Teens & Sex

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-14-2005
Teens & Sex
Sat, 01-05-2013 - 5:04pm

Just wondering what the thoughts were on teens and sex. Are you a parent with a no tolerance (abstinence only) policy, or more about sex ed? How much control do you believe parents have & are there any ages thrown around for teens losing virginity? I mean I know I wish my teen would wait til at least 18, married or beyond, but is this realistic?


iVillage Member
Registered: 08-24-2011
Sun, 01-27-2013 - 7:35am

When I was a teenager myself (in the late '70s - early '80s), the "right" age to start having sex was considered to be 16.  In fact, even the name (translated to English) of the most popular sex-ed book at the time was "16 or so".  The age of consent was 14 at the time, but starting that early was extremely unusual.

Today, things seem to have changed a bit.  The age of consent was changed to 15, but teenagers seem to mature earlier, and having sex at 14 or 15 much more common than it used to be. 

One thing has not changed over here, however - the idea of "waiting until marriage" is still considered as absurd as it was 30 years ago.

Avatar for mahopac
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-1997
Mon, 01-14-2013 - 3:47pm

Awww, Kimmy, I didn't see this until today, thanks to iVillage's technical problems.  Beautifully said!

I will tell you that my political feelings about abortion are unclear.  I am not 100% certain, as many others are, that my beliefs about when life begins should shape public policy that affects 300 million other Americans.  But I do know what I feel in my heart and share with others, which is that every life has meaning, whether that life is that of an unborn baby, an elderly person, a severely handicapped person, a soldier, a terrorist, or a serial killer, and no one's life is worth more or less than anyone else's.  Lots of people can agree on the baby part, not so many about the terrorist or serial killer.

DH groans facetiously all the time about all the work our kids are, and boy he can't wait until he doesn't have to take care of them all the time, but they know he's kidding.  They can also see by the way he is constantly charmed by small children and our beagle-pug mix dogs how much he truly enjoys taking care of small things.  They know they could always count on us.

Oh, and 18yo DD says she and her friends agree that I will be a "cute" grandma someday!  She says it's because I still get so excited over everything.  Glad to know the kids don't think I'm jaded. ;)

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-08-2009
Thu, 01-10-2013 - 11:52pm

Oh Mahopac,

I didn’t think your thoughts were high-handed. I thought they were good comments that might be helpful to the original poster. Wish I had understood these points when I was a teen.

Faced with the situation, I’m certain you would handle it with grace and do just fine.

I agree with you on not wanting to know the details of my kids sex life. There are things I would like to know, like when did it start, but these thoughts entered my mind early on: Kimmy, would you really want to discuss your sex life with your mother? Uh . . . . NO!!! Would knowing any more details help in dealing with the situation at hand? Uh . . . . NO!!!  So why do it?

Least I sound like I think teen marriages are a good idea, let me say that I don’t. All six of us parents worry about the out years. And Rose and I have both expressed that worry. We all know of couples when they seperate saying something sucky like: We just grew apart.

So, you’re Pro-life, eh. GOD bless you!!! Both sides of our family are also.

A couple of years ago, the mother of a girl that our kids graduated with called me and wanted someone to talk with. Her daughter and the daughter’s BF were attending the two biggest state universities about 80 miles apart and they were in a family way. She was upset that her daughter would not even consider abortion and I thought: Lady, you came to the wrong person for support on that subject.

She said something about how could I have a pro-life child. I said, she may be pro-choice and her choice is life. And what you are expressing is not the pro-choice view because pro-choice means that the pregnant woman makes the choice, not the BF, not her parents, not the BFs parents, not the screaming protester with a sign on the street in front of the abortion clinic, nor anybody else other than the pregnant woman.

I took her over to the graveyard near our home where on many occasions I had spotted balloons floating over a headstone until I took the time to take a look one day. She was seventeen when she died. I have no clue what killed her, maybe cancer, cystic fibrosis, auto accident, drug overdose, suicide. Who knows? What I do know is she was greatly loved and is greatly missed by those who loved her. And her parents would love to have had a pregnant teen rather than a place to leave balloons.

