It's probably not too surprising that what most teens remember about talking with
their parents about sex and protection is how utterly, painfully awkward it was.
Parents would probably agree. And sex ed classes rate even worse among teens -
from tragi-comic to boring, mostly.
But still, everyone believes in doing it (having the talk, that is). It really, really
matters to teens. They ARE listening when their parents try, ever so carefully, to
teach them about delaying sex, and having sex safely when they do. Parents may
find this hard to believe, because many teens have perfected the art of acting like
they're not listening when they really are. Or the art of seeming like they'd rather
jump out of a moving car than listen to a parent say words like "condom." Because
that means their parent has actually had the occasion to use one. And that is
terminally humiliating. But for the last 15 years, year in and year out, teens continue
to say that parents are the #1 influence on their decisions about sex. More influential
than boyfriends, girlfriends, the media, peers - anyone.
So, what if a teen can't - or won't - talk to his or her parent about sex? Another
close adult, like a trusted teacher, coach, aunt or uncle - or even mom's cool fiance
- can be the perfect mix of caring but detached. Which is why it was so great that
Mark decides to talk with Drew about how important it is to use protection every
single time he has sex, even if he thinks his partner is on the pill or some other
kind of birth control. When it comes to popular media, we so often see teenage
girls having this kind of conversation, but the more than 730,000 teen girls who
got pregnant last year didn't do it alone - so it's critical that we also see young men
like Drew taking sex and protection seriously and understanding they are equally
Even if Mark never meant to have The Sex Talk with Drew, given the circumstances,
it was clear that he needed to. So, why did he ultimately tell Sarah that Drew was
having sex after promising Drew that he wouldn't? He was in a tough spot, but Mark
believed Sarah's right to know trumped Drew's potential embarrassment (and his
trust in Mark). A tough choice - but in this case, the right one. Getting walked in on
may well have been the best thing that ever happened to Drew. How can Sarah be
there for him if she has no idea what's going on? Parents are their teens' first and
best teachers; and teens need their parents not so much to be biology textbooks
(they have the Internet, after all) but rather to help them make sense of it all.
Written by Marisa Nightingale, Senior Media Advisor, National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy