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Daughters: 10 Reasons You Should Not Have Sex in High School

Talking to teens about sex

Frankly it might have been the hair that kept the boys away. I appreciate it now.

Dear Daughters,

You’re at an age where your father and I have little control over the choices you make when you aren’t with us.

We know, from our own experiences, that if you really want to do something, whether beneficial or detrimental to yourselves, you will find a way to do it.

Even if we lock you in a closet or force you to wear a padlocked chastity belt while reading the Old Testament.

But I want you to know that it’s our hope you will abstain from sex until you graduate from high school. And even more ideally, until you meet someone who loves and cherishes you some time after that.

These are our reasons:

1. If You Have Sex In High School, Everyone Will Know.

It doesn’t matter if you and the boy both say you won’t tell anyone. Eventually you will tell someone. And that person will tell someone else and then someone else and pretty soon even Mr. Fowler, the school janitor, will know you’re having sex because he overheard the P.E. teacher, Mr. Wenrick, telling Miss Shannon, the slightly bearded Home Ec teacher (who hasn’t had sex ever) about your passionate infamy in the break room.

2. The Boy Will Be Congratulated, You’ll Be Considered Loose or Worse.

Nothing has changed since the beginning of polite society. The Feminist Movement hasn’t put a dent in how sexually active girls are judged in high school.

Other girls will be catty and mean behind your back and boys will pump your lover for all the information they can get about your sexual gambits.

Even if your lover is in love with you, even if he’s gentle and kind, even if he never breathes a detailed word of what you do in bed (or more likely in the back of his parents’ car), perceptions still run down gender lines in favor of boys.

3. Despite What Television Shows, Movies, Advertisements and Music Videos Would Have You Believe Everybody Isn’t Having Sex In High School.

In 2013 Child Trends Data Report says that only 35% of teens are sexually active in high school.

That leaves a whopping 65% of kids who are not having sex.

It will be easier for you to abstain if you develop friendships with the 65% who aren’t sexually active. Peer pressure shmeer pressure.

4. Your Brain Isn’t Ready For The Emotional Responsibility Of Sexual Activity. 

In a recent Frontline article about a study determining how the teenage brain is different from the adult brain, researchers discovered that teenagers and adults used “different parts to process what they were feeling.

“The teens mostly used the amygdala, a small almond shaped region that guides instinctual or ‘gut’ reactions, while the adults relied on the frontal cortex, often called the executive or CEO of the brain.

“Reactions, rather than rational thought, come more from the amygdala, deep in the brain, which led Yurgelun-Todd and other neuroscientists to suggest that an immature brain leads to impulsivity, or what researchers dub ‘risk-taking’ behavior.

“The study goes partway to understanding why the teenage years seem so emotionally turbulent.

So if you’re anything like your mother and your First Love is inconsistent and/or unfaithful, your brain will have a more difficult time making rational choices than when you’re older.

Of course, there’s no escaping heartbreak in life. But delaying it seems like a great idea.

5. You Don’t Want Tickets To The Ever Popular Buddy Movie.

Because this time it’s not Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill I’m talking about.

It’s Unwanted Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases. And they’re not starring in a comedy.

Both girls and boys are at risk for sexually transmitted diseases in high school, but only girls can get pregnant.

It’s hard enough not to get pregnant when you’re a 39-year-old woman with two toddlers and you miss your period and think you’re going to have three children under the age of four and that your husband had damn well better get that vasectomy already (which your father did, once we realized I wasn’t pregnant with a third child after all), but not getting pregnant when you’re at the peak of your reproductive cycle in high school is nigh impossible!

Sex contraceptives fail. The Center For Young Women’s Health reports the rate of failure when these contraceptives are used perfectly: 

Male Condoms: 3 out of 100 women get pregnant

Withdrawal: 4 out of 100 women get pregnant

Birth Control Pill: 1 out of 100 women get pregnant

Spermicides: 15 out of 100 women get pregnant

Diaphragm: 6 out of 100 women get pregnant

Cervical Cap: 4 out of 100 women get pregnant

Female Condoms: 5 out of 100 women get pregnant

No contraceptive: 85 out of 100 women get pregnant

The most effective birth control device seems to be the varying hormone patches and implants, which report less than 1 out of 100 women getting pregnant.

