Responsible Sexual Choices and You
Are you engaged in a pattern of "reckless sexuality" — situations or patterns of behavior that will lead to unfortunate consequences? This article responds to the most common problems facing young people and couples.
Sex and Teens
Sex is a wonderful and powerful expression of love. Like a fire or a gun, it should not be used by someone unprepared for the consequences of its use. Very few teens are even partially prepared to deal with the consequences of sexual behavior. Pregnancy is the natural result of having sex. Even if you are extremely careful and consistent in your birth control — and few teens are — you can wind up pregnant and scared.
Once a pregnancy results, there are usually three options, and each has its own set of unpleasantries. Abortion is a common response to teen pregnancy. Usually teens feel terrible about this option, but pressures from boyfriends, parents, and others can leave a teen feeling as if she has no choice. When one has an abortion because she feels helpless to do otherwise, it sets the stage for a wide variety of emotional and relational problems which can last a lifetime. The second oft chosen alternative is single parenting. Teens in this category are forced to assume adult responsibilities before they are ready, and thus miss many opportunities for socialization which their peers may enjoy. The least popular alternative is adoption, a very loving but difficult choice which may leave the teen mother wondering about the fate of her child for the rest of her life. Needless to say, no teen is really mature enough to effectively deal with any of these outcomes. Sad proof of this is the rising number of teens who choose to hide their pregnancies. A number of teen mothers who have resorted to this subterfuge have been discovered and later found responsible for the fate of their babies — abandoned or dead — and now face prison. All this said, it seems wisest to completely avoid activities which may result in an unplanned pregnancy.
How likely is it that a sexually active teen will contact a sexually transmitted disease?
Source: Dinerman LM, Wilson MD, Duggan AK, Joffe A. Outcomes of adolescents using levonorgestrel implants vs oral contraceptives and other contraceptive methods, Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Sept 1995, 149(9):967-72.
It should be noted that some pregnant teens choose to marry. While the desire to provide a two parent home for an expected baby is commendable, no woman should ever marry a man simply because he happens to be the sperm donor to the child she is carrying. Now, if the teen is exceptionally mature and there is genuine love and commitment between the two persons, marriage may be a good choice. But few teens are ready for the responsibilities of marriage. The divorce rate for these types of unions is very high.
Another unfortunate but very real consequence of sexual experimentation is the contraction of a sexually transmitted disease. Sex may seem like harmless fun at the time, but STDs can permanently impair reproductive functioning or even cause death. A teen with an STD is more likely to ignore the symptoms, hoping the problem will just "go away." Depending on the type of STD, it may indeed go into a "latency period" only to resurface later when permanent damage has already been done. Most STDs can be cured with medical treatment, but diseases like herpes, HPV, and HIV are incurable. HPV can cause cervical cancer and HIV results in a long, painful death. No teen is ready to face the rest of her life with AIDS. Early onset of sexual behavior and multiple sex partners are the number one risk factor for cervical cancer. It's heartbreaking when so many teens have to worry about these issues when they should be enjoying their high school years and planning for college.
Some teens claim to be very careful in their sexual behavior and insist that if they want to have sex it's their own business. My questions is this: Can you on your own afford maternity care, a baby, medical complications from an abortion, and/or a long, slow death from AIDS? Or will mom and dad have to foot the bills? If you can't afford to pay for the fallout of your sexual behavior, you owe it to your parents to wait until you can. And even if you can afford it (which would be rare), do you feel ready to deal with any or all of these not-so-unlikely possibilities?
If you are an unmarried teen, do yourself a favor and stop having sex immediately.
Learn more about the prevalence of STDs among teens by chatting with others in our STD forum.