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TV 101: katie teaches you what you should already know

Well, damn. I missed Katie Couric's special on blowjobs last night. I really meant to watch it, because I so depend on television personalities to tell me what my kids are thinking in regards to sex and how to talk to them about it.

Couric became passionate about the subject after hearing "horror stories" of teens having sex at early ages and wanted teens, parents and experts to weigh in.

So what was the point of Katie's sex show? To bring these kids to the forefront and show all the other teens who are not aware of "friends with benefits" what they're missing?

"I think that society is so sexualized from the time these kids are small, they're quite comfortable.."

Isn't Katie just adding to the sexualization of society by bringing these teens on national television to talk about their sexploits? Oh, she's doing it under the guise of something newsworthy or educational.

Here's your education: Kids are having sex. Oral sex, intercourse, hand jobs, whatever. Call it hooking up, call it friends with benefits, whatever name you give to it, they are doing it. And they've been doing it. 30 years ago, when I was barely a teenager, I knew people who were doing it. And who was to blame then that my 13 year old neighbor was sleeping with every guy in town or my 7th grade classmate was giving out blowjobs in the back of the music class? We didn't have MTV. We didn't have reality tv. They weren't handing out condoms in school.

Yet put that same 13 year old or 7th grader in 2005 and immediately, today's raunch-prevalent, sex-soaked society would be blamed for their promiscuousness.

The only people responsible for the way a teenager perceives sex is the parents. The school district, while it may offer sex ed, should not be the sole educator to your child in regards to sex. I honestly believe - and I know some of you will call me naive - that if you keep an open avenue of communication with your child in regards to this subject, your child will not take a course of action that will cheapen them or cause regrets or pain or disease or pregnancy.

Peer pressure is an intense thing. Which is why you need to instill in your children a strong enough sense of themselves so they grow up believing they never have to exchange sex for popularity, that they never have to give up a kiss, a stroke, a hand up the shirt just prove their loyalty to someone who is going to dump them in a week's time, anyhow. It's so much more than teaching them about sex; it's about teaching them self respect.

What is Katie Couric going to do besides make you recoil in horror when you see a hand-chosen group of teens talking about hooking up with someone just for sex? It's titillating news. Shock tv. Don't let her panic you. I remember when Oprah tackled a similar subject a few years ago, when my daughter was in middle school. According to Oprah's experts, middle school girls were notoriously loose. In fact, they were nothing more than oral sex machines and you can find them behind any coat rack or music stand in the school, sucking dick for lunch money and/or friendship. A nation reeled. Parents panicked. School administrators sent a flurry of letters home assuring everyone that this was not going on in their school, despite the fact that Oprah's guests made it sound like just because it was going on in their particular town, it was going on everywhere, as if some evil force took over the minds of our 13 year olds and no one - not one single teenager - was immune to it.

Even if my daughter had, at that age, signified that she knew about oral sex (which she obviously didn't), I don't think I would have let her go on tv to discuss it. Oh look, honey. Our daughter is on a national news show talking about blow jobs! Call the neighbors!

My daughter will be 15 in two weeks. I am not an idiot. I know that as she gets older, the urges and curiosity will be there. That's why we have an open line of communication when it comes to sex. We talk about it. She asks questions, I answer honestly, and she knows she can come to me about anything and I'll do my damndest not to freak out on her. But I will educate her, as I have been doing since she first asked about sex when she was five years old.

And here's the shocker: I'm taking the abstinence route with her. Why? Because I'm her mother, that's why, and I don't want to tell my daughter it's ok to have sex as long as she practices safe sex. You can put a condom on a penis, but there's nothing to prevent the emotional ramifications that come from having sexual relations too early.

While she is educated in the field of sexual protection - because I am not naive and I know that despite my declaration that a high school kid should not be having sex, they do - there is just no preparation for what comes when you give yourself up to a person for the first time. And I don't think that at 15 my daughter is ready to determine that the boy she is currently seeing is the one she wants to give it up for. Sex is not just about sticking a penis in a vagina. There's a whole host of non-physical issues that go with it and to send your teenager out there armed with condoms and an awareness of STDs may keep them from getting pregnant or the clap, but it won't keep them from having their heart and/or spirit broken. It won't keep them from spending years beating themselves up for losing their virginity to a person they cared nothing about.

