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Sex and the American Teen


Let's face it: most teenagers in America are inundated with sex from an early age. We can assume most American teens have sex. We live in an increasingly permissive society. The media exploits sexual images to sell products, all kinds of products. Television, the internet, movies, billboards, magazines...all exploit sex appeal for profit. That has an impact on America's children. Children have sex at a young age. Here are some statistics on sexually active American teenagers and sex and the American teen:

  • About one quarter of the American teenage population has had sex by the time they are 15 years of age.
  • In the United States, 7 in 10 girls who had sex before the age of 14, and 6 in 10 girls who had sex before the age of 15, had sex involuntarily. They were raped.
  • About 2800 American teenagers get pregnant each day.
  • About 40% of teenage girls in America get pregnant at least once before turning twenty. Between 30 and 40 percent of those pregnancies end in abortion. Those that end in birth cost the United States taxpayers nearly 7 billion dollars annually.
  • Teens 16 to 19 years old are three times as likely than the average population to suffer rape or sexual assault. One in two rape victims are under the age of 18; one in six rape victims are under the age of 12.
  • In the United States, one in four teens become infected with a sexually transmitted disease.

We live in a permissive society. Most of the time I think this is a good thing--there are a lot of positives to having the kind of personal freedom we enjoy here in the United States. Permissiveness can be carried too far--in a society, in a family, in an individual.

What do I mean by a permissive society? I mean a society, like ours, where the social norms become more and more liberal as time passes. There is an increase in sexual freedom, a lessening of the moral strictures religion places on society as whole, a rise in secularism. Attitidues towards arts, media, abortion, human sexuality have become more and more liberal as we move forward into the twenty-first century. Though I believe, on the positive side, the benefits are great: people are not repressed, we are free to speak our minds, we are free to think as we choose, we are free to exhibit our true lifestyles as a matter of personal choice, uninhibited by society's strictures as a whole (provided we do not harm others); still, there is a price to be paid, and we are paying it. Being wild and free, and sexy, comes at a very steep price:

  • A rise in crime
  • A rise in teenage pregnancy
  • A rise in the divorce rates and single-parent households
  • A rise in sexually transmitted diseases
  • Disaffected youth

How disaffected are American teens?

  • 52% of American children between the ages of 5 and 17 have a television in their bedrooms
  • On average, the television is on in American homes for 7 hours per day
  • On average, the American parents spend about 12 hours per week in meaningful conversation with their children
  • Result? 25% of American teenagers came name the US city where the American constitution was written (Philadelphia). 75% of American teens can name the zip code of Beverly Hills (90210).

I don't want to turn back the clock. I don't want to go back to the Pilgrim Fathers, with their grim and repressive attitudes towards sex, women, personal freedoms...

I don't want to re-institute the Victorian age, with all manner of hysterical ailments in women due to that stifling, repressed society.

I would hope for just a more moderate society, that can concentrate on other appealing and important things, other than sex, in the media. I would hope for a stronger moral structure without being dictated to. I would hope for a rise in voluntary returns to religion in the home and family. I would hope for value placed on learning, knowledge, books, music; rather than how skinny the girl is, how well she looks in jeans, and how sexually appealing she is at age 12 and 13, I would hope for less television time in the home and more family time: more people doing things together as a family, whether it's within the home, playing a board game or chatting or challenging the kids to earn bonus points and an increased allowance for doing chores...or outside the home, going on a field trip, going to church, going on vacation together...

It's about time for the pendulum to swing the other way. It's about time we got over letting it all hang out and discover some moderation of permissiveness in our society.

Rather than this:

If you are a sexually active American teen, I hope you've read this even though it could have been written by your mother or somebody and you might not think it's cool.

I hope you've read this and learned what you are risking by having sex, by being a sexually active teen man or woman, without adequate protection.

I know teens are very self-conscious of their physicality. Everyone, but especially teens, needs to feel attractive. You don't need to have sex with anyone in order to feel yourself attractive and sexy. You don't need to have sex with anyone in order to be accepted. You don't need to have sex with anyone in order to be part of the group. You don't need to have sex with anyone to prove you can do it.

Sex, for the American teen, is a weird issue. Your contemporaries don't really have the same standards that your parents have, or teachers have, or any of the adults in your world have. Your teen world is just the opposite. Your peers will try to convince you that:

  • it's just too uncool to be a virgin
  • the word "F**king" is legitimate adjective and should be used frequently to improve your cool quotient
  • you're a dildo-head if you don't go along with having sex, even if you don't feel ready or comfortable with it.
  • you'll be a social outcast forevermore if you don't have sex
  • your complete lack of sex life will be the giggle of the girl's room
  • your complete lack of sex life will be the guffaw of the boy's locker room

What can I say? Teens are cruel. Life is unkind. There's always huge pressure to comform to your peer group, and that pressure doesn't immediately disappear after high school. Don't give in to it. Look at those statistics again, and do yourself a favor.

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If you are an American teen, don't have sex just to fit in.

Wait until you are good and ready and well prepared, and know the right person. The first sexual experience for an American teen should be full of wonder, romance...satisfaction.


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Ben Kuoh on December 20, 2014:

Lock of Education.

David Heinz from Salt Lake City, UT on August 23, 2013:

Sex is something that shouldn't be tossed around like a football. Sex is something that has a great significance and has the possibility of bringing a life into the world.

Paradise7 (author) from Upstate New York on August 25, 2012:

So true, Trish. I got a little flak, like I was against babies in general. I'm not--it's just that a girl's teen years are too young to be a mom, and I think you'd agree from your own experience. However, good things can come out of having to grow up way too fast on a baby's account, too.

I hope your daughter listens to you and protects herself. I truly do.

Brenda from Springfield, MO on August 23, 2012:

This is one of worries as my oldest daughter turns 12 in 3 days. We have talked and talked about it, and she is a very smart girl. But I know the pressure is big and I was a young mom having a baby at 17. I agree with green lotus. We need to teach out kids, we can not count on the school to do it for you. If you do someone at school might teach them but it wont be the sex ed teacher.

Emmyboy from Nigeria on June 06, 2012:

Thank you so much for this hub. It is always good to remind the youth of the dangers that are usually associated with sexual pleasures.

Paradise7 (author) from Upstate New York on April 15, 2012:

You definitely have a point. Thanks for the comment.

William A. Howard IV from Baltimore Maryland (USA) on April 14, 2012:

All this "OH please don't have sex just to fit in" talk does little to see the real problem here. Back in those less permissive times, despite a lot of religion and the lack of TV and movies, teen sex was still an issue. Parents knew even then that you should not leave a teen boy and girl alone anywhere. Courting was full of rules that preserved virtue and the family. Young people dated with the arrangements of chaperons. The chaperon served as a trusted barrier to sexual activity and a witness that it at least did not occur among the two. The chaperon was necessary because despite all we try to tell young people, there is a biological urge that can cause them to do otherwise. Today, young people come home to empty houses after school. These unattended children then get involved in all matter of experimentation be it sex, alcohol or drugs. A large portion of the rapes you mentioned also happened during these unattended times as well. They only way to reduce teen (and now pre-teen) sexually activity is to not leave them unattended. This even applies to same sex groupings as a growing number of children report being pressured or forced into sexual activity with the same gender.