A Disturbing Moment in Class

Besides writing Amplify’s parent newsletter and blog, I also speak in the classroom to students.  Someone asked me the other day about my most “shocking” moment.  Right away I recalled something an 8th grade boy said when we were discussing “pressures” to have sex.  One of the things that had come up was rape.   This young man asked in all sincerity:  “Is it still rape if she likes it?”  I quickly pushed down the horror that I felt, and calmly answered that if it’s rape, it’s NEVER wanted or enjoyed.  I went on to explain that ideas like that probably come into society through the avenue of pornography and other media.  We went on to discuss more about the images that young people are seeing, and how they influence ideas on sex and relationships.

Just like that boy had been desensitized about rape, Hollywood has even gone so low as to portray a date  rape scene as funny in the  2009 black “humor” movie, “Observe and Report.”

This is as good a time as any to have a talk about rape with your teen, particularly date/acquaintance rape.

How about a definition to start with: “The term acquaintance rape will be defined as being subjected to unwanted sexual intercourse, oral sex, anal sex, or other sexual contact through the use of force or threat of force. Unsuccessful attempts are also subsumed within the term “rape.” Sexual coercion is defined as unwanted sexual intercourse, or any other sexual contact subsequent to the use of menacing verbal pressure or misuse of authority (Koss, 1988).”

What kind of cautionary words should we give our teens?  The same wise guidelines for being abstinent will also protect against sexual assault:  After the obvious caution about alcohol use, avoid being anywhere all alone, and/or in the dark with anyone of the opposite sex.  Even a childhood friend.  One of my acquaintance’s daughters was almost raped by the “boy next door” in her own backyard one night, and only just managed to escape.  Public places and daylight are a young person’s friends!

Talking to Boys about the Birds and the Bees

I’ve mentioned my young friend Kevin before, and promised to pass on more of his advice for parents as they talk to boys about sex.  This seems as good a time as any, since last month the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) reported on a 2009 study in which “researchers found that teen boys were more likely than girls to have had first sexual intercourse before age 13 and to have had sexual intercourse with four or more people.”

Kevin surveyed some guy friends, and found that they affirmed something he had said to me previously: “Parents shouldn’t treat the topic of sex as some sort of taboo subject that is just sort of swept under the table.”  One commented that “Your blood pressure shouldn’t rise when you’re having the sex talk with your kids.”

So what does this look like?  First, start early, and let it be often enough that you both feel less ill at ease with the topic each time it comes up.  Second, recognize real-life opportunities.  Kevin related one friend’s experience: “The most constructive talk he had with his father about sex was when his father caught him looking at pornography. Even though the conversation was still a little awkward, it provided a means for his father to explain why looking at pornography is wrong and what sex should be like, etc.”  The third tip Kevin gave was this: “One of my mentors was humorously remarking about how women can talk for hours just sitting with each other while men like to work out with weights or throw a disc or pull some weeds together while they talk.”  Come to think of it, when it comes to this topic, even girls may prefer not to have to look you in the eye!  Parents often relate to me that car rides provide a fabulous opportunity for some of the best talks, having two key advantages:  not having to be eye-to-eye, and having a captive audience!

And who should do the talking?  It’s not necessary that a son be talked to by a man in his life (although that would be great).  I hear from a lot of moms that they are talking to their sons.  The important thing is that it should be a caring parent who is imparting values, so that teens aren’t just getting ideas about sex from the latest episode of 90210 or Jersey Shore.

A Hand Up

“I told him I wanted him to make the decision himself not to go there,” a parent told me recently after she’d caught her son looking at porn online. But then she added (perhaps those parental instincts kicking in)… “But is that expecting too much? Should I get blocking software?” In a word, yes. It’s that age-old dilemma: When do we as a parent step in…and when do we let them decide, knowing that part of choosing means making mistakes? After reading “Wired for Intimacy” by William Struthers, I’d say this is one of those times we need to give the poor guy a hand up. And hey, girls can be affected by pornography too…so let’s not make it harder for them than it needs to be. What we open the door to in our homes IS something we can control.

Safety Mode

     As parent, I have been concerned for some time about some of the material that teens can find on YouTube; postings with sex, nudity, pornographic images and violence just to name a few.
I am so thankful to learn that YouTube now has a parental control that enables parents to block their children from viewing such videos; this feature is called Safety Mode.
Go to this link to read all about it.
Source:  CBS Early Show.com

Too Young?

One question we come up against during our parent presentations is, “How young is too young to start talking with your kid about sex and sexuality?” The answer? As long as they’re asking, they’re never too young. The trick, of course, is to be age appropriate.

