Archive | September, 2010

The Smart Dutch Take on Teen Sex…

10 Sep

Provocative title for sure, but once the shock of this article passes, the conclusion can be made that the Dutch certainly get teen sex right.

Abstinence-only-until-marriage education is definitely on the rise in United States, despite the fact that study after study has conclusively shown that abstinence-only sex ed not only doesn’t postpone sex among teens, but makes them less likely to use birth control and/or condoms because they’ve been told that either carrying a condom makes them a slut, or that birth control in general is ineffective; both of which are complete lies of course. The Netherlands takes on the whole “morality” cause, putting more emphasis on teens being “ready” for sex when they do eventually have it, instead of demonizing and slutifying sex. I have to admit the idea of allowing my son or daughter to have their boyfriend or girlfriend sleep over at my house is going a little too far. I’m not Dutch afterall, but this article makes a good point:

 “Dutch parents, by contrast, downplay the dangerous and difficult sides of teenage sexuality, tending to normalize it. They speak of readiness (er aan toe zijn), a process of becoming physically and emotionally ready for sex that they believe young people can self-regulate, provided they’ve been encouraged to pace themselves and prepare adequately. Rather than emphasizing gender battles, Dutch parents talk about sexuality as emerging from relationships and are strikingly silent about gender conflicts.”

 The gender angle is an interesting one and certainly a perspective I appreciate, coming from a gender studies background. In Western cultures, such as ourselves, we have an unhealthy obsession with girls’ virginity and often associate morality with sexuality. For example, it’s the notion than as long as you’re not a slut, you are moral and righteous person. We all know this isn’t the case.

Young people have a right to privacy, a right to explore their own sexuality on their own timetable and with whomever and with however many people they want. Parents have an obligation to educate their children on how to avoid the negative consequences of being sexually active, how to be assertive when it comes to practicing safe sex and avoiding pregnancy. The focus should be on teaching your child to wait until they are ready, whether that be at 15 years old or 28. Sex should be celebrated, not demonized.

The best piece of advice regarding sex I’ve ever had given to me came from my church: your level of physical intimacy should match your level of emotional intimacy and readiness. Which is to say you shouldn’t just jump in bed with every person who winks at you, but you also shouldn’t judge yourself too harshly for enjoying an act that’s as natural as eating or sleeping. Sex within a committed, monogamous relationship, regardless of marital status, is not a bad thing. These are the positive messages we should be feeding our children. Maybe if we did, our teen pregnancy would be an eight of what it currently is, maybe someday we’ll have a teen pregnancy rate as low as the Dutch.