“Carolyn, don’t have sex.” That was the birds-and-the-bees talk I got from my Mom. I was 22. If only she’d told me that when I was 16, the year I lost my virginity. (While listening to Somebody by Depeche Mode on repeat, I might add. Though I think it only took one rendition of the song.) It was the early 90’s and my first love and I were tragically star-crossed. I felt guilty after we had sex – thank you, Catholicism – so he broke up with me while DJing at the local college radio station. He dedicated U2’s You’re So Cruel to me by saying, “This is for Carolyn. She’ll know what it means.” My heart was broken, but it’s okay. We’re Facebook friends now.
My mother didn’t talk to me about sex before age 22 because she just didn’t think I was interested or capable before then. It turns out, she’s not alone. MSNBC recently reported on a study published in the May issue of Symbolic Interaction that asserts most parents don’t believe their teenagers want to or will have sex.
Sinikka Elliott, an assistant professor of sociology at North Carolina State University and the author of the forthcoming book, Not My Kid: Parents and Teen Sexuality, found that despite thinking their own kids won’t have sex, parents “view their teens’ peers as highly sexual, even sexually predatory.”
It seems mothers are concerned that teens of the opposite gender will lure/force their otherwise angelic children into sex. (In this heteronormative view, females do the luring and males do the forcing.) Elliott’s criticism of this mindset is astute. She asserts, “This binary thinking does more than simply establish their teens as asexual and, therefore, good; it also creates a scenario in which their teenagers are imperiled by their peers. By using sexual stereotypes to absolve their children of responsibility for sexual activity, the parents effectively reinforce those same stereotypes.”
I remember very clearly how I felt “doing it” for the first time. My boyfriend and I had been unofficially together for two years and hot and heavy for about six months. I suggested we go all the way, he asked me if I was sure. It was very tender and silly and sweet, like I imagine most first-times to be. Before pointing fingers and blaming someone else’s kid for seducing your child, let’s remember the OGs of star-crossed love, Romeo and Juliet. “Palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss” and all that horny, romantic, teenage bs. It takes two to tango, kids. And as Bob Seger sang, “Everybody wants to do the horizontal bop.”