I received a Facebook message by a student in Norway who saw my TEDx talk on Teen Sex, the Hook-up Culture.
Her name is Zofia Nowak (she gave me permission to use her name) and she asked me very insightful questions for a school report that may be of interest to you so here is my response:
HI ZOFIA, WOW, THAT’S A LOT OF QUESTIONS BUT ALWAYS HAPPY TO HELP OUT TEENAGERS. WILL JUST RUN THRU THEM QUICKLY NOW OR ELSE I MAY FORGET AND THEY MAY NOT GET DONE :).
1. What is the right age to begin talking to children about sex/ sexuality?
I STARTED TALKING TO MY KIDS ABOUT THEIR BODIES IN REGARD TO SAFETY WHEN THEY WERE 2. EXPLAINED THEIR PRIVATE PARTS AND THAT NO ONE IS ALLOWED TO TOUCH THEM, ETC.
2. Many parents did not talk to their parents about this. Is the conversation about sex a new need?
NO, IT’S NOT A NEW NEED, IT’S ONE THAT ALWAYS SHOULD’VE BEEN TALKED ABOUT BETWEEN PARENTS AND KIDS. THE MORE OPEN COMMUNICATION YOU HAVE WITH YOUR KIDS, THE MORE LIKELY THEY ARE TO COME TO YOU WITH THEIR PROBLEMS WHEN THEY ARE TEENAGERS.
3. How should parents begin a conversation with their children about sex?
AS I SAID ABOVE, ALL ABOUT PERSONAL SAFETY. KEEP IT ALL AGE APPROPRIATE AND I NEVER TALKED TO MY KIDS ABOUT MY OWN SEX LIFE.
4. Should parents tell children what pornography is?
YES BUT THERE ARE DIFFERENT DEFINITIONS OF PORNOGRAPHY. SOME MAY THING THAT A NAKED BODY IS PORN WHILE OTHERS THINK IT’S DEVIANT SEX ACTS IN GROUPS. I ACTUALLY TOLD BOTH MY KIDS (IN HIGH SCHOOL) TO WATCH PORN IF THEY WANTED TO GET THE MECHANICS OF HOW ALL THE BITS AND PIECES GO TOGETHER. BUT THEY ALREADY HAD A GOOD BASE FROM ME ABOUT HOW SEX AND EMOTIONS SHOULD ALWAYS GO TOGETHER. THAT SEX IS BEST WHEN IT’S BETWEEN 2 PEOPLE WHO CARE ABOUT EACH OTHER, THAT THEY RESPECT ONE ANOTHER, ETC.
5. Many parents fear that doing this too early for fear of breaking the child’s innocence or raising their curosity. What is your opinion on this?
THEY’RE GOING TO HEAR IT AT SCHOOL AND IT’S PROBABLY GOING TO BE WRONG. BEST TO GET THE RIGHT INFORMATION AT HOME. AS I SAID ABOVE, IF YOU TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT EVERYTHING, THEY’LL TALK TO YOU ABOUT EVERYTHING IN RETURN.
6. Some parents find out that their teenage child is watching porn, or has ideas about sex and healthy relationship they find worrying, but decide that it’s too late. Is this true? Is there something like “too late” when it comes to discussing sexuality with children?
ONCE THEY’RE SEXUALLY ACTIVE THEMSELVES IT MAY BE TOO LATE. THEY’VE ALREADY FORMED THEIR IDEA ABOUT WHAT SEX IS ALL ABOUT WITHOUT YOUR INFLUENCE.
7. Results from 25 EU countries show that 81% parents believe their child (age 10-16) is not watching porn. Yet research in the UK shows that more than 60% do have some contact with it. How does a parent not get locked out of their teenagers world?!
BY TALKING TO THEM OPENLY AND HONESTLY. BUT, I BELIEVE A HUGE MISTAKE PARENTS MAKE IS TEASING THEIR KIDS ABOUT LOVE. TEASING ABOUT CRUSHES WHEN THEY’RE LITTLE, ETC. LOVE IS LOVE, FEELINGS ARE FEELINGS. I’M A HORRID TEASE, ALWAYS DIVING OUT OF CLOSETS SCARING THE BEEJEEBIES OUT OF KIDS, BUT I NEVER EVER TEASED A CHILD ABOUT THEIR CRUSHES, OR ANYTHING HEART RELATED. I THINK THAT’S DOWNRIGHT CRUEL AND GUARANTEED TO KEEP THEM FROM OPENING UP TO YOU WHEN THEY’RE TEENAGERS.
8. In your TED talk you talk about the ugly truth behind the hook up culture. Could you tell me a little about how boyfriend-girlfriend, child – teacher, parent-teacher and parent-child relationships work in this culture based on your experience?
