By: Mackenzie Patel
Read more by Mackenzie here.
Teen sex. Despite the fact that it happens every day, the topic itself is usually shunted to the side by adults and not discussed in the open. A whole bubble of convolution surrounds the issue, making it way more mysterious, shamed, and taboo than it ought to be in this day and age. Yes, teenagers have sex, quite frequently too, but normally it’s the adults who determine the nature of premarital sex and how it is viewed in our society. By ignoring, rather than facing the facts, older generations have created the aura of disgrace around one of our most basic biological needs on the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Instead of perusing the multitude of articles about teen sex written by adults and professionals (of which there are many), I decided to ask real teenagers their opinions regarding sex in high school. From day one of freshmen year, we have the idea of promiscuity beaten out of our heads (does “Don’t have sex, because you will get pregnant and die!” ring any bells?). But the real root of the issue goes back to the way American society as a whole shoves sexual imagery at young people’s faces every day on television, yet decries students that get pregnant. Stephanie Freshman, a senior at Osceola High, agrees. “Everything is sexualized even when it doesn’t need to be. Food has to do with sex, commercials have to do with sex, everything.” Take, for example, the stereotypical chocolate commercial that shows an attractive female with dark brown hair and olive skin biting seductively into a Godiva creation. Who actually eats chocolate like that? “Sex is made a bigger deal than it really is. Also the idea that sex is tied to love is ridiculous,” says Nicole Boose, also a senior at Osceola High. It’s common knowledge that adults, especially parents, fear the day that their children have sex without being married first. It’s only natural, although the notion itself is archaic and hypocritical (let’s face it: probably 75% of parents had premarital sex too). Andrew Loufman, senior at Osceola High, believes that “premarital sex is okay as long as both parties consent.” Consent is a popular theme amongst high schoolers, but Freshman has another take on “living in sin” while still living at home. “Learning about yourself is important,” she says. “It’s a biological need.” So why is teen sex so taboo if the actual perpetrators– hormone-ridden, confused, and healthily sexual teenagers–are fine with it? “It scares adults into thinking we’re growing up and can make our own decisions. They still want to control their children,” Freshman said matter-of-factly. Although that’s the predominant sentiment of overprotective parents, the case is ultimately unique to the parent and teenager in question. For Boose, the situation was reversed, with her parents being totally okay with her having sex with multiple partners. “My parents are open about it, and we even talk about it.” But there’s also another facet to this story, one that is more controlled by the mandates of society rather than over-worried parents or loose teenagers. For teenage boys, having sex early is seen as masculine, completely natural, and almost expected in a way. If a guy doesn’t do the dirty before embarking on the wild adventure of college, he’s seen as strange and abnormal. Loufman, adopting an air of one who disdains stupidity and stuffy societal norms, disagrees with this. “There is a shaming of femininity, while an attitude of ‘go men, have sex!’” This anachronistic and sexist view today is perfectly explained by Allison, the basket case from the famous movie “The Breakfast Club.” To quote her, “Well, if you say you haven’t [had sex], you’re a prude. If you say you have, you’re a slut. It’s a trap. You want to but you can’t, and when you do, you wish you didn’t, right?”
Judging by the students I interviewed, it’s mostly a given that teenagers, even if they aren’t engaging in the act, are talking openly about sex. During lunch, on the phone, in class, wherever. “I’ve had sex with other people,” admits Freshman, displaying no signs of discomfort. “I wish I had waited, but I don’t regret it.” For these open and confident teenagers, education is the key. Instead of having our parents skirt around the subject of sex like it was the Black Death in Medieval Europe, candidly discussing the potential effects of it and the importance of protection could have a huge impact. “I think sixteen is old enough to start having sex, but I think there should be a test on how educated you are about it,” said Boose jokingly. “Teenagers need to get a sex ‘license to thrill’.” Overall, teenage sex is nothing to be afraid of. If a teen wants to “[make] the beast with two backs,” and they have been properly educated, there is no harm. The same goes for the other way around too. “If someone is afraid of having sex in high school, then they shouldn’t be bullied for it either,” said Loufman. So many factors are mucking up the subject of sex that it’s hard to find middle ground between total sexual anarchy and a prudish doctrine of Puritans. With American society making car insurance, York Peppermint Patties, and cat food hot and bothered, but at the same time slut-shaming women, the confusing paradoxes are never ending. The bewildering years of high school are never easy, but maybe the United States should take a leaf out of Europe’s sex book for its youth and intelligently “let loose.” There are higher rates of teen sex there, but at the same time, the teen pregnancy rate is also much lower as well. According to AdvocatesforYouth .org, “the United States’ teen pregnancy rate is almost three times that of Germany and France, and over four times that of the Netherlands.” Education, openness, and equality should be the main issues on parents’ minds. Finally, Boose had one last piece of advice for maturing teenagers. “Don’t forget that consent is sexy.”
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Article originally published (with modifications) on Tampa Bay Time’s website
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