for this. For one thing, although I worried about lots with my wild-child son, I never worried about rape. I didn’t worry about him having his heart broken by someone who used him for sex, and I wasn’t concerned that he suffer the shame of being labeled ‘slut.’ Fretting about your son getting a girl pregnant wasn’t even on the same order of magnitude as waking up in the middle of the night thinking about a pregnant daughter. Oh, and btw – ‘oral sex among teens’ is a euphemism – we’re really talking about adolescent girls giving blow jobs.

But it’s not all bad. Cory and I had basically monosyllabic communication from when he was about 12 until he went to college. My girls talk – and ask questions – about everything. These are some of their recent dinner-table comments and questions:

“My friend wants to know if you can get pregnant by having sex with your clothes on.”

“The girls in my class aren’t having sex. They’re just giving hand jobs and going down on boys.”

“Is it true that when you have sex for the first time you bleed?”

“Is sex painful?”

When sex talk starts, I take a deep breath, remind myself to be thankful that they feel trusting enough to say things to me and ask questions – and then the conflict between the ‘Mom’ and ‘Sex therapist’ part of me begins. Because I’ve spent my life championing sex positivity, and especially the idea of girls and women being empowered about sex and focusing on their own needs – including the need for pleasure.

So this leads me to my current dilemma. Because of their background, these girls have never even seen a naked man. I of course have a ton of sex educational books and materials with pictures – but they want to know how sex is DONE. They want to SEE it. Youtube doesn’t have pornography – but they are Internet-savvy and it’s only a matter of time before someone shows them how to access porn online, NetNannies notwithstanding.

So – I see pornography as a First Amendment issue and as something that can have value. But do I really want my children’s first depictions of sex acts to be from porn? With Cory it was moot – by the time he was twelve he’d obtained sex magazines and videos from other boys, the Internet was in its infancy.

But now I have an option. So I’m thinking I’ll give them – no, WATCH with them – a DVD from the Sinclair Institute, a sex-educator owned organization that sells explicit movies intended to educate adults, not titillate them (tho they do that as well sometimes). These DVD’s are tasteful, informative, and show consenting adults mutually pleasuring each other in tender and loving ways. Can I do this? Can I get past nightmare images of DYFS hauling me away for endangering the morals of minors? Am I allowed to educate my own kids in ways that involve more than drawings and talk?

Fortunately, I have a few days to mull this over, because the DVD’s are at my office, not at home. Stay tuned for more.

OUR OFFICE LOCATIONS

235 9th Street
Jersey City, NJ 07302
1119 Raritan Ave.
Highland Park, NJ 08904
90 West Main Street
Freehold, NJ 07728
(800) 379-9220