Prompt: What would you tell teenagers about sex?
You should know all the basic facts of life, including facts about sex. You should understand the basic biological mechanics of reproduction, of course. It’s crucial to understand how babies are made, and why we derive pleasure from sex.
But that’s not all.
Much trickier are the emotional and cultural complexities. Love and sex are inextricably entangled for us. It’s confusing even for mature adults. It can be downright harrowing for the young.
So take your time. Know yourself. Be sure of yourself. Have sex when you’re ready, and not a moment before. There’s no rush. You’ll be no less a man or woman for having waited. If and when the time comes, be sure of your partner. There should be mutual trust and respect between partners.
Our culture often transmits contradictory messages. In America, the dominant culture purveys a mix of puritanism and individualism. One preaches a message of abstinence while the other says, “anything goes.” Neither of these is particularly helpful. Furthermore, as Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee notes: “Our collective culture celebrates its story of endless desires. It feeds us with its images that, though they can never nourish us, work like a drug for our minds and bodies, even as they exploit us and the earth.” Sexual imagery is a staple in these stories we tell ourselves, which power the culture forward. All of which is to say: Be wary of the dominant culture. Be wary of received wisdom. Learn to think for yourself.
This advice is easy to give, but it may be hard to follow for the young and impulsive. As Brendan Myers writes, “Perhaps the reason for all the taboos and moral warnings about sex is because in sexuality we discover so much about who and what we really are.” For many people, then, sex is part of the process of self-discovery, and as such there will make mistakes and experience pain.
So try to minimize suffering. Try to understand the consequences of your actions. Don’t get pregnant by accident, and don’t catch a disease. Girls, be empowered to assert control over your bodies. Boys, know that compulsion is wrong. Try not to sweat the other taboos. There is no shame in sex when it is a joyful celebration between willing partners.
Above all, be open and honest, especially with your parents. This may not be easy, but make the effort. Hopefully they can be open and honest with you as well.