Let’s Talk (with our kids) About Sex

The joke goes like this… A father says to his son, “I would like to talk to you about sex.” To which the son says, “Sure Dad, what do you want to know?”  Recent research suggests that kids know and have experienced much more at a younger age than most parents realize.

Yesterday U.S. News and world report published an article detailing the findings of a new survey of 7th graders. The study was co-sponsored by the Blue Shield of California Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Futures Without Violence. Researchers polled 1,430 students,half boys and half girls of every ethnicity, in five cities and the results are appalling.

The survey defined teen dating violence as any form of physical, sexual or emotional violence occurring within the context of dating. Psychological violence includes controlling behaviors, such as not allowing a girlfriend or boyfriend to do things with other people. Electronic violence covers bullying and name-calling online or via texts, and physical violence includes pushing, grabbing or kicking one’s partner.

Asked about these and other behaviors in the previous six months:

  • Thirty-seven percent said that they had seen boys or girls being physically abusive towards their dating partner. About one-quarter had a male or female friend who was physically violent to a partner, and more than 20 percent had a friend whose partner was physically violent to him or her.
  • Forty-nine percent said they had been sexually harassed, either physically or verbally, by being touched inappropriately or joked about.
  • Seven percent strongly agreed that it was okay for a boy to hit his girlfriend under certain circumstances, such as “a girl who makes her boyfriend jealous on purpose.” Interestingly, 50 percent strongly agreed that it was OK for a girl to hit her boyfriend in the same situation.
  • Sixty-three percent agreed with what the pollsters considered a “harmful stereotype” about gender, such as “girls are always trying to get boys to do what they want” or “With boyfriends and girlfriends, boys should be smarter than girls.”

WHAT? I am not even sure where to start. First let me remind you, these are 11-14 year olds, who are “dating”.  It is shocking.

Another study done in 2008 yielded these results:

Dating relationships begin much earlier than adults realize.

  • 47% of tweens and 37% of 11 and 12-year olds say they’ve been in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship.
  • 72% say dating relationships begin by age 14.

Nearly one-third of tweens and parents say sexual activity is a part of tween dating relationships.
Specifically, the percentage of tweens and parents identified below acknowledge the following acts as part of a dating relationship:

  • Touching and feeling up – 37% of tweens and 31% of parents
  • Oral sex – 27% of tweens and 26% of parents
  • Sexual intercourse – 28% of tweens and 26% of parents

Tweens in relationships report sexual activity among their peer group.

  • 47% know a friend or someone their age who has touched and felt up a partner.
  • 31% know a friend or peer who has had oral sex.
  • 33% know a friend or peer who has had sexual intercourse.

Parents continue to believe ‘it’s not my child.’
Of the parents who say that sex is part of a tween relationship:

  • 59% know that their child has kissed a boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • 17% know their child has made out with a partner.
  • Only 7% say their child has gone further than kissing or making out.

Parents think they know what’s up, but many don’t have any idea.

  • More than three times as many tweens (20%) as parents (6%) admit that parents know little or nothing about the tweens’ dating relationships.
  • Twice as many tweens report having “hooked up” with a partner (17%) as parents reported of their own 11-14 year old child (8%).
  • Parents are largely unaware of the reality of tween dating abuse.
  • Only 12% of parents (compared with 23% of tweens) know someone their son’s/daughter’s age who has had a boyfriend/girlfriend threaten to spread rumors about them if he/she didn’t do what the other person wanted.
  • One in four parents (24% – compared with 40% of all tweens) know someone their son’s/daughter’s age who has been called names or put down by a boyfriend/girlfriend.
  • Only 22% of parents (compared with 36% of all tweens) know someone their son’s/daughter’s age who has been verbally abused (called stupid, worthless, ugly, etc.) by a boyfriend/girlfriend.
  • Abuse via tech-devices is much more prevalent than most parents realize.
  • Nearly twice as many tweens as parents know someone between the ages of 11-14 who has been checked up on by calling their cell phone more than 10 times per day (15% parents vs. 28% tweens) or texting them more than 20 times per day (13% parents vs. 24% tweens).

Look to your right and to your left at the next PTA meeting. At least one of the three of you is in serious denial. CNN recently reported that 10% of tweens have “sexted”. Other sources give thesse statistics on pornography use among tweens and teens:

  • Average age of first pornography exposure with boys is age 10-13
  • Average age of first pornography exposure for girls is age 11-14
  • Average age of first Internet porn exposure is 11 years old
  • 90% of 8- to 16-year-olds have viewed porn online
  • 80% of 15- to 17-year-olds have been victims of multiple hard-core porn exposure

Also,

  • By the time your child is 15… 25% of girls and 30% of boys have had sex
  • By the end of 9th grade…21% of them have slept with four or more partners
  • 50% of 17 year olds have had sex
  • 80% of teens have sex by age 19
  • 55% of teens ages 13-19 have engaged in oral sex

And if you are a Christian (as I am) and you think this protects or inoculates your child in some way, think again. According to a prior issue of World Magazine, a bi-weekly publication that reports the news from a conservative evangelical Protestant worldview,

Statistically, evangelical teens tend to have sex first at a younger age, 16.3, compared to liberal Protestants, who tend to lose their virginity at 16.7. And young evangelicals are far more likely to have had three or more sexual partners (13.7 percent) than non-evangelicals (8.9 percent).

