On Teenage Sex, Why Do We Adopt the Ostrich Position? COLUMNS

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), June 20, 1999 | Go to article overview

On Teenage Sex, Why Do We Adopt the Ostrich Position? COLUMNS


Byline: SUZANNE MOORE

I FOR one am glad that at least teenagers are having sex, for it seems as if no one else is.

I realise, of course, that there are lies, damn lies and sex surveys.

But every week I seem to read another report saying women would rather do gardening than have sex, men would rather watch televised darts than make love to their wives, female executives are too tired to bother and businessmen are so stressed out that they can only have sex with women they are not married to, and then only with the help of Viagra.

Even sex symbols don't have sex any more. Geri Haliwell thinks that sex stems her creativity. She has more important things to do, like fly to the Philippines to tell the bemused locals to use condoms.

Instead of having sex we talk about it.

We look at it. We worry about it.

We live surrounded by so much sexual imagery that it is perfectly acceptable to make advertisements in which a shampoo or a throat lozenge can be seen to induce an orgasm.

This surfeit of sexual imagery too often stands in for proper sex education.

This is the equivalent of mistaking a blow-up doll for an interesting woman with a well-rounded personality.

The shock of sex, for teenage girls especially, must be that it isn't like the movies, it isn't even like the trailers and, worst, you can end up very hurt by it.

That the Government finally wants to do something to lower Britain's teenage pregnancy rate - the highest in Europe - is good. But we are still all very coy about what sex education means.

My teachers gave us no sex education until after a school trip to Belgium.

A very quiet girl who complained of stomach ache was told to pull herself together by our strict French mistress and went upstairs and gave birth.

Back at school we were shown horrible pictures of syphilitic sores and told that the best form of contraception was 'a brick wall'. This is still how many people think it should be.

Luckily, I had already received my sex education from my mother and by reading the strange combination of D.H. Lawrence and Linda Lovelace.

And that doesn't prepare one for what boys with their deadly combination of insistence and ignorance are really like.

It's no good just telling girls to say 'No', one needs to give them a whole repertoire of ways to refuse. Or at least to discuss contraception.

It is no coincidence that many teenage mothers are from poor families and have had little education or opportunity.

HE decision to have a baby is not so irrational. It is not as if they are going to walk into rewarding jobs Not all these girls will waste their lives, rather they feel that their lives are not going anywhere anyway. That is why they need help rather than punishment.

The moralisers who live in a world in which True Love Waits are talking to children who know that divorce is commonplace, that sex rather than love is the currency of the day and that, compared to other adult pleasures, sex costs nothing. Until, that is, it costs a lot more than they ever bargained for.

Proper sex education should counter popular culture's message that sex is always a beautiful, exciting, multi-I T

orgasmic, cinematic event. Discussions of frantic sperm and silent, waiting eggs are actually less important than teaching teenage boys that there is more to sex than penetration.

In a sexually saturated culture it is difficult enough for young men to admit their ignorance, but the results of their lack of knowledge are tragic.

It is well nigh impossible for them to also admit that they are no more ready for sex than girls their own age are.

Yet the chief sexual position favoured by the British parent seems to be the ostrich position. They - or at least those who don't belly on about the slightest introduction to the facts of life leading to pregnancy - hope that someone somewhere is providing the explanations to their kids. …

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