I know the last thing you want me to talk to you about is sex. I know that I could abandon the whole thing and just hope that the education you get about it from school and your friends (and a book or two I might strategically provide) is enough, but I’ve decided to come at this head-on instead. It’s the least I can do for the two most important people in my life.
I am under no illusion that you want details of my past sexual experiences and, frankly, I don’t want to know about yours, either. I do, however, want to encourage you to think a lot about what sex means to you and I want you to understand a few key things.
1. “Sex” encompasses a pretty broad category of behaviors.
When I was your age, I defined sex as something that could potentially result in a baby: basic missionary-style, penis-in-vagina stuff. This led to a couple of errors; first, that any kind of sex act that couldn’t produce offspring wasn’t “really” sex and, second, that the worst thing that could happen was getting pregnant before marriage. In that light, so long as I avoided pregnancy, things would be okay.
Nobody told me that those other sexual acts could be just as weighty as “The Real Thing,” that these alternative types of intimate contact were likely to produce just as many conflicted and pleasurable feelings.
2. Sex is a normal, healthy part of life when you choose it freely.
The tricky part is the second half of that phrase. Choosing sex freely doesn’t mean agreeing to do something because you think you are the only one of your close friends who hasn’t done it yet. Choosing sex freely doesn’t mean pleasuring someone else because you “owe them” or you don’t want to disappoint them or “leave them hanging.” Unfortunately, it also doesn’t mean blindly riding the wave of physical pleasure that starts with kissing or hand-holding without at some point (or several points) asking yourself, “Am I ready to go farther than this?”
Choosing sex means that you know the risks and you are forging ahead without reservation. You’re going ahead because you feel a connection with this other person and you trust that the only agenda for both of you is expressing your feelings for each other in a mutually respectful way. Choosing sex freely means that you have asked yourself the question, “Why am I doing this?” and answered honestly.
3. Making clear decisions about things like sex when you are a teenager is a challenge.
Your brain has been hijacked by emotional Stormtroopers that are holding your powers of logic hostage. Do yourself a favor and think about sex when you’re alone in your room in the light of day. Remember that the most important person here is you and the most important voice is your own. And if you get into a situation where your mental preparation eludes you, listen to your gut. If it’s twisting in fear and the hair is rising on the back of your neck or you simply feel unsure, take a breath and stop. Your gut is always right and there will be time to try again when you’re ready.
4. You will make mistakes.
We all do. We all make choices that seem utterly ridiculous twelve hours later. At least once in your life, you are likely to choose intimacy with someone for the wrong reasons and regret it later. Breathe. Learn from it. Move on. Arm yourself with information and a plan to prevent STDs and unintended pregnancy.