teens

The Unslut Project

Emily Lindin posts her journal entries from her sixth-grade year, when everyone at her school decided she was a slut. Terrifying and sad, but it's a bold effort on her part to inspire and achieve catharsis.

He said, “Why not? Come on.” I told him I wasn’t sure I trusted him enough, and he promised me he wouldn’t dump me. During this chat, it became perfectly clear to me that he was drunk. Those few shots we had had earlier in Matt’s dining room had really done a lot for him. [...]

But he was on top of me and I didn’t want to disappoint him.

Via XX Factor.

"We Were Only Allowed to be Friends"

December 7 is a day that will forever remain etched in my memory.

So far, I have not cried.

An anonymous contributor writes for Feminspire on coming out and dating her first girlfriend, then being bullied relentlessly at school and forbidden by the administration from attending prom as a couple.

Pediatricians: Prescribe Emergency Contraception to Teens in Advance

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that pediatricians begin prescribing Plan B ahead of time (where by “time” I mean “intercourse”) to women under 17, due to the difficulties teen girls often face in obtaining the drug:

A 2010 analysis of seven randomized studies of emergency contraception found that having a morning-after prescription in hand did not increase teens’ sexual activity or decrease use of standard contraceptives but did increase use of the pill and shorten the time before a teenager used it after sex.

I know I say this nearly every time I mention Plan B, but it does not cause abortions or prevent implantation.

Woman Sues Girls Gone Wild Producers for Unauthorized Use of Her Image

Say what you will about whether it was advisable for this young woman to flash her breasts at a couple guys with a video camera, but she should win this suit for two reasons:

  1. It does not appear that she signed any sort of release or even gave verbal consent for her image to be used in commercial products or advertisements.
  2. She was 14 years old at the time and therefore probably not even legally capable of giving consent.

Of course, state laws vary, but 14 years old would be a pretty low cut-off.

15-Year-Old Girl Jumps in Front of Train

Slut-shamed and bullied because of sexual encounters with athletes at her high school—who, by the way, are doing just fine.

Fantasy Slut League

The Varsity Boys of Piedmont High School have, for the past five or six years, been “drafting” female students (without their knowledge) and competing to score points by engaging in sexual acts with them—a disgusting practice the administration has just discovered.

The school is not planning to discipline the students involved, said Randall Booker, an assistant superintendent of educational services, nor would he discuss how many students might have been involved.

“Our focus really isn’t pinpointing the who or the details,” he said. “Our focus is really about having this continued conversations with kids, getting them to feel comfortable, getting them to learn why this is disrespectful, inappropriate.”

Good News: Vaccinating Your Daugher Against HPV Will Not Make Her a Slut

A recent study shows that giving girls the vaccine does not increase their likelihood of having sex:

Unlike previous studies that have largely relied on self-reported sexual activity, the new study measured clinical signs of sexual activity over several years, like whether the girls had been tested for a sexually transmitted infection, received contraceptive counseling or become pregnant.

“What we’ve done here is take a more objective approach and use clinical data to look at outcomes that are related to sexual activity and compare them,” Bednarczyk said.

This fuels my skepticism regarding the efficacy of scaring teens into celibacy.

No Reasonable Expectation of Privacy Under Your Skirt

A Georgia teacher is under investigation for photographing his female students without their knowledge and posting the results to the Reddit “creepshots” thread.

Which is only right, as this is obviously very disturbing and illegal behavior. Even more disturbing, though, is Reddit’s refusal to shut down the thread entirely:

People constantly have their pictures taken, without their consent, and used in publications without their knowledge. When you are outside and in public space, you do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Laws probably vary from state to state and city to city, but it seems only reasonable that people should have the expectation of privacy under their clothes. Reddit need not cross the boundary into censorship in order to acknowledge that.

Using the Menstrual Cycle as a Vital Sign

Great research from The American Academy of Pediatrics, giving statistics about menstruation and menarche that parents and doctors can use to assess overall health and watch for the onset of disease in young women.