But do we really want to be adding more hormones to your teenage bodies that are already in hormonal overdrive

The Office of Adolescent Health had this to say about teenagers with sexually transmitted diseases (sweet mother of God!):

“Adolescents ages 15-24 account for nearly half of the 20 million new cases of STD’s each year. Today, four in 10 sexually active teen girls have had an STD that can cause infertility and even death.”

6. Early Sex Can Impact Your Body Image.

As a teenager you are naturally more self-conscious than you will be as an adult.

It’s a pubescent rite-of-passage.

Introducing a sexual partner during this time of extreme self-criticism can be a dangerous thing. Because you will be handing another person the keys to your body-image.

Unfortunately for me my first lover was extremely critical of my body, leading to years of self-consciousness. Had he had that influence on me during my high school years I think the repercussions would’ve been far greater and harder to overcome.

Now, after all of this depressing news:

7. Sex is Awesome When the Timing and the Partner are Right.

We are made for sex. Nature is especially interested that we procreate. It’s a biological imperative that kicks in around thirteen years of age.

There’s no need to feel ashamed of yearning for sex. Your body is programmed to do that. And if we lived in the Middle Ages you would need to start giving birth around 15 since most of us would be dead by 35 (I hadn’t even had you two by then!)

But unlike the rest of Nature, humans can think rationally and can attempt to quell biology long enough to make mature choices.

8. Like Jerry Maguire, Help Us, Help You!

When I snuck out of my bedroom window past curfew to spend a few hours in a jacuzzi with Todd Johnson on prom night my junior year I began to realize just why my parents only wanted me dating in groups and home by 11 p.m.

Because as soon as Todd kissed me in that jacuzzi, and some of his body parts came near some of my body parts pretty much all of the 567 hours of Sunday school I’d had went right out the window and I was ready to have his name tattooed on my lily white ass right after I gave birth to his love child at 16.

So don’t hate us too much when we set a midnight curfew for prom. (or follow you on your date in an unmarked car with taser guns)

Nothing good for teenagers happens after midnight.

Don’t hate your father when he answers the door to potential dates cleaning his gun and tells them he’s not afraid to go to prison. Because we really are looking after your best interests.

9. Because I said so. That’s about it on that one.

Number 10 is not so much a reason as it is a caveat.

10. You Won’t be Perfect, I Certainly Wasn’t.

I managed to get out of high school without the emotional and physical turbulence early sexual activity can bring, but made up for lost time in college.

I contracted two fortunately curable STDs from my first love (yes, the one critical of my body, thank you very much) and had a pregnancy scare at 25 that turned out to be a false positive.

The bottom line is that sex is many things; messy, magical, yummy, worrisome, risky and transcendent.

But most of all it’s a huge responsibility and one that deserves our respect.

Be patient young padawans. Because, based on my married sex life with your dad (and yes, I can hear you quietly vomiting), “patience is bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”

And most importantly, we will love you no matter what choices you make and hope you feel that you can always talk to us about anything, including sex.

xo Your Mom.

How do you talk to your kids about sex??



23 comments

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  1. Shanon
    Shanon 29 July, 2014, 09:28

    Yes! We are on the same wavelength. I wrote a recent article with the same perspective. I did not have sex until I was 18 and living on my own. I hope my daughter will wait, as long as necessary, to have sex when she is more mature and with someone who respects her. Wait until she is comfortable enough to own her sexuality and can make wise decisions to protect her health.

    Emotional intelligence takes many years to develop and in your teens – you are just not ready. However, I felt the opposite about girls who were having sex in high school. I have always had a sex positive attitude and didn’t believe in slut-shaming. I had friends that were sexually active, some were labeled whores, and I always felt it was unfair. What about the boy(s)? Why should they have all the freedom?

