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.That said, the book sounds pretty interesting.
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.