And in 2003 Northern Kentucky University study showed,

61% of students who signed sexual-abstinence commitment cards broke their pledges. Of the remaining 39% who kept their pledges, 55% said they’d had oral sex, and did not consider oral sex to be sex. A roughly equivalent percentage of self-identified evangelical college students said they do not consider anal intercourse to be sex.

All I can say is parents and adults in general need to wake up and smell the coffee. This is part of the reason why Kent and I have always taken the approach of talking to our kids early and often (in an age appropriate fashion) about sex, pornography and abuse. When my son first heard the song Centerfold by the J Giles Band, we talked about pornography. When my daughter asks what Miranda Lambert‘s Gunpowder and Lead means, we talk to them about abuse. When she wants to know “why that woman is crying” and I have to explain acid attacks and honor killings. When they ask about babies, we tell them (wait for it…) the truth. SOMEONE or SOME WEB SITE will teach your child about sex. I want my kids to hear the truth from me. FIRST. I don’t want to just be damage control after the fact.

My 9 year old daughter and 10 year old son already know:

  • The mechanics of sex and where babies “come from”
  • That sex is a beautiful thing that they should want to do with the person they marry. (I never tell them it is dirty or awful or something they should not want to do. Mainly because those are lies and I try NEVER to lie to my kids)
  • What abuse is and that it is NEVER okay
  • What pornography is and why it is harmful
  • That women are equal. I have also taught my daughter never to play dumb to get a boy to like her.
  • How to protect themselves from online predators

Next on our family agenda is to talk to them about masturbation and oral sex. I know some of you parents out there are cringing at the idea of talking to your kids about these topics, but you MUST do it. If you don’t there are people lined up waiting to do it for you.  The time to do it is BEFORE they are chin deep in hormones. BEFORE they have heard about it from anyone else. Our kids know that we tell them the truth about whatever topic we are discussing. They know now and always that they can come to us for the straight skinny. When some kid tries to talk my daughter into something she doesn’t want to do, she will have the information and the tools and the support to stand up for herself. My son does not have to wonder if something his friends tell him about sex is right, because he already knows. Please, Please, do not wait! Start talking to your kids today. It is not as scary as you think. We have to stop lying to ourselves that our kids aren’t the ones. They are. If your child is over 11 it is likely that they already know more than you think.

If you are a teen or tween who is a victim of dating abuse there is help available. Go to a parent, teacher or other adult you trust. You can also go to loveisrespect.org for help and advice. This is also an excellent resource for parents, teens and anyone else who wants to get educated or get involved.

(and yes, I do know the video is from Planned Parenthood, it is a good video)

Some are More Equal than Others

Today I received the latest e-newsletter from Christians for Biblical Equality (subscribe here, current issue here). It is always filled with good informative articles. Also, their quarterly academic journal Priscilla Papers are an amazing resource.

Anyway, as I was reading it over today, I came across a quote from a blog on Red Letter Christians by Jenny Rae Armstrong (read the blog post here) who said,

According to the Centers for Disease Control, one out of every four girls has been sexually molested by the time she turns 14. (Stop for a moment and let that sink in. One in four of our precious little girls.) One in six women has been a victim of attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, and approximately 7.8 million women have been raped by a boyfriend, husband, or significant other. According to estimates from the US Department of Justice, fewer than half of all rapes are reported to the police, and only one out of twenty rapists ever spends a day in jail for their crimes.

What this tells me is that the problem isn’t histrionic shepherdesses crying wolf. Most of them never even make a peep. The real problem is that the flocks are teeming with wolves, and women are afraid to speak up for fear of getting their throats torn out. Liar. Hussy. Shameful. Slut. Everyone will hate you if you tell.

Too often, we’re proving the wolves right.

Friends, sexual harassment is a serious issue. As Christians, we need to stop minimizing these evils and listen carefully to what the victims have to say. Even when it costs us something. Even when it makes us uncomfortable. And rest assured, it probably will.

1 in 4 before 14, 1 in 6 in her lifetime, fewer than half are reported to authorities & only 1 in 20 spends time in jail. And this is in the United States. This got me to thinking about the state of violence against women world-wide. I wasn’t going to post all the numbers but then I couldn’t decide which to cut so here is most of the article available from The United Nations:

Violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions. Based on country data available, up to 70 percent of women experience physical or sexual violence from men in their lifetime — the majority by husbands, intimate partners or someone they know.

