If our teenagers are to be light and salt in their own environment, someone must help them make sense of sexuality. Lewis Penhall Bird
For just a moment, let’s turn back the clock: A young man and a young woman are embracing on the deck of the ship. It is evening, and tomorrow, after eight days at sea, the ship will reach its destination and the eight day friendship will end. He says to her, “I’d like to take you to bed with me.” She says, “I take that as a compliment!” They say goodnight, and goodbye, and go to their respective cabins.
Fast forward a generation or two: In a survey of students in the year 2000 at a college in the United States, four out of five undergraduates said they had hooked up; half of these said they often started their evening planning to have some form of sex, with no particular person in mind. Studies at other colleges have shown similar results. A professor of pediatrics in Toronto, Canada, tells family doctors that they should all begin talking to their 10, 11, and 12 year-old female patients about using contraceptives and condoms.
A different day, a different world. For the first young woman, having sex didn’t even enter her head. Not because she was afraid of disease or pregnancy, but because sex before marriage was morally wrong. Pregnancy outside marriage came with a price tag – social stigma. For many young people today, whether high school or college students, sex outside marriage is a non-issue. It’s pretty much assumed in a dating relationship; therefore, it’s believed, even pre-teens need to know how to “reduce the risks” when they decide to become sexually active. The assumption is “when” – not “if”.
Why not? Everyone’s doing it, and now we have the pill and condoms.
Why not? Why a web site dedicated to “helping you help them . . . to save sex for marriage”? Because I’ve seen the pain and confusion when an unintended and unwanted pregnancy is confirmed. Because I know that one of every two sexually active teen girls has a sexually transmitted disease, and that some of these young women will never be able to conceive because of the damage done to their reproductive system. “Casual” sex poses serious risks to the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of young women now, and to future relationships. To young men as well, but young women are particularly vulnerable. But, most importantly, I want to help you to help your teens to save sex for marriage because of God’s intention for sex: to unite a man and a woman for life and to provide the best kind of home for their children. Sex is intended to be a consummation of marriage vows, a life-uniting act to seal a life-uniting promise. A man is to “leave his father and his mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh,” the Bible tells us (Genesis 2: 24-25). Jesus quotes this verse in talking about divorce, and adds “So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” (Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9)
Why a web site for adults? Why not for teens themselves? Because teens need and want your help, and I want to encourage you, challenge you, and help give you the confidence to help them – whether you are a parent, a teacher, a youth pastor, or some other adult who cares about them. You can help your teens to assess critically what they see and hear in the mass media, and to make wise choices for themselves — resisting the temptation to follow the popular culture, and encouraging their friends to do the same.
What you can do:
- You can become informed about the teen sexual culture your teen has to deal with day in and day out.
- You can help your teens find out what the Bible teaches about healthy, God-honoring sexuality. (See the “Biblical Teaching on Sexuality” in the article “The Role of the Pastor” on this web site.)
- You can read Jones and/or Buth on how to talk to your teens about sex (See “Resources – Books – Teen Sexuality” on this web site) and refer your teens to the “Resources for Teens.”
- You can talk to your teens about what they are learning about sex at school, what they are seeing and hearing in the media, questions or problems they or their friends may have.
- Most of all, you can be available and open for conversation. Talk with them!
Alicia, one of the college students interviewed by Washington Post journalist Laura Sessions Stepp, wrote in the Foreword to Stepp’s book, “[Laura] has taken time to observe and listen . . . She has looked through our lenses and attempted to synthesize our perspectives. . . And to parents: One thing I’ve come to appreciate post-adolescence is that you’re eager to give us the very best. One critical way to do that is to engage more fully in our lives. Listen not only to Laura but to us, your children, as we transition from child to adult. Address our sexuality in a truly interactive conversation.”
In the Afterword to her book, Stepp writes, “I knew when I started to write Unhooked, describing the sexual landscape of young people in unsparing detail, that I would provoke reaction. What I did not foresee was how widespread the response would be – or how hungry young people are, even into their mid-twenties, to engage in honest conversations with older adults about sex and love.”
Future blogs will address specific issues dealing with teen sexuality and point you to new resources for you and for your teens.
P.S. Everyone’s not doing it! And the number of teens not having sex is increasing. There’s even a network of student organizations on Ivy League campuses like Harvard and Princeton promoting premarital abstinence and sexual integrity. See http://loveandfidelity.org/, http://trueloverevolution.wordpress.com/about/, and http://blogs.princeton.edu/anscombe/about.html.
“The intentionally vague term my generation uses to represent any possible amalgam of sexual behaviors” (Alicia, Unhooked, p. xiv), but generally referring to casual sex without relationship.
Laura Sessions Stepp, Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both (New York: Riverhead Books, 2007), p. 33.
 Miriam Grossman, Unprotected: A Campus Psychiatrist Reveals How Political Correctness in Her Profession Endangers Every Student (New York: Sentinel, 2007).
 Stepp, pp. xii, xv.
 Stepp, p. 287.