Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Premarital Sex: Risk vs. Reward

Last month, I wrote that I support responsible and safe unmarried teen sex. Of course my Orthodox readers responded negatively, with various reasons, but one argument jumped out over and over again: it's just too risky. And there are serious risks, of course, ranging from simple hurt feelings to unwanted pregnancies to STDs.

But what about the benefits? It should be obvious to everyone that many or most teens desperately crave sex. And it's not just a fantasy that can't be matched by reality -- teenagers who have sex rarely decide that they don't like it and it's not for them. Sex is actually a really enjoyable thing, especially when you're an adolescent. I mean, duh, right? But religious people never talk about that side of the equation.

Part of the problem is that they're usually talking about other people. It's easy to declare something not worth the risk when you don't get to enjoy the rewards. People who love smokers generally want them to quit more than the smokers themselves do -- smoker-lovers have to live with the risk of their loved one's illness and death but they don't get any enjoyment the smoker gets from puffing on his cancer sticks.

The same thing is true with teen sex. If you have a sexually active teenager, you're not going to get much pleasure out of that idea unless you're unusually capable of enjoying another person's happiness even when it grosses you out. But you do feel every risk as acutely or more acutely than your teen does. Chances are that you'll be approximately as upset as she is if she gets pregnant or contracts an STD, but only she will get to enjoy the sex. So to you, the proposition is all risk, zero reward. The choice is clear.

But what about your daughter? Do you really have the right to make that choice for her? Well, yes, of course you do if she's young enough to not understand or appreciate the risks involved. Teens really are more impulsive than adults, and they have a tendency to underestimate risks. But doesn't there come a point where they get old enough and rational enough that you've got to let them make that choice for themselves?

It's not like there's a right answer and a wrong answer. Is driving a car to your friend's house in the next town worth the slight risk of death and dismemberment that accompanies driving on the highway? Is eating a charred hamburger worth the risk of cancer? Should we abstain from dessert because who can eat just one cookie? We make decisions like these every day, and there are no right answers. Some questions (Is the potential reward of injecting heroin of unknown purity worth the risk?) seem easier than others, but all ultimately come down to personal preferences.

Some neurotics refuse to shake hands because they're scared of germs and some rock stars plan to party hard and die young. I'd probably prefer my kid be the neurotic than the rock star, but should that really be my choice? Ultimately it's his life and his body. All I can do is make sure he really understands the rewards and the risks and hope he makes a decision that I'm happy with. But why should my desire to have grandchildren trump his desire to have as much sex and drugs possible even if it kills him?

So back to teen sex. (Come on, Google hits!) Is there any pleasure in life comparable to having sex as an adolescent? I'm thinking no. I'm sure religious people and others will say that getting married or having a child is somehow more enjoyable, and I'm positive that someone somewhere has argued that learning Talmud is better, but overall, it's got to be one of life's chief pleasures.

And it's not just a shallow pleasure, although it is that as well. Sex (I'm using the term broadly -- i.e., in the non-Clintonian sense -- now) plays an integral role in relationships that boys and girls start having in their teens. Orthodox Jews would have you believe that relationships that don't lead to marriage are worthless at best and downright harmful at worst. I don't think that's true. While some relationships are harmful (just as some marriages are) one of life's more sublime pleasures is having intimate relationships with other human beings.

So what if puppy love tends not to last? Am I somehow worse off for having had a few relationships before I met my fiancee? I don't think so. And what if it'd turned out that a high-school relationship blossomed into a life-long marriage? Who would be better off if I'd avoided entering into it because my parents were scared that dating leads to sex and sex leads to babies?

So let's stop looking at just one side of the equation. Obviously if we were talking about a pill that produced no benefit of any kind but carried a tiny risk of pregnancy and/or STDs, nobody should take that pill. But we're talking about sex. Sex is really, really fun. And it's the glue in a lot of meaningful relationships. So you've got to balance that against the risk. And it's really not fair to make that decision for someone else when you stand to get hurt by the risks but share no part in the rewards. That's just selfishness masquerading as concern.

Previously: Memories of an Orthodox High School Romance.

47 comments:

The Candy Man said...

Go JA! I think you're absolutely right. When it comes to sex, not having any is really not that fun. It's worth a little risk, eh?

G said...

Is there any pleasure in life comparable to having sex as an adolescent? I'm thinking no.

So you've already peaked in that department?

You're soon to be wife know that?:)

Holy Hyrax said...

HA!

You just wrote this post to get hits. Sex is THEE hit maker.

You wanna have wild butt bingo JA, be our guest.

::there, that should be sufficient enough of an ice breaker::

:P

Holy Hyrax said...

Not only that, you just wait till Jacob Stein is going to see this. You're only supplying him with ammo.

jewish philosopher said...

"Is there any pleasure in life comparable to having sex as an adolescent?"

Sure there is. How about cocaine?

And I think it's getting a little obvious how you got into the atheism business. Have you ever noticed how drug users favor legalizing drugs?

jewish philosopher said...