I reminded this mother that she and her hubby have a very large, mostly empty, home. My suggestion to her was to go home, make plans for a wedding, move the breakables to the top shelf, make a place for her daughter, soon to be SIL, their first grandchild, and be grateful that they can all watch the little stranger (baby) enjoy the marvel of helium filled balloons. She and I go grab a bite to eat every few months—two old grannys watching their grandkids while the young parents are attending evening classes.




Avatar for mahopac
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-1997
Thu, 01-10-2013 - 3:14pm

In case that came across as high-handed, it wasn't meant to be.  I have huge respect for the way other moms on this board (Kimmy & Rose) have handled their teens' sexual activity.  I don't think I would have dealt with it as calmly, but I never was presented with that option so I'll never know.

Life sends you things you don't expect, and handling them with good grace is essential.  My kids know that if any of their friends were pregnant and their families couldn't accept it, we would be there for them.  The corollary is that we'd be there for our own kids, too.

Avatar for mahopac
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-1997
Thu, 01-10-2013 - 3:09pm

"I wish my teen would wait til at least 18, married or beyond, but is this realistic?"

Well there's a big difference between "18" and "married," at least in my crowd and my kids' crowd.  No one is getting married at 18, they're all going to college, and marriage is REALLY far from their minds.

We've taught them that sex is for when you love someone enough to marry them.  Note that I didn't say "wait until you're married" - we've avoided using those words.  They know what our religion teaches (we're Catholic).  They know that babies before you're ready are considerably less than ideal (though they also know that we're anti-abortion).  They know that babies do best with two committed parents.  They know that sex can lead to babies.  And they're pretty good at logic, so they can figure out that sex with someone you're not committed to could lead to having a baby with someone you're not committed to.

We've never said, "Don't have sex." We've never had to.  (And BTW that was my mom's only message, and I was plenty ready to rebel against it the moment I went to college.)  Really, what we've tried to do is steer them away from the idea of exclusive relationships at all.  Most of their friends don't have them, even in college.  They have large groups of friends and small groups of good friends.  They don't drink or engage in behaviors that lead them at risk for unexpected sexual activity.  Their friends don't "hook up" or have casual sex because they have too much self-respect.  This is something that has come about naturally, not that we've had to enforce.  They have been too busy for romantic relationships, which is pretty much how I was in HS and college, and how all their friends are.

So, two of them so far have got to age 18 without having sex.  I do not realisticaly expect them to be virgins on their wedding days, if they ever even get married.  If they do, it won't be until after college, and the trend among college-educated young people is to wait until their late 20s or even early 30s to marry.  I don't want to know about their sexual activity, because after a certain point it is none of my business.

So that's the message here:  self-respect, lots of activity, groups of friends, and no need to rush into sex or relationships.  So far it has worked.

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-08-2009
Wed, 01-09-2013 - 12:14am

Thinking a little more about your questions above, it occurred to me that you may be looking for answers to a pressing issue in your household. With that possibility in mind, I would add these thoughts to what I posted above.

The house rule may be “no tolerance” but teens may not abide by it. When you have two teens spending large amounts of time together, some or much of it unsupervised, as in the hours between when school lets out and the parents get home from work, you have the potential for things to get out of control. As one parent said about the subject, “Hand holding and kissing only works for a limited amount of time before the hormones get out of hand.” (Our two young couples were together 14/7 with taken all classes together, studying together, all four working together in a summer mowing business, movies, malls, six flags, waterpark, etcetera. They had also merged finances, highly accelerated education goals, and lifetime goals.)

As kids get older, parents have less and less control. What you hope for is that you have and can continue to have some influence over their thinking. One way is to be able to have influence is to have conversations with them and share reasoning with them. Part of that reasoning is that “choices have consequences”—so choose carefully (e.g., If you get pregnant or get a girl pregnant, you two teen parents will greatly complicate your lives, therefore abstinence may be a good idea and a WISE choice. Also, something I wish I had understood, you are scarring your heart and doing lasting damage to yourself and your relationship with your future hubby.)

