Three Reasons I Speak to Young People About Waiting for Sex

By Julia Feeser

why i speak to young people about sex

You don’t often hear people say they want to spend their time talking to teens about waiting for sex.

For many people this would actually be their worst nightmare. Nothing sounds more embarrassing and anxiety-inducing than standing in front of a group of teens living in today’s sex-saturated world and trying to tell them about the benefits of not having sex. You imagine the bored, uninterested looks on their faces, the whispers to their friends, the smirks as you try to carefully explain why a condom does not in fact protect against the emotional consequences of sex. Just thinking about it makes your palms go all sweaty, and being in a submerged cage with a great white shark nearby feels preferable to this situation.

For me, this is a reality through my job as a sexual integrity presenter in a high school health class. So why on earth would I put myself through this week after week?

During college, I somehow developed a desire to speak to young people (primarily teenage girls) about sex. When I would tell others this, their eyes would grow wide and they would ask increduously, “Why?” 

Why, indeed.

Here are three reasons I chose to speak to young people about waiting for sex:

I wanted to be a different voice for this topic. 

Abstinence instructors get an enormously bad rap and some of it is justified (like when instructors use incredibly deragatory illustrations to describe people who’ve had sex). The biggest argument against abstinence instructors and organizations is that an abstince-only approach does not delay sexual activity (as opposed to a comprehensive approach).

Abstinence programs have also struggled throughout the years to not come across as cheesy, ignorant of reality, and fear and shame-based.

With this kind of reputation, it’s no wonder people aren’t stoked to hear someone speak about waiting for sex.

I wanted to be a voice that didn’t induce shame but affirmed the students as empowered people who have the ability to make good decisions for themselves, regardless of where they’ve been.

I wanted to give them the chance to see that waiting isn’t about a set of rules or being “better” than other people, but instead about knowing sexual activity is matter of integrity. I wanted them to be able to see another side, to choose to have integrity with their own emotional and physical health, and the health of their partners. I didn’t want to shame them or scare them into not having sex; I wanted to positively offer the truth that waiting for sex is the healthiest choice they can make.

I wanted to counteract the unrealistic ideas I had been given about waiting. 

Waiting for sex is not about ignoring the reality that  you are a sexual being and desire to have sex. That is real, and that is good. Instead, it’s about embracing that reality and reinforcing its importance by striving to experience sex in the healthiest context possible.

When I was growing up, some (probably) well-meaning adults and books written by (probably) well-meaning adults gave me some really unhelpful advice about waiting for sex. Most of it consisted of setting clear physical boundaries. A majority of content revolved around intense feelings of guilt if you did so much as kiss another person.

Setting physical boundaries with someone is important, but let’s be real: physical boundaries only get you so far.

Waiting for sex is about more than telling yourself, “Okay, I’m definitely not going past this line.” This is great a great way to set up expectations for yourself and your partner, but if boundaries are the only thing keeping you waiting for sex, you probably won’t be able to wait for very long.

Waiting for sex is about letting the bigger picture of sex manifest itself in your goals and your relationships. Physical boundaries play one role among a bigger purpose, and one without the other will make for a very difficult journey.

I also received a lot of advice that seemed to last only so far. As in, until I stopped being a teenager.

I wanted to be able to inform teens on how to make good choices now, but I also wanted to empower them to know their journey in waiting for sex would look different over the years as they grew older and entered different relationships.

For instance, waiting to have sex with a boyfriend/girlfriend in high school was going to be a different situation than waiting for sex two years out of college during a serious relationship with no parental supervision. I wanted teens to know that if they really wanted to wait, they were going to have to learn to adapt and manifest this goal through different life circumstances.

I wanted teens to know their value is not conditionally based. 

This may be the most important thing I hope to get across to the young people who sit before me in a classroom.

Particularly for young women, there is a lingering idea that their value as a person declines the moment they have sex outside of marriage. And for young Christian women, this idea is especially perpetuated as sex and marriage become an idol.