"Not only that, you just wait till Jacob Stein is going to see this. You're only supplying him with ammo."

Thanks for the advice, but actually the atheism-sex connection is already so obvious only a moron doesn't see it. Or an atheist who is in denial, of course.

Holy Hyrax said...

See JA

You had this coming a mile away. I have no sympathy for you :P

Foilwoman said...

Oh, I'll see you teen sex and raise you actual sexual pleasure. I'm going to jump out of character (or reveal my eclectic nature or whatever) and agree, in part, with the Orthodoxy. This is a sign of the apocaplypse, I'm sure.

JA, you wrote: "Is there any pleasure in life comparable to having sex as an adolescent?" Um, I started late (18), but sex as a teenager, at least for most women I've talked to, and looking at my own experience, actually is a big ho-hum. Guys don't know what they're doing. You don't know what you want.

But here's where I disagree with the Orthodoxy (or whoever): it doesn't get any better (just like playing the guitar or cello) unless you practice and figure out what you like (and presumably your partner figures out what to do and give up the myth of the vaginal orgasm and learns to use fingers and tongue, etc.). So teenage experimentation, whether incomparable or not, leads to much improved sexual experiences.

I haven't met (nor has any woman I've talked to) 22-year old, 25-year old, or 40-year old virgins who were worth two blinks out of my new contact lenses sexually, much less actually taking the effort to unbutton a blouse or anything, but two people who've learned what they like and know enough to know that what their partner likes is something they need to figure out (because each person is differnt)? Boy, howdy, that's good.

So is there anything comparable to having sex as an adolescent? Well, most sex after more expereience is better. But sex in one's 20's and 30's (or, heaven forfend, later) without experience, empathy, and physical coordination? Can I have a warm bath and a box of chocolates?

Those of your who had mutually orgasmic sex on your first try (with no doubt as to whether the female was faking it), you have my true respect, applause, and request for your phone number. The rest of us, we all get to Carnegie Hall the same way: practice.

A. said...

Thanks Foilwoman you make a 29 yearold virgin feel really good.

shoshi said...

I think it is quite reasonable to marry before having sex, because I think that it is beautiful to have a relationship that lasts from adolescence through to old age. The problem is the pressure linked to it...

But I am not so sure whether "sex without responsibility" is such a good thing, even if it is pleasurable.

On the other hand, I found out that men discovered a lot of loopholes in the halakha that allows them to have sex regardless, while the women have to stay "chaste".

shoshi said...

PS: I sometimes suspect that all these prohibitions around sex really serve the purpose of making it more interesting.

So I suppose that the truth lies somewhere in the middle between total permissivity and total restriction.

You wrote about your first romance: it would not have happened this way without your very strict upbringing. So perhaps it was worth while?

jewish philosopher said...

I think there is probably a big gap here between men and women. If you speak to middle aged men about teen sex, you may get the reaction "Wow, that was fantastic." If you speak candidly to middle aged women I think you'll often get a reaction of "OMG! Was I stupid! Why didn't my parents lock me in the basement!"

In other words, teen sex hurts women. Not that that matters from an atheistic point of view, according to which a cockroach is not fundimentally different from a person, but I'm just saying.

Random said...

I find myself agreeing with quite a lot of what Foilwoman says here. Sex is something that improves with experience, and adolescents will usually have neither the patience nor the experience to make a good job of it. Rushing into it too early, because you feel you should whether you want to or not (it's not an exaggeration to say that "virgin" is a deadly insult in many subcultures these days), is at least as likely to have the effect of putting you off the experience as it is of being something great.

"Sex is actually a really enjoyable thing...But religious people never talk about that side of the equation."

Actually, religious people talk about it a lot more than you think - granted most often in the context of it being one of the blessings of a really good marriage.

But loveless sex, undertaken mainly out of fear of being the last virgin in High School? Not so much. And yes, I know you said "I support responsible and safe unmarried teen sex" - but trust me, most teens will not hear the "responsible and safe" bit.

If there's one message that teenagers do not need to hear in today's society it's "sex is cool and fun - go for it!" They here far too much of that already. They really do need to hear more that sex is important, and it's okay to wait until you find somebody you really do love and trust.

"But what about your daughter?"

Well, speaking as the father of a daughter, I'll tell you frankly that the thought of any boy touching her makes me think of sharpening up the axe I use for firewood and scoping out the wood at the back of our house for a patch of clear ground large enough to hide a body. (Think I'm exaggerating? Ask any father of daughters. We know what teenage boys are like - they're like we were 20 years ago.) You may think this distorts my ability to comment sensibly if you choose...

One final thought on Foilwoman's post -

"and presumably your partner figures out what to do and give up the myth of the vaginal orgasm and learns to use fingers and tongue,"

In my experience it's not a myth, but it is really, really, hard and does require the guy to maintain a lot more patience and self-control than is realistic to expect from the young and eager. I would say to the ladies though that if you're going to demand "fingers and tongue2 it would help if you didn't treat you partner as a pervert if he asks for the favour to be returned. I'll stop now before this gets too scatological...

