I was just reading in motherwellmag.com, an article written by Peggy Orenstein, October 10,2016, about the substantive differences between the Dutch way of handling teenage sex and that of America’s. The repercussions felt by the two were impressive. And got me thinking about my own experiences, other articles and popular fiction. I have to hand it to the Dutch, they have their ducks in a row, in a number of ways.
This world has so many cultures. In some a girl who has had sex, even by rape, is stoned until death. Others consider her disgraced or ostracize her.There are many who marry of their children at horribly young ages with pregnancies common as low as twelve.
The Dutch saw the free, casual sex trend of the 70’s had found a different way to face the issue head-on. The government, schools, community leaders, and families worked together to talk and treat sex as an opportunity to educate young people about love, sex, protection and commitment. Judgements are few. As a reult, children understand the preciousness of sex and wait until they are in committed relationships where both partners share the responsibilities for protection and there is not pressure from peers and pregnancy and underage sex rates are much lower than ours.
When I was a teenager in the early 70’s (yes – I can remember that far back), sex was still hidden unless you were in the boy’s locker room. We drank and smoked pot a lot, so inhibitions were lower. It hasn’t changed much as I can see, except the drugs are worse and inhibitions lower still. I didn’t know if even my best friends were having intercourse or not in high school. I read girls have clubs about shaving below, how many they’ve scored and what variety. I did everything but the final home run but with a bunch of partners. Hell, I was a minister’s daughter – I had a reputation to consider!
My parents found out I had succumbed to my baser instincts when I called my mother from college and described my symptoms and asked what it was (she was a nurse and therefore god). Her answer was “So you’ve started having sex?”. I was floored. She went on to tell me I had a UTI and it was called Honeymoonitis by medical people as it so often happened on honeymoons, caused by intercourse. She then told me to go to a doctor for help, to make sure we were both clean when we were having sex, and, for God’s sake, use protection. So much for the Sex Talk.
Oh, there was an earlier sex talk. One day, on the Football bus, a boy cried out, “Debbie, I had a wet dream about you last night!” I was mortified. After I arrived home I asked my parents what one was. They sort of described it. I mumbled okay and left. A few minutes later my mother entered my room to ask if I had had one. (which only confused me more) and I explained what had happened. She said “”OK”.
Sex education involved a banana and anatomically appropriate charts (desexualized). My daughter’s involved carrying an egg around, splitting the responsibilities with her partner, to approximate what having a baby would be like. I would have stuck the egg in the refrigerator and pulled it out Monday morning.
A decade later, books speak of highly charged sexual episodes – and these aren’t the heaving bosom romance books but ten top NY Times books. And judging from them, we have mucked it up more as the years go by. Do parents give any advice at all? Do they talk about waiting until one is in a deeply committed, loving relationship? Do they have a clue what is going on?
The Dutch still have a lot they could teach us.