I've written about this before. Last time, I wrote:

Self-worth is sometimes all one has. To have that taken away, little by little, just so some boy who was never taught by his parents to respect girls can have a few moments of orgasmic bliss is a very sad thing.

It does work both ways. Girls can be pushy. Girls can be brazen. Girls can make boys feel as if they are worthless because they don't want to try out the latest sexual fad.

So I'm suggesting - not preaching - abstinence to both my children on the grounds that, while it may feel like you are physically ready to have sex, and you are well prepared as far as transmitting fluids go, your brain and your heart are not ready for it. There is no 13, 14, or even 17 year old who is mature enough handle the emotional baggage that comes with sharing oneself so intimately and physically with another person.

I don't look to experts on television to tell me what's going on my teenager's life. I know. I know because we talk openly and honestly. That is the key to feeling assured that your children will do the right thing. That they are doing the right thing, despite Katie and Oprah's attempts to shock me into believing otherwise.

I know that many of you will, as in the past, disagree with many of the ideas put forth here - if you do, that's fine. But please try to explain to me without being condescending why you think your tactic for your kids will work better than mine.


From the comments:

Therefore, oral sex as a substitution for intercourse is a good idea....

I wholeheartedly disagree with oral sex as substitution. In fact, it may be more detrimental to a girl's self image than intercourse is. What does a girl - especially a 13 year old girl - get out of a blowjob? Nothing, except the idea that she has served a boy. There's certainly no physical gratifcation in it for her. And emotionally, at that age, she will eventually see herself as an end to a means for the boy she is going down on. If you think oral sex is a good substitute for fucking, then you missed my point on emotional readiness.


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I don't disagree at all. It's what I did with my kids, and it worked pretty well.

Though I have to admit I was floored once when my daughter asked me what a BJ was. She was in kindergarten at the time.

When I was 16, my mother sat me down and told me that she didn't think I was ready to have sex, because I was too young and that there was a whole emotional side to sex. However, she also knew that I was a teenager and teenagers didn't always listen to their parents. So if I was going to have sex, she wanted me to tell her. She promised she wouldn't get angry at me. She just wanted me to tell her so that she could take me to get birth control. Because even though she really thought I wasn't ready to have sex, it was more important to her that I was protected if I did.

All of that sounds a lot like what you're planning to do with Natalie. FWIW, I didn't have sex until I went to college.

Wait a second...

a mother teaching her child abstinence is ok? and who doesn't fall at the feet of Katie Couric -- one day a talk show perosnality, the next day trying to pose as a serious news journalist. a mother actually being responsible??

Thank heavens... I thought responsible parenting was extinct.

yeah...but the important thing is your still not smoking? right?

One of the interesting things that may be going on (I missed Couric's show, but have read this elsewhere) is that kids are substituting oral sex for intercourse. That is, teen intercourse does seem to be on a pretty measureable trend down, but that oral sex is much more common (read that somewhere). My wife and I have argued about whether from a purely utilitarian this is a good thing or not. I say it is, because I do the following thought experiment: If you could exchange all the teen intercourse in the United States for oral sex, would that be a good trade? I say yes. Therefore, oral sex as a substitution for intercourse is a good idea. Not as good an idea as teen abstinance, but I'm not sure that abstinance is realistic for teenagers as a class, as opposed to my children (and, of course, your children!).

"kids are substituting oral sex for intercourse"

Gee, I wonder where they ever got that idea.

"Therefore, oral sex as a substitution for intercourse is a good idea"

Bad idea. It still carries the emotional and psychological baggage that intercourse does. Even if you want to discard that, the possibility of disease transmission is only marginally lower. The only winning point is that there is no chance of pregnancy.

"but I'm not sure that abstinance is realistic for teenagers as a class"

Why not? Do you really expect so little from teens these days? I work with them all the time in a crisis pregnancy care cneter, and I'm here to tell you that they will give you EXACTLY what you expect from them. We've let it be know, as a society, that we don't expect them to be any more than rutting animals, unable to control their base instincts. We've let them know that it's OK to give in to urges instead of doing the right thing, and now we're surprised when they do it? Expect them to hold to a higher standard, and let them KNOW that's what's expected of them and that's what you will get. This is how I handle my fourteen year old daughter, and even though we have our moments, when the pressure is on, she comes shining through to do the right thing.

