Newsflash America: Denying Teen Sex Doesn’t Make It Go Away (Part 1)

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Amy Schalet, author of “Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens, and the Culture of Sex” (University of Chicago Press, November 2011), states that denial is the real problem for American parents when it comes to teen sex.

. . . But talking to teens about sex does curtail unwanted teenage pregnancy

Amy Schalet, an assistant professor of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst originally from the Netherlands, urges American parents to stop denying that teens have premarital sex or participate in other sexual activities. Once parents accept that teens have sex, and teenage sexual development is normal, then parents and children will be able to have open relationships. Also, teens will see their parents as available resources when they start exploring their sexuality and develop sexual morals. “Adolescents,” according to Schalet in an interview, “still need their parents as support, to help sort out what are healthy relationships, to take precautions against the risks of sex, and deal with experiences of first love.”

But most parents do want to talk and be resources for their children. However, only expressing concerns and warning against the dangers of sex are not the way to foster trust and openness in any relationship, making it difficult for teens to confide in them. Therefore, a culture of “sneaking around” is established where teens hide their sexual activities from their parents, which never ends well for either teens or their parents.

Americans view teen sexuality as merely a storm of hormones, generating the expectation that teens can’t actually have sex in the context of loving relationships. Schalet says that this can lead to the psychic burden of being split between being a “good” child and a sexual being: a phenomenon that does not happen as readily in the Netherlands.

In the Netherlands, Dutch families, the educational system, and the health care system go through the process of “normalizing” teenage sexual development: young people are encouraged to “self-regulate,” or refrain from sex before they are ready. But Dutch and Americans have severely different ideas to when teens are ready to have sex.

Most Dutch parents agree that teens are not ready for sex before the age 16 and that sex should occur in steady relationships in which both teens are in love and use precautions. Moreover, Dutch parents don’t want teenage sex to be a secret: they want to stay connected with their teens and be able to exercise influence and provide support, which includes providing teens with contraceptives.

For example, Dutch parents allow their older teens to have sleepovers with their partners, knowing full well that sex might occur. The conditions for the sleepover are generally that (again) the teens are in a steady relationship, are in love, and the parents have met or are familiar the partner (showing how Dutch parents, like their American counterparts, do not particularly want their teens to have “one night stands” or “hook ups,” for these pose greater threats to sexual health through STD/STIs transmission). On the other hand, Americans believe teens will never be ready for sex and expect youth to abstain from sex until marriage.

But why are parents in America so reluctant to speak with their children about sex when the Dutch aren’t?

Find out in “Newsflash America: Denying Teen Sex Doesn’t Make It Go Away PART 2 coming soon!

Tags: Teen sex, The Netherlands, Parents, teenage pregnancy, teenage sexual development, sexually transmitted diseases, abstinence

 

Caption: The Dutch acknowledge that children grow up to become sexual beings way before marriage. Therefore, parents and educators do all they can to help prepare teens to be sexually responsible and healthy when they are ready and decide to become sexually active.

Creative Commons Image by: FaceMePLS

 

Alifa Watkins

Alifa Watkins

Alifa Watkins is an honors student at American University (Washington, DC) majoring in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her interests in sex education and youth sexual health motivates her research, blogging, and activism for comprehensive sex education, more progressive attitudes about adolescent sexuality, and the improvement of sexual health outcomes in America.
Alifa Watkins