Parents and Teens Find it Hard to Talk About Sex

Village Life News: November 21, 1996

By Jason MacNeil

Each generation changes, but basics like human sexuality stay the same. Or so we think. In the era of "Leave It To Beaver," the worst case scenario from sex out of wedlock was an unplanned pregnancy and possible scorn from neighbors. Now it is death.

With the risks of teenage pregnancy and AIDS, Generation X is one of the most open generations in history when it comes to sexuality. But many find sex hard to talk about with their parents. And according to teens, most parents aren't that comfortable either.

"My parents aren't all that open about sex," says Michael Holt, a 16-year old from Newmarket, Ontario. "I honestly don't feel that I can talk to them about anything to do with it. If I wanted to talk to them about it I would just have to ask, but I don't know how they would handle it. They might be embarrassed or something.

"I don't really know why they don't talk to me about it. I guess they just figure that they don't need to. And they don't! School is very informative on the subject matter. I started learning about sex in Grade 4 and have been every year in phys-ed class."

Across the Atlantic in Israel, Oron, a 17-year old, agrees. "Nope! I don't think I can just pop a question about sex," he says. "I hardly can mention the word around my folks.

"For example, my parents and I were watching a movie on television, and they missed the beginning where some lady leaves her boyfriend because she caught him having sex with another woman. When my parents asked what happened in the beginning, I just didn't know what to say."

Everywhere you go and turn, it's there -- sex, sex, and more sex. From advertisements, music, television and magazines, to the Internet.

"The amount of information is shared more rapidly," says Donna Butts of the National Organization of Pregnancy, Parenting and Prevention. "There is an overload of conflicting information that both teens and parents are seeing."

"If you want to look at behavior, I think kids are more informed but at the same time they're more misinformed," says Bonnie Johnson of Planned Parenthood Canada."I think that sexuality is still something that is not discussed in any serious way."

According to a 1994 study, the birth rate among teens is increasing. In Canada, the number is roughly 50 pregnancies per 1,000 young women between 15 and 19. In the U.S., the rate is 116 per 1,000 teens. Since 1987, the rate has increased over 20 per cent. The consequences for teenage mothers include an increased rate of school dropout, resulting down the road in either a low paying job or no job at all.

Another study by the Kaiser Foundation found that teens still look at parents as their primary sex educators but they don't get enough information. And a recent report in Nova Scotia showed many teens are frustrated when it comes to sexuality because they can't talk seriously to anyone. Much of the information they receive comes from their friends and although it may be correct, it is often also coercive.

According to Oron, much of that has to do with the company teens keep. "With my friends there is no competition who was the first to have a girlfriend. I know that another group of friends in my class were very competitive about all this, and sex was a main subject in their discussions."

Johnson says the way teenagers act sexually usually depends on the amount of information available. "We do know they behave responsibly when given the information and access to the services they need in order to behave responsibly. they behave irresponsibly when they have misinformation or no information."

Related Stories:

  • Teen Pregnancies Not Morally Abivalent Subject

  • 'Just Say No' is Rule in Parochial Schools

  • Fla. Public School Program Reduces Pregnancies

  • Churches Share Values in Sexuality Education

  • Exploring the Subject: Links to the Teenage Pregnancy

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