Discussing human sexuality with middle school and high school teens has been educational.
Written by Michael Edgar Myers
The purpose of our discussions, initially, was for me to help impart information about sexual health education from medical, scientific and, in some cases, practical perspectives. The basic goal of the curriculum used is to encourage students to abstain from sexual relations during the teen years.
It's a fact that abstinence is the only proven, 100 percent method of avoiding pregnancy and most sexually transmitted diseases. Debate rages whether teens should be introduced to alternative medical or behavioral methods of birth control, and if so, whose responsibility is it, anyway? Parents or schools?
The CDC confirms that STI rates are on the rise. Now more than ever is the time to talk to your teen about safe sex.
Regardless of personal preference of what’s the best way to encourage teens to wait beyond high school, such encouragement had to take into account, however, realities of the daily lives of teens that have existed for centuries:
The human body enters stage of life called “puberty” creating physical and emotional changes that an individual going through puberty cannot comprehend without guidance;
The physical changes of puberty include sexual urges that are unpredictable, can be uncomfortable, and need some sort of release;
In seeking guidance or relief, pubescent teens (for centuries) want information: some is helpful, some is not; much is information is misinformation;
Misinformation comes from a variety of sources, often because of a reluctance of the teens or families to have a healthy conversation about life transitions associated with human sexuality;
Misinformation, along with desires to act upon sexual impulses (despite accurate information), are among reasons teens have sexual relations while in high school or middle school;
All of the above ideas are among reasons students engage and sexual relations and have, for centuries, become faced with the responsibilities of parenthood before receiving a diploma.
In short, no matter whether parents, schools or clergy are saying, “Don’t have sex,” some teens are going to engage in sexual activities before their families – and perhaps the students – wish or plan to. You may be one of those students already having relations. Or know someone who is. Or you’re struggling with the desire to have relations – struggling within yourself, or being pressured by someone else.
Knowing these possibilities – from observations, experiences and memories -- is why I became interested in helping students understand about human sexuality and develop healthy methods of communication. That’s where my education FROM the students came.
For despite the books, research and films comprising the curriculum to discourage sexual relations, minimize teen pregnancy, or prevent contracting or spreading sexuality transmitted diseases, the students continually brought new knowledge to us adult facilitators as to what’s affecting their pubescent perspective on sexuality.
Among our discoveries:
Middle and high school students have far more and easier access to information and misinformation than did the same age students even a decade ago;
With all the information accessible to them, the amount of content and variety of sources confuse decision-making;
Despite what can be best described as certain amount of expected teen “sassiness,” there is an earnest desire to find answers to their questions about sexuality;
The information, desires and inability to have respectful conversations about intimate topics add to the stress teens feel about school, life and personal identity.
We made these last discoveries through the daily questions our students asked over the two-and-a-half months we met with them, hoping to make difference while helping them make proud choices about relationships.
As they got more information and understanding, one question was frequently repeated among the almost 200 students in the classes:
How do I know I’m ready for sex?
This complex question resulted in round-table between classes conversations between us facilitators. Our emotional roller coaster was not much different than the teens. We often discussed OUR adult relationships and school memories as we sought answers to share.
The answers resulted in journal notes that will comprise the next few essays. These essays will address some questions, and raise others, along with providing some resources that will help you make wiser decisions as you move toward reconnecting with friends when schools reopen.
Here are some conversations I’ll be looking into, based upon student questions and my communications with other teens and caring adults over the years:
When Am I Ready?
What Is Love? – definitions
Virginity Means… -- personal, cultural perspectives, and other definitions
Cultural, Spiritual Values and Sex – Other factors in being “ready”
Be Careful What You View, What You Send – Stay off of sites or sending photos
What Is “Sex” – Intercourse isn’t the only translation
If You Love Me… -- Coping with Pressures from Others
Yes, I Remember Being a Teen – How an adult’s conversations are helpful
So, if you’re ready, get ready to answer your own question: How do I know if I’m ready?