Off topic, but yet somewhat on topic, I think of Adam Lanza who killed his mother, then with her guns killed 6 school workers and 20 first graders, before killing himself. What I have read and heard leads me to believe that his mother had poured much of her life into caring for Adam and those who knew the family said she was a good mother. Yet the unfathomable occurred. This is much the same story about the family of the grad student up in Denver who killed twelve people at the movie theater. I know bad parents who ended up with good kids and good parents whose kids turned out badly; some whose kids served time in a state penitentiary.

Back to the topic: As Rose, who posts here, put it so well a few months ago, “There is something worse than having a 15½ year old on birth control and that is having a pregnant 15½ year old.” As I said in a post above I was an Ostrich parent—also a member of the don’t ask, don’t tell club, but the girls were on the pill for period regulation and Hubby and I were just hoping that it would not happen. Sounds stupid, but it’s true.

I think the approach I would suggest would be along the lines of, “You know darling, I don’t want you to have sex because now is not the right time for you to do so, but I also don’t want you to face the choice of having a baby, abortion, or blessing some childless couple with the incredible kind and painful gift of a baby via adoption. So, as difficult as the conversation will be for you, and especially for your old fuddy-duddy mother, when the time comes that you need to be on birth control, we’ll do it together, unless you and the guy want to go to Planned Parenthood. That is what responsible people do. And no I’m not giving you my permission or approval or blessing, but for your sake, the guy’s sake, the baby’s sake, I want to reduce your chances of getting pregnant.”

Something to make very clear to the teens is that contrary to the pill packaging saying that the pill is up to 99% effective over the course of a years, Planned Parenthood puts it at 95% under typical use. And FWIW, our OBgyn thinks in the real world it’s probably only 90% effective. Most folks live in the real world.

I think it was Musiclover who commented a few months ago that once teens become sexually active they tend to continue to be sexually active because let’s face it it’s fun. So that brings up the question of where they are going to do “IT” and at what times. My observation is that parents are all over the board on how they handle it. I think most parents come to some accommodation over the Issue. For some it’s the old don’t ask don’t tell policy. I won’t ask and I don’t want to know any details. For others, its make sure it doesn’t happen when I’m home. Or, this is my house, my rules, do it at the other house, the backseat of a car parked behind the Wal-Mart, the lake, over at the graveyard two blocks away, but not at our house. Some just accept it as something that is going to occur and let it happen at home. A very rare few parents probably put the girl on birth control and let her hump many different guys at home from the get go at 13 or 14—even encourage it. Every family situation is different and every set of parents has to figure this out for themselves.

Some parents won’t even get the girls and guys hepatitis shots or Gardasil shots for HPV for fear the teen will see those shots as granting permission, approval, and blessing. To me those are just like DPT shots and Polio shots for the baby. Sadly, 2/3 of all teens are not getting these lifesaving vaccines. To me these parents are NUTS, as I can’t picture any teen finding it logical that such shots are permission or approval to have sex.

As Arryl eluded to in her post, you can’t lock them up in the tower, unless you are President of the United States and have the Secret Service to enforce the house rule. (No disrespect meant to the Clintons or the Obamas.)

Our situation was, is, and I think will always be extremely complicated. It’s very difficult to separate couples so merged as ours were and are. What I described above does not even begin to explain how merged and complicated our situation was and is.

When I came home and found the couples were having sex, I did not actually see anything, but I did hear a few things and it was evident that my assumption was correct when they came out of the bedrooms and found me in the living area. What we did ask for and got was a commitment to celibacy while all three sets of parents and the two young couples sorted things out. And I think the couples kept their commitment. After many weeks, with lots of open and pointed conversations, having figured that they would at some point do IT anyway, we were left with the above mentioned choices of how to make accommodation for the situation as it was, not as we wish it was. (One thing that I found a bit comical in those one on one mother daughter conversations with youngest daughter was that she wanted to sleep with Butch—sleep as in snoring sleep. She was dead serious too. I guess that was the final frontier of merging lives—in her mind anyway.)

So our couples went from 14/7 to 24/7 and by the following year they wanted to “go all the way” which to them meant marriage. More open and pointed conversations. We were planning the destination wedding for both couples when youngest daughter oopsed on her birth control and was two months pregnant with our first grandson on the wedding day. They blessed us with a second grandson last May. This coming March 23ed both couples will celebrate three years on their way to 75 years. Things look mighty good, but so did the Challenger liftoff for the first 67 seconds. A couple of years ago, I asked my mother when she stopped worrying about her kids marriages and she said, “I’ll let you know when I do.” Worry is a very big part of being a parent.