Katie's only mistake was not waiting till February sweeps.

Bravo to your parenting philosophy (re-sexuality). Your treatise is the most thought-provoking on this subject I've ever read, if only because of where you're coming from. Right behind yours would be Subversive Virginity by Sarah Hinkley.

Horn tooting: I wrote a pretty good one as well in 1998, but I'll have to post it on my blog when I get home from work. I'll be doggonned if I'm going to pay the Nashville Tennessean $2.95 to have a copy of my own article.

I intend to refer back to this post many times as my kids mature. Please don't ever quit this blog.

I'll echo Slarti's Bravo. Well thought, well reasoned and honestly the best thing I've read on the subject in a while.

Excellent post. As the father of teenage girls, I found it dead right on.

"If you think oral sex is a good substitute for fucking, then you missed my point on emotional readiness."
/\teh awesomezorz/\

I'm with Michele on this one. The shocking part about young kids being sexually active shouldn't be WHAT they are doing - so much as WHY they are doing it. A mind at that age is not emotionally developed enough to wrap itself around the self-image/intimacy/relationship issues surrounding something like sex. If the pattern starts early that sex is a device for gaining acceptance/respect/social standing then it predisposes someone to defaulting on this set of beliefs about sex. It basically enables a life of fucked up relationships with loved ones or people who may become spouses.

I don't have a girl - two boys or teenagers - both are below 4. But I can only hope I do as good a job as you are! I want my kids to be able to stay kids and not "grow up" before their time.

I couln't agree with you more. The idea that oral sex is a substitute for intercourse is dangerous. Suggesting this to you daughter is to suggest that her role in sex is nothing more than an instrument of male gratification. Not a bad idea if you are also encouraging her to enter the exciting field of prostitution, but deeply misguided otherwise. I think you have to take the abstinence until you find the right guy approach, combined with education on what to do if they decide to have sex.

I did see a moment of the Couric show, it was truly horrific. She actually suggested that parents should take suggestions from kids on how to properly parent them. I'd suggest if you've reached this low point, the game is already lost.

Sars at Tomato Nation wrote, back in '02, a BRILLIANT essay on the whole "blow jobs in middle school" phenomenon. An excerpt:

What I want to focus on is the double standard at work here. Well, it's more like a triple or quadruple standard, but it doesn't matter what I call it, because by any name it's sexist and sickening. Once again, still, in the twenty-first century, in our supposedly wonderful and cutting-edge country full of freedoms and opportunities, the boys get props for getting off, and the girls get tarred with the "slut" brush for accommodating the boys. And that's ALL the girls get. They don't get any thanks. They don't get any compliments on a job (so to speak) well done. They don't even get any head of their own, ohhhhh no. No, the girls get fucked. Literally. And apparently, that's okay with them. Apparently, pulling a train on a bunch of skate-punk douche-bags who DON'T EVEN SHAVE YET is just what's expected of them. So, they do it.

And that sucks, my friends. It doesn't just suck because the boys don't seem to see anything wrong with it, although that's sucky too. It sucks because the girls don't expect any better. "It's not a big thing" this, "it's just something kids do" that -- um, excuse me, but shoplifting is "something kids do" too and THAT'S not the greatest idea, and furthermore, oral sex IS TOO a big deal. It's a boy's genitals in your MOUTH. Able to give you DISEASES, diseases JUST AS SERIOUS as those COMMUNICABLE BY INTERCOURSE. Yeah. Welcome to Big Deal, population: you and a penis. If that's "not a big deal," fine, but don't let me hear you bitch at your girlfriends for backwashing in your Snapple, mmmkay?

You can read the whole essay at It is spot. on.

Having two daughters, 13 and 15, I can only hope that the open relationship and understanding we have enjoyed so far will continue and that they will know they can talk to me about anything. I am not so concerned about my older daughter as she is really level headed, but my younger one so longs for peer approval and popularity despite our warnings of those traps. I will have to keep a much closer eye on her and hope that she will make the right decision when she is faced with sexual advances. Thanks for giving me some options to think about in dealing with her...abstinence is the ONLY way to go and teens are more okay with the concept than we give them credit for!

