Youth Culture Window
Once upon a time, humans came in two varieties: male and female. Even with limited sexual options, problems ensued. But that was then; this is now. Today’s kids inherited all the existing problems, but have inflicted new ones upon themselves, as well.
Fortunately, the solution for all of them is still the same.
Surrounded by Sexuality
The sexual landscape facing today’s teenager is akin to a minefield from World War 1; countless traps litter their path and one small misstep can have tragic consequences. In addition to the age-old problems of teen pregnancy, STIs, abortion, and broken hearts, today’s kids are confronted with newer issues like ubiquitous porn, sex-laced media entertainment in music and TV shows, and sexting. At the forefront of these issues is an attitude of “do whatever you like”… sex is recreational.
Today’s young people aren’t hearing… Sex Matters.
Nowadays, teens and – even tweens – encounter the temptation and fallout that accompany sexting, the sharing of racy and/or inappropriate pics. In fact, sexting has become such a phenomenon lately that some kids even see it as “the new flirting.” The ongoing development of supposedly “private” apps like SnapChat and “photo vault” apps like these do nothing to discourage sexting between young smartphone users. Earlier this month, a high school in Colorado made headlines for an epidemic of sexting between its students resulting in felony investigations.
Speaking of schools, there is ongoing debate about the most effective manner for addressing sex and its related topics. Some think big changes are needed in Sex Ed classes…and even predict they will take place in the next few years. But part of the challenge of talking about sex is this: even the terms we use to discuss sex are evolving.
Case in point, pop star Miley Cyrus. You may recall she told the world she was “pansexual” just a few months ago. Speaking of her sexual preferences, the music icon said, “I’m very open about it — I’m pansexual. But I’m not in a relationship. I’m 22, I’m going on dates, but I change my style every two weeks, let alone who I’m with.”
She’s not alone in her thinking about the ongoing change in sexuality. Hollywood actress Kristen Stewart, the female lead in the Twilight Saga, attracted attention to herself in an interview where she discussed the future of sexuality by saying, “I think in three or four years, there are going to be a whole lot more people who don’t think it’s necessary to figure out if you’re gay or straight. It’s like, just do your thing.”
That pretty well sums up the mindset of our culture in four words. “Just do your thing.” Go with your gut. Do what feels right at the moment. No right, no wrong, no rules for me (yeah… I just quoted Frozen).
I don’t know if Stewart’s stance could be any more nebulous, ineffective…or dangerous.
Regardless, there is a phrase for this young generation’s desire to fluctuate back and forth on sexuality: sexual fluidity. Kids aren’t bothered by a lack of definition…until there’s a problem. And experts predict there may be plenty of problems on the horizon. Dr. Jean Twenge of San Diego State University says, “This fluidity around gender has an impact on sexuality as well. If we’re not going to have strict gender categories, then we’re not going to have strict sexual categories either.”
Solving Sexual Problems
Whether it’s old problems or new problems, most of them are avoided with the same old tried and true solution: the constant presence of loving and godly adults. To our readers – overwhelmingly parents and youth leaders – we have two thoughts to share on this ongoing conversation.
Parents – Continually engage your kids in discussions about sex. Yes, sometimes the talks can be a bit awkward, but those awkward talks might help your teenager avoid even more awkward situations. Time and time again, studies have underscored the benefits of talking with your kids about sex and sexuality. Most recently, a study published by Pediatrics that looked at 30 years of research found that kids who hear about sex from mom and dad make better/safer choices. In fact, Dr. Laura Widman, professor at North Carolina State University, said, “There was a significant effect. Kids whose parents talked with them about sexually healthy practices were more likely to take precautions and preventative measures.” Teens are living in a world where 25% of them never hear anything about sex from their parents. But those who do are more likely to avoid STIs and unwanted pregnancies. Bottom line: keep talking, mom and dad.
Our own Jonathan McKee, author of the book More Than Just the Talk: Becoming Your Kid’s Go-To Person about SEX, was recently interviewed on TV about this very subject, and provides some great tips to creating a comfortable climate for these continued conversations.
Youth Leaders – Make sure that sex is a regular part of your teaching and your kids’ spiritual diet. No, you don’t have to talk about sex every single Wednesday night, but it wouldn’t hurt to address it in your weekly programming several times each year. Use resources like the brand new (and very affordable) SEX MATTERS, a book with discussion questions at the end of each chapter to engage teenagers in these conversations.
Beyond that, it may be a great idea to have a specialized weekend set aside as part of your annual schedule to specifically address sex and sexuality from a biblical perspective. You can even host these overnighters by gender. Bring in an expert to teach parents, or do it yourself. Make sure you give parents detailed information about the weekend’s goals and get their permission, and then pull your students away for a time of focused discussion on the topic. You might want to equip parents with some tools to help them carry on the conversations when their kids return from the getaway. Bottom line: keep teaching, youth leaders.
Of course, both parents and youth leaders should continue to take advantage of the totally free resources we offer on this subject at The Source for Youth Ministry. We have plenty of tools to help you address the issues surrounding sex and sexuality. Some are MUSIC DISCUSSIONS (like this one) using popular songs; others might be MOVIE CLIPS (like this one) using scenes from favorite films.
The problems kids face with sex and sexuality will never go away. Just make sure the teenagers in your life never face them alone or uninformed.
David R. Smith
is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth
workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the
gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year,
Ministry By Teenagers
. David provides free
resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org
David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.
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