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 29 July, 2014, 23:07

      Hi Shanon — yes that ridiculous double standard still exists regarding girls and boys. It’s heartbreaking to think of any young woman or any woman period being labeled a slut or a whore for being sexually active. Yet it’s there and can do so much damage to a young woman just beginning to flower.

      Reply this comment
  2. Rosie Carrillo
    Rosie Carrillo 29 July, 2014, 10:09

    Brava! Extremely well stated! This is so much better than treating sex as “something not to be mentioned”.

    Reply this comment
  3. Michelle
    Michelle 29 July, 2014, 11:17

    All very good advice… awesome article!

    Reply this comment
  4. Sonora
    Sonora 29 July, 2014, 20:07

    Brilliant! A+

    Reply this comment
  5. Gayle
    Gayle 30 July, 2014, 05:21

    Saving this post for my almost high schooler. Thanks!

    Reply this comment
  6. Suzanne Fluhr
    Suzanne Fluhr 30 July, 2014, 13:29

    We raised 2 sons—now ages 27 and 30, the older one married to a girlfriend of 5 years (I.e. after college). Or boys were raised to respect women, BUT if some of the dinner table conversations I heard are anything to go by, this is an excellent letter—and our boys were the “nice” guys. A tougher issue is the one raised by Bill Clinton. “How do you define sex?”

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 30 July, 2014, 13:40

      Hi Suzanne — yes, how do we define sex. It gets incredibly complicated because I’ve heard through the grapevine blow jobs are a big deal in high school. Sigh. Certainly no one will get pregnant that way, but what’s in it for the girls. They’ll still be gossiped about. They’ll still be judged more harshly than the boys and they can still get STDs, minus all of the actual pleasure.

      Reply this comment
  7. Veronica
    Veronica 2 August, 2014, 22:18

    I think I’m a little older than you, graduated in 1980. Pre-Reagan and Religious Right and all that. It sounds like a completely different set of rules. ‘Sluts’ were girls who had indiscriminate sex with a bunch of guys or a guy that didn’t care for them (‘will you still love me tomorrow?’ ringing true 20 years after it was written), not girls that had sex with boyfriends — they were the privileged cool ones that had it all. Sometimes kids enter pretty significant romantic relationships in high school too and I remember the rest of us being in awe. I didn’t see slut shaming, really kind of the opposite. If we weren’t having sex, we hoped no one would ask and would just assume we at least had an amazing fling somewhere in our dark past. Being sexually active (and reasonably selective) was cool. How did it go back to 1960 and get stuck there?

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 3 August, 2014, 10:54

      Hey Veronica – In my high school there were a few long term couples that we assumed were having sex and I think you’re right, I think they sort of had a buffer around them in terms of judgment. It was the girls who were dating the really popular guys, were having sex with them and were subsequently dumped for the next girl who would have sex with them. It certainly wasn’t black and white.

      Reply this comment
  8. Lisa
    Lisa 4 August, 2014, 12:47

    Shannon can you write one like this for boys? 🙂
    You’re writing is so articulate and fun to read!! So happy I stumbled upon you!

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 5 August, 2014, 07:55

      Hi Lisa — you know what? I’d actually be more nervous about boys having sex in high school. Maybe I do need to write that one too! thanks for the suggestion.

      Reply this comment
  9. Kate
    Kate 19 August, 2014, 20:09

    I feel kind of sad about this letter. I have boy-girl twins in third grade, and I am already anxious about how to deal with sexuality when the time comes. But, like an earlier respondent, I think my generation was more sex positive than later ones. I myself was one of those high-school girls in a long-term, eventually sexual relationship, and I feel lucky that I had the chance to develop a sense of my sexuality with someone who was as naive as I was and loved me a lot. What I think I want my kids to know is that they should give themselves time to find the right person because sex will be important for them, and they themselves matter enough to take their lives and relationships seriously. I honestly think it can be counter-productive for a woman who likes sex, as you seem to, to begin the topic with issues of shame and disease rather than the value of intimacy in the larger sense. I would think it might not ring true to your daughters, and they might wonder why you are treating something you enjoy as though it is disgusting in them.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 19 August, 2014, 21:26

