16 April 2012

Sleeping Upstairs with Florence

There was a post on the BlogHer site not too long ago, titled "The Suitcase Rule: What's Your Approach to Teen Sex?"

Now, I'm not a teenager, and I won't have a teenager for another five years, but the title was provocative enough that I read the post. It turned out to be a book review, of a scholarly book called Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens, and the Culture of Sex, "comparing Dutch and American views on adolescent sexuality".

Except for one incident, not involving me, I don't remember any times in which the subject of sex amongst young people was broached, ever so tangentially, while I was growing up. Perhaps I have a faulty memory, but it just wasn't talked about. And shouldn't it be? Isn't it healthier to acknowledge a reality, instead of pretending it's not going to happen? Isn't it better to be prepared than to try and dictate abstinence?

It does give one pause, contemplating the sex life of one's children. They're so close to you for so long, you're so intimate with them. You change their diapers and wash their private bits, you nurse them, you cuddle them when they fall down go boom. And bit by bit, they grow apart, they become other. And then one day...

Apparently the Dutch are less prudish about the sex lives of teenagers than most Americans are, and it seems to be a good thing. Not Under My Roof's author, Amy Schalet, had an editorial in the Times last year, titled "The Sleepover Question". I'm guessing that you can skip the book and get the gist of her argument by reading the editorial, which ends thusly:

Unlike the American teenagers I interviewed, who said they felt they had to split their burgeoning sexual selves from their family roles, the Dutch teens had a chance to integrate different parts of themselves into their family life. When children feel safe enough to tell parents what they are doing and feeling, presumably it’s that much easier for them to ask for help. This allows parents to have more influence, to control through connection.

Sexual maturation is awkward and difficult. The Dutch experience suggests that it is possible for families to stay connected when teenagers start having sex, and that if they do, the transition into adulthood need not be so painful for parents or children.
That said, the book sounds pretty interesting.


Gina said...

My mother never talked to me about sex. While she would insist that she did (my mom has a very selective and creative memory - but that's a whole novel of crazy). She only even brought up sex twice VERY vaguely and WAY too late.

Once when I was 17 she stormed in my room at 6:00 am to hiss "I hope you're not having SEX!" (I still have no idea what prompted that) - I tiredly lied that I was not (when in fact, I was having it as often as possible) and she chose to believe me because she is the type to avoid & pretend.

The 2nd time was when I was 21 and dating my (now) husband who is 9 years older and in the middle on a conversation, she said, "you know, he's older than you and will probably expect more - I hope you're taking care of things." and then quickly moved on to more important issues like when was I going to lose some weight from my size 6 body, and how I should wear lipstick.

Frogs in my formula said...

LOL @ Gina. Like her, my mother never mentioned sex, and so I did it a lot, without anyone knowing. Or maybe my parents looked the other way. Who knows.

I have two sons, so I've told my husband he's in charge of the sex talk. That doesn't mean I won't have my say, though. I want them to know there's a difference b/t screwing and making love, as corny as that sounds. Knowing that alone might have kept me a little less active, so to speak.

Heide Estes said...

I bought The Offspring It's Not The Stork a couple of years ago, and when it was clear he was looking for more information, It's So Amazing. So he has the basic facts about reproduction. But that's not what you're asking, is it? Is it really already time for that conversation? He's such a young eight; it's only recently occurred to him to forbid me from being affectionate in front of his schoolmates.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I talk, talk, talk to my kids. With the youngest being 17 I can say that I am extremely impressed with how they have handled their sex lives thus far.

My college freshman son has his long-time girlfriend sleep over with our blessing and that of her mother.

Jeanne said...

I've talked to my kids about sex in very short snippets since they were elementary school age--it may have come up when the older child was about eight, the first time. They hear things, and I was teaching a class on Sex in Literature (officially called "Relationships and Dialogues") at the time. As they got older, when it would come up and we'd have another brief conversation (brief because they only wanted to know one thing at a time), I would sometimes say that they need to think about this stuff logically, before they start getting jerked around by their hormones. Now they're 16 and 18 and they occasionally tell me stuff I didn't know. That's good for my continuing education!

Pinky said...

You probably k ow this, but I talk and talk and talk to my kids about all of it. I want it to be a comfortable topic for when things get hairier (no pun intended ) than they are right now. I remember feeling pleased as punch when my nine-year-old son once explained the function of the Fallopian tubes - hell, there are probably some grown men out there who can't do that!

InTheFastLane said...

This was interesting to me...both your post and the originals. As a parent to a 17 year old, it is something that I very much struggle with. As a parent that gave birth to that 17 year old when I was 20, I know the realities. And we talk. It was easier to talk about it in the abstract, when she was small. It becomes much more right now, than just talk. And balancing all of that emotional stuff with the logical stuff and the personal belief stuff is super hard. I just hope I am doing at least one of those things right.

HS BFF said...

your memory is faulty. Very. Remember the girls who got pregnant in HS? Plueez. I am sure you discussed it.
My mother talked about sex. We thought it was so embarrassing. She was very sure we knew everything about it but then basically told us to be virgins until marriage.