Sex and virginity are hot topics among the parents of teens. In theory, we all would love it if our teens would wait until they are responsible enough to handle all the many repercussions that can come from sex. But some parents feel it more strongly than others.
Among other things, religion has allowed us to form a nearly cult-like adoration of female virginity. From creepy “purity balls” where fathers take their daughters out to pledge that they will wait until marriage to young women selling their virginity to the highest bidder, writer and noted feminist Jessica Valenti addresses this weirdness in the US around girls' virginity in her book The Purity Myth. While I completely agree with the premise (I have yet to read the book), I also know, as a parent of both a boy and a girl (with another girl on the way), I would love it if both of my children would wait until at least college before they have sex.
I thought this was a common feeling, but more and more, I have heard parents say that they actually WANT their children to have sex younger, specifically that they wouldn't want them to be the one virgin headed off to college. Sex is an amazing thing. But it also comes with responsibilities that are too grave for a young teen to handle and I plan to encourage my kids to wait, though it’s not just for my daughters. Here are 5 ways I plan to encourage my kids to wait until college:
1.) Be honest: When I was younger, both my mother and stepmother sat me down and explained sex. It wasn't a “precious gift” or any other kind of religious metaphor. Rather, it was a huge power struggle and something that would quickly turn against me if I had sex too soon. I waited a long time because of this advice and watched as friend after friend fell prey to this.
2.) Explain the emotions: Sex should be an emotional act for both boys AND girls. I will explain to my daughters and my son that part of what is beautiful about sex is lost if it's done casually or just to do it.
3.) Not condone it: I will provide birth control if I realize I have lost the battle, but I will NOT provide a place to have sex or a means to make it easy. If I think my children are thinking about sex, they will have to have it outside my home. We will have curfews and no opposite sex in the bedrooms rules in our house.
4.) Cultivate openness: I will foster a sense of openness in our house. Even though I will make it clear where I stand on the issue, I plan on being open to listening to my children and letting them make their own choices if it comes to that. If they are in a serious, loving relationship and I think they are responsible, I am open to helping them make good decisions and decide for themselves even when I clearly don’t think it’s a great idea.
5.) Get to know all boyfriends/girlfriends: I will be open to my children dating when they seem mature enough to do so (I can’t put a hard and fast rule on this now when they are so young), BUT I will also want to know people they go out with. If they go on a date, I expect to meet the boy or girl they are going out with beforehand if I don’t know them already. This way I feel like I can keep better tabs.
I know these aren't foolproof and I know I may be blessed/stuck with a teen who does what he or she wants regardless of what I think. As parents the best thing we can do is encourage our kids to make wise choices, let them know where we stand, and hope for the best.
I never want to be a strict mom or one who is abnormally judgmental about sex and sexuality. I want them to have good sex lives at some point, but I have also seen in so many friends the striking ways their first time experiences affect them the rest of their lives. If I can protect my kids from having a bad first experience, whether it happens in college (preferably) or before, I will be happy.
How do you plan to help your teens make decisions about sex?
Image via Maja Dumat/Flickr