I must admit I almost skipped the chapter on “Facing the Abstinence Decision” because I have no intention of telling my daughters to abstain from sex until marriage. As far as I’m concerned, the wait between sexual maturation and marriage is too long and I don’t want my children rushing into a life-long commitment simply because they want to experience the pleasures of sex. But Robinson and Schuster raise an interesting question, “If you no longer believe it’s necessary or even advisable to wait until marriage what becomes the new standard?”
Well, Robinson and Schuster argue that some parents don’t realize just how different our children’s sexual world is from when we were adolescents. “When it comes to knowing that their kids have had intercourse, parents are not entirely clued in. In one study, when parents were asked if their fourteen- to seventeen-year-olds had had sexual intercourse, 34 percent said yes. When the adolescents themselves were asked, 58 percent had.”
The reality is that whether you’re ready for them to be having sex or not, according to Everything You NEVER Wanted Your Kids to Know about SEX (But Were Afraid They’d Ask), by the time they graduate from high school, nearly two-thirds of teenagers have had intercourse.
According to Robinson and Schuster there are many reasons why kids don’t abstain and rarely does it have to do with the act itself:
The problem, Robinson and Schuster explain, is that “sex isn’t always so easy to define.” The next time a friend says she wants her kids to be abstinent, ask her what she means, because as Robinson and Schuster point out, “Sex has too many meanings. Abstinence hasn’t been defined. Even virgin may be outdated. A virgin was traditionally someone who had never had sex, which was defined as vaginal intercourse. But it doesn’t occur to a lot of people that a woman can have oral or anal sex on a regular basis and still consider herself a virgin.”
The good news is that “in a large national sample of adolescents, researchers found that teens who say their parents disapprove of them having sex wait longer to have it.” Therefore, Everything You NEVER Wanted Your Kids to Know about SEX (But Were Afraid They’d Ask) suggests you seize every opportunity to discuss your beliefs:
- When the television show reaches a commercial, ask your daughter what she thinks the characters should do (as something sexual has invariably transpired).
- Ask your son what’s really going on in The Scarlet Letter or what he thinks Romeo and Juliet were up to before the bird started chirping.
- Make use of your extended family. When your child makes a joke about her older cousin being in love, ask what she thinks that relationship is like.
Accept it. These conversations are going to be awkward. As Robinson and Schuster remind readers, we’re parents, not sex therapists. Take comfort in the fact that “more than four out of five ten- to fifteen-year-olds think their mothers have a good understanding of the sexual problems and situations they face, and about three-quarters think their fathers do. Of those kids whose parents had spoken to them about sex, 87 percent thought their parents were helpful.”
Let’s face it. When the moment presents itself, we won’t be there. For better or worse, it’ll ultimately be her decision to make. Yet it may involve consequences we’ll all have to live with. So I’m starting to think of it as, “Speak now or forever hold your peace.”
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Check out Victoria Winterhalter’s other blog, Befriending Forty (http://befriendingforty.blogspot.com), and find out what happens when the person you thought you’d be meets the person you actually became.