Agree, My daughter is six, but when we have that conversation it will center around her having value, and that she is better than just a recepticle for some jerk that doesn't care about her. I also need to show her how she should be treated by treating her mother well, and teaching her brother to be the right kind of boy.

That and scaring hell out of any little SOB that comes sniffing around.

Well, I disagree with you about everything else but parents having zero influence. But good (or bad) parenting is still the most important thing.

You can't teach kids often enough the one basic thing they need to survive the teen years: any idiot can stand up and rebel against parents and teachers and other authority figures at an age when it's fashionable to do so (and everybody else is doing it), but the true test is whether you can stand up to your friends.

Well, I disagree with you about everything else but parents having zero influence.

I don't understand that sentence. a) I didn't say that parents have zero influence and b) You disagree with everything? Elaborate, please?

Having 3 boys ages 5 to 16 years old, I am sadly but most familar with the attitude change about sex with todays kids. Many parents have created their own monsters. I have told my oldest that I am aware of his feelings and natural tendencies but until (A)he wishes to ruin his life with an unwanted kid (B) have his most valuable body organ rot off--yes I know, at this age it's not his heart or brain or © settle for some-one anybody or everybody has had, he had better realize that first time is invaluable much like the first breath of air at birth and not to be cheapened by his lack common sense or pure instinct not based on expectations of mutual respect for each other. There is no substitute, oral sex is sex(hence, the term sex) and human nature being what it is, unless he wishes to be the cell phone topic of the moment so all her girlie friends know he most private parts, I suggest wait. I have assured him, he won't become sterile, shrink in size or suffer stunted growth. But, I do find myself screening phone calls from girls and having to assure him that there are far worse things than being called a wimp because he has chosen to be smart up until this point.

What? The nuns are going to teach me what blowing a guy means?

Still funny after all these years.

Clinton taught us that blow jobs aren't sex, as in "I didn't have sex with that woman, Ms Lewinsky, she had sex with me."

'Bout sums it up.

Can the left sink any lower? Couric looks like a younger Barbara Boxer (and she's almost as rich and brainless).

Will any parent be influenced by this despicable woman?

I wanted to tell the joke about the difference for parents having a girl vs. having a boy, but I believe its important for parents to help reconcile everything kids see and everything their parents tell them with the fact that sex sells. They are being incessently marketed to 'buy' everything from cds to television shows, especially ones hosted by Ms. Couric(!) and even Dusty Brand clothing, if we are to oggle the blogads at the right hand side of this blog, with SEX.All these messages about getting what you want through sex needs to be made clear.
(Oh, ok... with a new boy, parents only have one penis to worry about)

This is a subject matter about which I actually have expertise. All I'll say in that regard is that the risk of disease from oral sex is NOT the same as it is with intercourse. So if you're going to talk to your kids about it, be careful how you word things.

That being said, I agree that abstinence from all sexual activity seems to be the only reasonable approach to take with teenagers. But you better have laid the foundation of such an approach long before they reach their teen years. That point can't be stressed enough.

Clinton taught us that blow jobs aren't sex, as in "I didn't have sex with that woman, Ms Lewinsky, she had sex with me."

Please. Kids were claiming that blowjobs aren't sex looong before Clinton was in office.

Michele, once again you and I lead parallel lives. And I agree with your stance 100%. Anna and I talk about everything, and we've just recently had the "you have to set the boundaries and stick to them" talk again. She has a boyfriend for the first time - a boy who for the last two years has been one of her best friends. So far, their relationship consists of playing video games and watching t.v., no different than it ever has been. What I'm expecially glad about is that she doesn't sit around waiting for him to call...she makes plans to hang with her friends on the weekends without worrying what he's doing - in other words, she has her own life. Joe isn't the center of her universe. And we've talked about the importance of that aspect as well as the dangers of sexual activity.

She'll be 15 next week, and I just pray that she continues to display good sense and make the right choices. God knows I didn't when I was her age.

