Friday, April 24, 2009

Prom, Teens and Sex

We're driving home after dance class when m 16 1/2 year old daughter tells me she has booked a space for her after-prom, downtown. So I ask if the limousine is going to stick around and drive them home afterwards. No, but that's ok, she said, we're booking a hotel room.

I rapidly look over at her, and back on the road: What? I'm not sure I'm comfortable with you staying in a hotel room by yourselves.

Why not? it's just a bunch of girls.....(shifty look, sideways glance)

Can you look me in the eye and tell me there will be no boys there? I ask outright.

Mom! of course the girls with boyfriends will have them there, but no one else would be trashy enough to do that. What are you so upset about? Don't you trust me? I'm not some kind of whore....

What is it that bothers me? the fact that you're 16 and still a virgin....and by the way, not only trashy girls or whores enjoy having sex.

(we continue to argue for a while about the trust issue, about whether it's her or the situation I don't trust, then shelve the conversation for later, with her dad, who is infinitely calmer than I am).

Am I being too overprotective? perhaps. Did her brother have a prom night, a limo, and an afterprom party? yes, but he came home with the limo driver at 2 am and I met him in the kitchen - I had supplied a bottle of champagne for their after-party, and although he was a little soused, he was still standing, and not too ill. His date had left at midnight (probably a coach turning into a pumpkin, or a limo into a volkswagen rabbit). Is it different for girls? yes!

How to protect our daughters from unwanted sex from inebriated young guys on the look-out for easy pickings is probably the fear behind my protectiveness.

Was I sexually active before 18? you bet. It was the 70's after all. But these days, girls are giving oral sex as easily as a goodnight kiss, according to one author quoted in the Globe & Mail newspaper yesterday. ( Sharlene Azam has made a documentary about the ease with which some girls 'empower themselves' by gaining male attention through sex. Some are even exchanging sex for money, although they don't want to call it prostitution.

Of course, we have a responsibility towards our sons too, to teach them the value of healthy sex versus what they see in movies and on internet porn. Somewhere out there our values as a society have become very twisted - between 'real' life and 'movie' life the lines are blurred. How does a girl/young woman really want to be treated? does she want to be thrown away like a used kleenex? (apparently father-less girls are more at risk, but mothers cannot bury their heads in the sand and pretend they don't see what's going on)

Girls may think they can have sex without consequences, without needing caring and affection in return, but they are misguided. It usually ends with a feeling of being used, of emptiness. We have it built into us to make bonds, create lasting relationships, not casual hook-ups.

I haven't decided yet what to tell my daughter - I need to discuss it calmly and rationally with her father - but we will be talking openly about self-esteem, self-love, alcohol and boundaries. Two close relatives of mine had teen pregnancies, and I suppose I am too aware that once is all it takes. Not to mention all the other consequences of unprotected sex....

I welcome any comments or helpful advice from readers on this touchy topic,



childfreelife said...

I think you should tell your daughter you trust her but that you worry about rape. Tell her not to go into places alone with boys she doesn't trust, tell her to drink only two servings of alcohol, but you would prefer she not drink at all. Tell her that girls who get drunk and pass out often get raped. Tell her to watch out for her friends too, that a sisterhood of preventing rape is good.

Tell her that if she does want to have sex, how to get birth control and good new condoms. Tell her she can come to you or go on her own to get these things. Tell her if she ever gets raped or has a birth control failure that you will help her get the morning after pill no question, that the morning after pill is hard to get.

Tell her you don't think having sex makes someone a whore or a slut--but that casual sex can sometimes leave a woman feeling used and unhappy and you would prefer if she didn't have sex until she was in love.

That is my opinion. It worked for me and my mom and for other girls I have mentored. (I don't have kids, but I help a lot of kids out)

Amy Sedgwick said...

I think the above comment is well put. My daughter is only three years old so I am fortunate to have a little time ahead of me to sort out my responses to these inevitable issues, but I agree that one of the number one things is to offer trust. Two years ago we took in my husband's young cousin and I feel that always beginning with the assumption that he would make good decisions enabled him to rise to the occasion. I also know that my mom always acted like she trusted me and this served me well in my own decision-making. I think the other big element is ensuring our daughters respect themselves and their bodies. If they take ownership for their bodies and feel good about themselves, they will make decisions that are respectful of themselves. I teach menstrual cycle charting to women and I intend to teach it to my daughter from an early age. It builds body literacy, an awareness of our fertility, and a deep respect for our rhythms and sacredness. It is my hope that by teaching these skills to my daughter, I will provide her with the best decision-making skill of all - an ability to connect to our bodily intuition. I wish you and your daughter the best of luck and look forward to hearing about the thoughtful and respectful decisions you both make!

Jennifer Boire said...

Dear childfree and Amy, thanks to both of you for your thoughtful comments. One needs to step back a bit from the emotional involvement to see things clearly - you have helped me do this. I definitely want to let her feel trusted and respected, and know that she will trust and respect herself.