OPINION: "Abstinence, no porn and no sex? Not gonna happen"

Abstinence, no porn and no sex? Not gonna happen.

I can tell you, with confidence earned by reading EVERY post loaded onto The Village, a Facebook group of some 32 000 parents, that if teens want to have sex, experiment with drugs, send naked pictures of themselves doing things they should only be doing behind the privacy of a closed door, or do something else extremely stupid, just because they feel like it, NO amount of mom and dad, any government, or the church, or even Emma Sadleir (though she's excellent, of course,) saying "Don't!" is going to make them stop. 

Teenagers have always been experts at disobeying their parents. They've been experts in "stupid" forever. Yours are probably, very most probably, no exception. 

I've listened to a lot of talks by the most expert experts about how to institute controls on devices. I've read many of The Village's members pleas for apps to control your kids' access to porn and other sex content.

I've read about Villagers' horror (and sometimes denial,) at the shenanigans of sexually active kids. And nothing I've heard, around any of this, has convinced me that any one of us has yet found the answer to meaningfully separating a determined 14-year-old from sexual content. Or a 17-year-old from sex. 

Also read: T.I. said he goes to the gynaecologist with his 18-year-old daughter every year to 'check her hymen'

Success would be miraculous, if we were to be honest. The truth of it is that many of us, for example, were just as hormonal at our kids' age as they are, and even consume porn, ourselves. There is more traffic to porn online than the combined traffic to sports, business and celebrity sites.

SOMEONE has to be consuming it. Even parents of teenagers.

An adolescent with a phone in their hand has access. They are better at us with tech. If they want to, they'll beat their parents' attempts to block them. Or one of their friends will just show them, the next time those parents are somewhere else.

Watch that fabulous piece of modern Shakespearean TV comic drama, The Inbetweeners, to get a sense of just how sex-obsessed a teenager can be if you don't believe me. And that was first aired years ago.

Also read: 4 reasons teenagers should wait until they’re older to start having sex

How to handle the subject of sex and your teen

SO. Some wholly amateur thoughts on how to handle the subject of sex and your teen.

Feel free to disagree.

1) Do not stigmatise sex. Do not make sex something shameful or secret. Demystify it.

Let your teens read educational and healthy books that cover adult content. Watch more grown-up movies and TV series with them. Don't fear LO classes. Don't fear the mention of masturbation - small children masturbate.

They need to understand that it is natural. That is not shameful, just better done in private. Talk to teens about sex, in a way that makes it ordinary. Not boring, exactly, but just not quite so taboo. Don't make a fuss about it.

Try to channel Scandinavian parents - they have successfully normalised sex, which allows their kids to approach it in a healthy way. And healthy, of course, for a hormone-laden teen, it is!

I know many of you will fear that loosening your reigns will make kids run amok sexually. Hmm. Well. A thought: Wouldn't they have run amok sexually anyway, were they that way inclined?

If you teach teenagers that consensual sex is natural, that it should be done in a comfortable way when they're ready, they might have some sex, but they'll have a healthier relationship with it, which can last them for life.

Isn't that what we all want? And, if something goes wrong, wouldn't it be better if they could tell you? They can't if you believe that they abstain. 

2) While you're talking about sex, tell your teens never ever to circulate sex content on any social media platform. Not of themselves or of friends. It's illegal.

Spreading sexual content carries a terrible fine. There are going to be prosecutions, in SA, soon.

Don't make the scapegoat your family.

Also read: 'It's sex, get over it': South Africans respond to leaked 2020 sex education curriculum

3) This is going to be controversial, but: Tell your teen that should they EVER make a sex video or send any images (still, or video) of themselves doing anything compromising they should not attach their name to it, nor show their face, nor any identifying characteristics.

If they're using Whats App, don't say "Look at me, I've got something sexy for you …" or anything else that could link them to that content.  

Of course, we can HOPE that they don't feel the urge to send pics of themselves doing x-rated stuff ...but they very well might. Best they do it, carefully, if they do.  

In the old days, were you to suffer a sex scandal, as per Jon Ronsen's very good book, So You've Been Publicly Shamed, there used to be a way to "drown" negative content, by flooding the net with neutral you-related trivia. Now, no more.

If your video lands up on Porn Hub, with your face and name attached, you're done for. It will be uploaded and shared to many many Albanian, Bulgarian, Russian, Chinese websites: sexual content is a digital hydra.

A name ("Oh that's not me, just someone else with my name,") is not the same as YOU. Undeniably, evidently, clearly you. Sex video rule? Off with the head. I know of someone who had to move countries and change their name. Just because of one video. 

4) Someone told me that if you (or any idiot teen,) ever make a sex tape, you should play Disney music loudly in the background.

If it ever were to be made public, Disney apparently just takes any video with their music down. Mouse Central might sue you, of course, but perhaps, caught in this ghastly bind, being sued is better than having your (or your child's) reputation sullied for life.

(Maybe you'd want to check this suggestion out before you suggest your 18-year-old use The Little Mermaid's "Under the sea," the next time they want to sext someone!) 

5) Take your 15/16-year-old girl to a lovely gynae. Tell her, in front of that gynae, that she has your absolute permission to see him or her, or to contact him or her, without your involvement.

Coerced or violent, unhappy sex, STDs and unwanted pregnancies are terrifying. There are millions of examples, through the centuries of the psychological damage that is done to young women by trying to cope with these kinds of traumas alone.

Sometimes they just can't talk to Mom and Dad. A kind, non-judgmental professional with whom a teen has an existing relationship, can literally be a lifesaver. 

6) Don't tell your kids to "Just say no," say "Talk to me," instead.

Vanessa Raphaely is the mom behind The Village, a local Facebook group for parents of teens.  

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