|Photo credit: Elizabeth Ann Colette|
I was fourteen years old when I first had sex. The girl was fifteen years old. There are those who would be impressed, and there are those who would be shocked and horrified to know this about me. It's the stuff of legends in my extended family. Many of my uncles, my dad, and my brother often refer to it as "the bushes" to try to embarrass me.
That first time wasn't driven by love, or a desire to "do something natural." It was driven by peer pressure for me. Many of the men in my life often asked me whether I had already been with a girl. The messaging was clear. "You're not a man until you've had sex with a woman." Manliness was defined by having a girlfriend, kissing that girlfriend, and getting further than that. Somehow, you took that up a notch by adding notches to your headboard signifying multiple girls. No wonder the men in my family have had a hard time with long-term relationships and marriage.
For the girl, her first time was driven by a sense that it was what she needed to do to win me back into a relationship. See, we were "boyfriend and girlfriend" for the latter part of 8th Grade, but I broke up with her towards the end of the school year. She spent the entire summer trying to convince me that we should get back together, and in the end offered up sex as an olive branch of sorts. I took that olive branch with no intention of starting up the relationship with her.
I'm sharing this for our sons
I am not sharing this to brag. Far from it. I'm sharing this because my son, who is 13-years old, recently shared his interest in a girl who is 14-years old. He's in 8th Grade. She's in 9th Grade. What do you think went through my mind when I learned of this?
I’m not really paranoid for thinking I needed to say something to my son. The United States has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy among First World nations at 26.6 births for every 1000 teenaged girls between 15 and 19 years of age. It is estimated that 1 in 6 of these births are second or third births for teen mothers. When we consider the amount of mass media messaging our teens receive on a daily basis, that sexually suggestive content is in approximately ⅔ of television programming, and that teens often get advice from other teens rather than their parents, it is vital for my son that I get in a series of conversations with him about sex.
That first experience for me was wrong on so many levels. It was for the wrong reasons. I was a kid playing at doing something grown up. We weren’t prepared for the emotional fallout that would follow. Remember, she wanted to be my girlfriend again, and that didn’t happen. She felt used. I wasn’t the person I wanted to be. There was nothing safe about the experience either, no condoms, birth control, etc. We didn’t have any, and we didn’t know how to use it anyway.
Talk BEFORE not after, and talk often
My dad talked to me about sex AFTER my first time when he realized what had happened. It wasn't really about the biology or safe sex. He talked with me about responsibility, respect for girls, and thinking about the kind of future I wanted to have for myself. Great wisdom and logic, but AFTER I had taken that risk.
He also shared with me that many of my cousins and my uncles were not the “studs” they claimed to be. My only thought at that moment was, "Really?!" I didn't have to live up to this machismo expectation to get laid? The guys picking on me about sex didn't really have it either? They were just all talk? Why didn't my dad tell me this sooner?!
Then, there's the girl. She had been raised to believe that the only way to a man's heart was to give her body up. We didn't just have a relationship that was in trouble. Our relationship was over, and we were just getting out of the 8th Grade! Her sense of self-worth was predicated on my approval and acceptance of her in a sexual way.
We were both teens left on our own to navigate love and sex. Those are two very potent aspects of life to be handled without any wisdom.
So, fast forward to my son. He wanted to date a girl older than him. She wanted to date him, too. Fortunately, she said it had to be okay with our parents first. Whew!
I made a deal with Jacob to give me a weekend to talk with him man-to-man. I then turned to Liv and said that Jacob and I were going to spend that weekend together to complete a program called Passport 2 Purity by FamilyLife. She agreed, and we locked ourselves in his room all weekend. It was time to talk, man-to-man.
Read Part 2. Available on Dec. 11.
RELATED POSTS AND LINKS
FTQA Episode 27 - How Do You Stay Connected With Your Teen?
FTQA Episode 21 - Open Communication, Golden Rule and Platinum Rule
FTQA Episode 20 - Double Standards, Teen Dating, and Ironing with Sprite
Passport 2 Purity by FamilyLife Ministries. I’d recommend 6th or 7th Grade for this weekend-long conversation to happen. Refill journals.
The Sex-Wise Parent - This is next on my reading list, but it was recommended as a great book that gives age-appropriate advice on how to talk with your children about sex.
LoveIsRespect.org - Here’s a great website to use as a tool to discuss healthy and unhealthy relationships.
Let’s Talk About Sex (DVD) about sex education in the United States. I firmly believe that sex education is the responsibility of a child’s parents, it must be comprehensive, and it must be done repeatedly throughout one’s life in age-appropriate levels.