I didn't start giving BJ's until (practically) after I got married. I GOTTA really love a guy to do that. What are these girls thinking? They are cheapening the entire act. Intercourse is how you get babies, but blow jobs are how you get jewelry (or new computers, RVs etc.)

No way was I going to watch that show last night, and all my "mom" friends are all talking about it (driving me nuts.)

Intercourse is how you get babies, but blow jobs are how you get jewelry (or new computers, RVs etc.)..

If you're a whore, yea.


Thankyouthankyouthankyou. I'm going to print this out and save it for my daughter. She's 2 months old. God help the first boys that come sniffing around...

I'm never going to have kids, so this is all somewhat of an academic exercise to me.

Last time you discussed this, there was something that puzzled me, but I figured, hey, I don't have kids, so maybe I just don't understand. But you've made it even clearer now, and I still don't get it. It's not really important for me to get it, except that I'm interested in your thought processes here.

I'm particularly struck with your emphasis on self-respect. If, as you note, you give up something valuable to a person who will treat you like shit, then you may feel bad about yourself.

But I thought the whole point was that the kids weren't regarding sexual intimacy as valuable. According to the stuff you've quoted, it's hardly more significant than sharing an ice cream, or borrowing a sweater. If you gave a friend a gift, and then she treated you like dirt, sure, you'd feel bad for a bit. But you wouldn't spend the rest of your life in despair because of it.

So I don't see how the same isn't true of sex if in fact it's being treated casually as the TV people claim. And I can't see how emphasizing the self-respect angle is going to keep kids from having sex, if they don't feel any loss of self-respect when they do it.

To give a bad example that will no doubt provoke parental indignation from the assembled: when I was in college my dad hit the ceiling when he found out that I occasionally loaned my boyfriend my car. Now, there were really good reasons for him to be angry, but he didn't mention those, as I recall. Instead, he said I was being used, that a girl must never, ever lend her boyfriend her car, because then he was taking advantage of her! It was OK for the boy to loan the girl the car, because that sort of thing was the man's role, you see.

Dad tried to make me feel cheap and ashamed, but nothin' doin', because I just didn't see male-female roles the way he did. What I did see was that my dad was an old dinosaur, and I was right.

If, in fact, the kids are looking at sex as casually as Katie Couric's guests would have us believe, I think that an emphasis on self-respect is going to go nowhere; they won't understand why they should feel a loss of self-respect. That's not to say that your approach is the wrong one with your daughter, but apparently she doesn't regard sex the way the kids on Oprah do.

Of course, it's always possible that Oprah's experts are wrong.

Angie: As much as kids would like to treat sexual relations casually, we're just not wired that way. At least not all of us. Granted there are some, boys and girls, that can pull a train and not think twice about it. But for most average kids, it just doesn't work that way.

Probably the most important thing, as has been said already, is to have a good relationship with your kids so that when you tell them about the self-respect issue, they'll actually believe you.

Well, then I guess I'm a whore for my hubby. But, I wasn't a whore for anyone is HS, and I wasn't a whore for boyfriends. I don't understand why doing something to please my hubby makes me a whore? (I was joking, sorta, because honestly it puts him in such a state of happiness, he will let me have anything I want.)

I just don't enjoy doing it, and to me- that girls are doing THAT for boys now-a-days, just smacks at the ultimate insult. Way to reduce a woman to the ultimate sperm depository.

Carin, doing something to please your husband does not make you a whore. You said:

Intercourse is how you get babies, but blow jobs are how you get jewelry (or new computers, RVs etc.)..

Which, with all due respect, is the definition of a whore.

I just don't enjoy doing it, and to me- that girls are doing THAT for boys now-a-days, just smacks at the ultimate insult.

Girls doing that for boys is, yes, kind of insulting for the girl.

Way to reduce a woman to the ultimate sperm depository

But a woman doing it for her husband/boyfriend is making an adult choice to do that and most of us don't see ourselves as sperm depositories in that respect.

Well, I think you're kinda splitting hairs over a joke (I know this is a serious topic, so I shouldn't be making light.) It really bothers me that girls are doing this, because (for me) it is even beyond intercourse on a scale of intimacy (probably because in the wrong situation- it could be considered a "humiliation); what one does to someone not "good enough" to have sex with. Rape victims- male and female, for example (I speak from experience here.) For me, it wasn't something I could do on a casual level.

