Youth Culture Window


Dynamic ImageWARNING: The following article references elicit sexual imagery from today’s youth culture and might be offensive. If you are offended… good! You should be. Because our kids are exposed to this content every day.

Valentines Day is approaching, a month with cumbersome unwritten pressures to be in a relationship. The question is, what does that relationship entail? Are there… expectations?

If you peek through the perspective of today’s young people, you can’t ignore where they’re gleaning information for these decisions. Sure, they’ve got their parents, who might have just sat them down once two summers ago and gave “the talk” (even though all research shows the need for ongoing conversations). And if they happen to go to church, they might even hear the once a year “true love waits” talk. But then during the rest of the year they are plugged into entertainment media and technology for an average of about 9 hours a day. What kinda “talk” do you think they are gleaning during these hours?

The sum result might be a little bit confusing to young people. Parents and church are telling them to “wait,” and every other source is telling them, “Go with what feels right in the moment.” Many young people go into relationships unsure exactly what to do?

Maybe that’s what Justin Bieber’s song, What do you mean? is inferring (the song went No. 1 in September and has been riding the top 10 for the last 18 weeks) when he sang:

When you nod your head yes,
but you wanna say no…

Or maybe his music video of the song, viewed literally over half a billion times already on YouTube, conveys what those expectations truly look like, because it only took the girl 26 seconds before she began removing her clothes once she greeted Justin at the hotel room door.

Enter the mind of the young person watching this video as they process the images and lyrical melodies, weighing in their own mind if this relates to their world.

Am I supposed to look perfect like that?

Is this what I am supposed to do with my emotions and impulses?

Will sexual intimacy like this fill my need for affirmation?

How are today’s young people supposed to discern what relationship protocol looks like today? When is sex expected? Is 26 seconds the standard? Is it as quick as 10 texts or less?

Is Justin Bieber’s hotel room hookup the standard, or will that just lead to regret, like when Bieber declared:

And now I know, I’m better sleeping on my own

(Love Yourself, Justin Bieber)

Next thing we know he’s just going to just come back and say:

Is it too late now to say sorry?
Cause I’m missing more than just your body.

(Sorry, Justin Bieber)

In a world that is desperately trying to make sexual intimacy no big deal, many who have ventured down that road are slowly realizing… sex matters.

It’s almost like sexual intimacy has more bonding power than people realize. Even the world of entertainment media can’t help but reveal this in its attempt at authentic storytelling. How many times have you watched a movie or TV show where the characters become sexually intimate with full disclosure that “this means nothing,” only to find out it bonded them uniquely. Perhaps there’s merit to that key verse in Genesis, Chapter 2 when God says, “The two will become one flesh.”

In the research for my book Sex Matters earlier this year, I discovered some remarkable realities about sexual connection:

Sex is a big part of this union as “one.” It’s a special gift created for married couples to share uniquely, and their relationship actually becomes more connected the more the two of them are intimate with each other.

The human body releases a powerful hormone called oxytocin when you hug or kiss someone you really care about. This hormone, often called the bonding hormone, or cuddle hormone, is stimulated big time during sex. It actually deepens the feelings of attachment each time a couple has sex. In one study, men were given oxytocin while they looked at pictures of women—including complete strangers, women they were acquainted with, and women they were in love with. The pleasure and desire regions of their brains lit up at the mere sight of the women they loved.

This is why the pain of a breakup is so great. Think of the thousands of songs written about this kind of hurt. The more we bond with someone and share the most intimate part of ourselves . . . the more it rips us apart when we separate.

It’s almost as if the creator behind the design of all this didn’t want us to make that sexual connection unless we meant to stay together, eh? (Sex Matters, Bethany House)

It’s funny how prophetic that sentence was: “songs written about this kind of hurt.” If you were to look at the charts today and start adding a little checkmark next to songs about breakups and post relationship drama, then your pen might run out of ink pretty quick. In fact, you’d check 8 out of the top 10 songs in the Billboard Top 100 right now, including Adele’s, Hello, where she sings:

They say that time’s supposed to heal ya
But I ain’t done much healing
Hello, can you hear me…

But today’s music isn’t just full of heartache, it’s also full of hookups, whether late night booty calls…

“Call me on my cell phone
Late night when you need my love
I know when that hotline bling
That can only mean one thing…”
(Hotline Bling
, Drake)

…or blunt sexually explicit proposals…

Baby girl, you’re so damn fine though
I’m tryna know if I could hit it from behind though…
, Fetty Wap)

Note that the above is the “clean version” because it doesn’t have any strong curse words. So when he references wanting to have sex from behind… that’s “clean.”

What is scarier: the blunt sexual rants of Fetty Wap, or the desperate longing for attention from Selena Gomez in her current song, Good for You:

“Gonna wear that dress you like, skin-tight
Do my hair up real, real nice
And syncopate my skin to your heart beating
‘Cause I just wanna look good for you, good for you, uh-huh
I just wanna look good for you, good for you, uh-huh
Let me show you how proud I am to be yours
Leave this dress a mess on the floor
And still look good for you, good for you, uh-huh”
(Good for You
, Selena Gomez)

As today’s young girls are evaluating their own looks, desiring relationships, and deciding how sexually intimate they will be in these relationships… will this song resonate with them? Is “looking good for him” going to keep him? Does it mean simply “wearing a skintight dress”, or going further and “leaving the dress on the floor” (advice from the girl who can’t keep her “Hands to Myself“)?

Or will that just leave them feeling the same way Selena feels when she sings, “…I’m sick of that same old love, my body’s had enough.” (Same Old Love, Selena Gomez)

Reacting… Not Overreacting
Today’s young people are clearly hearing mixed messages about sexual intimacy. How can parents and caring adult role models offer today’s young people guidance to make healthy decisions in this area?

Three thoughts:


  1. Parents need to have More Than Just the Talk. A few years ago the journal Pediatricspublished a study entitled “Beyond the ‘Big Talk,’” encouraging parents to consider having repeated discussions with their children about many aspects of sex instead of just one “big talk.” The conclusion of the study was simple: “The more parents talked with their children, the closer their relationships.”

    It’s up to parents, really. They can let Justin, Fetty Wap and Selena do all the talking, or they can create a climate of continual conversations about the subject in their home.

    How do you create this climate? The key is…

  2. Don’t Freak Out: The go-to reaction for most parents and adult role models is overreaction. I know; because I’ve done it many times. It only accomplished one thing: It communicated to my kids, Dad isn’t safe to talk to about this stuff. When parents overreact they almost guarantee their kids will go to Google instead of mom or dad with their questions about sex.
  3. Turn Your Overreaction into Interaction. Instead of overreacting when you see raunchy magazine covers or hear questionable lyrics, simply ask, “Hmmmm. Is she right?” Put the burden of proof on them. Questions prompt them to formulate their own morals and values so they can verbalize their opinion. Give them the freedom to work it out. Ask them questions leading them to places they can find truth, like the Bible. (Here’s an article talking about this process step by step).

Have you created a climate for comfortable conversations about sexual intimacy with your kids?

What is your first step?



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Jonathan McKee

Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Guy's Guide to FOUR BATTLES Every Young Man Must Face; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for parents on his website Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.

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