The Ugly Side of Adult Dating

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My daughter will probably be heading off to college next year. As her death draws near, things I want to tell her the subjects vary from laundry to driving to inspirational mantras pop into my head at all hours. Life isn’t a dress rehearsal!

And then there’s sex. Have I told her what she needs to understand to enjoy healthy sexual relationships and be secure? (And what, precisely, does she need to understand?)

Like other parents, I’ve heard stories about casual hookups, booty calls, passed-out sex, campus sexual assault, and other nightmarish facts of contemporary college life. In fact, I got a close-up look at these problems when I edited The Hunting Ground, the companion book to the award-winning CNN documentary which investigates sexual abuse on college campuses. Obviously, rape is a violent offense, entirely different (but unfortunately not entirely different ) from the intricate modern world of sex and romance. Without understanding what our teenagers are going to experience as soon as they are away from your home, what do we need to tell our kids about sex and relationships so that they learn to have healthy, satisfying experiences and keep themselves and their partners secure? To discover, I turned to the experts: educators and writers who’ve spent years in the trenches, speaking to adolescents and their parents about sex and relationships.

Experts recommend that parents speak openly with their adolescents about these subjects on an ongoing basis. As your child matures, so should the discussions. But that’s when things become tricky. Sex is everywhere in American culture, however many of us find it a challenging subject to broach. And many teenagers are even less excited to have these talks than we are. Well-meaning parents who try to introduce the subject quickly learn that there’s no better way to clear a space. After a couple of tries, many parents quit and reassure themselves, Oh well, she’d sex ed at school annually; or, Parents are the last person teens want to speak to about this stuff.

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But specialists say that using these discussions is a crucial parenting duty. According to Al Vernacchio, a high school sex teacher and the author of For Goodness Sex: Changing the Way We Talk To Teens About Sexuality, Values, and Health, No matter what your kids learn in school and it’s probably less than you believe parents need to be their kids’ main sex teacher.

What we understand from decades of research is that young people raised in families where sexuality is openly discussed are vulnerable to premature engagement in sexual activities and, if and when they do become involved, do this with increased insight, forethought, and sense of caring and responsibility. It’s education, not evasion, which makes our kids safer, Roffman writes in The Huffington Post.

Many parents, if they speak to their kids at all, tend to highlight the dangers of sexual intercourse and don’t talk about the positive aspects of healthy sexual relationships.

Most sex ed courses convey a similar message, says Roffman. Sexuality education is sex instruction: ‘These are the parts you have, and what you could do with them, and the trouble you can get in if you do, and strategies to protect against that.

Peggy Orenstein, the writer of Girls Sex, calls this a fear-based approach to speaking about sex. We make sure kids know about all the things that can go wrong pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases as well as parents we believe we’ve done a good job. As a parent, I would have thought , too, before I started exploring the subject.

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In her study, Orenstein found that this focus on the dangers of sex has contributed to a woeful ignorance about sex and intimacy among adolescents. Specifically, she found that, despite improvements in girls ‘s rights, for many adolescent girls now, sex is more about their partner’s pleasure than their own. Many of the girls I interviewed felt entitled to take part in sex, but didn’t feel entitled to appreciate it, she says.

If parents only highlight the dangers of sex, then kids will be less likely to learn about their own body and their partner’s, and about reciprocity, respect, along with other ingredients that go to a mature, fulfilling relationship.

I have never met a parent who didn’t want their kid to have a happy, healthy sexual relationship, Vernacchio says. But if we only tell them,” ‘no’ because we’re fearful to them, then we’re not giving them the information they need to achieve that objective.

The fact is, if you aren’t speaking to your kids about sex, they are getting advice someplace. And also you ‘re missing a chance to share your values and help shape theirs. In fact, he believes that many disturbing behaviors, like alcohol-fueled hookups, porn addiction, and sexual assault, result from such a honest, open communication about sex between young people and the adults in their own lives. We aren’t speaking to our kids about their worth, about issues like authenticity versus popularity, and about the way you treat other people, he says.

In his book, Vernacchio encourages parents to make a values framework around relationships and sex. When parents talk to their adolescents about sex, they shouldn’t just talk about the mechanisms of sexual reproduction. They should also talk about respect, self-respect, reciprocity, authenticity, honesty, and compassion these are worth you have probably been teaching your children their entire lives, and they are related to healthy sexual relationships, also.

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Parents model and convey lessons on reciprocity, respect, along with other values in everyday life. You can even help your child identify these qualities (or lack of them) in interactions that you see around you. When you overhear an exchange at the table beside you at a restaurant or whenever you’re seeing a movie together, ask questions like, I didn’t like how he spoke to her, did you? Or, They just met and they had sex almost immediately. What do you consider that? Even though your child is uncomfortable or doesn’t reply, questions like these will get your adolescent thinking. It also demonstrates your willingness to openly discuss such issues as well as your admiration for your adolescent ‘s opinion.

We teach our kids life lessons all the time, but we don’t link these fantastic life lessons to novelty, Deborah Roffman points outside. But it’s time we did.

And when your son or daughter flees every time that your try to talk about sex, You have to keep trying, she says. Tell your kid, ‘I have been trying to speak with you about this, and now I am just going to do it. As a parent, you will find things I want you to know. ‘ And start speaking.

Studies show that teens want their parents to speak to them about sex, Vernacchio says. Your kids might earn a large, loud generation out of telling you to move away or to stop speaking, but don’t be duped. They’re listening.

Roffman agrees. Of course teenagers are going to resist their parent’s viewpoint which is the way you become another person. They use their parents’ worth as a reference point. I’ve noticed that kids who understand what their parents’ values are have a simpler time figuring out how their very own.