Hubby and I share a home with the couples who are making great progress in school. Hubby and I, along with the other grandparents, get to watch the grandsons, while both couples attend classes four evenings a week. Life is good indeed!!!!

On several occasions I have been contacted by mothers, often with a pregnant daughter, looking for ideas on what to do. I always tell them, “Everybody’s millage will vary.” I have no crystal ball, and their kids may celebrate their 50th anniversary together while mine brake up long before. What we can do for them and the grandchildren is give them a shot at making it as a couple. And they send the girls home from the delivery room with a lovely parting gift that you will love long before you see their little face and chubby fingers.

Community Leader
Registered: 07-26-1999
Mon, 01-07-2013 - 1:19pm
This has been something of a big topic at our house lately as my 17 year old senior in high school has her first boyfriend and her step dad and I have had many heated discussions about it. I am along the lines of Musiclover. We have had plenty of discussions about sex, birth control, etc. especially knowing she is leaving for college soon and I got pregnant with her just as high school was ending which profoundly changed my plans for the future. And I also agree that unless you lock them up in a tower, you never have control over whether or not they have sex. You just have to hope that you parented well and they make smart decisions along the way, you only can equip them so much before they take over the reigns and make their own decisions.
iVillage Member
Registered: 08-08-2009
Sun, 01-06-2013 - 10:43pm

Hubby and I, who met in college, both became sexually active at 16 and have lots of scars from our bed hopping days. It took us ten years to work through that baggage and we have a happy marriage.

The word that comes to my mind about me and our daughter’s is the word “Ostrich.” I just kept my head in the sand until I came home from work early one afternoon and made an OMG discovery. Both daughters were in their beds with their BFs of thirty months. They were all 15½ to 16½. They had been on the pill for period regulation for several years and had checked with Planned Parenthood to be sure they were using it correctly. In the next few months they will all turn 20 and 21 and on March 23 will celebrate three years of marriage.

I’ve seen statistics batted around that about 80% and 90% of today’s teens will have sex before their 20th birthday with the average age of the first time for those who do become sexually active as teens to be 16. If that is correct, I would guess 16½ to be the average age for first time.

Besides the cultural permissiveness, teens have several other things working against them on this issue.

First, the age of first period has been dropping about four months per generation for several generations. Perhaps due to better diet or maybe hormones used in the animals we eat. My guess is that the guys are also hitting puberty earlier also.

Second, the average age of first marriage has been rising a couple of years per generations for several generations. This may be caused by educational demands. A hundred years ago, schooling ended for most students at eighth grade. Average life expectancy was 45. So you better get going at an earlier age. I think the average age of first marriage is now something like 27.

Third, when you walk thorough old country cemeteries, you will see many headstones of couples with a heart with their wedding date between their names, birthdates, and death dates. If you do the math you see lots of teen marriages and I’m talking 15, 16, 17, and 18 for the girls.

My point is that waiting for marrage was much easier when puberty stuck at 15 or 16 and you got married at 17 or 18.

Avatar for suzyk2118
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-30-1997
Sun, 01-06-2013 - 2:54pm
Same here. I waited a long time (but not til marriage) but ds didn't; he was just shy of 18 and really cared about the girl, so I guess that's better than doing it just to do it. But he also realizes that it's special and should be reserved for someone you truly love, so I guess our guidance helped some. Sue
Avatar for jamblessedthree
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-23-2001
Sun, 01-06-2013 - 11:42am

My oldest is 15 and we talk about sex, I know some of her friends have already experimented with sex too.. I don't know if she'll come to me when that time comes and I certainly don't think its realistic to think lots of young men and women are waiting until marriage for sex either, but when we talk she knows my position and I'm grateful she respects it as do I respect her opinions... One thing I really like about this stage in my kids' lives is that they are no longer those babies I am talking TO, She and her 13 YO sister both are developing their own opinions and feelings about a lot of life things that I truly enjoy listening to and exchanging dialogue about.