 Why do I bring this up? Well, I found this article today (another shocker), and despite the fact that it was full of the kind of info we usually post on our blog, it caught my attention because of a book it references: Too Sexy, Too Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids.

I read an excerpt today and came across two interesting anecdotes. The first, of a mother reassuring her 7 year old daughter who was feeling insecure about her body image, and the second of a teacher, probing a kindergarten boy as to why he had drawn a rather sensual picture of a woman.

I’m not sure what conclusions the author will come to, but I think I want to read it. Take a look at it yourself on Amazon. Let us know what you think.


Definition: Much like cybersex, but over a cell phone. Sending nude or sexual photos via text-messaging.

 Don’t believe it? Do. I had never heard of it until today, when I found the term on two separate websites (www.onteenstoday.com, and www.cpyu.org). CPYU linked up to a truly shocking article in the Hartford Advocate. Read it here* (and be prepared). (NOTE: the original link is now gone, but here is a new article on the topic.)

Another article I read today cited that on average, kids are sending 50-70 text messages per day.

Now, obviously, not all your children’s text messages will be inappropriate. Many kids probably know that sexting isn’t all that smart of an idea (note Sarah’s comment in the article). And knowing this doesn’t mean that you should throw your kids’ cell phones in the trash.

But parents, it’s a good idea to talk to your kids about sexting, and the instantaneous consequences that result. Check their phones every once in a while to see what’s in them. You have the right to invade their privacy just a little bit.  It’s for their own good.

*Please note that the article is used purely as reference and does not reflect the opinions of W4YM.

Becoming a media-savvy parent

I found this helpful link in the newsletter of the Center for Parent and Youth Understanding.

The link will take you to six great tips for getting to know the media that your children are most likely already familiar with. Two things to keep in mind: today’s media can be dangerous or unhealthy when misunderstood or misused; a parent’s job is to do more than shelter a child from media. Parenting involves teaching children how to use media safely. As you learn to use different forms of media, you can guide your child to also use media wisely and safely.

The profit of porn…

Did you know…

  • Up to $12 billion in the US, $57 billion worldwide, is spent on porn each year?
  • More money is spent on porn than the combined revenues of professional football, basketball and baseball.
  • It is more money than CBS, NBC and ABC combined.
  • More money than all the revenues generated by rock and country music.
  • More money than America spent on Broadway productions, theater, ballet, jazz and classical music combined.

If you haven’t already addressed the issue of pornography with your teenager, take steps now to protect your child from this industry.

(Information from here.)

Dangerously free speech

In 2005, Professor Chyng Sun of New York University wrote this following her research on pornography:

Most of the women and men I interviewed first watched pornography in their early teens or even younger. In other words, pornography is sex education.

As parents, it is crucial that we are aware of the impact that pornography has on our children. For many, this also means examining the impact that pornography has had on our own understanding of sexuality. Sun goes on to say:

Pornography and a pornographic culture also affect “consensual sex,” sexual identities and relationships. In my interviews, it was painful to hear how both teenage boys and girls feel pressured to have lots of sex, often emotionally detached, at a younger and younger age; and how so many young women feel obligated to please men sexually because they believed that it was their role as a woman. A 20-year-old female college student thought back to her teen years and said that often she felt that her body was not hers but was for others to look at and gain pleasure from.

It is also alarming that many young men and boys have watched a lot of pornography before they have opportunities for sexual intimacy. Some developed a fear of women when they found that real women’s bodies were not as smooth and shaven and that real sex was nothing like sex depicted in pornography. It is clear that pornography not only hurts women but also hurts men on many different levels.

A healthy, mutually fulfilling, holistic understanding of sexuality stands in direct contrast to what is encouraged and portrayed by pornography. Parents, it is up to you to make sure that you are shaping your child’s understanding of sex and not leaving it up to pornography.

What I wish my parents had told me…

Sex, to most teens, is weird. Appealing, yes. Intriguing, yes. But weird.

Many teens are slightly weirded out by their bodies. Why is my body doing this? Why do I feel this way? AM I NORMAL?

Your children have few places to go for answers. Scratch that. They have few good places to go – the internet provides hundreds of pornographic resources, but you may not want to rely on those. It falls on you to bring up sex (and arousal, and porn, and masturbation), no matter how awkward it is. If it is awkward for you, think about how awkward it is for your child!

I wish my parents had told me: that getting older doesn’t make it easier to keep sexual boundaries; that sex doesn’t always bring you closer together; that looking at porn makes it harder, not easier, to avoid the “real thing”; that it is more fun when you are older anyway; that sex can ruin relationships even if you don’t get pregnant or an STD….I wish my parents had told me.