“So I have a question. It’s kind of embarrassing to ask. But, I heard some older girls talking in the locker room about (in a quiet, dramatic whisper) oral sex. It totally grossed me out. I was just wondering, is this something all married couples do or can I just skip it?”
It sounds more like a scene from a re-run of The Secret Life of the American Teenager than a real life conversation. But, it was. It took place between a twelve year old girl and me, her counselor. And, as this young girl asked the question, she was “grossed out” on one hand and mesmerized on the other.
And so it goes. The curiosity and the fear. The questions and the deep desire to hide from the person who is answering them. “Mom, PLEASE!” or, “Dad, I already know all of this” while they listen with red faces and rapt attention.
The questions are there. But, at times, the fear or embarrassment or “oh, please”-ness of the subject keeps them from asking. At least it keeps them from asking you, their parent. And so they ask their counselors, youth directors, coaches (which are a few of the better options), their friends, or…what we’re seeing as much more of a trend today, the wisdom of the anonymous in cyberspace.
In our counseling offices, we have seen a dramatic increase in the numbers of kids looking at pornographic material. And tragically, a dramatic decrease in their ages. In reality, this phenomenon is often not as much to sexual curiosity as sexual drive. Think about it. You are twelve…eleven…ten (or younger) and you want to know something you are embarrassed to ask your parents. You and your family google everything else to get information, why not something like this. In states like California and North Carolina, teens can text questions anonymously that are answered “non-judgmentally and medically accurate.” There are a plethora of places our children can find answers to questions about sex and a plethora of people willing to answer. But, we would say loudly, they need to hear from you, as their parent, regardless of the color of their cheeks during the conversation.
So, what are they asking? And how do you answer in ways that are age appropriate and truthful? Here are a few of the most predominant questions that we believe are asked and un-asked by kids today:
1)”How far is too far?” A high school boy recently responded to this question with “touching any body part that is normally covered by some type of underwear is wrong.” That’s one way to look at it. Another is “anything you’d be embarrassed to tell your children one day” or “your parents today”. Another answer is that just the question itself says that we are looking to get away with as much as possible, which is not what God calls us to. He wants us to have a life filled with good and hope and relationships and one that is honoring to him and fostering purity, not living to see how far we can push the envelope.
2)”I hear all of the time that girls and guys think differently about sex. Do they really and how is it different?” It has been said that boys think about sex as often as girls think about food. Girls and boys can both benefit from learning not just about their own development, but each others, as well. It can help them learn to respect both themselves and each other.
3)”Does what I wear really matter?” We hear this question a lot. And the answer is undoubtedly, yes. In answer to the question, one boy told a Christian friend who was his age and dressing immodestly, “I thought we were both working for the same goal…purity. When you wear that, I can’t control what I think about. It messes me up. I thought you were on my team, instead of the opposite.” His words paint a powerful picture and one that every pre-teen and teenage girl who is sometimes forsakes modesty for fashion could benefit from.
4)”What is oral sex and is it sex?” As we’re all aware, oral sex has become way too commonplace for today’s teenager, and preteen. Boys and girls need to understand not only what oral sex is, but that it comes with many of the same emotional consequences as does intercourse: a bad reputation, a false sense of closeness, disrespect and the possibility of STD’s.
5)”Why shouldn’t I text or email about sexual things? It’s only flirting.” Again, boys and girls minds work entirely differently. To send provocative or nude pictures of yourself to anyone makes you an object, rather than a girl or a guy. It de-values you. To text about sex, “sexting” or email creates a kind of intimacy that is not a real relationship. This kind of relationship creates a sexual relationship without an emotional one, which can set a pattern that harms your “partner” not only now, but can effect his or her future marriage partner, as well.
6)“Why shouldn’t I have sex before marriage?” Too many children and adolescents grow up believing that God says no simply because he can. But, take it from us, as counselors who have seen countless girls and boys devastated at the loss of who they believed was “the one” and so gave themselves away sexually. Sex creates a bond that God designed to be unbreakable. Every step toward a sexual relationship acts as a piece of binding to tie us to the other person. Every step. So, the more our kids experience sexually (beginning with that first kiss or touch), the more ripping their hearts will experience as they break from the object of their bond…or bondage, as it truly becomes.
“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man (or woman) commits are outside his (or her) body, but he (or she) who sins sexually sins against his (her) own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God! You are not your own: you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.”
1 Corinthians 6:18-20
“Bought at a price” also means “of value”. More than anything, our kids—boys and girls need to know that they are of immense value, to us, to God and to themselves. The latter portion of this sentence is often the hardest. We have the tremendous honor of teaching our children that we value them as we love them, that God values them as we teach them the truth of His Word. But, it is another high calling to teach them to value themselves…and one that requires exactly that, our teaching them. Speak to your children…before they are pre-teens. Answer these questions and more. Talk to them in the car, in Starbucks, going for a walk. Go away for a weekend. Help them understand that sex is a gift from God, created for marriage, that will ultimately reflect his Glory.
The Normal Life of Boys in Puberty
Boys experience five to seven surges of testosterone each day. This will affect his body, as it grows and changes. And it will affect his feelings. He will be sad and happy and embarrassed and angry, often all at the same time. He will also think about girls and sex on a very regular basis (statistics say every 20 seconds).
The Normal Life of Girls in Puberty
Girls’ brains move into hyper-drive in puberty. The connections in them grow rapidly, affecting two things predominantly: their memory and their self-confidence. So, they periodically won’t remember even things that are important to them. And they will often feel bad about themselves for no reason at all. The changes in their hormones will also cause their moods to fluctuate often and with great intensity.
Raising Girls, by Melissa Trevathan and Sissy Goff
Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James and David Thomas
Preparing your Son for Every Man’s Battle by Stephen Arterburn
Preparing Your Daughter for Every Woman’s Battle by Shannon Ethridge
The Wonder of Girls by Michael Gurian
The Wonder of Boys by Michael Gurian
Mirrors and Maps by Melissa Trevathan and Sissy Goff
Every Young Woman’s Battle by Shannon Ethridge and Stephen Arterburn
Flight Plan by Braxton Brady and Lee Burns
Every Young Man’s Battle by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker