Nothing is the matter with sex, but I think most parents would rather think of their teen's first experiences with sex to be with someone they at least had some feelings for, rather than a friends with benefits "hook up" which seems to be the sex du jour. Many parents I talk to acknowledge that love and intimacy don't seem to be much of the equation any more in terms of who their teen may be fooling around with. The problem with this equation is not that kids are having sex, but that if it is sex without intimacy, girls are getting "the short end of the stick" so to speak. Listen I came of sexual age in the 70's, you know free love and all that. But even if people were fooling around, the sex was about sensuality and mutual pleasure. Are you blushing yet.!! Todays teen sex is not that.!
Most girls I talk to, or parents who share conversations with me that they have had with their daughters, is that for girls, it is not so much about pleasure and getting close to someone, but power! It makes girls feel powerful to be able to do something for boys that boys clearly want so much for them to do. And down down down beneath that cocky exterior is a girl who just wants to be loved.
A contributing factor for this type of sexual behavior is the encouragement that teens give to each other for these types of hook-ups. "Oh come on, don't worry about it, it's no big deal...it's just sex!" Girls especially are vulnerable to this type of argument from their girlfriends. "If I am hooking up with guys, I want you to hook up with guys too, then I won't think what I am doing is wrong!" It is classic crowd inducing behavior. The problem is that teens aren't really getting an alternative narrative that challenges this "no big deal" attitude.
What makes me feel sad about all this random "hooking up" is that teens can get desensitized to the importance of love and intimacy in relationships, and that down the road this will contribute to an inability to develop long term intimate loving relationships. Obviously you cannot control your teen's sexual behavior, and calling your teen a slut won't help matters either. Teens are not reputation sensitive, that is not going to be a real selling point for them to reconsider the friends with benefits culture. Like all parenting messages, this one has to be given with understanding, love and often.
A conversation might go like this: "I get you and your friends don't think sex is a big deal. And I'm guessing that your friends all think and believe this party line. Sex is fun.Totally get that, I just hope that you will give some thought to how much more fun it is when you actually have feelings for the person you are with."
If you have a son, you need to talk about girl's expectations, understanding that even if a girl is willing and says its no big deal, it really is. "A girl's hope is that you will want to be her boyfriend. So just know that, and if you choose to just take advantage of the situation and her willingness, you are being dishonest. Think about whether that is the kind of person you want to be. "
If you have a daughter, you might say: "I get it feels good when a guy you like is wanting to be intimate with you, but keep in mind that no matter what he says, he probably is saying that to get what he wants. If he really likes you, let him show you that in a non-sexual way by talking and texting to you in a non-sexual way, and by wanting to spend time with you in a non-sexual way. A question you should always ask yourself is he doing this just so he can "get off" .What is really in this for me?"
These are not easy conversations to have with your teens. But if they don't hear the other side of the equation from you..who will they hear it from?