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Vernacchio never enjoyed this model for sex. He writes For Goodness Sex, It sets up the concept that it’s a match which there are conflicting teams. On one side is an aggressor who’s trying to move deeper into the field, frequently believed to be the boyand on the other side is your girl, whose purpose is to defend her possessions. It’s competitive… someone wins, and somebody loses.

Vernacchio’s new metaphor for sex? Pizza. When two people get together for pizza, they aren’t rival. It’s a shared experience that’s gratifying for both people. There aren’t winners or losers. Instead, Vernacchio points out, the pizza model is all about asking questions: Learning about one’s dating hookup novelty should be about assessing desires and asking and answering questions.

It’s a word that teenagers should hear almost when they reach campus. Nowadays, most colleges have assignments (often mandatory) on sex and consent through faculty orientation. Consent simply suggests that both individuals involved in a sexual experience must agree to it, and person may pick at any given time which they no longer consent, and that they wish to stop the sexual activity.

The prevailing mindset used to be that everything is okay unless another person says no. Now the onus is on whoever wants to take part in behavior to have their partner’s approval. That means both partners need to hear each other obviously say yes.

If you’ve increased your teen to listen to and respect other people, the concept of consent may seem clear, but it’s nevertheless a good idea to research a few of the nuances that could arise in real life situations. The best way to help your teen prepare for particular situations may depend on her or his gender, since girls are more likely to be the goal of sexual aggression and boys to be the aggressor. Discuss potential circumstances, and how to handle them. Can it be consent if another person is so high she can’t walk or so drunk that every person is able to tell she’s had one too many? Should you change your mind in the middle of a sexual experience, what’s the ideal way to communicate it to your partner? If you’re having doubts about going further, what are a few excellent ways to de-escalate a circumstance? Sex educators Roffman and Vernacchio both state parents’ overall messages about sex and consent should be the exact same for both boys and girls. I believe it’s the exact same message: a single standard for everyone, says Roffman. I don’t believe in the sexual double standard: penalizing or perhaps praising boys for behavior girls are vilified for. I believe parents’ message should be about the values they expect their children to bring to all relationships.

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Discussing potential scenarios and approaches will help your teenager plan ahead and be prepared if challenging situations come up. Preparing beforehand is a skill many young men and women apply to professors but to not real life, according to high school sex teacher Charis Denison. Most adolescents wouldn’t think about showing up to get a test without understanding what they were going to be tested on, Denison says in Orenstein’s book. But folks will go to a party with no thought at all, not even of what they don’t want to occur.

When young adults use the expression hookup, it can mean anything from kissing to oral or anal sex to sex, according to Orenstein, plus they’re generally referring to an experience that entails no psychological commitment.

Despite media hype about the uncontrolled hookup culture on college campuses, the real numbers aren’t as high as you may think. Orenstein cites findings from the Online College Social Life Survey, which concludes that percent of college students hook up ten times or more by senior year; percent hook up three times or fewer, and only third of hookups include sex.

Widespread or maybe not, hooking up is a subject parents should talk about using their adolescents. Most adults understand how hard it’s to separate sex and feelings, and many would agree that sex is far better in the context of a loving relationship. All these aren’t ethical judgements about if hooking up is right or wrong, they are simply the conclusions the majority of us achieve, based on our own experiences and the experiences of those around us and as such they are worth discussing with our kids. Whether teens have hooked themselves up, you can be certain they know kids who’ve. Ask them what they believe about sexual encounters with no emotional involvement, and the way they feel about hooking up versus being in a relationship. Discussing these problems will help your teenager reflect on his own worth, and exactly what he wants from the relationships in his life.

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In all of these talks, you’ll want to convey to your kids that they can always turn to you for information and support. The American Sexual Health Association encourages parents to be askable on the subject of sex, which means being approachable rather than getting upset or threatened by whatever questions your adolescent asks. Should you don’t know an answer, tell your kid that, consult a reliable source to seek out (see suggestions below), and discuss what you learn with your adolescent. By creating an open, curious, non-charged environment around the subject of sex, you’ll be able to provide advice your children need when they want it.

In Vernacchio’s experience, parents who do the best job communicating with their teenagers about sex are more concentrated on the thought process than the outcome. If your purpose is to convince your kid to not have sex and you’re fixated on that, you may be let down. The issue isn’t whether or not your kid is going to have sexual intercourse, he says. It’s about how they consider it and also make that choice, he says. Your child may not make the choice you would like them to make, but if they make the choice in a mature, responsible, deliberate way, then you ‘re going to honor the process.

Fortified by my study, I offer to drive my daughter to school one morning. She’s always happy to prevent the bus, so eagerly accepts. As we slowly negotiate the morning traffic, I choose to just start talking. I tell her there are a few things about sex and relationships that I want her to understand.

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When I insist, she informs me, while unraveling her earphones, Okay, you can speak, but I’m not listening!

I launch into my talk, and she puts one earbud in her ear, but lets another dangle loose. She stares straight ahead and doesn’t say much, but I understand she’s listening: she even ends up telling me about a friend who was on birth control and asks a question or . It isn’t a linear conversation actually, it’s more of a monologue, with a couple of reluctant answers from my hostage daughter, and there are numerous things I didn’t have an opportunity to say. Still, I feel great about it. I generated an opening, and it’s going to be easier next time.

That wasn’t so bad, was it?

There’s no shame in looking for help to begin conversations about sex with your adolescent. These books and websites are excellent resources for sparking discussion. Watch Vernacchio’s TED talk about altering the metaphor from baseball to pizza together and move from there. Or navigate (and discuss with your teenager ) any of those books and websites listed below.

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