Opinion: Young love needs positive messages to flourish

In my talks around the world I often tell the story of Kaycee.

So much to learn: Parents can help their children navigate their way through a difficult growing up period.

So much to learn: Parents can help their children navigate their way through a difficult growing up period.

Kaycee is a smart, resilient fourteen-year-old girl who meets a seventeen-year-old boy at a party. 

They end up having sex, something that most parents don’t want to think about at that age. 

Kaycee thinks that this cool older boy is keen on her.

But she discovers before the party is even over that he has done it for a bet with his mates. 

The experience is crushing and it sends her life spinning out of control.

It takes two years to build up the courage to tell her parents and get help.   

When we think about what we want for our kids, the experience of young love, the exploration of romance, friendship, and sexuality, hopefully approached slowly and with care, is something we would wish to go well for them.  

For today’s teenagers, it is a tragedy that sex has become a source of a lot of misery.

Those who work with teens say its a disaster area. 

On the one hand, some things haven’t changed. Some kids rush into sex, somewhat riskily,  as they always did. 

Others go more slowly - a half of all young people don’t become sexually active until their late teens or even early twenties. 

But those who do are having an unhappy time - especially the girls. 

There has been an explosion of pornography and an increase in the unsupervised access that some boys have to it.

Added to this is the fact that much of it is abusive or depicts humiliation of girls or women, which they are purported to like or enjoy.

This has given a generation of boys a misguided education about how sex works.

This is compounded by popular culture that girls are exposed to everyday.

From a very young age, girls get the message that they have to be sexy in order to be liked, that this is their role in life. 

It’s as if feminism never happened.  

It is vital that we teach our children that porn and real life lovemaking are very different.

Happy sex is connected, vulnerable, trusting, and goes best when you feel safe and cared about by the other person. 

It’s not the “get her done” rush of two disconnected bodies. 

Even in primary school, we have to let our kids know they may see yucky stuff shown to them, but that isn’t what real love is like. 

Our girls need to know that their bodies belong to them, and they get to choose and be in control. 

They also need to hear from their mothers that sex is really great, when it’s right.

This positive message is known to actually slow down girls’ progress into sexual activity, as they don’t settle for second rate. 

Boys must be told by both parents to treat girls always with respect.

Boys need to be absolutely sure never to pressure or invade her space without very clear consent. 

Schools need to teach this respect too.

 It’s hard for mums and dads, but we have to step up.

Our kids want us to talk about sex with them, even though they act embarrassed.

It is a gap in their knowledge that we need to fill.  

A happy sexuality is one of the Ten Things Girls Need Most, and so important to ensure they will have.  

Steve Biddulph is the author of Ten Things Girls Need Most and Raising Boys.