Why is it so scary for adults to think that people our age (15 and 16 years old) are having sex? Why is it such a big deal even if you’re not religious?
Adults are uncomfortable when teenagers engage in sexual activities (intercourse, oral sex, anal sex, “fingering,” and “hand jobs”) because sex has consequences. Consider this: Most romantic relationships between teens or adults are built on infatuation, not love. Infatuation is a sudden, physical attraction that produces such big feelings that it seduces us into believing it is love, when it is actually just a bad Xerox. With infatuation, sex inspires feelings of intense attachment, so that even when it is clear that the elements necessary for a healthy relationship (see next week’s column) are missing, or when it is obvious that the relationship only causes negative stress, it seems impossible to let go. This creates a roller coaster of feelings that have plenty to do with neurosis, but nothing to do with love. The breakups of infatuation-based relationships are legendary because people often plunge into dark, seemingly unshakeable depressions or act out in some way. Adults want to shield you from this.
Biologically, the portion of the brain responsible for making decisions is not fully developed during the teen years. So teens may engage in risky behavior and not understand why. Plus, most teens believe that if they engage in sexual behavior but don’t technically have intercourse, they’re safe. They have been taught to believe that the worst possible outcome of sex is pregnancy. But all forms of partnered sexual activity can expose you to sexually transmitted illnesses that can be lifelong companions. These can result in sterility and be passed on to other sexual partners, or even to your children during childbirth.
If you become pregnant and abort your baby, it can be devastating, emotionally and spiritually. If you keep your baby but lack a viable income, you are a financial burden to taxpayers. Plus, you’re home with an infant while friends are having fun or attending college.
In teen relationships, sex often is used to secure commitment. Many teenagers believe that sex will bind them to their boyfriend or girlfriend forever. Not true. So if you cannot fathom waiting until you are married, at least delay your sexual activity. Promise yourself that you will wait until college. By that time, you will know yourself better. Then you can assess your choice and determine its worth to you.
I’m 16 years old and have been hanging out with a guy I really like. How do you know how far is too far in a relationship with a guy? (Not including intercourse, which I don’t want yet.)
The best determinant is your feelings. You know that you have gone too far when you feel embarrassed, guilty, shameful, angry, sad or indifferent after sexual activity. You know that you have crossed the too-far line when you are aware that you hoped engaging in sex would make the relationship better, make the guy like you more, etc. Too far is when you feel compelled to hide your sexual behavior from your parents, friends or others. Too far is when it is what he wants, but you’re not certain that it is what you want.
The best way to avoid going too far is to establish your limits before you are with a guy and care enough about yourself to respect those limits while you are with him. Then, stay strong. Tell your guy what your limits are. If he balks or says he’ll go along “for a while,” be willing to let him go. The right guy is the one who does not expect you to compromise your values for him.