Sex Is My Secret
Zack O. Greenburg
sometimes ask teenagers to talk about sex or dating, and are met with
strong opposition. Why is this? Even though I'm a teenager and have
these feelings, it's hard to pinpoint exactly why.
But I have a few theories.
For one, discussing sex with parents often feels like an invasion
of privacy because teenagers think about it in private so much. Many
teenagers feel uncomfortable discussing sex with their parents because
at some level they feel it opens up a sort of mental trap door that
parents can use to get into their kids' brains and pick through their
kids' heads, looking for forbidden thoughts just like they rummage
around their kids' rooms looking for pornography and drugs. Kids feel
that if their parents know what they're thinking about sex, the most
private of topics, then they can know any of their kids' secrets--
anything kids don't want their parents to know. Although that sounds
a little paranoid, most teenagers feel that to a certain extent. They
want to keep their parents out of their heads, at a safe enough distance
that they can have their own thoughts without the possibility of them
being intercepted by some imaginary parental mind-reading device.
Teenagers are also worried (irrationally, I once thought) that if
they talk to their parents about sex, their parents might advertise
this to other parties, such as their friends, causing all kinds of
It turns out that this was a valid fear, at least in my case. I was
at a Peer Leadership meeting at school with my dad. About ten of my
classmates and their parents were there, too. The conversation drifted
towards parent-child relationships and how open (or not open) kids
are with their parents talking about sex and other serious topics.
I'm very open with my father, and we often talk about girls, dating
and sex. However, I assumed he knew he wasn't supposed to say this.
I assumed wrong. So, much to my chagrin, I sat there and watched in
horror as he droned on about the fact that we talk about sex. The
parents gaped at my dad like he had a giant tarantula on his forehead.
The other kids smirked or tried unsuccessfully to stifle their laughter.
After what seemed like an hour but was probably only ten seconds,
my dad's voice faded as he realized all too late what he had said.
My dad apologized profusely, but the damage had been done. So use
me as an example-a martyr-don't talk about sex in front of your kids'
Lately, I've begun to ponder what exactly made me so humiliated. Logically,
why should I be embarrassed to have a close relationship with my dad
and to be able to converse with him about substantial topics? I think
it's because most kids don't get along with their parents, so anyone
who does is an anomaly. Much like enjoying reading, discussing sex
with parents is not "cool" just because so few teenagers
do. And nobody wants to be singled out like that; kids want to have
as much in common with their peers as possible. Being different makes
kids insecure, and insecurity is usually at its peak during adolescence.
Kids want to fit in, and doing something abnormal like talking about
sex with their parents makes them feel like outcasts.
Teenagers, like adults, need space. They need to be independent, and
sharing thoughts as intimate as those regarding sex is a violation
of that independence. Teenagers like it if their parents are open
to talking about sex, but don't pry for information. That way, they
can go to their parents for questions and advice without the threat
of interrogation. Try to understand that if your teenagers are reluctant
to talk about sex with you, is not necessarily because of any feeling
of anger towards you, but because of their own yearning to be independent
and have a life of their own.
Greenburg is fifteen years old and lives in Upstate New York
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