For me, I began to believe that my virginity was the most important thing about myself I had to offer to a future husband. I now know how very untrue this is.

Yes, waiting for sex is an incredibly important and valuable thing to do, but there is so much more to who we are as people than whether or not we are virgins on our wedding night.

I want teens to know that if they have already had sex or experimented with sexual activity, their ultimate worth as a person has not diminished because of who God has already declared every single one of us to be if we choose to accept this identity in him.

This truth does not mean we should just do whatever we want sexually, but it does mean that if we do fall short God’s grace still declares us worthy and, if we allow it, empowers us to start over from exactly where we’re at.

Teens deserve to have a conversation about waiting for sex that meets them where they’re at with compassion, humility, and forthrightness. I want to be that person and offer myself as an adult who’s not only been there but believes in the people they are and are growing into.

This is why I speak to young people about waiting for sex.

Convincing Has No Place in Conversations About Consent

By Amy Juran

Consent

I was watching a spoof about sex ed by John Oliver the other night.

While a lot of the content was primarily humorous, I was very intrigued when they took a good chunk of the segment to talk about consent.  They showed some hilariously outdated clips about a boy asking a girl to have sex and the girl answering with various versions of “no.”  Each time, the boy responded with either a plea to reconsider, or an eye roll of irritation.

Though my views and opinions aren’t completely aligned with Oliver’s (to see what I mean, watch the spoof here *Graphic language and some content*), I was impressed by his reaction to the videos. Like me, Oliver was appalled by the fact that this girl was getting coached as to how to say “no”confidently, while no one was reprimanding the boy about being disrespectful of her wishes.  I think our culture has emphasized how to stand up for ourselves while failing to teach us how to recognize the signals we are getting from others.

When it comes to sex and physical intimacy, convincing someone to do these things should never be part of the scenario.

You shouldn’t have to talk them into being on board with something, nor should you take it upon yourself to interpret their words how you think they might have meant them. Under no circumstances does “no” translate to “yes.” Saying “no” isn’t being coy or playing games. “No” means no. Period.

And this goes for having sex, kissing, or holding hands while walking down the street; if one person isn’t totally comfortable with something, that is the final word.

An article from Love is Respect defines consent as “communicating every step of the way.”  Even if you have established boundaries as a couple, it’s possible feelings can change. It’s important to continue having open conversations even if you’ve been together for a while.

If you are the one who is uncomfortable with the direction that a physical situation is going, you must be assertive. Dropping subtle hints or passively protesting a behavior may not get the message across entirely.  Even if you feel that you are past the point of no return, you are never obligated to continue any activity you are not okay with.

On the other side, don’t ever assume that a behavior is consent to go further.  Even if someone is wearing suggestive clothing, or being flirty and forward, that is not code for what they are willing to do sexually.  Verbal communication is the only way to confidently know what both people are comfortable pursuing.

All of this talking and checking in can feel akward, but ultimately it will lead to the freedom that comes with confidently knowing the other person is comfortable. When no boundaries are being crossed or feelings being hurt, it can make relationships so much healthier and stronger.  It builds trust between both people, and completely eliminates the possibility of someone misinterpreting the other’s actions.

How have you handled conversations about consent? What worked well? 

Culture’s Newest Curse Word

There was a time not to long ago that I remember going somewhere like a doctor’s office with my parents and being asked to wait patiently. Waiting seemed to be something I did a lot of as a child. It seemed everywhere we went we would spend a certain amount of time waiting. Today, however, waiting seems to be a lost concept.

When I go to the doctor’s office today everyone is on a cell phone playing games, answering email, or watching a video. No one is just ‘waiting’ like I did when I was a kid. I see this at restaurants, hospitals, parks (as children play), and just about every other place I go.

Waiting has become a curse word. People cringe when they hear it.

Learning to wait is an exercise. It takes practice. Unfortunately the world around us very rarely allows for this discipline to take place. In fact, one teenager I was speaking to summed it up perfectly when he said ‘I never wait.’

Our lack of waiting is having an impact.

