Forward Thinking: Talking to Teens About Sex

Forward Thinking: Talking to Teens About Sex February 13, 2013

Dan Fincke and Libby Anne’s latest question in their Forward Thinking series is a very interesting one: What would you tell teenagers about sex? Let me preface this by saying that I don’t have any kids and I never will. And I don’t think you should wait until they’re teens to talk to them about sex. But there is a hell of a lot that needs to be said on many related issues.

On sexual orientation: You may know at this point whether you’re attracted to boys or girls or both or neither. Whatever it is, it’s who you are and there is nothing wrong with it, so don’t ever let anyone make you feel bad or ashamed about it. You have my complete support and love, period.

On when to have sex: I’m not going to tell you not to have sex until you get married because I don’t think that’s either likely or healthy. And I’m not going to tell you to have sex with everyone willing to have sex with you either, because that can be dangerous and unhealthy in multiple ways. What I am going to tell you is this: When you have sex with someone, you’re engaging not only their body but also, quite often, their emotions. And both of those things bring some responsibility with them, so don’t treat sex frivolously.

On consent: You should never use deception, force or any kind of coercion of any kind to get someone to have sex with you, or give in to anyone who does use those things. If the person you want to have sex with is not ready to have sex, you have no right to push them into it, and if you’re not ready to have sex, no one else has the right to push you into it.

On safety: Some kinds of sex can result in pregnancy and all kinds of sex can transmit various diseases (with all the appropriate information, of course). Never presume that the person you have sex with is using protection. Always use a condom and have backup as well — and talk about all of this ahead of time. Plan it out, be prepared, don’t get into a situation where you don’t have what you need and then think “Oh, it’ll be okay just this once.”

On relationships: There are many different types of sexual relationships. Some are monogamous and exclusive, others are not. Decide what you want for yourself and then make sure that your partner understands that and make sure you understand what they want. It’s okay to have casual sex as long as you’re being safe and both of you understand that it’s casual and uncommitted. Again, talk about this well in advance. You can really hurt someone if they expect something you aren’t prepared to give, or vice versa. Communication and honesty are absolutely crucial in any sexual situation and in any relationship.

I’m sure there are things I’m leaving out, but the conversation should always end with this: Don’t ever feel ashamed or afraid to ask or tell me anything. If you’re old enough to ask the question, you’re old enough to get an honest, accurate answer. What I want for you is for you to be happy and healthy and for any relationship you have, whether it lasts one night or the rest of your life, to be based on honesty and communication — especially your relationship with me. I will never make you feel bad for asking questions or telling me what you’ve done, what you’re thinking about doing or how you feel about it. If you have any doubts or conflicts about something, you can always come and talk to me and I’ll do my best to help you figure out what is best for you.

Actually, just go read Gretchen’s answer to the question. It’s far better than what I managed.

P.S. All of this reminds me of the joke about the father who was too embarrassed to have a talk with his son about sex, so he just gave him a stack of Penthouse Forums to read. After a few days he asked his son, “Do you have any questions about what you read?” The son said, “Just one, dad. Am I the only guy on earth who doesn’t have 10 inches of throbbing manmeat?” *insert rimshot here*

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