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middle school sex: it's the parenting, stupid

Sex in Middle School?

Anya Alvarez, a 13-year-old girl from Tulsa, Okla., agreed to record a video diary for 20/20. In it, she describes her transition from childhood to adolescence. "When I was 5," Anya said, "it was like, 'Should I give him a toy or not? Now, it's should I smoke weed? Should I have sex? Should I lie to my parents?"

My daughter is in the seventh grade and will be 13 in two months. I don't think she even knows that "weed" is another term for pot.

Anya said, "There's one girl at our football games that like gave oral sex to five different football players."

Students told us that some kids are having sex in school bathrooms and hallways — even in classrooms.

All I keep hearing about is this rash of middle school sexual activity, but I've seen no evidence of it on my end.

What do you say to the girl who feels she has to "put out" to be popular and to please boys?

This is what I said when Natalie asked me what a virgin is: It's what you will be until you get married, dear.

Of course, I then told her the real defintion and we had another frank talk about sex and sexual image and respecting yourself.

Even though we parents and kids may be embarrassed, Roffman says we have to convince our kids that can't have more freedom and responsibility until they have information.

I'm not embarassed at all to talk to my kids about sex and in return, they are not afraid to ask me anything or tell me their feelings on the subject.

I believe that most girls who put out at such a young age aren't getting "the talk" in the right manner, or at all. That is why the stories about middle school sex don't bother me. And remember, being way too open with your kids about sex can be just as harmful as being closed off about it. It's hard to find that right spot where you both feel comfortable with the issue at hand. You don't want your child to fear sex, yet you don't want them to crave it.

Of course, the talks don't always work out the way you planned, as evidenced in this talk I had with DJ:

"So, how does the stuff a guy has down there get into the woman?"

"Ummm, the guy puts it in there."
......

DJ contemplates my answer for a minute. Then his face scrunches up in a look of horror and appallment.

"IN HER MOUTH?? HE PUTS IT IN HER MOUTH??" The color has drained from his face.

Or this conversation with Natalie:

Ok. Bi. Like in two. I get it. Ok, so. What does it mean when they say that two people are umm....you know.....
No, I don't know. Spell it.
Fucking.
(sound of brakes squealing as the sound of that word coming out of my daughter's mouth makes me almost miss a red a light)
I said spell it!!!
Whatever. What does it mean?
It means they are having sex, but not in a nice, loving sex way.
Ok, so when one of the girls today said "I want to fuck him..."
(I swerve into other lane while I choke on Gatorade)
Do you really need to know this stuff, Natalie
?

I may not have all the answers, and I certainly am relectant to give the answers I do have, but I give them. If I am open with my daughter now, at 12, she will be able to come to me without worry when she is 17 and wants to have sex.

Middle school sex is not an epidemic. Bad parenting, however, is. No girl who has an ongoing, open dialogue with her parents about sex is going to think that givng a blowjob in the school library - or anywhere for that matter - is ok.

And it's not just about teaching your kids about sex; it's also about teaching them respect for themselves, to think more of themselves than to let another person use them or convince them that in order to experience love you have to experience sex.

Maybe I am just an overprotective parent. Perhaps I haven't been able to let go of Natalie as much as I should at this age. But I see what is becoming of some of her friends who have been given to much freedom and not enough guidance, and I won't allow her to go in that direction, even if it means stifling her. Just a bit.

Comments

Oh please, I remember hearing the exact smae middle school rumors about sex everywhere 25 years ago! They still aren't doing anything nearly as much as they are talking about it.

Well, from a historical standpoint, middle school sex isn't all that big a deal. For thousands of years, people were routinely getting married at 12, 13, 14. And biologically, there's not necessarily a lot wrong with that--(well, 12 and 13 are probably too young to have children safely)--it's pretty much how we evolved.

And I think that when we talk about sex at such young ages, we should know and understand that. The urges are there--they're are real and they are biological. The most important thing to teach any child is respect for yourself and to teach self-restraint. The kinds of kids who are having sex at 13 are the kinds of kids who (generally speaking) aren't going to make it as adults. If you never learn to master your biology, you'll never be able to control your own life.

I think you're completely right, kids who's parents actually talk to them and care about what's going on with them will turn out alright. They'll have more respect for other people and not get into as much trouble. Not the same for those kids who's parents won't sit with them for more than 5 mintues to talk to them.

Couldn't we just re-open alcatraz as some sort of boarding school for girls, and send our daughters there...and not allow men anywhere near??? I SO don't want to have do deal with any of this. Granted...the 6'5" bald pagan fellow who should be my husband before my daughter turns 13 might help in scaring away potential suitors...

Sex at 17? I didn't have it until I was 30!!!

Michelle, I really enjoyed reading this, especially the links. I have a 9 year old boy, and we had "the talk" a few months ago. He said it was disgusting, and that he dose not want to talk about it very often. I guess my job there is done (for a while). Girls are much more headache, though: they can actually get pregnant.

This is slightly off-topic, but related -- when I reached school age, my father wanted me to understand the proper clinical terms for the anatomy:

Dad: You know the part of your body that hangs between your legs?
Me: Yes.
D: Well, all boys have it. It's called a "penis."
M: A what?
D: A "penis."
M: Oh.... OH! You mean like the Charlie Brown comics?

It’s funny because it’s true..

Kids blindside you with these questions. I had ‘the talk’ with my daughter and her friend a few years ago when they asked, while lunching at the local taco bell – ‘what did President Clinton spill on Monica’s Gap dress?’ I grabbed my cell phone, asked my daughter’s friend’s mom if it was ok to explain this, then answered the question.