Most of this is due too the fact that a growing number of teens own smart phones. In fact, owning a smart phone has become a rite of passage (even more important than getting a drivers license, as is evident from a recent NPR article). A smart phone provides 24/7 access to a number of activities meaning a teen never has to wait to be entertained.

We also see this in how we watch TV. An entire season of some of the more popular shows like Empire, Better Call Saul, and The Walking Dead are all between 10-12 episodes that show over a 3-month period. Just a few years ago an entire season would span over 6-8 months and include close to 25 episodes. Today’s audiences are unable to sit and wait for the plot to develop, which is why seasons are shortened so we can get to the end quicker. We can’t wait for it! In fact, a whole new term for watching shows has been developed…it’s called binge watching.

Last year Hollywood released a movie called Boyhood that took over 12 years to film. Every actor was seen through three distinct time periods in a young boys life. The patience and the commitment it took from the actors, the producers, and the director to make this movie is incredible. It gives me hope.

 

Waiting needs to be…..

 

Wait for it…

 

Wait….

 

…..taught and modeled. It needs to be a part of our every day vernacular. It needs to be something seen on TV and in the movies. Not in the plot but in how that plot develops over an entire season. It needs to be seen in how we spend our downtime.

There are physical reasons for waiting. It teaches our bodies to sit and be still. To learn how to engage the world around us without always having to be entertained

There are emotional reasons for waiting. When we don’t display every life detail on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and Vine we leave opportunity for self-discovery.

There are relational reasons for waiting. We hurt in isolation but heal in community. This doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time.

We need to relearn this idea of “waiting” and begin the process of removing the stigma that has made it so akin to a curse word in our vernacular.

These Facts About Sexting Might Make You Rethink Pressing “Send”

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Sexting. It’s a buzzword that has become synonymous with irresponsibility or promiscuity, something we know exists and yet we don’t quite want to openly acknowledge, kind of like not really wanting to admit that frozen yogurt doesn’t actually contain less sugar than plain old ice cream.

But here’s the exposed truth about sexting: It DOES exist, and it’s something most teens will participate in or face sometime in their young years.

11 facts you need to know about sexting:

  1. Teenage girls have a few reasons for why they participate in sexting: 40% do it as a joke, 34% do it to feel sexy, and 12% feel pressured to do it.
  2. 17% of sexters share the messages they receive with others, and 55% of those share them with more than one person.
  3. While nearly 70% of teen boys and girls who sext do so with their girlfriend or boyfriend, 61% of all sexters who have sent nude images admit that they were pressured to do it at least once.
  4. Nearly 40% of all teenagers have posted or sent sexually suggestive messages, but this practice is more common among boys than girls.
  5. Sending semi-nude or nude photos is more common among teens girls. 22% of teen girls report sending images of this nature, while only 18% of same-age boys have.
  6. 15% of teens who have sent or posted nude/semi-nude images of themselves send these messages to people they have never met, but know from the Internet.
  7. Sending or receiving a sexually suggestive text or image under the age of 18 is considered child pornography and can result in criminal charges.
  8. 24% of high-school age teens (ages 14 to 17) and 33% of college-age students (ages 18 to 24) have been involved in a form of nude sexting.
  9. Sexting is defined by the U.S. court system as “an act of sending sexually explicit materials through mobile phones.” The messages may be text, photo, or video.
  10. In the U.S., 8 states have enacted bills to protect minors from sexting, and an additional 13 states have proposed bills to legislation.
  11. 11% of teen girls ages 13 to 16 have been involved with sending or receiving sexually explicit messages.

Folks, underage sexting is NOT COOL! While sexting might seem like a better alternative than real, in-person physicality, sexting does nothing to lessen the temptation of going too far when you’re actually in the same room with that person. And sending a picture to someone you may or may not know, who may or may not show that picture to other people, and who may or may not still have that photo for months or maybe even years after you regretted sending it? Just plain risky (and in some cases, illegal – see #7). And, let’s face it, stupid.

Get the citations here.