Tuesday, June 9, 2009

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?


Wendy said...

Well, if she's asking, she should be given the answer. It's scary how young it all starts. I'm glad you're going to talk to her. While the fingering in itself is not intercourse, it is opening the door to it. And any type of sexual contact can make a person think that they have feelings for another that really aren't there. It just confuses things. With all the hormones bursting everywhere at that age, a person can easily fall into something that they can't get out of or wish they had never gotten into. While a teenager may think they are ready for that kind of thing, chances are, they'll regret bad decisions later.

Anonymous said...

Completely agree that high school kids should get accurate answers from trusted adults. Wondering though, if it's entirely appropriate for a male youth pastor to have that discussion with a female student?

Helen said...

Nick, I think you were correct in answering her. Who are these "friends"? Is she being pressured by a boy to do something she herself doesn't think she is ready for with "it isn't really sex", doubting her instincts that hayle yes it is, and checking with an adult she trusts? There are times that it is most appropriate to have an older female talk to a girl, and an older male talk to a boy, and their are times you have to wing it because you just don't have the whole picture. "Wait until I can arrange for a female to answer that question..." could very well lead to it being too late because she let's herself be convinced by those who are there.
I think you did good. And well. Yes. You did well.

katdish said...


I remember what it was like being 14 years old. Back then, I wasn't being constantly bombarded by sexually explicit EVERYTHING either. I think what you said was accurate, and I also think it is a good thing that she was able to talk to an adult that didn't just talk to her as a child.

I also think I somewhat agree with Anonymous to a certain extent about talking to a female student with raging hormones.

Candace Jean July 16 said...

I think it's great that she trusted you enough to ask. I can't imagine myself at 14 (or 24!) asking an older male that question. If this was in person, I agree it would have been ideal to have a female present, but if it were over text (?) I think you gave a great answer. And you have to grasp those teachable moments or they may be gone forever.

I love the "my friends want to know" part. Uh huh.

And at what point then do you talk about what the Bible says about sex? But this is obviously something "to be continued..."

Nick the Geek said...

I agree with pretty much everything you said.

Yeah I do worry about levels of appropriateness. I would never sit down and talk with a girl about this by ourselves and I wouldn't just have this conversation over text all alone. My wife was involved with my conversation as I was conveniently at home for lunch with her when the question came. Relationships with teens can be very tricky and I try to walk on the side of cautious.

No she was not being pressured by a boy. I found out who the friend was. I'm not 100% sure what prompted the question. I'm honestly thinking that it was a conversation about sex and what is appropriate that I was brought into. I have heard some stuff that would make pretty much anyone blush.

hmm, well I guess when I was a teen we talked about a lot more than you did. Not just with other guys either. I hope the additional info I mentioned about my wife being involved with the texting helps alleviate concerns.

The friend was a guy that she is friends with who has been attending youth. Apparently they dated at some point in the past for a very short time that was awkward and so they are only friends ... so um yeah. At this point I'm pretty certain the question arose from a conversation about what is appropriate.

As for when I bring up what the Bible says. Well she has heard me several times on this issue. At this point in life I think she is pretty clear on what the Bible teaches and what her convictions are. I don't know what the future holds but I do know she has been taught not only that sex should wait till marriage but also why from several different vantage points. It is important that students hear this often because of how often they hear the opposite.

Annie K said...

Apparently I grew up a prude because my friends and I didn't sit around discussing sex and I told my boyfriend (who later turned out to be my husband) that if he did drugs or tried to get into my pants it was over. I guess I had self-respect.

I'm glad I'm not a teen in this day and age.

Nick the Geek said...

Annie K,

yeah I feel like I have much more in common with my teens than people just a bit older than me, but some things still shock me.

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