A couple of days ago I was having an in-depth conversation with a Relational Somatic Psychology colleague of mine about developmental issues in adolescents, including puberty and sexual issues, and she recounted something that had happened earlier this year with her son, a sophomore in high school. He was going away with a group of young men for a week to a function where there would be an equal number of young women. After shopping for the needed clothes, she asked her son if there was anything else he might need and, after receiving a “no,” then asked if he needed her to buy condoms.
My friend said her son broke out in a big grin and asked if she would really do that for him? What a beautiful “teaching moment” a semi-mentor, Barney Glaser PhD, would say and, to which I would add, what a beautiful “parenting moment!”
So first, this question is acknowledging the reality of the situation. Here is a young man, a few years past puberty, who also is good looking, active in sports and regularly works out, going off for a week. While chaperoned, there will be plenty of opportunities to get away for some private time. Given the group and the environment, there is sure to be plenty of discussion of, let us diplomatically say, the appreciation of the female form. With all this, there is every possibility of him having a sexual encounter, if he hasn’t already experimented, especially with her son having an attractive “Adonis” physique.
One of the arguments I have heard against having an in-depth sexual conversation, and sex education in general, is that it “encourages” sexual experimentation; experimentation is probably going to happen anyway. However, present day dynamics must be recognized. No one is sure why, but adolescence has increased from about two years to almost 15! A hundred years ago, adolescence began just before puberty, usually about the fourteenth year, and then courting and marriage followed a few years latter. Now adolescence is recognized to be from about nine to 24 years old.
Adding to that equation, years ago most adolescents were highly supervised and social taboos on sex and unmarried pregnancy were huge. This meant sexual experimentation was held to a minimum, and yet we all know it still happened; now days, there is virtually no chance that adolescents will not experiment to some degree. So while sex education would have been helpful 100 years ago to enhance the experience of a couple’s expressing their love, I feel it is absolutely imperative these days. Sex education, condoms, and birth control are not a license to experiment, they are insurance against poor decision making in the “heat” of the moment when even the strongest of intentions and/or belief system may falter.
My friend also took the time during this conversation to reinforce the sacredness of sex, reminding her son how males and females react differently to stimuli (both physically and mentally), and that the time before and then after sex is just as important as the time spent having sexual intercourse. The most interesting point, which harkens back to what I feel is the lame arguments agains sex education, is that my friend would not be particularly happy that her son become sexually active, but she didn’t let that sentiment create a “head in the sand” mentality.
Better yet, while she stepped up as a mom, coached (not lectured) her son, and then supported him, she also discussed that she may have a different opinion about sex than he does. Letting her son know her reasons why he should not become sexually active, doing so in an knowledge based manner verses emotionally, and yet still “having his back,” not only pierces that relational void created by teenage individuation, it also reinforces to the adolescent that they are both loved and respected. Well played!