Teenagers: Sex and snogging
Whether they’re just thinking about it or doing it, sex takes up a lot of a teenager’s time. This new, unknown territory is a cause for concern, excitement and exploration.
For both boys and girls, the key to sexual drive is the sex hormone ‘testosterone’. When testosterone levels reach a certain threshold, teenagers start thinking about sex. But this does not mean they start having sex. Girls are only likely to get involved in sex if their social environment encourages it – if their friends are already involved, or if their parents are permissive, for example.
But in boys, high levels of testosterone seem to lead to sexual activity regardless of their social surroundings. This may be because boys grow up in an environment in which sexual behaviour is tolerated, even encouraged, so it only takes the biological trigger to start their sexual activity.
Changing role models
Attitudes towards sex in the adult world have a huge influence on teenagers. Many of the taboos about sex that operated thirty years ago have almost completely disappeared.
Teenagers know that adults have sex outside marriage and they understand the sexual references being made in much of the advertising that surrounds them. Often these are connected with lust rather than the traditional values of love.
So it’s no surprise that they themselves are following the trend and becoming much more open about sex. As well as taking part in sex earlier, teenagers are experimenting more and are often participating in oral sex.
Protection and sex
Since the campaign to prevent the spread of AIDS, teenagers have become more aware of safe sex issues, but this does not mean they are responding to the messages.
Most teenagers know they should use a condom, yet they still find it excruciatingly embarrassing to buy them. There is a reluctance to carry condoms because of the implication that they are expecting to have sex. Plus, in the heat of the moment, a young person may well lack the confidence to interrupt proceedings and ask for a condom to be used.
The difficulty parents and children feel when discussing sex is part of the problem. Studies have shown that teenagers get the vast majority of their information about sex from their friends. This is likely to be less accurate than information from their mum and dad.
Boys produce up to 120 million sperm a day. Find out more about erections.
LEARNING FROM THE DUTCH
The Dutch could teach American parents a thing or two about the birds and the bees — namely, the virtues of respect and acceptance of teenage sexuality. I just stumbled across a fascinating study (via Sociological Images) that compares these divergent cultural attitudes toward doing the nasty (which, by the way, is much less likely to be cast as “nasty” or “dirty” in the Netherlands). The report, “Sex, Love, and Autonomy in the Teenage Sleepover” by sociologist Amy Schalet, spills plenty of ink describing the forbidding and fearful American view of premarital teen sex that is all too familiar to most of us stateside. It’s her description of parental attitudes in the Netherlands that really surprises, though.
A 2003 survey “found that two thirds of Dutch fifteen to seventeen-year-olds with steady boy- or girlfriends are allowed to spend the night with them in their bedrooms, and that boys and girls are equally likely to get permission for a sleepover.” Schalet writes:
Dutch parents, by contrast, downplay the dangerous and difficult sides of teenage sexuality, tending to normalize it. They speak of readiness (er aan toe zijn), a process of becoming physically and emotionally ready for sex that they believe young people can self-regulate, provided they’ve been encouraged to pace themselves and prepare adequately. Rather than emphasizing gender battles, Dutch parents talk about sexuality as emerging from relationships and are strikingly silent about gender conflicts. And unlike Americans who are often skeptical about teenagers’ capacities to fall in love, they assume that even those in their early teens fall in love. They permit sleepovers, even if that requires an “adjustment” period to overcome their feelings of discomfort, because they feel obliged to stay connected and accepting as sex becomes part of their children’s lives.
More generally, the country’s “moral rules cast sexuality as a part of life that should be governed by self-determination, mutual respect, frank conversation, and the prevention of unintended consequence.” It’s no coincidence that the country has also secured easy access (for both teens and adults) to contraceptives and other sexual healthcare.