Among women aged between 15 and 44, acts of violence cause more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined. Perhaps the most pervasive human rights violation that we know today, violence against women devastates lives, fractures communities, and stalls development.

It takes many forms and occurs in many places — domestic violence in the home, sexual abuse of girls in schools, sexual harassment at work, rape by husbands or strangers, in refugee camps or as a tactic of war.

Femicide

In the United States, one-third of women murdered each year are killed by intimate partners.
In South Africa, a woman is killed every 6 hours by an intimate partner.
In India, 22 women were killed each day in dowry-related murders in 2007.
In Guatemala, two women are murdered, on average, each day.

Trafficking

Women and girls comprise 80 percent of the estimated 800,000 people trafficked annually, with the majority (79 percent) trafficked for sexual exploitation.

Harmful Practices

Approximately 100 to 140 million girls and women in the world have experienced female genital mutilation/cutting, with more than 3 million girls in Africa annually at risk of the practice.
More than 60 million girls worldwide are child brides, married before the age of 18, primarily in South Asia (31.1 million and Sub-Saharan Africa (14.1 million).

Sexual Violence against Women and Girls

An estimated 150 million girls under 18 suffered some form of sexual violence in 2002 alone.
As many as 1 in 4 women experience physical and/or sexual violence during pregnancy which increases the likelihood of having a miscarriage, still birth and abortion.
Up to 53 percent of women physically abused by their intimate partners are being kicked or punched in the abdomen.
In Sao Paulo, Brazil, a woman is assaulted every 15 seconds.
In Ecuador, adolescent girls reporting sexual violence in school identified teachers as the perpetrator in 37 percent of cases.

Rape as a method of warfare

Approximately 250,000 to 500,000 women and girls were raped in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
In eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, at least 200,000 cases of sexual violence, mostly involving women and girls, have been documented since 1996, though the actual numbers are considered to be much higher.

Cost of Violence against Women

Domestic violence alone cost approximately USD 1.16 billion in Canada and USD 5.8 billion in the United States. In Australia, violence against women and children costs an estimated USD 11.38 billion per year.

Sexual Harassment

Between 40 and 50 percent of women in European Union countries experience unwanted sexual advancements, physical contact or other forms of sexual harassment at their workplace.
In the United States, 83 percent of girls aged 12 to 16 experienced some form of sexual harassment in public schools.

Church, this should NOT be so. Therefore, it is my commitment to in my corner of the world to say no more. I will encourage women to come forward. I will defend them against those who would call them “Liar. Hussy. Shameful. Slut.” and I will resist the ugly place in my heart that would call them that myself.

There is a concept called synchronicity which is according to dictionary.com, “an apparently meaningful coincidence in time of two or more similar or identical events that are causally unrelated.” I experienced this today when I first saw the Arise Newsletter. I immediately thought of our Novitas life group discussion from last night about helping our community by volunteering at Brighter Tomorrows (a local battered women’s shelter). I am more committed than ever to volunteer at this shelter in some capacity in the coming year. The church must be an agent for change on behalf of women where violence is concerned whenever and wherever possible.

Sadly, the church has a less than stellar record when it comes to its stance on violence against women. Even though (I would hope) most people would say they are staunchly opposed to all violence against women, too often women are told if they would just do a better job of submitting, their husband wouldn’t hit them or emotionally abuse them. Or worse yet, a popular book on submission “Created to Be His Helpmeet” which says on Page 270: [In a discussion of enduring abuse in silence:] “Women who threaten to report him to the law,’… are rebellious. They will never make it to the hall of fame found in Hebrews 11, where Sara was listed, nor will they make it into a heavenly marriage here on earth. They will go to their graves unloved and uncherished, a total failure as the woman God called them to be.” In a book I read last year by J Lee Grady, 10 Lies the Church Tells Women,  he discusses a comprehensive study done in the mid 80’s by clinical psychologist Jim M. Alsdurf (Fuller Theological Seminary) in which 5700 Protestant pastors in the U.S. and Canada were surveyed. The study found:

  • 26% said they normally tell a woman who is abused by her husband that she should continue to submit to him “and to trust that God would honor her action by either stopping the abuse or giving her the strength to endure it.”
  • About 25% said a lack of submissiveness in the wife is what triggered the violence in the first place.
  • 71% said they would never advise a battered wife to leave her husband or separate because of abuse
  • 92% said they would never counsel a battered wife to seek divorce.

Shocking. I have even heard of women who were told that even if their husband’s abuse results in her death that God will reward her for her obedience. Oh, hell no. I think that makes God sick. I just envision him screaming through his tears, “NO! NO! NO!”  I can only hope that these numbers have changed dramatically in the last 30 years. Sadly, it is my fear that they have not. Books continue to come out and people continue to preach doctrines that implicitly if not explicitly teach that women are equal to men in the same way that the pigs in George Orwell’s Animal Farm so eloquently put it, “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”