And the MYTHS that got us here ...
Passing healthy messages to teens about sex in modern culture is increasingly challenging. Once they enter adolescence, kids don't automatically know how to “do” sex or love. They look to parents, teachers, friends and social media to give them clues on what sex and love are all about and what it's supposed to feel like.
Teens "act out" beliefs about what it is to be a man or to be a woman and what sex and love “should” be like. In western culture, we place a huge emphasis on teen dating as a rite of passage into adulthood but with very few actual conversations about what's healthy and what's not. The societal norm is that it’s OK to have sex — just not to talk about it.
This is not working for our society.
Campus rape continues as a regular occurrence (even though girls outnumber boys in admissions to college and universities), Chris Brown and Rihanna are role models and girls are under pressure to engage in “unwanted sex” (AKA rape — are we SERIOUSLY calling it “unwanted sex” now?).
Both boys and girls deserve to have healthy, respectful relationships. And they all want them. They're just confused about what it actually means! I've worked with teens for years around issues like sexuality and relationships.
The myths they've picked up about sex and love are alarming.
These inaccurate, harmful beliefs lead to unhealthy sexual “acting out”, low self-esteem and dating violence. Here are 13 TRUTHS about sex and love teens need to hear (and the MYTHS that got us here):
1. Sex Means Love
The Truth: Having sex with someone doesn’t prove you love them.
2. "Giving In” Is Consent
3. Males Can’t Control Their Sexual Urges
The Truth: Both males and females can control their sexual urges. At times it's uncomfortable, but it's always completely possible.
4. Saying "Yes" Once Means You Can’t Say "No" Next Time
The Truth: You must consent to sexual activities each separate time you engage in them.
5. Girls Who Dress “Sexy” Are Asking For Attention Or Sex
The Truth: Nothing anyone wears is an invitation for others to treat them badly.
6. Your Partner Is Responsible For Your Sexuality
The Truth: Sexual exploration is healthy, but being unaware of your own limits and boundaries is not.
7. If You Kiss And Touch, You Must Have Sex
The Truth: Foreplay and "making out" doesn't mean sexual intercourse must happen.
8. Everyone's Doing It
The Truth: Your friends are not all doing it. Teens grossly over-estimate how many of their friends are sexually active.
9. Women Like Being Treated Roughly During Sex
The Truth: Women like to have control and power over their own bodies.
10. Jealousy Is A Sign Of Love
The Truth: Jealousy is about control. If you love someone, you don't wish to control them.
11. If Your Body Responds With Arousal, You're Enjoying The Sexual Activity
The Truth: Erections, lubrication, and ejaculation are sometimes uncontrollable physiological response and sometimes don’t match how comfortable we feel.
12. Real Men Are In Control Of Their Relationships And Don’t Take "No" For An Answer
The Truth: Real men respect their partners and all "No"s are heard and limits honored.
13. If Your Date Pays, You're Expected To Have Sex
The Truth: Sex is NOT a commodity. Sex is never owed to someone, even if they pay for the date.
When we give teens healthy messages about sex and love, they develop the ability to have healthy, connected relationships. An easy way to open up the dialogue necessary to pass this stuff on is to simply share one of the myths above and ask what your teenager thinks about it.
And one last very important note: DON'T make it a big event. (Don't make your teen sit at the table as you read them the list and “correct” them with the truth.)
These myths are deeply rooted in our culture. Ask them questions about their views and share your views!