The upshot of all this? Dutch teens are giving birth left and right and plagued by STDs! Oh, no, wait — the truth is actually the opposite of that. “In 2007, births to American teens (ages fifteen to nineteen) were eight times as high as in the Netherlands,” reports Schalet, and the Netherlands generally whoops on the states in terms of STD rates, too. What’s more, “it also appears that having sex outside of the context of monogamous romantic relationships isn’t as common among Dutch adolescents, especially older ones, as among their American counterparts.”
None of this surprises me. I grew up in a very atypical American household where my long-term boyfriend was frequently allowed to sleep over. Eventually, he was allowed to move in with us because of serious family issues on his part — but that’s a whole ‘nother story, believe me. My point is that I was allowed an unusual degree of autonomy over my own sex life. Instead of sneaking out of the house to have sex in the backseat of a car, I was engaging in playful exploration in my childhood bedroom with my first love — and my parents were right across the hall the whole time. I had no sense that sex was a naughty or shameful act; it was a fun and meaningful activity to which I felt fully entitled. And you know what? I consistently used condoms, I was on birth control pills and I insisted that both of us were tested for STDs.
I would never claim that sexual freedom is actually the key to safe sex among teens, and my anecdotal experience certainly shouldn’t be the basis for public or parental policy. But with regards to teen pregnancy and STD rates, the numbers just don’t lie: We need to be paying attention to the Netherlands.
Well, according to Amelia McDonell-Parry for the Frisky.com, regarding the morning segment of abc, tastefully called “blowjobs are the new goodnight kiss”:
Teens having oral sex: is it really so new? I was a late bloomer so I didn’t give my first beej until I was 19 (in a stairwell at a bar!), but what about other 20- and 30-something women? Their teenage oral sexploits, after the jump …
So Amelia asked some people their experience on the subject..
“I gave my first blow job when I was a freshman dating a senior in high school in south Florida – it’s pretty much whore central down there. I was actually considered a late bloomer! But hey – that relationship lasted six years!”
“I probably didn’t give a BJ until I was 17 or 18. I was always intimidated because I had no idea what to do, so I avoided it. I should remember the first one, but I don’t. I received for years before that, though. There was this one guy in early high school I hooked up with a lot, and I think the first time was at my house when my parents were out for the night. We heard them pull in the driveway midway through so did the whole sit up and act like we’re studying for a test thing. Awkward.”
“I was 17 when I gave my first blow job. The guy was someone I was just ‘talking to,’ as we used to say in the ’90s, but we weren’t a couple. He had gone down on me twice before, and I thought: “Why not!” I guess I knew what I was doing because he seemed to enjoy it. I remember a lot of girls owning up to oral sex — giving and getting — but then again, I did go to a Catholic all-girls school. I remember my ex-BF tried to go down on me, but he didn’t really know what he was doing, so I stopped him. One time another BF got Big Red gum stuck in my pubes.”
“Teens have been f**king and sucking dick forever. This is not a new phenomena. Can I write a rebuttal? Anyway, I gave a BJ to my first boyfriend when I was 16. I liked doing it and still do. He used to give it back, but was bad at it. It wasn’t until I was 17 that a boyfriend made me get off from oral sex. Since then it’s the only way I can orgasm.”
“I was 16 when I gave head for the first time, and the lucky guy was nothing more than a hookup buddy. I didn’t receive it (by choice) until I was 18, and that was with my high school boyfriend, who had no idea what he was doing. I was extremely uncomfortable, and I prefer not to remember that, um, awkward scene.”
“I didn’t actually give a blowjob until shortly after I’d had sex for the first time, at age 21. I was in a relationship. But a guy went down on me for the first time when I was 18 — he was just a random hookup.”
“I was 16 and at my friends house party while her parents were on vacay. I had one glass of spiked punch and then got naked under a blanket with some guy I didn’t know from school. I tried to go down on him, but it did not work. Everyone at the party caught us on the couch….so much for dignity. But he did have a really nice penis…”
Well, teen sex seems to be awkward, just like so many other things, you need to fake it till you make it!