What Your Child Needs To Know About Sex (And When)

A straight-talking guide for parents

Are You Okay With Your Teen Having Casual Sex?

Your teen and casual sex.

I've been busy the past couple of hours reading and thinking about Stanley Siegel's most recent blog posts along with some of the commentary by other experts about his post In Defense of Casual Sex. All very fascinating stuff...and as I read all this I must admit to being taken back to my "good old days" when I was a doctoral student in NYU's Human Sexuality Studies program. Back then I was so entrenched in the study of sex that I thought this must be the single most important thing in anyone's life...understanding who and what we are as sexual human beings. That somehow, someway, sex is at the core of everything we are and everything we do. I guess this happens to all of us at some time or another. That is, we get so wrapped up in what we do in our own lives that we blind ourselves to all the other important things happening around us every day, all the time. We come to believe that what we do and study is what everyone should do and study. So when I read Siegel's last two blogs I am transported back to those times. Sex is indeed as alive and well as it's ever been in Mr. Siegel's world. Well, sex for the sake of good-old- plain sex that is. As Siegel says, it can deepen self-knowledge, and when done with different partners and when one's fantasies and desires openly explored, we can all transcend our inhibitions. With each sexual encounter we identify bits and pieces of ourselves and gradually come to terms with the totality of who we are. Sex, particularly of the casual kind, may well help us all to achieve a level of honesty and authenticity that was previously unknown by moving us beyond self-consciousness. That perhaps we too can come to stand in awe of the many creative ways that we can express ourselves as human beings just by having casual sex. Indeed, casual sex has the potential to heal our emotional wounds and rectify unmet childhood needs. After all, sex is a window into our psyches. All hail to casual sex!

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Wow, who knew that screwing could do all these things? And to think I always want to f*** because it's fun to do and makes me feel one with my partner. If only I knew that sex could bring me all the things that Mr. Siegel says it does. I think I'll come back a rabbit in my next life.

So when I read his last post Why I Advocate for Casual Sex, I thought about how his justification for engaging in casual sex would play out as parental messages that we might bestow on our own teenagers as they travel through adolescence. My blog posts after all are for parents and I write about child and adolescent sexuality. Could Mr. Siegel's take on casual sex be something that parents could impart to their teens? So I have taken four of his five myths about sex that he uses to challenge his dissenting commentators and reworked them into their converse and present them as truths that a parent might offer to their own kids as a form of moral guidance. As you read them determine for yourself if they are messages you would want to pass on to your teenager or would be better off just passing on altogether.

Truth: Casual sex has lots of emotion.

"Casual sex, practiced intelligently, can enrich our understanding of our deepest desires and emotions, where they come from and what they mean, and gradually, with experience, make sense of who we are and what we become".

Truth: Casual sex is not reckless.

"As we explore who we are through sex...there is nothing inherently reckless in this pursuit. Sometimes this can be achieved within the context of a marriage or long-term relationship...but all too often partners enter a committed relationship without a true understanding of their sexuality or a deep appreciation for its importance, only to discover that their sexual tastes are very different... Through the variety of experiences found in casual sex, we can reclaim and renew parts of ourselves".

Truth: The best sex is not always in a committed relationship.

"When we are fortunate to have chosen a long-term partner with whom we are deeply compatible, we will have the opportunity to experience our true desires and gradually work through the mastery of the conflicts or unmet needs underneath them. As pieces of our erotic self and their meaning become clearer and our fantasies and actions grow more aligned, it can bring enormous pleasure, meaning and fullness to life...But the same can be achieved through casual sex...When we do not get caught up in how highly our partner regards us because we want a relationship to continue, we are less likely to censor ourselves and can experience a level of intimacy, perhaps not attainable in a relationship complicated by long-term concerns".

Truth: Casual sex is not dangerous because it doesn't spread diseases.

"Casual sex does not spread diseases. Unsafe sex does...We can use casual sex intelligently to learn to honor and accept who we are, heal the consequences of shame and guilt, and celebrate the importance of sex as a positive force in our lives".

Would You Tell Your Child Casual Sex is Okay?

Okay mom or dad, how do you feel about passing along Mr. Siegel's wisdom to your 15 or 16 year old teen? "That's right honey, casual sex has the potential to enrich and strengthen you as a man or a woman. I really don't see a problem with you engaging in a sexual relationship just for the sake of having sex. It doesn't really matter that you have any meaningful relationship with your partner. So long as you both are smart and don't hurt each other, I don't have a problem with you F****** your brains out"!

I mean what am I missing here? Is there really any way of doing a cost-benefit analysis of casual sex and being able to say that casual sexual encounters are not more risky than sexual relationships where there is shared love? Any reasonable thinking about casual sex tells one that there can be considerable risks involved when an emotional commitment is not present. Remove shared love from any sexual relationship and the potential risk of harm will usually increase. Perhaps I'm hung up on the semantics of it all. Yes I know you can have casual sex with someone you really like, respect and trust. But when I think of most casual sex encounters I don't think of good friends doing-it. I think of two people that don't know each other well or at all, who don't have any emotional commitment to each other, and may not ever see each other again or care if they do.

We know all too painfully that many people are hurt through sex. Sexual harm occurs not because there is real love between people but because of the opposite. Sexual abuse and assault, unwanted pregnancy, spread of sexually transmitted infections are far more possible when there is no strong emotional commitment in sexual encounters and a more casual approach is at play.

So are you comfortable telling your teens that casual sex is something that can be rewarding and life-enhancing? Heck, forget your teens...When your kids become adults will you feel contentment knowing that they participate in a fair amount of casual sexual encounters? "So my dear, you've had 50 sexual relationships this year. Congratulations. Keep up the good work".

What am I missing here??

 

Fred Kaeser, Ed.D., is the former director of health for the NYC Department of Education. He is the author of What Your Child Needs To Know About Sex (And When).

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