Parenting

Oprah Wrong About Approach to Teen Sexuality

| by Suzanne Venker

Though I didn't see it, last week Oprah did a show on teens and sex. At one point, according to my television sources, Oprah and others were discussing the best way to approach teen sexuality. Apparently Oprah took the standard, politically correct (read: liberal) approach: Let your kids know you don't want them to have sex --but make sure to provide them with condoms, "just in case." That way your children are safe should they make the decision to have sex. Then Gayle King, Oprah's best friend -- a woman who actually has children -- vehemently disagreed.

Gayle King is wiser than Oprah.

For one thing, that entire approach is akin to telling someone, "I don't want you to kill Joe; but in case you decide to, here's a gun." You cannot purport to stand for something, and then take it all back with an action that undermines your goal. Second, the term "safe sex" -- which, coincidentally, is now referred to as "safer sex," no doubt because people who use this term finally accepted there's no such thing as safe sex -- was a term coined for the AIDS epidemic, and it has been absorbed into Western culture. When people think about the term today, they associate it with condoms and the attempt to make sure young, unmarried people "protect" themselves. Clearly Oprah -- along with all her cohorts in the media -- haven't read Unprotected, by Dr. Miriam Grossman, a former campus psychiatrist who blew the whistle on our culture's ignorant view of sexuality and our nation's youth. Of course, even if they had read it, even if they had learned that the only way to be safe is to not engage in casual sex in the first place -- they'd dismiss this as conservative hogwash. After all, casual sex is a fait accompli, they'd say. You can't make young people abstain from sex.

Maybe not. But you can make them think differently about it. The entire premise of safe sex is a lie, perpetuated by liberals and their politically correct followers who are too lazy to think for themselves. I spent years with teenagers: teaching, disciplining, and counseling them. And I think much more highly of this group of Americans than Oprah and some of their parents do.

What I mean by that is this. The main argument from liberals regarding sex and teenagers is that "you can try and instill your values, but kids will be kids. They're going to do it anyway, so they might as well be safe." So give them a condom. Better yet, use a banana to show them how to put it on. Dr. Laura Berman, one of Oprah's guests, goes even further. In her handbook titled "The Sex Ed Handbook" (which can be downloaded from Oprah's website), Berman suggests this to mothers: "You might want to have a candid talk with your daughter about exploring or learning about her body or even offer her a simple clitoral vibrator."

Excuse me? Are you f---ing kidding me? (Sorry, that's my friend Susie's natural response to shock -- which I think has rubbed off on me.) Sex education sure has come a long way. We've gone from one extreme -- way back when, where no one dared to mention the word sex let alone explain what it means -- to handing our children vibrators. I have nothing against masturbation, mind you; but it's not something that requires my involvement, thank you very much.

America is a country hell bent on extremes. You do NOT need to hand your daughter a vibrator or your son a condom. The answer to kids and sex isn't complicated. It's much harder to deal with now that we live in a sexualized culture, yes; but it isn't complicated. There are three things to do as a parent when it comes to children and sex. One, teach them everything they need to know that's developmentally appropriate for them at the time. Two, instill the good old fashioned value of self-respect. Teaching self-respect means letting your children know that they are so valuable as human beings, and consequently their bodies are so special, that no one should ever be allowed to use it for recreation. Tell them sex is not a recreational activity for teenagers -- and that yes, you expect them not to engage in such activity. And three, let them know that they can come to you any at time for anything -- and you will always embrace them and take care of them.

But, say the naysayers, teenagers can't help themselves! Their bodies take over their minds! I have two responses to this. One, if you set the bar low, you will most likely reap what you sow. Set it high, and -- more often than not -- people rise to the occasion. And that's what I mean when I say I think more highly of young people than Oprah does. As Dr. Grossman says, "The young people I know are neither stupid nor enslaved to their urges. They are capable and motivated, and many will respond to an ennobling message, reject the messages of our culture, and learn new behaviors." I couldn't agree more.

After all, fifty years ago we didn't have the mess we have today. Sure, teenagers fooled around; and sure, some got pregnant. But it was rare. And the reason it was rare is because the expectations were such that teenagers did their best to reign themselves in. Today teenagers don't need to do this. People like Oprah and their parents have assured them they're not capable of raising the bar. So why should they try?

And for your last thought -- you know, the one about whether or not I'll be forced to eat my words when my nine-year-old daughter finds herself pregnant at 16 -- here's my response: Yes, that could happen. It could happen despite my efforts. But it probably won't. And even if it does, I will have the comfort of knowing I did everything I could possibly could to keep it from happening.