Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Teenagers and Sexuality (Exposure through Media and Education)

You may be wondering why I've been on such a "teen sexuality" kick lately. I was wondering the same thing myself, to be honest. I knew it was a problem, but I didn't know how much of a problem, so I did some research into the pervasiveness of sexuality in teenagers' lives. I'd like to share my findings with you.

According to a 2013 survey of high school students by the CDC, 46.8% of high school students had had sexual intercourse at least once in their life. Thirty-four percent of high school students had sexual intercourse recently--within the past three months--and of that 34.0%, 40.9% did not use a condom. A shocking 15.0% of high school students had already had at least four sexual partners in their life.

The CDC also stated that in 2009, an estimated 8300 adolescents (age 13 to 24) in the forty CDC-reporting states had HIV, and in that same year, more than 400, 000 girls age 15 to 19 gave birth.

From the information I found at the CDC, I concluded that sexual activity is rampant among America's teenagers. But I didn't stop there. "Why is this such a problem in America?" I asked. "Aren't we teaching sexual education to our teenagers?" I found the Kaiser Family Foundation page on states' policy on sex education, and what I found there began to explain the sexual problems among teenagers.

Less than half of the states in America have mandated sexual education--schools in the remaining 28 states may teach it voluntarily. In those states that do require sexual education, most policies state that schools “must cover” or “must stress abstinence”. Only 11 states that have mandated sexual education (and Washington DC) “must cover contraception” in addition to abstinence. 

Of course these sexual education policies aren't working. Numerous surveys  have found that abstinence-only education does not delay sexual intercourse or lower rates of teen pregnancy. (For more information, check out this article from UGAthis publication by Advocates for Youth, and this research report on PubMed Central.) Even if they did work, twenty-two of the fifty states is not enough.

If teenagers aren't getting their sexual education from schools, where are they getting it from? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2013 survey), teenagers spend only 48 minutes communicating or socializing per day. If they split that time up equally between friends, family, teachers, and non-academic leaders (coaches, club leaders, etc.)--and I'm willing to bet they don't--they would only have 12 minutes per day to learn anything from their parents. Simply put, teenagers do not spend enough time with their parents to be learning sexual education from them.

The next most obvious source of "education" that teenagers have is the media. I went to Billboard's top ten songs of 2014 to find out what sort of sexual messages teenagers are learning from music. This is when I started getting a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Read the following lyrics to see what the top ten songs are teaching today's teenagers

1. All About That Bass, Meghan Trainor
  • “I ain’t no size two, but I can shake it, shake it, like I’m supposed to do”
  • “Boys like a little more booty to hold at night”
  • "I got that boom boom that all the boys chase, and all the junk in all the right places"
3. Black Widow, Iggy Azalea
  • "It was us against the world and now we just f*****g"
  • "You never met nobody that'll do ya how I do ya"
  • "I'm-a make you beg for it, plead for it"

4. Habits (Stay High), Tove Lo
  • “I go to sex clubs, watching freaky people gettin’ it on”
5. Bang Bang, Jessie J, Ariana Grande, & Nicki Minaj
  • “If he hanging we banging”
  • “You need a bad girl to blow your mind”
  • "Bang bang all over you (I'll let you have it)"
6. Don’t Tell Em, Jeremih
  • "Body like the summer, f*** it like no other"
  • "Loving while grabbing the rhythm of your hips"
  • "She wanna s*** my d*** and I'm cool with it"
  • "It's that twitter p***y I met on the internet"
7. Animals, Maroon 5
  • "Baby, I'm preying on you tonight, hunt you down to eat you alive"
  • "We get along when I'm inside you"
  • "I can still hear you making that sound, taking me down rolling on the ground"
  • "Don't deny the animal that comes alive when I'm inside you"
8. Anaconda, Nicki Minaj
  • "Come through and f*** em in my automobile, let him eat it with his grills"
  • "He keep tellin' me it's real, that he love my sex appeal"
  • "He toss my salad like his name Romaine" (slang for annilingus)
9. Stay With Me, Sam Smith
  • "I'm not good at a one night stand"
  • "You can lay with me so it doesn't hurt"
10. Hot Boy (N***a Boy), Bobby Shmurda
  • "Your shawty gave me neck 'til I pass out" (slang for oral sex)
  • "If you ain't a ho, get up out my trap house"
You probably noticed, if you read through those lyrics, that the number two song was missing. The number two song is "Shake It Off" by Taylor Swift, Nothing in that song is particularly sexually charged, although the music video has a number of scenes with both women and men in skin-tight clothing or underwear, and the dance moves (while not "Miley Cyrus" vulgar) are sexually charged. Also, the number nine song, "Stay With Me" (from the album In the Lonely Hour), has been stated by Sam Smith, the artist, to be written about another man.

If teenagers are getting their sexual education from music, it's no wonder the teenage sexual activity rates are so high in America.

Of course, they could also be getting their sexual education from the internet. Covenant Eyes, an internet accountability and filtering organization, found that 93% of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to pornography before 18. 70% of boys and 23% of girls spent more than 30 consecutive minutes looking at pornography at least once. Thirty-five percent of boys had spent more than 30 consecutive minutes watching pornography on more than ten occasions, and 14% of girls had spent more than 30 consecutive minutes on more than one occasion. The content they have been exposed to in the pornography they have consumed includes group sex, same-sex intercourse, bondage, bestiality, violence, and child pornography, in varying amounts. Only 3% of boys and 17% of girls have never seen pornography.

Pornography is certainly the last place we want teenagers to be looking for sexual education. Music, also, is obviously not a safe place for teenagers to get their information about sexuality. The majority of teenagers aren't learning sexual education in school. Parents, therefore, have an obligation to teach their children sexual values.

If your teens aren't learning it from you, where are they going to learn it?

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