      Hey Kate — thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. In rereading the letter I have to admit that I think I was pretty messed up by my first sexual relationship in college. I really got my heart handed to me on a platter quite frequently over the course of the five years we were together. Of course I don’t want my girls to face peer judgment, to contract any diseases or have an unwanted pregnancy and we certainly know how to prevent the last two. But I think what’s at the heart of my concern is their hearts. I can’t speak for men, but in general I think women tend to fall in love with men they sleep with — for better or worse. I know my girls will make their own mistakes and have their own successes. I just wish I could save them from my mistakes. I suppose that one’s as old as parenting itself. But thanks for making me think.

      Reply this comment
  10. Kate
    Kate 20 August, 2014, 14:02

    What a generous reply. I *completely* share your concerns.

    Reply this comment
  11. Gigi
    Gigi 3 September, 2014, 10:24

    I “held out” until after prom…I figured that was long enough for my boyfriend of a year + to wait…plus all of my friends who had already “boned” were raving about how glorious it was, how mind blowingly romantic, and how it was “the raddest thing ever”. So naturally I had visions of Jake Ryan carrying me up the stairs to a bearskin rug in front of a roaring fire, where we’d spend hours in the throes of passion…..in reality…..it was basically over in 12 seconds (and I’m being generous), his mom was outside the door vacuuming, and his brother was in the next room blaring Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend”. I still can’t listen to that song. Several years later, my friends & I got together and I called them out on the bullshit artistry….and whaddaya know, they all came clean about what a yawnfest it actually was…but no one wanted to be honest because everyone else was making it sound so great.

    Touching on another subject – I still have a friend (late 40’s) who convinces herself she’s “in love” with any guy she sleeps with — I tell her “it’s okay to just ‘want’ & ‘need’ to have sex…you’re almost 50…it’s almost like you’re slut-shaming yourself”. This is also the woman I had to mail condoms to because if the guy doesn’t have one, they don’t use anything (I cringe as I type). I asked her why she doesn’t have some ‘just in case’ and her reply was “a.) I don’t want him thinking I’m a slut, and b.) my mom would roll over in her grave” —

    She was reared with the fear of roasting in hell, fear of her parents, and fear of “what would people think?!” when it came to sex – it was pounded into her so much so (no pun intended) that now, as a middle aged woman, she’s completely screwed up over it. I think there’s a really delicate line parents have to walk when it comes to teaching kids and guiding them….or it could turn into making them feel, what should be a wonderful part of their adult life, is something to be ashamed of.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 3 September, 2014, 22:06

      Hi Gigi — you are so right. I am rethinking this post. There was one wonderful commenter above who got me thinking this isn’t really the way to go. I was raised in a religion that coupled sex with hell and I have a sneaking suspicion it’s done a number on me. Need to go back and reread and reedit this post. You are very kind in your approach to getting me to think a bit more deeply about this. BTW I lost my virginity behind a couch in a football player’s college apartment on a bed of old popcorn. Sigh. Not too romantic to say the least.

      Reply this comment
  12. Caryl
    Caryl 2 October, 2014, 17:52

    I really like this post and want to keep it to amend for my daughter when she’s a teen (she’s 5). I, too, graduated highschool with virginity intact but had a different growing up life. My mom was a divorcee who dated and whose *ahem* aerobic exercises were well known for what they were. We were raised Catholic so we had a nice little ‘wait a minute…’ moment. I specifically remember thinking there was no way in hell I was going to have sex with one of these high school guys so they could blab about it around school, not to mention the STD’s and unwanted pregnancies and all the rest…

    This is a good post. The concerns are real and valid.

    Thank you,
    Caryl

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 3 October, 2014, 08:23

      Hey Caryl — thanks for this. I was a little worried I vilified sex too much. I don’t mean to do that. But it’s a bit in the “drink responsibly” category. We’re more and more able to undertake things like drinking and sex more responsibly the more mature we become.

      Reply this comment

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