Recently I was enjoying a bright summer afternoon and the company of a group of friends, when the ever vital question came up – where’s the strangest place you’ve ever had sex? The group jumped at the opportunity to swap stories in a strange attempt to out do another – the clear goal of the game being the more inappropriate place you’ve fornicated, the more respect you gained. By these rules the outright winner would be someone who did the dirty in the middle of a church funeral service. More points if you nail them on top of the coffin, in full view of a mourning and mortified family and friends.
It quickly dawned on me that I was the only one that deemed this topic not to be appropriate conversation over a cup of tea. Now, I don’t think that young people should be ashamed of their sexuality, nor do I feel table legs need to be covered up in order to protect our uncontrollable sexual desires. I simply appeared to be alone in the opinion that bragging about ‘doing a stranger on the back of the bus’ is nothing but absurd.
But this kind of thing shouldn’t shock me. It isn’t out of place amongst the bizarre and often unhealthy approaches to sex that teenagers are swamped with nowadays. We range from those who daren’t utter the word ‘sex’ for fear of a sudden outbreak of horrific diseases and unwanted pregnancies, to those who assert themselves with the mind boggling bravado displayed by my very own friends. And who’s to know which attitude is right and which is wrong? After all, our individual experiences shape our idea of sex, and there are a lot of different ways in which they can manifest.
Is it just me who thinks that if we live in a country where primary school children find the word ‘gay’ and ‘bad’ interchangeable, there must be some kind of problem with out outlook on sex? And it doesn’t get much better if, when we ‘come of age’ we desperately try to fill that awkward stage of sexual maturity in our lives, with conversations beginning with the words ‘OMG, you’ll never believe what I did at that party last night’, in a desperate attempt to create a reputation of promiscuity. Being a sexual predator at a young age may make us a few extra so called ‘friends’, but anyone who gives it a thought knows it may be a little more ‘infectious’ than expected.
Of course, there are a pocket of society which finds it utterly despicable for younger generations to enjoy sex. These are the people who see exchanging a kiss in the street as the birth of the antichrist. And they would like nothing better than to physically scare us out of having sex – to scare us sexless if you would. Sex is undoubtedly a natural, important and altogether enjoyable part of life. We shouldn’t be ignorant to the risks but equally, we shouldn’t for a moment allow the inherent tutting of older generations to put us off accepting and exploring our sexual sides.
You might be familiar with the Leicester City Council sex ed video. It shows a crowd of teenage school pupils gathering around a screaming girl in the playground. As viewers we naturally assume she must have been attacked. But low and behold, as the camera zooms out we are treated to a graphic image of the girl in mid labour. This seemingly clever use of the shock tactic is intended to make teenagers think twice about the possible outcomes of unprotected sex. And all credit to them, it’s a memorable image. But is it really necessary to be so brutal with teenagers on the subject of sex? This video does seem to fit with the assumption that all teenagers are ignorant to the point of stupidity when it comes to sex, which, as we’re all aware, is just an offensive generalisation.
Yes, educating teenagers on this matter is vital. And yes, issues such as teenage pregnancy need to be tackled in more thorough ways than just randomly pointing the blame at things such as TV or contraception – which, stating hat teenage pregnancies is due to the availability of contraception, as the Catholic Church rigorously stick by, makes about as much sense as blaming terrorism on goat farmers. But I’m a firm believer that you don’t need to patronise teenagers in order to get the important information across. Nor should it assumed that the only possible way to get our attention is to scare the living daylights out of us. Teenagers are more willing to learn and are more open to the realistic risks of sex than certain individuals, and without a doubt the media, may ever accept.
So in reality, do we think our confidence lies in our experiences of sex? Are we becoming desensitized and swamped by the ideas and fixations of generations before us? And is swapping tales of initiating sex in the back of a taxi cab really how we want to define ourselves as human beings? I can’t help but notice that the rigid ways of fear and disapproval and the boastful manner of what is, quite frankly, sleeping around, are just two sides of a very warped coin.