When I started speaking to teens about sex 15 years ago, I only spoke to 8th grade girls for about three years. When the opportunity to speak to high school students presented itself, I must admit, I was rather nervous.
It’s one thing to convince a 13 to 14-year-old girl who most likely hasn’t started having sex why she should abstain. It’s an entirely different challenge to convince 17 to 18-year-old girls who may already be sexually active, why they should stop having sex. Not to mention, the high school classes are also co-ed.
And if I thought it would be difficult to convince a 17 to 18-year-old girl to abstain, I figured it would be nearly impossible to do the same for guys.
Boy, was I wrong!
I started getting letter after letter after letter from young men like the one below:
You have honestly changed my whole perspective on having sex in high school. I didn't care whether or not I had sex, with who or how many. I just saw it as pleasure and having a good time. I never thought through the consequences. You made me realize how much having sex can jeopardize my future and other people's. I'm also glad you came to talk with be now, because it'll keep me from making future mistakes. I will always go back to your speech every time an opportunity comes and actually think before I act. Now that I know better, I will do better.
Guys’ vs. Girls’ “Sex-pectations”
I wasn’t sure why guys were willing to discontinue sex more easily than girls until I started doing an activity in the classroom.
I asked girls and guys to list what they expected from sex.
To this day, the girls’ list is always much longer than the guys’ and includes things like, “Love, Commitment, Validation, Attention, Fill a Void, Loyalty, Respect, Feel Desirable, etc..”
Guys often list “Pleasure,” then say they’re done. That’s all they want. Sometimes, they’ll also list “Respect/Bragging Rights or Manhood.”
When I ask students if they notice anything different about the lists, the guys are quick to point out the difference is that girls expect too much.
I inform the girls that it is unrealistic to expect long-term emotional needs to be met by a short-term physical act.
But if the girls think sex really gives them all the things they include on the list, I can see why it’s harder for them to give sex up.
Guys on the other hand don’t feel that they are giving up as much because they don’t expect as much.
I posted a letter on Facebook the other day from a young man who said he was going to stop having sex.
When I mentioned that teen guys are often more willing to give up sex than girls, a friend, Dr. Rachel Elahee (a Psychologist), posted this comment:
Females play at sex for love and males play at love for sex.
Maybe the girls' desperation for love is greater than the boys' desperation for sex.
Help Your Daughter Raise the Bar by Lowering Her “Sex-pectations”
Dr. Elahee hit the nail on the head and said it much more eloquently than I ever have.
If we want to make any headway in curbing the amount of teen sex, one thing we need to do is educate girls about their unrealistic expectations of sex and help them understand that love is not a byproduct of sex.
Below are tips you can begin implementing with your daughter to help her set healthy expectations for love, sex and relationships that will follow her into adulthood:
1. Make sure she knows not to believe everything she sees in the media. Remind her that the fairytales, celebrity gossip, and “reality” TV she watches and reads, aren’t real life.
2. Have conversations with her about love: how you can know when it happens, what it requires–which is nothing, and why sex won’t make anyone stay in a relationship who doesn’t want to be there.
3. If she doesn’t have a father or older brother in her life, enlist a trusted male to share with her how guys think about sex.
4. Have her read this post.
5. Have her read Chapter 1 in my book, 7 Secrets Guys Will Never Tell You: A Teen Girl’s Guide on Love, Sex, and Relationships.
Lastly, don’t wait until she’s in a relationship to start teaching her these tips. It’s more difficult for her to think clearly once she’s emotionally involved in a relationship.
If you have other tips that I may have missed, please share them below.