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 sometime 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 2019 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, 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, 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. That’s why humans have such an inclination and lust for sexual activity, and the teenage years are when this really begins to flourish. 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, 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 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??
27 thoughts on “Daughters: 10 Reasons You Should Not Have Sex in High School”
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?
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.
Shouldn’t we adults and teens be asking what we can do to eliminate sexual hypocracy and “slut-shaming” instead of feeding into the viscious and inappropriate “slut-shaming” mentality by scolding teen girls for becoming sexually active?
There are other societies which deal with teen sex in a more mature, progressive way! (The Netherlands and Nordic countries)
Regrettably, the good ole’ U S of A is the very worst of the developed nations– along with Japan and Australia!
Plus, I fInd it odd and a glaring omission that you completely omit any mention of MASTURBATION as the preferable way for sex-crazed boys and girls to satisfy their sexual needs without risking pregnancy, disease, and emotional entanglements. There is nothing wrong with this practice, when used in moderation. I personally would advise guys to avoid viewing pornography because it feeds the pre-existing tendency to objectify females’ body parts and devalue young women as persons. (Yes, I’m a proud feminist)
As responsible parents, lets grow up and converse with, not lecture, our teens about sexuality, contraception (especially using MULTIPLE METHODS for increased effectiveness), healthy, egalitarian relationships, emotional/personal skills for boys, and for young women, and vital information about female sexual anatomy and what it takes for females to be able to achieve sexual satisfaction– with a loving partner in a relationship or alone.
Strictly speaking, I do agree that in general, it is highly preferable for teens to wait until they finish high school, and even college, before they have partnered sex. I hate seeing women bare the brunt of an unwanted pregnancy and– forbid– have their long worked for life plans sabotaged by a baby, which some end up keeping because their hormones bond them to it.
Getting right down to it, however, I feel the same way about married women who have educational or career plans short-circuited by a pregnancy!
Young people should not have to suffer and take risks in ignorance.
Brava! Extremely well stated! This is so much better than treating sex as “something not to be mentioned”.
All very good advice… awesome article!
Thanks Michelle — it means a lot.
Saving this post for my almost high schooler. Thanks!
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?”
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.
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?
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.
Veronica, your comments are right on target. I graduated in 1977 and observed the same thing you did.
Girls who got burned by the dudes and subsequently slut-shamed were the gals who dated and put out for the alpha male type guys.
Fast forward to the late 1980s and beyond: the Christian right made it fashionable once again to slam ANY teen girl for becoming sexually active– or being too pretty or friendly! Remember the ridiculous “purity rings?”
That whole thing opened the door again to archaic, sexist thinking about sex.
And all the good it does–
Most Christian evangelicals end up having premarital sex, often in their teens, with NO contraception or condoms used!
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!
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.
Uh… There’s no such parental letter for boys (unless you are a Mormon– they shame and ostracize ANY sexually active teen unmercifully) because there’s a cognitive disconnect between the idea of a teen boy satisfying himself at the expense of a teen girl and the reality that his sexing her up will likely make her pregnant.
Parents feel sympathy for a young guy’s insatiable desperation, complete with constant friendly reminders of his horniness from his own body. (I know: I have 2 sons in their 20’s) But many parents fail to see why a young girl would “need” sexual gratification/release. Hint: These parental couples are often clueless about how the misses can have a good time, along with her hubs!
Ignorance is not bliss.
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.
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.
What a generous reply. I *completely* share your concerns.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Well, I’m in high school, and I’d say no one really judges people who are actually in a relationship, especially if it’s been going on for a few months. I figured most people knew my boyfriend and I were having sex while we were dating but I didn’t really care because if it’s a relationship it doesn’t really reflect on anyone as being a slut or loose and easy. Most teenagers have matured sexually and, let’s be real, are probably thinking about sex all the time, so as long as they are doing it with someone they trust, and being as safe as possible, it is perfectly healthy.