Via Ms. Magazine.

♀Love and Sex

Photograph by  Piotr Bizior

Photograph by Piotr Bizior

This post is the third in an unintentional three-part series on sexual purity. In the first post I discussed criticism of the Church’s “purity culture”, and in the second I explained why I think Christians should stop talking about virginity and focus instead on love as the basis for sexual ethics.

In high school, my youth pastor would sometimes talk to us about sex. He always pre-announced it, and everyone would get excited because teens like sex, even if they’ve never done it and have no expectation of doing it any time soon. Just the prospect of hearing it talked about was cause for anticipation, although, of course, we would inevitably feel a little disappointed afterward because the actual conversation never turned out to be at all titillating.

But that Wednesday night (every youth group I ever attended in the 90s met on Wednesday nights at 7 p.m.), gathered together in our shiny new dedicated youth room under the trendy exposed black ductwork and fluorescent lights, we would wait patiently through announcements and prayer time to hear all about that magical experience we were not allowed to have, and every single time Tim, the youth pastor, would say the same things:

  1. Sex is a wonderful gift God gave us.
  2. You shouldn’t do it until you’re married.
  3. You should stop asking questions like “How far is too far?” or “Is french kissing a sin?” because you shouldn’t be thinking about how much you can get away with but about how you can be as holy as possible.

As you might imagine from the comparative number of words used to express the above three points, the third one took up the bulk of the time. I have no idea how Tim decided that his messaging on sex for teens should revolve around holiness. Maybe the other, hotter, more popular kids for whom sex was actually on the table asked him questions like that all the time and he got tired of parsing out all sexual activity into “good” and “bad” for them. Possibly it was brilliant way for him to avoid a fear- or guilt-based approach to teen sexuality but still say true things that would keep him out of trouble with both protective parents and morally conservative congregants. In any case, he was the only adult in the evangelical community I ever heard talk like this; other messages on the subject revolved entirely around pregnancy, STDs, the sinfulness of impurity, and saving sex for marriage so your future spouse wouldn’t be angry and disappointed with you.

Obviously, these tactics have proven ineffective. Christian marriages aren’t better than anyone else’s—divorce rates in the Church are, if anything, slightly higher than the norm. And teen pregnancy in the more religious red states outstrips that in blue states. Our kids are having sex, regardless of the potential consequences or how guilty they may feel about it.

Why do we want our youth and the unmarried to abstain from sex, anyway? The reasons I’ve most frequently heard correspond roughly to the messaging of my teen years:

  1. Avoiding negative consequences (pregnancy, STDs)
  2. Emotional safety
  3. Promoting healthy marriages
  4. The sinfulness of sexual activity outside marriage

I think nearly everyone would agree about avoiding disease or unwanted pregnancy, and people should certainly be careful about managing their emotions. There is some circumstantial evidence that abstinence before marriage has a positive effect on marital happiness, for practical reasons easy to identify with a little thought. As I explained in my previous post, though, I do not think it is at all clear that God condemns pre-marital sex. In any case, guilt and shame are poor motivators of behavior, while the binary view of sexual purity as something that can be lost but never regained communicates to those who have already become sexually active that they may as well continue. For those who consider abstinence before marriage biblical and important, therefore, we need to replace our current, ineffective guilt-based reasoning with a more positive, aspirational image.

Moreover, both because of the Bible’s relative silence on the issue and due to ongoing cultural shifts, more and more Christians will likely believe quite sincerely that Biblical ethics do not preclude sexual activity before marriage. The Church’s current approach to teaching on sexuality has nothing to say to these people except “stop sinning”. While I believe in healthy dialogue and the obligation to challenge my Christian friends about their beliefs and practices when necessary (commensurate with our relationship), I also believe that I should be willing to continue in community with others even when we disagree about issues on which the Bible is not clear.[1] And if we are going to welcome into our congregations believers who are unmarried but sexually active or potentially sexually active, we ought to be able to engage them on the subject of sexual ethics with more than just a unilateral command.

