How To Talk To Teens About Sex

The Teen Culture and Sexuality

by:  © Alan Carson ACPI© Coach for Parents

teen sexualityFor twenty-one years I taught a sexuality unit as part of my eleventh grade health education course.  At the beginning of my career it was a risk to teach anything other than the biological aspects of sexuality, and my superintendent told me so. But I knew kids needed information on boundaries, relationships, love and pre-marital sex, and I accepted the risk.

In 2001, while serving as a school counselor and parent education facilitator, a parent stayed after a parenting class, handed me an article, and said, “I have a new class for you to teach.” The article discussed the casual sexual behavior of many teens, referred to currently as the hook-up culture. So I spent the next year researching adolescent sexuality and started the course It’s About Time.

Since then I have not only attempted to convince parents that they need to be their child’s primary sexuality educator, but I have also created opportunities to speak to teens on the subject. Much to my surprise, teens listened to every word out of my mouth. Even senior high boys respected me for telling them to be gentlemen. I have yet to have even one negative experience speaking to parents or kids about sexuality. Why?  Parents are petrified because their kids are being bombarded by sexuality in the media, and kids know having sex with virtual strangers is damaging their souls. Here are shocking statistics regarding the youth culture:

* 25% of females have been victims of dating violence

* 23% of teen girls have sent nude or semi-nude “sext” images of themselves

electronically; the number one reason for doing so is pressure from their boyfriends

* 70% of college females have been verbally coerced into having unwanted  sex

* The U.S. has the highest rate of teen pregnancies in the developed world,  and the highest rate of teens contracting STDs (40% of sexually active teen females)

* Boys having sex as teens are six times more likely to be depressed and girls are four times as likely to be depressed in comparison to teens who are virgins

* Oral sex is seen as being less intimate than kissing by many teens

* 88% of teens feel pressure to have sex

teen sexuality

Many of these statistics refer to the sad state of affairs with girls, but it is girls who get pregnant, who are victims of male aggression, who are much more prone to STDs, and who are wired for sex to be part of an emotionally connected relationship, and who get called vulgar names if they are sexually active. Young males can easily separate love and sex, and need specific instruction in order to behave as gentlemen.

Our society is saturated with sexual content and yet parents are not being proactive in talking to their kids, and schools are still at least ten years behind the times in delivering meaningful sexuality education. In ’It’s About Time’ we give our teens the direction they need to make healthy choices with their sexuality. Teens do not understand that they cannot hook-up in casual sexual encounters without it affecting future relationships and the role of physical intimacy in those loving relationships. Teen boys cannot use teen girls, and girls cannot allow themselves to be used without it impacting the respect each has for the other.

The good news is that numerous research studies all conclude with the same finding: teens want their parents to guide their decisions with respect to their sexual behavior. They turn to their peers and the Internet by default. We have a moral obligation to shape our child’s sexual attitudes, beliefs and behavior. Their future family happiness is at stake.

My concern for the choices many teens are making, the indecency of the media, and the lack of quality comprehensive sexuality education lead me to write Before They Know It All: Talking to Tweens and Teens About Sexuality

Alan Carson is a retired educator and ACPI® Coach for Parents. Alan can be reached at or through his website,


  1. This email came at just the right time- thank you. My ten-year-old daughter is going on 16 and I don’t know what to say to her. Back when I was ten, I was just ten, not a teenager!

  2. My oldest is 6, but it’s never too early to be prepared. I’m watching my teenage nieces and dreading my kids’ teen years ahead.

  3. lastmate says:

    My daughter’s 14 now and though not dating yet, the time will come too soon. She changes the subject any time I bring up sex or sexual behaviors, and even yesterday when I wasn’t even talking about sex, but just mentioning that Gregory Keck (author of a recent book about parenting adopted teens)said parents must talk about sex to their adolescents so it can be put into a moral context reflecting the parents’ values (vs. in school, where purely biological aspects of it are taught around 5th grade, for fear of any religious overtones). She didn’t even want me to “talk about talking about” sex! Of course even grownups rarely discuss sex or anything with a sexual context around our OWN parents–there just seems to be an ingrained avoidance of the topic when it comes to trans-generational conversations. Kids would much rather talk about sex with their peers, who may be full of misinformation and who certainly can’t be counted on to share the parents’ values. So how can I approach the subject with my daughter, without her literally covering her ears, turning up the radio or blatently changing the subject? One thing I want to somehow bring up is that the “pressure” could very well be within herself, since she’s a very sensual person whose hormones are (and will be even more by the time she starts dating, especially if she’s with a boy she’s strongly attracted to) raging, so she might really WANT to have sex–with or without any “pressure” from a boy she likes/thinks she loves. She has told me she and a friend her age (also not dating yet) had “practiced saying NO”, so they’d be ready to do so when the time comes. I laughed to myself, since even at my age I can remember how powerful adolescent desires can be, how I probably wouldn’t have said “no” myself before age 18, had birth control not been so unavailable to me at the time and had not the social repercussions not been so much more negative than they are now (even kids who may have been having sex would rarely admit it to even their best friends, whereas now it’s accepted as the norm among so many teens, and in the media, that virgins are often in a hurry to “join the crowd”). So I hope this teleconference will discuss not only resisting peer pressure, but also how kids can be persuaded to resist their own sexual desires until they are older (and how old should they be?), how they’ll know they’re emotionally ready and that the chosen partner is the right one, and how to prevent the intensity of sexual involvement with someone they have a powerful attraction toward, from dominating their thoughts and their lives while they’re still trying to complete their education or begin a career?

    • Lastmate:

      As with all courses I facilitate, I do my best answer everyone’s questions. If I feel unprepared to give a thorough answer during that particular session, I will answer the question the following week, or send an email between sessions. While your questions are challenging, I will share my opinions with the class members.


  4. My daughter goes to a Christian high school, and they had a speaker a few months ago who said something that my daughter still remembers and talks about. This young man was in his early 20s, and when he was in high school, he was surrounded by students who were sexually active. He, however, remained (and still is) a virgin. He said to his peers: “I can always change and be like you, but you can never be like me.”

    In her bible class, they are reading a book called, “And the Bride Wore White.” It’s a very powerful commentary on the decision to remain pure, and useful to high school girls. I read it first, since we got the book this summer before school started; it helped to know what she was reading/learning about. I’m also praying for her to make good decisions as she matures into a young woman.

    We have always been very open and honest with our daughter about our family values and how the media depicts sexuality outside of marriage. As a result, our daughter has strong convictions that will serve her well in her relationships.