Teen sexuality warrants realistic conversation

Teen sexuality warrants realistic conversation

Illustration by Grace O'Malley

Lilly Ludwig, asst. opinions editor

Let’s be real: talking about sex makes you feel uncomfortable. You’re not alone if you giggle in health class or die a little inside when things get steamy in a movie you’re watching with your parents. Fortunately, I’m not afraid to talk about sex, so to quote Salt-N-Pepa, “let’s talk about sex, baby”.

We’ve all seen the advertisement where there is a scantily dressed model selling cars or shampoo or something equally un-sexy. The majority of our media – the songs that we listen to and the TV shows that we watch – is centered around sex. And according to an article published in the Huffington Post, porn sites get more visitors every month than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined.

But in reality, sex has far less to do with selling shampoo and much more to do with biology. Sex is just a biological necessity; it’s a part of your life if you’re a living creature.

This is a problem because our society floods young people with these ideas about sex while also being too afraid to have real conversations about what sex is and how it should be handled.

For example, according to internetsafety101.org, an organization that promotes safer internet usage for children, the average age that American kids will begin searching porn is age 11. Eleven, as in, your mom probably still made you lunch and your favorite animal at the zoo was the lion, 11. The scary thing is that, according to internetsafety101, children who are exposed to pornography are six times more likely to force someone to do a sexual act than a child who wasn’t exposed.

What? You mean porn gives young people the wrong idea about sex?

If instead, these 11-year-olds were taught that porn is not an accurate representation of sex, and encouraged to ask as many questions as possible, the allure of sexual activity would be taken away.

But instead, at 11, we are taught that sex is bad.

And then at the same age, our media and society goes on to teach girls that sex is a woman’s burden, something they have to do because their boyfriends will always want it. Girls are taught that boys can’t be trusted because they “all want one thing”. They’re taught that good girls cover up.

And from watching their role models in the media, our boys learn that if they’re not thinking about sex at every moment then they’re not masculine enough. They learn that sex is fun, and relationships are boring and tedious. They’re taught that girls are worthy of chivalry, unless she’s showing skin or dancing on a pole, then she’s too “promiscuous” and worthy of being sexualized.

Beyond these messages, we put sex in the dark closet with drugs and alcohol and never talk about it. So these 11 year olds go to the internet and learn for themselves what sex is “really” like.

I think health classes at South are great. All sophomores are forced to learn about dozens of methods for safe sex, the proper way to use a condom and what a healthy relationship looks like.

The problem is that they don’t learn it until their sophomore year of high school, and according to the stats about porn, a lot of kids begin experimenting with their sexuality before the age of 15.

I know some of you are thinking, “slow down, girl, none of my friends are having sex”. But there is so much more behind sexuality than just doing the action, and a lot of it has to do with our attitudes about sex.

For example, we learn as kids to go to the basement if we hear a tornado siren, or to call 911 if we see a bad car accident. However, what do we do if we have another type of emergency, such as an unwanted pregnancy?

All we learn is that if she keeps the baby, her life is over. If she gets an abortion, she’s a baby killer. Even if she gives the baby up for adoption, she’ll still have stretch marks, and nobody will ever want to touch her again. All of this is interesting, but not actually helpful for a teenager who’s pregnant.

Not to mention that it doesn’t make sense. One decision cannot ruin an entire life. Being pregnant in high school is not the best situation, but what nobody ever talks about is that teenage moms can still go to college. They can still get jobs, and they can still have happy lives.

Take Victoria Perez, a girl who, according to an article in the Washington Post, was able to complete high school due to her high school’s daycare center.

Perez went to school, studied for the SAT’s, applied to colleges, and even graduated on the honor role all because her school gave her and her baby a safe space to grow instead of shaming her for her actions.

I’m not arguing that all high schools should offer programs to help teen parents, but I am saying that helping young people who are in this situation does not equal condoning unprotected sex, it just helps the few that need it.

Ultimately, we live in a society that is both afraid of sex and also obsessed with it. I think people should be more open and willing to talk about this totally normal part of life, because talking about it takes all of its power away. And really, we give sex way too much power.

Choosing to talk about sex more often and without such a negative perspective would help young people grow up feeling safer and more supported.

So finally, you can unclench your jaw and relax. If you’re still embarrassed, I think you should ask yourself why. And hopefully, if I did my job right, you might not have to giggle so much the next time you’re in health class.