Then they asked – ‘What color is it?’

Still, it's good to know that they're willing to ask the questions and listen to the answers.

Reminds me of when I was bringing my daughter home from kindergarten & she casually asked what a blowjob was. After I regained control of the car, I explained & asked where she'd heard the term. "Oh," she innocently replied,"Rocky [who was a little boy in her class] wanted me to give him one, but I didn't know what it was, so I said no."

I told her she did the correct thing, but if it happened again, to go find her big brother & have him beat the crap out of Rocky. And tell her teacher.

I live in Tulsa, OK. I grew up here. I lost my virginity at 15. I've seen things that parents of teenagers don't want to know about. Middle school sex, at least in Tulsa, is not a myth. It's a fact. I have a fourteen year old niece and a twelve year old nephew. I worry about them. I've been there. I think the part about middle school sex not being an epidemic as much as the bad parenting is a right on observation. We're in the bible belt were the Baptist's run EVERYTHING and talking about or even alluding to sex is a big no, no. Kids are curious. They want to know and so they find out. Around here is through first hand experience, because they know they can't talk to their parents about, but they can talk with and experiment on each other. Not to mention that it's also very boring in Oklahoma. There really isn't anything else around here to do.

I think (of course, I do not have children yet, so I may be out of line) children that ask sex questions deserve answers, else they may stop asking. I think it's great that Natalie and DJ ask and it's even more great that you answer honestly. I remember when I was 8, I asked my mom what a 'blowjob' was and she got totally hysterical and told me to never say that word again. Needless to say, I didn't. Sex isn't dirty and kids shouldn't be taught that it is. However, they should be taught other things in regards to sex, as well, like self-respect, etc.

Sounds like your kids are lucky to have you as a mom.

I doubt there is a greater rumor mill than a middle school. Kids being curious, combined with half truths from their friends, mix in only partially understood concepts, and there you go. I'm not saying it never happens, just that some of the kids will with equal conviction tell you about crashed UFO's hidden at the White House, and how devil worshippers are on the school board. In the battle over peer approval a lot of stuff gets said, you have to put it in context.

Still, the issue of bad parenting is a good one. I don't have any answers, but it does drive you crazy.

So THAT'S what all the other kids were doing when I was playing Dungeons and Dragons.

Seesh. And I used to wonder how it was I somehow managed to "save myself" until the ripe old age of 21. Obviously, I was possessed of a far greater degree of ignorance regarding my classmates than I ever thought.

Michele, I don't think you're embarrassed to talk about anything....it's all right here, on these pages. You are great at sharing feelings and ideas, openly. Your kids will ALWAYS appreciate that, trust me. It's what keeps them close, and safe.
I just don't understand why more parents don't 'get it'.

I too think a lot of the middle school sex is imaginitive bragging by boys who have never had their clothes off in the presence of any girl other than their Mom. I remember one friend in junior high who considered his virginity lost because he got over excited while making out with his girlfriend, both fully dressed!

I don't doubt that it happens, but I don't believe it to be an epidemic. either.

It's certainly not new. Most of the people I know (who are now mid-30's) claimed their first sexual encounters at 11 or 12.

You know as well I do, that the key is keeping an open & honest line of communication with your kids... if they don't get the answers from us, they'll get it somewhere else(and most likely a source that thinks it's all "ok").

Why do you think most of my hair fell out in the last five years? I have four daughters (one, a teenager who likes to remind her mom what SHE was doing at her age... like there's a timeline to follow or something.)

Michele, at least you're talking to your kids about it. As many have said, letting someone else inform them is a recipe for disaster.

I remember without any particular fondness my own parents' lack of information. For instance, when my sister was trying to educate my mother about homosexuality, my mother couldn't figure out what it was that gays might do; when sis suggested oral sex as a possibility, my mother insisted (really!) that she was making it up -- no one would actually do that!.

Needless to say, all us kids resorted to extensive experimentation to find out what we wanted to know... and my mother was profoundly mortified many years later, with national news coverage which involved a certain blue dress. Not to mention the cigar.

I have two kids, one of each... and I had to have "The Talk" under fairly difficult conditions.

They were waiting to get on the school bus (4th and 5th grades) to come home when their mother (we had divorced by this time) was arrested right across the street from the school.

The charge?

Prostitution.

That was tough, trying to explain without demonizing her. I must have succeeded as they have both maintained contact with her for the last 15 years.

As far as explaining the difference between having sex with someone you love and just scratching the itch, I asked them to think about how good it feels to take a dump, first thing in the morning, when you have to go real bad... how it feels so good to relieve the pressure and all...

They both nodded, heads cocked to the side like spaniels.

I then asked if they remembered at lunch time what that dump felt like.

They both laughed.

I told them that when you have sex with someone you love, you remember what it felt like, how they smelled and tasted, what music was playing... you remember these things years later.

When you just scratch the itch, it becomes like taking a dump and if you do that enough, that is the only way you can experience it.

Oh yeah... and sex is way too cool to be confused with taking a crap

oh man. mike, if i ever have kids, i am so remembering that analogy.

You're the best kind of mom. You have open discussions now while it's still easy....and they'll come back to you when it's much more difficult

Wow...this is a fair bit different from what I remember having to deal with at 12 or 13....

To all of you who have children who trust you to answer their questions, congratulations! You are definitely on the right path. Get nervous when the kids shut you out. My wife got the bulk of the questions as we raised five girls and one boy. They would come to me when they felt their question might "embarass" their mother. With a lot o'luck and the Grace of God, we all survived and all six are marvelous adults & parents.