Today I posted a snarky comment asking “how do you define ‘is?” This, of course, was a reference to Bill Clinton’s slippery dodge of his claims to not having sexual relations with that woman. So far as I know this is the most well known instance of trying to define what sex is. Of course you know that my attempt at humor would backfire today when a teen asked me a very specific question about sex.
The following contains specific and frank discussion of sex and sexual acts. If this will offend you do not read further. When I talk sex with my teens I don’t mince words so don’t expect it here.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Yeah so what do you do when you get a text from a 14 year old girl in your youth group that says, “Hey my friends want to kno[sic] if fingering is considered sex?” There is no way that you can be ready for this question right out of the blue like that. For that matter it is hard to talk about this when you have been planning for it. It is very different talking about it with people your age and people half your age. My response, “The answer is more complicated than a standard yes/no but I would say the short version is that it is a sexual act.” Of course that is kind of a copout but I needed time to think and steel myself so that I could give the kind of answer they need from an adult.
You see, teens talk about sex a LOT. You may not realize this but they do. I remember just how much I talked about sex with my friends back then. In fact it seemed like everything could be and was twisted to sound sexual. This is just how teens are. The problem is they tend to talk sex with each other but not a responsible and trusted adult. This means they are really only getting a very small part of the story and that isn’t good. Teens are horribly informed and actually have a lot of important questions on this subject, like the one I was asked today. As adults those questions really throw us though because, well from my perspective, they are so young. Why is this a conversation 14 year olds are having? Never mind I probably had this conversation at 14. They are having the conversation because their bodies are gearing up for sex but as adults we are trying to keep them children. This is one of the biggest struggles of adolescence. Parents and other responsible trusted adults need to open up about these things because teens are talking about it with or without us.
Of course the conversation didn’t end with my response and will likely involve more sex talks in the near future. The response I got back was, “Okay they are confused and I can’t explain it to them so thanks. Just wanted to know. I will have them ask on Wednesday.” I feel like she knew I was giving a bit of a copout and my time was up so I launched into a more specific answer.
I’m not warning you again, this does use real adult words and not child words, but I told it to a 14 year old so I feel safe putting it here. If these words offend you don’t read this.
“A strict definition of sex would be penetration of the vagina by the penis but sexual acts include any activity that leads to sexual gratification. This is a much more broad definition that includes fingering but should be considered because of the emotional and chemical responses the body goes through regardless of the form that leads to sexual gratification.”
I don’t know how to make it any clearer than that. I know that I will have to talk about this and explain the ways that the body responds during arousal and how this affects emotional response and even long term commitment issues.
So if you have made it through the sexual talk and want to share your advice on how to handle this or how you have done it then please leave a comment. If you are completely offended that I would be so frank with a young girl, well I’m sorry but what would you have done?