Messing Up Sex (In So Many Ways)
“Tasha” used her smartphone to snap a picture of herself – topless, of course – and, before she lost her courage, quickly sent it to her boyfriend via her SnapChat app. Little does she know the nude pic might very well wind up on a website featuring pedophilia.
But that’s just one sexual danger young people face these days.
Several recent studies about young people and their sexual practices are leaving many adults scratching their heads, both here, and overseas. For some time, we’ve known sex and nudity have been on the rise in our culture, but now that brand new data is available, it looks like teens are still heading in the wrong direction on so many fronts.
Here are just three of the dangers that continue to upset kids, their sexuality, and their lives.
Yep. It looks like sexting, that (now) decade-old practice of taking and sending nude pics, is continuing to leave its ugly mark on young people. (And it will probably continue to do so for as long as celebrities are willing to glorify the risky practice.)
Teenagers have plenty of reasons to avoid this damaging activity, but the UK-based Internet Watch Foundation is giving them one more. The non-profit organization, which specializes in guarding young people from sexual victimization, warns that tens of thousands of explicit pics taken by teens are finding their way to child pornography websites.
In a mere 40 hours of research, analysts at IWF discovered more than 12,000 “self-generated images of teenagers on 70 pedophilic websites.” Those doing the research fear the numbers would be far higher if they spent more time investigating.
The costs of sexting can be life-changing. A careless decision can ruin a reputation, a career, a marriage, and so much more. Of course, sexting can also be life-ending.
And speaking of “sexy selfies” showing up on porn sites….
A recent article from Covenant Eyes, an online community helping those with Internet temptations, shared 10 Surprising Pornography Stats (which weren’t very “surprising” at all, sadly). But since the infographic article takes about 90 seconds to read, I strongly suggest you invest that minute-and-a-half. You’ll learn just how pervasive pornography has become in our everyday lives.
The one “surprising” thing about pornography is how much young people seem to know about it.
In an honest interview about young teens’ knowledge of sex, former editor of the UK’s Loaded Magazine (akin to America’s Maxim), Martin Daubney, labeled online pornography “the most pernicious threat facing children today.” The man who was once responsible for promoting a risqué image of sexuality admitted that even he was shocked by young people’s familiarity with pornography. For instance, in sit-down conversations with young teens, he discovered that many of them knew more sexual slang than he did, that even bestiality was on the menu, and according to one 15-year-old girl, “Boys expect porn sex in real life.”
This article by Psychology Today offers a scientific discussion (in layman’s terms) about the dangerous effects of porn on young people, boys in particular. Porn is just another problem hijacking the sexual integrity of this generation.
But there’s still one more.
Based on a multiyear study from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 9% of high school and college students admitted to forcing someone into sexual activity against the other person’s will. The online survey, conducted on more than a thousand young people (ages 14-21), asked students if they had ever “kissed, touched, or done anything sexual with another person when that person did not want you to.”
Here’s a breakdown of the 9% who answered the question affirmatively:
- 8% had kissed or touched someone against their wishes.
- 3% coerced another person into unwilling sex.
- 3% attempted rape (with 2% succeeding).
If you’re noticing that the data doesn’t “add up correctly,” it’s because many of the same young perpetrators admitted to multiple offenses. Even though the aggressors used tactics such as psychological tricks, guilt, alcohol, or old-fashioned physicality, fully half of the perpetrators claimed that the victim was completely responsible. Only a third of the aggressors took responsibility for their actions.
For several obvious reasons, that reality greatly compounds the problem.
By the way, those young people who’d committed sexual violence were found to watch more “violent X-rated materials” than others. (Like Grand Theft Auto 5, maybe?) Researchers stopped short of saying that one caused the other, but they also acknowledged that the link between the two was a strong one.
According to this report on the same study, age 16 was found to be the “peak time for sexual violence.” But don’t think that sexual aggression is guys’ play, only. By the age of 18, males and females admitted to nearly equal amounts of sexual violence. The split was a close one; 48% of aggressors were female, leaving a small majority of males at 52%.
Looks like this is a problem for teens on both sides of the bed…I mean, fence.
Setting Sex Straight
If we’re waiting on young people to straighten out their sexual problems, we need to be prepared to wait a long time…and pay a high price for our complacency. Just reflect on your teenage years; even though we guide young people as parents and youth workers today, many of us made sexual mistakes when we were young. Given the complexity of the problem and the severity of the consequences, we have to reach a solution for sexuality as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. Here are a few ideas to get you pointed in the right direction.
- Stay current on everything that affects teenagers’ sexuality. Once upon a time, sexting was a “new” problem. It’s not new anymore. But if the past is any indicator of what the future holds, technology will undoubtedly present young people with other ways to ruin their sexual integrity. You need to make sure you stay aware of the potential struggles your teens could face. But don’t get tunnel vision. Make sure to keep a close eye on the music your kids listen to, the movies and TV shows they watch, and the friends they keep. The Source for Youth Ministry’s YOUTH CULTURE WINDOW articles are a great way to help with a few of these tasks, as is Jonathan’s Blog.
- Have “the talk” over and over and over again. Talking about sexual integrity and wisdom is not a subject you can broach with your kid just once in 18 years. It’s a conversation that needs to happen in an ongoing manner, especially if they have a significant other. Speak with them about the foolishness of sexting. Help them understand the potential addiction to pornography. Teach them the qualities to look for in a person that will allow them to avoid any and all forms of sexual violence and/or assault. Every day, our kids are bombarded with sexual images, thoughts, and invitations. Be prepared to counteract those negative experiences with focus and frequency.
- Share God’s truth about sex. Since the world weighs in on sex so often and so loudly, you might as well let God speak on the subject, too. After all, sex was His idea, and the Bible doesn’t hold back the explicit truth. If that idea alarms you because you’re not a biblical scholar, check out our free resources on the subject like this MUSIC DISCUSSION or this SPIRITUAL GROWTH AGENDA resource. We have many more, but these will offer a great springboard for future discussions.
Problems with provocative behaviors won’t go away and they won’t become any easier with time. The seriousness of this issue demands that we be at our best. Let’s make sure that we teach and live in such a way that our teens stop messing up sex.
David R. Smith
David R. Smith is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year, Ministry By Teenagers. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.