We live in a world where we—and our kids—are bombarded by sex. TV, movies, and other media are chock-full of casual sex, jokes about sex, pitying comments about the few poor unlucky souls who aren’t getting laid…. It seems like every (non-pitiful) young person you see on screen is having sex—a lot of sex—often casually–and maybe with a lot of people.
The thing is, that’s not how it actually is.
We all know that the media isn’t an accurate representation of reality. But for kids and teens, it’s easy to forget that what’s on the screen often isn’t what’s true in the world. So we parents have to tell them.
Besides “protect yourself from STDs and pregnancy,” the most important thing you can tell your teenager is the truth: Not everyone is doing it.
I recently conducted a survey of young adults (age 18 to 25) in which I asked about their lifetime number of sexual partners. Note that these respondents are college-age or older, not younger teens. What do you think the most common answer was?
One. Yup, one.
Many of the 900 respondents had had lots of partners; a few had dozens. The median number was three. But the single most commonly given answer was one. 49% of respondents said they’d had zero, one, or two partners.
This means that high school and college kids who aren’t hooking up aren’t oddballs; they’re likely in the majority. What they see in the media doesn’t represent reality. Much of the buzz they hear at school about who’s having sex with whom is just rumor and bragging. There’s a whole lot more talking and bravado about sex in most high schools than there is actual sex.
Make sure your kid knows that waiting to have sex is actually a surprisingly common choice, even today.
First posted 6/25/14.