Teens Speak About Sex
These days, teens are maturing faster than ever before. As young as age 13, they are taking responsibility for birth control -- compared to age 16 only 10 years ago -- reports Planned Parenthood, a national family planning organization. Despite this surge in birth control use, teen births have increased by 15 percent since 1994.
Do these statistics suggest a change in teenagers' attitudes toward sex, or do they simply track the choices teens have made? Perhaps the question is answered best by the teens themselves.
The thoughts teens share with their parents about sex may not be the same thoughts they share with their friends. According to Planned Parenthood, teens are more comfortable talking to a friend or medical professional about sex than they are talking with their parents. Yet the following interviews with teens showed the opposite to be true.
"[My parents] started talking to me about sex when I was 11 or so," says Kristen, 13, from Vancouver, Wash. "My parents and I are still talking about it now. They didn't seem nervous, but I was nervous -- and still am nervous sometimes. But they helped put me at ease and I feel comfortable talking to them about it."
Alaina, a 13-year-old from Batavia, Ill., says her mom approached her to talk about sex. "She never forced the subject," Alaina says. "She did mention things about [sex] to me from time to time showing even further what a great Mom she is. We do talk about sex sometimes, but more in a joking way or about how it's a big part of the plot on some movies. I'm comfortable with it."
As a teenage pregnancy can delay or cancel plans for college, career or travel, what thoughts do teens have about peers who choose to be sexually active?
"I think the teens that have become sexually active have made the decision and, once you do, you can't take it back," says Chessy, 16, from Summit, N.J. "A lot of the time teens do it because they think that's what everyone else is doing, when in fact that's not true at all."
Mallory, a 17-year-old from Leaf River, Ill. says sex comes with responsibility and choices. "I don't think that any [teen] is really 'ready' for sex," she says. "I don't think that putting my life -- school, sports, friends, jobs, clubs, etc. -- on hold to deal with a disease or pregnancy is worth having sex with someone who you will probably never see again, end up breaking up with because you got pregnant, or going through emotional distress over."
Worth the Wait, one of the newest programs in American high schools to prevent teen sex and pregnancy, requires teens to sign a card stating they promise to practice abstinence during their high school years. Some teens feel this program is a good idea while others feel it sets teens up for failure.
"I believe that [teens who are involved in the program] are the responsible ones," says Holly, 16, from Springdale, Ark. "I do not think that these [teens] are just saying this or making the vow for the fun of it. This is not something you joke or lie about. I think that they are smart to make this decision. I'm saving myself until marriage, and I'm dang proud of it!"
Mallory still has her doubts about the program. "I think that it is a great idea that teens make a vow to not have sex until they are adults or even married. But what if that vow is broken?" she says. "I had a friend who signed a 'promise card' and then a couple months later had sex with several guys. The ironic part is that she wanted me to sign the card with her -- I didn't sign the card and I'm still a virgin."
Regardless of where teens learn about sex, whether or not they take a vow of abstinence or how they feel about those who are sexually active, one thing is clear: Teens who know what they want and what is the best decision for them are not afraid to tell anyone who will listen -- even parents.
"My parents have always told me not to have sex until I am married," Mallory says. "But I think that sex is something you have to be in control of. No one else can decide for you. I like having that power over something. It is a major responsibility, but if you play smart, you won't get burned."
Maybe parents could learn a few things from their teens.