I’M NOT SURE AS IT’S SUCH A SECRETIVE CULTURE. TOUGH TO GET STATISTICS ON SOMETHING NO ONE’S WILLING TO TALK ABOUT. ONE THING I FOUND WHEN TALKING TO THE YOUNG PEOLE WHO CASUALLY HOOK-UP IS THAT NONE OF THEM TALKED TO THEIR PARENTS ABOUT SEX. SOME SAID THE FIRST TIME THEY’VE EVER TALKED TO AN ADULT ABOUT SEX WAS ME WHO WAS HIRED BY THEIR PARENTS FOR SEX EDUCATION. THEY ALREADY KNEW ALL THE MECHANICS BUT I’M ALWAYS SHOCKED AT HOW LITTLE THEY KNOW ABOUT SAFETY (DISEASES, PREGNANCY). PORN DOESN’T TEACH THEM ABOUT THAT. I COULD TELL YOU SOME HORROR STORIES ABOUT WHAT THEY WERE ATTEMPTING TO DO TO PREVENT PREGNANCIES AND DISEASES, PUTTING THEMSELVES AT GREAT RISK FOR BOTH.
9. What causes the hook up culture in your opinion?
EASY ACCESS TO PORN AND VERY LITTLE PARENTAL LEADERSHIP. PARENTS ARE TRYING SO HARD TO PLEASE AND BE FRIENDS WITH THEIR KIDS THAT THEY ARE TREATING THEM LIKE MINI ADULTS AND GIVING THEM ANYTHING THEY WANT. THIS MESSES UP THEIR VALUE SYSTEM AND THEY GROW UP WITH VERY LOW SELF-ESTEEM. KIDS WHO HAD DISCIPLINE GROWING UP TEND TO HAVE MUCH HIGHER SELF-ESTEEM THAN THOSE WHO WEREN’T.
KIDS THRIVE ON DISCIPLINE, IT’S WHAT LEADS TO SELF-DISCIPLINE WHEN THEY’RE OLDER. EVERY SINGLE TEEN I’VE WORKED WITH HAS SAID THEY WISH THEIR PARENTS HAD BEEN TOUGHER ON THEM GROWING UP. THEY INSTINCTLY KNOW THAT DISCIPLINE = LOVE. WHEN I SAY DISCIPLINE, I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT PUNISHMENT, I’M TALKING ABOUT GUIDANCE, LEADERSHIP AND ACCOUNTABILITY. THAT’S HOW YOU BUILD CHARACTER, CONFIDENCE AND HIGH SELF-ESTEEM.
10. Gial Dines had her TED talk about living in a pornified culture. To what extent do you think porn affects today’s teens and how?
PORN NORMALIZES CASUAL AND IRRESPONSIBLE SEX. WITH SUCH EASY ACCESS TO PORN KIDS ARE USING IT TO GET IDEAS. I EVEN HAD A CLIENT WHO THOUGHT THAT EVERY GIRLFRIEND HE HAD WAS FRIGID BECAUSE SHE DIDN’T WANT GIRL ON GIRL ACTION. LOL, HE TOOK AWHILE TO CONVINCE THAT MOST WOMEN AREN’T INTO THAT.
11. You talk to many teenagers to help them with their problems. What problems (in connection to their sexuality) to they most often have?
LOW SELF-ESTEEM. GIRLS ARE DOING ANYTHING TO PLEASE BOYS, AND I MEAN ANYTHING. THEY ARE BELITTLING AND PROSTITUTING THEMSELVES TO GET APPROVAL. WHAT THAT SAYS TO ME IS THAT THEY HAD ABSOLUTELY NO GUIDANCE FROM THEIR PARENTS ABOUT WHAT RELATIONSHIPS ARE ALL ABOUT. THEIR PARENTS USUALLY LET THEM LEARN EVERYTHING ONLINE THEN ARE CONFUSED AS TO WHY THEY ARE MESSED UP. THEY’RE SO BUSY BUYING THEM EVERYTHING THAT THEY FORGET TO TEACH THEN ANYTHING. BUT, THEY’RE QUICK TO CRITIZE WHEN THEY’RE IN TROUBLE. UGH, THE POOR KIDS.
12. Are those problems ever connected to porn?
AS I SAID ABOUT, PORN NORMALIZES SEXUALLY DEVIANT BEHAVIOUR. I THINK ANYTHING IS FINE BETWEEN CONSENTING ADULTS BUT NOT FOR TEENS. THEY ARE FORMING, THEY ARE HUGELY AFFECTED BY WHAT HAPPENS TO THEM AND I BELIEVE THEY NEED TO BE REIGNED IN BY THEIR PARENTS. THEY NEED TO HAVE RESPECT FOR THEIR BODIES. THEY NEED TO DEMAND THAT THOSE AROUND THEM RESPECT THEM ALSO. I’VE WORKED WITH SEVERAL FAMILIES WITH YOUNG GIRLS WHO CHATTED WITH MEN ONLINE, EXCHANGING NUDE PICS, THEN TRY TO MEET UP WITH THEM. THOSE ARE SOME OF MY SCARIEST SITUATIONS WITH TEENS AND YES, I’D SAY PORN HAS A LOT TO DO WITH IT.
13. What is your definition of porn?
I THINK I ANSWERED THAT ABOVE BUT NOT REALLY SURE WHAT I THINK IT IS. I GUESS SEXUALLY EXPLICIT MATERIAL INTENDED TO MAKE MONEY???
I HOPE THIS HELPS ZOFIA :). ALL THE BEST, LISA