My wife takes care of the vast majority of teenage girls in our practice. As a same-sex preference, I get the teen boys. Over half of all teens are sexually active, and a large portion of the other half are seriously thinking about it, or simply lying. Sure, there are many exceptions. Perhaps your teen has not crossed over to the sex side. Consider yourself very fortunate, but don’t let down your guard.
I no longer ask teenagers if they are “sexually-active” after one girl responded:
“What do you mean? Do I, like, move around a lot during sex?”
“I am not really what-you-say, ‘active.’ I have sex a couple of times a week, but not active every day.”
I now just ask, in one way or another:
“Have you ever had sex… in any form… in your entire life? If not, are you thinking or considering it?”
I really miss the AIDS scare. When teenagers felt that a sexual act could kill them, they kept their pants on, or at least used condoms much of the time. Not any more.
AIDS and other previously-feared sexually-transmitted diseases can be successfully treated and they know it. The fear has gone and the pants are back off. Girls are on contraceptives (to regulate their periods and control acne, of course) and believe that pregnancy prevention is sufficient, since their partner does not like using condoms. Teens are getting pregnant, getting STDs and freaking out just about every day in clinic. Many have multiple partners — just “hooking up” for a fun sexual encounter, or dabbling in some very risky sexual practices. Maybe we can blame Bill Clinton for not considering oral sex as “sex,” or lying about his exploits, but many teens do believe that non-vaginal sex doesn’t count. Oral and/or anal sex are often the debut acts. Just saying “no” and not having sex seems to more and more rare, at least in our community.
Many teens, even the pregnant ones, insist that they use condoms every time. If condoms broke as often as teenagers claim, there would be a major recall that would trump Toyota. A buddy of mine in high school, not having a condom at his disposal, admitted to using a plastic sandwich bag! And, this was before zip-lock freezer bags, too. In the heat of passion, blood is often shunted away from the brain to the genitals, resulting in poor decisions. Some weeks, we may see more chlamydia cases than strep throat.
Trying to get some insight, my wife and I regularly watch The Secret Life of the American Teenager. The show is a bit cheesy and melodramatic as we watch teenagers, even the church-going, goody-two-shoes Christian girls, hopping into the sack at every opportunity, but there is a lot of truth on that show, too. So far, there have been two teen pregnancies, no abortions (one close call), and recreational drug use. We see teens forming strong (adult-like) relationships, painful breakups/hook-ups, divorcing parents, reconciling parents, parents going to jail, same-sex relationships, interracial relationships, promiscuity and developmentally-challenged young people taking important sexual steps. There has even been a show about promoting masturbation (“Just Say Me”), not that there is really a need for a school-sanctioned, education campaign.
Mother: “You are going to see my daughter today. She is going to probably ask you about birth control. I don’t think she is sexually active yet, but may be thinking about it. She has a boyfriend.”
Medical provider enters examining room. The door closes. After a few introductory comments and medical history inquiries, the important question arises:
“Are you sexually involved?”
“How many sexual partners have you had?”
“Maybe, five or six.”
“Are you using any type of birth control?”
“Sometimes. My current boyfriend doesn’t like condoms.”
Some teenagers are actually trying to get pregnant. When one of their classmates has a little baby, they may want one too. “Babies are sooooo cute! And, my Mom can take care of “it” when I go to school. It’s not a big deal. Besides, I don’t think I can even get pregnant. I have had a lot of unprotected sex and haven’t got pregnant so far.” (Sound of roulette wheel spinning.) We hear all of the rationales and excuses.
Getting pregnant or having a baby in high school, or even junior high, is a big deal. Babies do not raise themselves, so a teen pregnancy has a domino effect for at least two entire families. Promising sports or academic endeavors are usually put on hold. College plans may need to be seriously altered if a baby enters the big picture. Terminating an early pregnancy or giving a child up for adoption may seem like a logical “out” for teens, but these can have serious psychological consequences, too.
Teen boys are not all obsessed with sex. Many are shy about their bodies and frightened about having a sexual relationship. In their sexually active minds, they may be a cross between the carnal exploits of Casanova and the late John Holmes the porno star, but in reality, most are inept and misinformed. Sometimes, I feel they are entrapped by their raging hormones.
I asked a teen boy the other day about a statistic that I read.
“I heard that teenage boys think about sex a hundred times per day. Do think this is true?”
After some intense concentration and obvious mental math, he responded.
“Yeah, that’s about right.”
Thinking about sex is not the same as having sex. Boys are interested in having sex; don’t get me wrong. They are just not that interested in a serious relationship. Girls, on the other hand, are very interested in relationship — a relationship that becomes astronomically more complicated when sex is involved. Guys will frequently tell me that they broke up with their girlfriends because they were too clingy, texting or calling them all day (and night) long, and inquiring about their every move. Boys have just emerged from this type of monitoring by their parents; they are not interested in another, smothering one.
Like it or not, parents, many of your teens are having sex; if not now, perhaps later today. Talk to them and do your best to get them to open up. Communication with love is the key. When you ask those touchy questions, you must be prepared… really prepared… for those answers; answers that you may not want to hear. Parents, like all adults, should be friendly, but remember that you are not your kid’s friend… you are their parent. You are a parent with legal, moral and ethical responsibilities. You are among the few people on this planet that loves your child unconditionally. You are a parent who needs to parent now more than ever.
They can safely cross the street now. They can eat a hot dog without choking to death. They can drive a car. They can even run with scissors. Parents are really the only ones who can help them safely cross into adulthood.
Talked to your teen about safe sex? How did you approach the topic? Talk to Dr. Moser and the Ear, Nose and Throat Community.