In the U.S., teens often feel that if they were to confide in their parents about having sex or thinking about it, their parents would be very disappointed.
That is one of the reasons why teens don’t seek advice or guidance from their parents when it comes to sexual matters. But what about parents who don’t talk to their children?
Two major fears that American parents have are that if they broach the subject of sex with their teen, they may give the impression that they condone it or put the idea in their head in the first place. Let’s take a closer look at this concern that most American parents have.
For one, the fact that this parent doesn’t want their teen to think they “condone” teen sex reflects how, for American parents, teen sex is something to be feared and forbidden, even though the majority of American teens make sex part of their lives by age 17 or 18. Understandably, any approach that focuses on the dangers of sex does not give teens the tools to navigate the territory of sexuality and relationships in a healthy way. The evidence is in: the U.S. has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates and the Netherlands one of the lowest in the world.
But what is there to fear?
Obviously, there are the risks of unwanted pregnancy, HIV, and other sexually transmitted diseases (STD/STIs) when it comes to sex, but Americans tend to forget that there is as easy, cheap, and simple way to curtail these risks substantially: CONDOMS. Using latex condoms correctly and consistently are highly effective (nearly 99%) in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV and several STD/STIs during vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse, pregnancy, Using condoms also lowers female’s risk of developing cervical cancer and can help people clear HPV infection and/or reduce their risk of re-infection.
Other methods of contraception, such as hormonal methods, are just as effective. In fact, in the Netherlands, 6 out of 10 teenage girls are on the pill at first intercourse, versus only about 1 in 5 in the U.S. If more parents and educators openly taught teens about condoms and other contraceptives, teens would increase their use of contraceptives. Only then will the rate of unintended pregnancies, STD/STIs, and abortions drastically decline, and effectively reduce the risk of teen sex by teens who are too uneducated about sexual health matters to be sexually responsible.
Second, many experts agree that talking honestly and comprehensively to teens about sexuality does not increase the likelihood of sexual activity: it actually delays the onset of sex, reduce the frequency of sex, and lower the number of sexual partners among teens. Addressing sexuality frequently and with regard to different aspects, such as relationships, helps young people make more empowered and responsible choices about sex and their sexuality. Furthermore, when parents are able to provide guidance, teens will be less likely to rely on unrealistic and unhealthy media portrayals, such as porn, to help them understand how they should behave sexually.
For more detailed information, check out Schalet’s book “Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens, and the Culture of Sex” that holistically compares American and Dutch teen sexual health outcomes based on the drastically different approaches to teen sexuality in the U.S. and the Netherlands.
Parents or teens can use her book or this post and “Newsflash America: Denying Teen Sex Doesn’t Make It Go Away (Part 1)” as conversation starters to move your family’s ideas forward in a healthy and safe way.