It is only because I am in a committed relationship (15 yrs) that I can joke about doing "it' for jewelry.

Wasn't Katie the one who said that oral sex was degrading to the woman?

I went down on a girlfriend long before any girlfriend went down on me. Was I used? Was I being a mere vaginal secretion depository? Or was I having a great time, even though I wasn't getting reciprocal acts performed on me (yet)?

Maybe I was a complete dupe, but I didn't mind. Still don't. I didn't have sexual intercourse for about two years after I first mumbled down into Little Miss Anonymous' nether parts. But I had lots of fun in that time (and afterward).

I agree with the revulsion of the horror stories about teenagers pulling a train of boys with their shorts down, but I never encountered those girls. Even if I had, I would have passed on the opportunity (disease? sloppy seconds? desire for intimacy to mean something? all three!) I know that slutty girls and user boys are out there and always have been, but I think most of us spent most of our early sexual years fumbling toward ever-increasing levels of intimacy with others as we slowly overcame our own doubts regarding our own abilities to get through all this okay. There was no moment when I said I was ready for act A or act B, but there were times I was willing to come close, then a little closer, then maybe right on the verge of (whatever act I considered the next level of intimacy).

Come to think about it, I was blindly thinking my way through it all. No one of any age is ready to "start" having sex (or any intimate act including passionate kissing). You just have to try it. When, at 19, I first had sexual intercourse, I was a complete moron in regards to relationships and intimacy and all the rest. But I am not in the least bit convinced that if I had waited until I was 21 or 25 or 30, I would have been ready for all it entailed. Maybe a bit more, but completely ready? Never.

I'm not a parent, so take my opinion on this subject for what it's worth, but I'd say you're basically taking the best possible approach to a difficult situation. If you didn't push for abstinence at that age, it would probably increase the likelihood of a regrettable mistake being made. Of course it's not entirely in a parent's control, but neither is life in general. All you can do is prepare them as best you can, hoping that they make mostly wise choices, that they survive and learn from their unwise choices, and that random misfortune doesn't befall them.

Erp - Katie Couric is one of the most vapid, annoying women on the planet, but the same would be true if she were a Republican. Idiocy supercedes the boundaries of political affilation...

I think the difference with the kids that Katie Couric was talking about and our kids, is that our kids do have respect for themselves and their bodies and their morals because they have learned that at home. I truly believe that my girls have more respect for themselves than to put out because everyone else is doing it. I'm not saying that there aren't kids out there who don't care and respect doesn't mean squat, but that is because they have never learned that at home. So putting out, orally or not, doesn't mean anything to them. I just can't believe that the majority of teenagers don't care...maybe I'm kidding myself, but here, with the kids my girls hang out with, that just isn't the case...they are respectful of others and especially themselves.

Have I told you lately how much I appreciate you Michele?

I don't think I have. Thank you Michele.

I've done my best to tell my daughters (18 and 14) that when a boy tells you "if you love me, you'd do this for me",

the best answer is "if you loved me, you wouldn't ask me to do that".

I don't know if they will win, or lose,

but open, honest communication about love and sexuality is better than leaving it to Katie Couric.

I think the difference with the kids that Katie Couric was talking about and our kids, is that our kids do have respect for themselves and their bodies and their morals because they have learned that at home.

I see that you have entirely missed my point.

You are correct that this thing is learned at home. If their parents treat sex as no big deal, they probably will too.

But this is not because they have no respect for themselves. The connection between chastity and self-respect is entirely in your mind. Many other people share this idea, of course, but if -- IF -- the kids don't, approaching them through the avenue of self-respect just isn't going to do the trick.

It's interesting that all the comments about "oral sex" assume that it is only one way. Given our high school culture, it probably is.

But mutual oral sex or handjobs - i.e. what used to be called "heavy petting" or "everything but" - would avoid pregnancy and lessen the risk of disease, and would allow the participants to actually learn how their bodies work. But I still wouldn't recommend that except maybe if two teens are seriously going steady, since all sexual activity involving genitals has emotional resonance.

I would certainly emphasize not doing any sexual activity "for" the boy, only those things which she would also enjoy.