Teens and sex

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Teens and sex

What We Can Learn From the Dutch About Teen Sex

Teen birth rates are eight times higher in the U.S. than in Holland. Abortion rates are twice as high. The American AIDS rate is three times greater than that of the Dutch. What are they doing right that we're not?

For starters, two-thirds of Dutch parents report allowing their teenage children to have sleepovers with their boyfriend or girlfriend, a situation even the most liberal American parents would rarely permit. Is there something Americans should learn from the Dutch about relaxed attitudes toward sex (and drugs — indeed, the Netherlands has more lenient drug laws than the U.S., but three times lower rates of marijuana use)?

Healthland spoke with Amy Schalet, author of Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens and the Culture of Sex, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst....

Coming out of the sexual revolution, the Dutch really decoupled sex from marriage, but they didn't decouple sex from love. If the first piece is that there weren't these immediate associations of teen sex with danger, the second is that it remained anchored in the concept of steady relationships and young people being in love.

There's a strong belief in the Netherlands that youth can be in love — boys as well as girls — that makes sex in many ways seem safer and more contained because it's embedded in a relationship....

It's become more popular to talk about teaching healthy relationships but a lot of that is about avoiding unhealthy relationships. Of course, that's important. But there's lots of attention to dating violence and very little talk about what it feels like to be in love. One of the things that always surprises people is that one of most popular Dutch sex education curricula is called 'Long Live Love.'


For boys, our culture devalues their impulse to love. But research shows that in the U.S., boys are quite romantic. Other research finds that for girls, recognition of sexual desire and wishes is taboo, so they have fewer tools to assess what's right for them. That makes things very difficult.



North Americans are more hung up on nudity in general. Even so, It used to be traditional:



Apparently done in by prudery, prosperity and central heating.


You'd think something so integral to the survival of our species would be acknowledged in a healthy way.  But no, most of the world is twisted beyond belief when it comes to love, sex, and sexuality - regardless of the age or gender(s) of the people it pertains to.


The idea that the Dutch being more open about sex and teaching about responsbility at an early age versus rendering taboo has led to a decrease in unplanned pregnancies, STDs, etc. is similar to how in, say, Italy and France you don't have the same amount of teenage binge drinking because Italian and French kids are used to being given a bit of wine with dinner from a young age and so when they turn 18 or whatever they don't feel the urge to go out and get hammered on booze.


In our house, information on sex, sexuality and safety are very important, with such information being imparted at an age where our girls have shown us to be ready for the information (they let you know by the questions they ask, and if they trust you they WILL ask those questions).  Even so, our children have to deal with a society that makes sex something salacious and peek-a-boo smutty, girls sexualized at too young an age, and boys the same.  Parents need to work harder at instilling a set of values that will likely clash with the social norm in North America and elsewhere, but it's something that needs to be done in order to give kids a good framework for freedom, control over their choices, and the understanding that while sex does not always have to be within a mutually understood relationship, it needs to be something accompanied with respect for each other and mutual enjoyment.  And condoms.  Lots and lots of condoms :D

I started allowing sleepovers with my eldest daughter and her serious boyfriend when they were in their mid-late teens.  That way I knew they were safe under my roof.  My eldest daughter is much older now, but we still communicate about this stuff (dear god, I get WAY too much information) and are very close.

I just can't see treating love and sex and sexuality with anything but a kind of practical reverence with young people.


Rebecca West wrote:

I started allowing sleepovers with my eldest daughter and her serious boyfriend when they were in their mid-late teens. 

Wow. When I was in my mid-20s and living in another country from my parents, I didn't tell them that I was living with my girlfriend (now wife). As far as they're concerned, we didn't even hold hands until we got married.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture


Teaching Good Sex

Sexuality and Society begins in the fall with a discussion of how to recognize and form your own values, then moves through topics like sexual orientation (occasionally students identify as gay or transgender, Vernacchio said, but in this particular class none did); safer sex; relationships; sexual health; and the emotional and physical terrain of sexual activity. (The standard public-school curriculum sticks to S.T.I.’s and contraceptive methods, and it can go by in a blink; in a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, two-thirds of principals said that the subject was covered in just several class periods.) Vernacchio also teaches a mandatory six-session sexuality course for ninth graders that covers some of the same material presented to the older kids, though less fully.

The lessons that tend to raise eyebrows outside the school, according to Vernacchio, are a medical research video he shows of a woman ejaculating — students are allowed to excuse themselves if they prefer not to watch — and a couple of dozen up-close photographs of vulvas and penises. The photos, Vernacchio said, are intended to show his charges the broad range of what’s out there. “It’s really a process of desensitizing them to what real genitals look like so they’ll be less freaked out by their own and, one day, their partner’s,” he said. What’s interesting, he added, is that both the boys and girls receive the photographs of the penises rather placidly but often insist that the vulvas don’t look “normal.” “They have no point of reference for what a normal, healthy vulva looks like, even their own,” Vernacchio said. The female student-council vice president agreed: “When we did the biology unit, I probably would’ve been able to label just as many of the boys’ body parts as the girls’, which is sad. I mean, you should know about the names of your own body.”

Awesome article.



The opening lines of a poem by W. H.Davies :

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

A 1950's classroom of teenage boys made sure that the reading died in raucous laughter at the end of the 6th line. Would there be hope of completing that poem in a New Millenium classroom in Canada?


[url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vhczugsvlI]You think I'd do it with you 20 feet away?[/url]