A couple weeks ago I was speaking at a camp in rural Wisconsin and I brought up the subject of sex to my middle school audience of about 500 kids. Funny enough, I received a handful of the typical “Why are you talking about sex with this age group!” comments.
Since that camp (not even two weeks ago, as I write this), I’m amazed how much the subject of “talking about sex with teenagers” has come up. This “hush” isn’t just limited to Wisconsin.
Let me say it simply: talking about sex is something we need to talk about.
Just a few days after the camp, Marko wrote this insightful blog about how he actually prefers to speak to middle schoolers about sex—the perfect time to talk with them about it. He articulated it like this: “It’s pure irresponsibility as a youth worker to avoid this subject.” He goes on to describe how “all over the board” they are developmentally and how, often with middle schoolers, it’s more “what sex will be” than “what it is” for them in their lives.
I can’t agree more.
A few days ago I had breakfast with my friend Doug Fields and shared what had happened at this camp, specifically the moms who told me, “These kids weren’t thinking about sex at all, but now that you brought it up they are!” Doug, having seen this overprotective parenting style on way too many occasions, nodded his head in disbelief. Forget the adults for a moment- we both felt for these poor misinformed kids that were basically taught, “We don’t ever talk about ‘the naughty thing.’” It’s something we observe way too often.
Is this a national problem?
How about international.
My dad is on a missions trip to Uganda right now teaching and equipping African pastors how to preach God’s word. One of the African ministers traveling with him, Andrew, is a pastor who travels to different villages talking about sex and the AIDS epidemic, educating young people about the truth. Sadly, in the African culture they rarely talk about sex. (Wow, Uganda is just like Wisconsin!) Andrew has earned trust with several of the schools and has been teaching “True Love Waits” rallies, presenting the truth and then interacting with kids afterwards, answering questions they have.
My dad just sent me an email about this from his phone while in Uganda:
Had another good night sleep. We are at a catholic retreat center and it is pretty primitive, but the team is all so positive. We don’t have showers or hot water. Learning to wash my hair at a faucet. Cold shaves.
Our team that taught the “true love waits” to 200 middle school kids was pretty moved yesterday. After Andrew made the aids presentation they handed out cards for ?s. Everyone wrote ?s. Schools are in English. The ?s were heart wrenching. Things like “I’ve been raped. How do I know if I have aids?” Or “I have aids. Should I quit having sex with my boyfriend?”. This from 12 and 13 year olds! The headmaster of the school invited them back today to talk to another 200 kids. The team is very excited to present this material that Andrew has written. He was on a Ministry of education committee when he wrote this and now he can present this in public schools.
The African AIDS epidemic is pretty scary. Those of us in the US probably would like to think that we have an entire ocean separating us from this problem. Sadly, this isn’t just an African problem. It was only a few years ago that we all woke up to the headlines, “One in Four Teenage Girls Has a Sexually Transmitted Disease.” Teenage girls in the US are making the same mistakes.
Part of the problem is ignorance. Last month USNews wrote about a study revealing that one in four teenage girls who took the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine mistakenly thought their risk of getting other STDs was lowered. Sound crazy? I constantly encountered this kind of reasoning in my work with middle school students on campus. “I’ll just wear two condoms.” “I always shower really good after sex.”
The fact is, parents aren’t talking about sex enough with their kids. One “sex talk” isn’t enough. This needs to be an ongoing conversation. Adults aren’t spending the time to tell kids the truth.
I talk about sex to young people frequently, openly, honestly… never gratuitously. TV and movies talk about sex all the time; they just don’t tell the whole story. We shouldn’t be afraid to talk candidly about the subject, sharing the truth on the matter. Sex isn’t bad, sex isn’t naughty… it’s an amazing gift that God gives to a man and woman in marriage. The Bible isn’t afraid to talk about it in lurid detail and we shouldn’t be scared either.
So why is it that the church always squirms when we talk about sex? We’re so afraid of being “inappropriate” that we avoid talking about the elephant in the room. Meanwhile, Hollywood isn’t holding anything back when slinging lies.
Recently I read a study that tracked all the sexual dialogue in current MTV reality show programming like Jersey Shore, and the various Real Word shows (Side note: Jersey Shore was the #3 watched show on cable last week. This sexually charged show is very often the most watched cable show on any given week.) This sobering report revealed that in all the talk about intercourse, foreplay, oral sex, masturbation on these MTV shows… 96.4% of this kind of sexual talk didn’t mention any responsibility or consequences of any kind. Only 3.6 percent of the time did they ever talk about any sexual responsibility like virginity (.2%), contraceptives (1.4%) or consequences like STDs (2%). Today’s music isn’t much better at presenting truth.
The lies about sex are obviously getting good airtime. When are kids going to hear the truth? Who is going to tell them?
Parents… are you listening?
How do we have these talks with our kids?