What, then, can replace our current negative discourse on pre-marital sexual ethics, allowing us to support those struggling to remain celibate and dialogue with those who view sexual activity before marriage as acceptable Christian behavior?

Holiness.

I’m going to adapt my youth pastor’s message for my own time and purposes: we should not think about far we can go with our sexual liberty but about how well we can embody God’s call to be set apart for himself. My belief—based heavily on nuance and summation in interpreting the scant biblical evidence, but still my belief—is that the best and most rewarding kind of Christian spirituality involves only being sexually intimate in the context of marriage. Many people still share this belief—although they might not frame it in exactly the same way—and for those among them who are unmarried and find celibacy difficult, the concept of celibacy as a component of holiness provides a positive goal as motivation to continue doing the hard work of sexual abstinence. It can also guide those currently in romantic relationships—whether they consider abstinence a command or not—as they determine their sexual boundaries, the call to holiness dictating that, unlike the world, we must make love for one another, rather than our own desires, the rubric of our decision-making.

This is all extremely abstract language, so let me suggest three more concrete (albeit very idealized) situations.

  1. A high school boy and girl who are dating but want to remain abstinent.[2] Endeavoring to control their raging hormones but also starting to get serious, they want to be able to express their affection physically without sacrificing their idea of holiness by becoming too sexually intimate. They have agreed that the cuddling and closed-mouth kissing they currently do represents the farthest they can go in their physical relationship without violating her conscience. He thinks they ought to be allowed to kiss open-mouthed, but another girl from their youth group reminds him that it is more Christ-like to put his girlfriend’s needs above his own. From then on, every time the heat of the moment takes them in that direction he voluntarily backs off because he values her beliefs about appropriate intimacy more than his own sexual desires.
  2. A couple in their 20s who have been together for nine months and believe in abstinence before marriage but have recently had sex several times. Their relationship has become more serious, and they want to keep seeing each other, but they also view sexual purity as important and would like to remain celibate from now on. They decide the issue is so important they should bring it up to their small group at church. After some dialogue, the group helps them realize they should no longer spend time alone together in either of their homes, thus eliminating the kind of situation that could easily lead to another slip-up.
  3. A college-age couple who do not see celibacy before marriage as a biblical command but do think the decision to become sexually intimate should be taken very seriously. After they have been dating for two months she feels they have reached a point where sex would be appropriate, but he wants to wait. One night, while making out in her apartment, he begins touching her inner thigh. She tells him that she is becoming aroused and would like to stop, since he is not ready to take her all the way to orgasm. Remembering a conversation with a morally-conservative friend from church about sexual purity and consideration for others, he agrees that they should find some other activity to occupy the rest of the evening.

Are real people always going to find it so easy to practice sexual ethics that revolve around justice and consideration toward others? No. These are ideals. Real life will be much more messy and difficult. People will repeatedly fail to live up to their ideals and require forgiveness of each other much more frequently than they will immediately identify the right course of action and follow through with it every time. And this is fine. God is not keeping score against us any more. If he thought he could expect a spotless record of us, he would not have sent his Son to be spotless on our behalf. If he thought he could demand perfect adherence to a law, he would have given us a new law.

Instead of a law, though, he has given us as guides of behavior the Holy Spirit and the command of love. When the Church teaches sexual ethics—or any ethics—we must shun constructed codes of conduct, which can only reinforce legalism, leading to a life of guilt, and distinguish ourselves from the world by basing our relationships and actions on our identity as God’s holy people, called to a life of incarnation and love.


  1. My dogma—the non-negotiable beliefs over which I will break off fellowship with other believers—are very few.  ↩

  2. As before, I leave non-heterosexual considerations to another day.  ↩