I loved this! Thank you, Shannon. I don’t think you vilified sex at all. You talked about how sex could be a fun and exciting thing, and how it was NOT something to be ashamed of. And it is (fun and exciting), but still something that most girls should wait for and be aware of.
Girls shouldn’t necessarily have to wait for ‘the one’ or their future husband (unless of course they want to), but they should do it with someone they at least TRUST and RESPECT. It makes the experience so much better.
Once, I had sex with someone that I didn’t have any feelings for and it made the experience ten times harder than it should’ve been, and so unenjoyable. When you really really like someone, and possibly even love someone, it just makes the experience seem so much more amazing- probably more than it actually is. The internal knowledge that you’re having sex with [this person] is what makes it seem so great- because it’s THEM. It helps and encourages pleasure knowing that it’s [this person] who you’re giving yourself to.
Young girls need to know this- I wish I did back in high school (I didn’t have sex until college, but I used to idolize the people who did). I’m currently in college and happened to stumble across your article. My teenage years were full of so much inner turmoil and emotional chaos- looking back now, I’m not sure I could’ve handled sex in highschool. I don’t think I was emotionally ready (not to say some other girls weren’t). But, everyone talked about it like it was so great. To be honest, the only time sex is great for me is when you really like the person you’re having it with- I can’t recieve pleasure unless it’s with someone I really really like (even if they are attractive). There’s nothing wrong with one-night stands (as long as you know the possibilities and use protection), but it’s just never been my thing. Some girls can have casual sex (and good for them!) but I can’t. I thought I could have casual sex, but I couldn’t. And, usually, you can’t help but fall for the person you’re sleeping with- especially if it’s more than once (even if they are the world’s biggest asshole). I was extremely self-conscious, clingy, and dependent in highschool, so I’m so thankful that I didn’t do anything.
The second standard still exists, and young girls have gotten even more petty over the years. Unfortunately, it’s mainly just girls putting other girls down, and other pettiness. You’ll never see a guy calling another guy a slut, and I wish girls could learn from that. Young girls are incredibly competitive, and they can be quite mean.
If you’re in a long term serious highschool relationship, or you’re one half of a highschool sweetheart couple, then you usually get a pass when it comes to sex, or you get idolized for it, but in my highschool that was the only exception. If you had been having sex with someone after only dating them for less than a year, or less than twelve months? Slut. One-time thing? Slut. Friends just having fun? Slut. Sleeping with a long-term crush who’s not your boyfriend? Slut. Being in a relationship but then getting dumped the next day after sex? Slut, and also “something must be so wrong with her.” In highschool, you were made fun of if you were an admitted Virgin, but you’d be made fun of so much worse for the rest of your high school years if one of your sex escapades were revealed. Unfortunately ‘reputations’ still exist.
I don’t mean to scare young girls away from sex or vilify it, but unfortunately it’s the truth- and they should know this. It’s better than them being completely unaware of the consequences, or walking into school one day only to be hit with a storm of self-shock and hate.
Sex is a beautiful thing, and can be so much FUN, but there are risks and possibilities that young girls should be made aware of- and they shouldn’t be left in the dark. So many kids treat their virgin status like it’s an unwanted accessory- like an old stingy smelly purse that needs to be disposed of. They should do it because they WANT TO, and because they’re READY, not because they feel like they should or because “oh my god, everyone else is doing it.” Sex IS a beautiful thing, but unfortunately we have to warn girls about these things- who else will? They still exist. Yes, you may be hated on for having healthy sex by your peers, and yes, diseases DO exist and boys often don’t tell girls when/if they have an STD. Girls should be comfortable talking about sex, and should feel free to enjoy it, but still know these things.
This thread is actually retarded and the comments are all filled with hypocritical moms.
No matter what you do, if your daughter is planning/wants to have sex, she’s probably gonna do it anyways. So the best plan is educate her and her boyfriend about birth control and condoms- that way you know they’re having safe sex.
I know sex during High school is garbage and met a few people who walk around with condoms thinking they’re so high and mighty, but even as of now, I’m25 and still never slept with any human being. Any and ALL girls seem to find me horrible for no reason.
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