What Worries Me
By Lauri Fleischmann Stern
I worry about my daughter. In this age of instant fame, instant messaging and instant information, how will I raise her with a moral code that includes patience? When the media reports that oral sex has become as casual as a handshake, how can I drive home the message that a meaningful relationship takes time?
Today’s teens appear to move at a much faster sexual pace than I did at their age. Not to sound puritanical, but after watching an episode of Gossip Girls, I wonder, “What can I do?” Of course there are channel blockers and computer safety programs, but even songs on the radio today have lyrics like, “I want to take a ride on your disco stick,” with 8-year-olds dancing to the beat in hip hop class. Even if my kids don’t understand what, “slapping that thang” means, the casual recanting of these lyrics must have an impact. Do suggestive lyrics desensitize teens to the idea of reverence and respect in a relationship?
A recent conversation with my daughter would suggest that very idea. During a conversation about the seriousness of oral sex, my daughter repeated a conversation she overheard in the locker room. One girl was reporting that her boyfriend wanted her to shave “down there.” My daughter then noticed that a girl was completely bare. The girl responded to my daughter’s stare with, “Tons of girls are shaving so their guys will be happy.” My daughter said the more she looked around, the more she realized lots of girls were either completely shaved or close to it. “Mom, it’s so gross. Why would anyone want to look like an eight year old?” I was relieved to hear her opinion.
But I was shocked on two levels. My women’s lib argument came first. “A man should never EVER tell a woman to change her body in any way, shape or form to please him.” Back in my day, I chose to shave various areas during swimsuit season so that I wouldn’t look like something out of a hippie manual, and the shaving gave way in my adult years to the longer-lasting, yet more painful waxing. Shaving or not, waxing or not is clearly my choice. Is today’s new reality that Brazilian waxing is normal or worse, necessary to get a guy. And what motivates a teenage boy to want a teenage girl to have no pubic hair and to feel entitled to demand it?
Sexual liberation is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, teenagers who understand sexuality and sexual identity seem to be less inhibited about their bodies and about sexual orientation. However, that freedom comes at a price. This casual perception of sex can undermine the ability to see the value of a serious and meaningful relationship. When my daughter can look around a locker room and pretty much come up with an unscientific survey that suggests lots of girls are having oral sex, what message does that send?
My adult perspective interprets this trend to mean that sexual acts have become no big deal. Aside from the obvious worries – disease and teen pregnancy – what of self-esteem? What of the intrinsic value of a deep, meaningful, long-term relationship? My husband and I want our kids to feel independent and empowered. We give them permission to speak their mind and make their own choices. And we hope that they will make good decisions. Providing them with the freedom to make choices may be healthy and necessary, but it challenges us as parents. I tell them not to fear the unknown, rather, to embrace it, but where sex is concerned, I’d prefer they embrace that very, very, slowly. However, it is their choice to make, and that’s a hard parental pill to swallow.