Off the Derech said...

JA: I love your approach to this.

Comrade Kevin said...

I remember I had a few sexual experiences in my teens and it was lots of fun, though at first I should also mention that it was supremely awkward. But I will say that the both of us felt a bit like pioneers in the act itself---discovering something within ourselves and about ourselves and each other.

When it's new and different and exciting you feel satisfied with yourself in a supreme way that you never quite realize again.

jewish philosopher said...

I would be curious to know: How many middle aged mothers are interested in their teenage daughters having a lot of sex? If they themselves enjoyed it so much with no regrets, they should be pushing their own daughters into it. I'm not sure that's the case.

Also, incidentally, good sex comes from mutual caring and good communications. You don't need decades of experience, and some very experienced people are terrible lovers.

Foilwoman said...

A: Sorry, didn't want to make you feel bad. It's never to late to learn something, but it is a learned skill. That doesn't mean you have to begin at any particular age, however. What some learn at age 21 others can learn at 31 or 41. You will need to learn, however. A marriage license doesn't give you sexual knowledge or skill.

Random: Regardless of what partners want, they need to realize that it's something they need to learn: control, coordination, consideration, knowledge. As for mutuality of experience, once both partners are enjoying themselves (men do seem to achieve satisfaction more easily than most women do, and a partner figuring out what will bring a woman satisfaction requires a fair amount of empathy, imagination, and skill -- the reverse doesn't seem to be quite as necessary --for basic satisfaction -- although I think women should strive to bring those qualities to partners who do the same).

And Jewish Philosopher, as a middle aged mother of two girls who will be teenagers eventually, no I don't want my daughters to have lots of sex as teen. But I don't want them to remain ignorant of their own bodies and what they want, and to figure that out, they'll have to actually experiment a bit. I won't be encouraging pre-adulthood experimentation (I just knew, myself, that I wasn't old enough before I went to college -- I don't know if my girls will feel the same way, but I will encourage them to wait until they feel ready and encourage that readiness to be later rather than sooner), but I won't be shocked and horrified if some experiementation happens. But culturally, I'm Scandinavian, so my take on this is different than most. But I won't expect them to learn to be sexually functional adults through ignoring that whole part of their lives or being ignorant of birth control and sexual safety in general.

I want them, as adults, to enjoy their own sexuality and sexual feelings, not feel ashamed of it or feel that it is a gift to some man or something some man can or should control.

jewish philosopher said...

"I want them, as adults, to enjoy their own sexuality and sexual feelings, not feel ashamed of it or feel that it is a gift to some man or something some man can or should control."

I agree with that, and I have two daughters. However I feel that a man should make a public commitment to support them and their children (in other words marriage) before sleeping with them.

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"People who love smokers generally want them to quit more than the smokers themselves do -- smoker-lovers have to live with the risk of their loved one's illness and death but they don't get any enjoyment the smoker gets from puffing on his cancer sticks."

Um, good analogy? Do you likewise support "responsible and safe teen smoking"?

Listen JA, I sincerely hope that your views don't result in your 15 year old daughter surprising you one day with a positive pregnancy test.

The religious view of sex is simple really. Judaism likewise sees sex in a very positive light - but it is supposed to be used constructively towards building a strong marriage, not frittered away in trivial relationships wrought with real life altering positions and potentially life threatening situations.

I have yet to see *anything* good come out of the general modern view of permissive sexual relationships for children, but I have seen much bad.

Jewish Atheist said...

ortho:

Um, good analogy? Do you likewise support "responsible and safe teen smoking"?

Sure, a couple of cigarettes here and there never killed anybody. I think the reward to risk ratio for cigarettes is pretty low, but again, it's their life.

I have yet to see *anything* good come out of the general modern view of permissive sexual relationships for children, but I have seen much bad.

Then you're missing the whole point of this post. What's good about the general modern view of permissive sexual relationships for young adults is that people get to have more sex. Do you see how you're just ignoring that as a benefit?! That's my whole point.

One other point is that all this talk about what's good for society, etc., kind of obscures the fact that teens are individual people who don't deserve to have their freedom drastically curtailed for your social engineering project. It'd probably be good for society if there were no such thing as chocolate or television, but that doesn't mean that you should forbid your kid from having either one.

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"Sure, a couple of cigarettes here and there never killed anybody. I think the reward to risk ratio for cigarettes is pretty low, but again, it's their life."

Sure, it's their life - but it's your child. Responsibility for their welfare means that you don't always let them do what they want.

"What's good about the general modern view of permissive sexual relationships for young adults is that people get to have more sex. Do you see how you're just ignoring that as a benefit?! That's my whole point."

I'm not ignoring it - I just think that's dumb. For every teen who you think had his or her life enriched by sex there are quite a few more who live with regret. Studies have shown that 2/3rds of teens wish they had waited. Teens think they know what they want but they tend to be wrong.

Not only are you not fully appreciating the serious risks of STDs and unwanted pregnancies, you are completely ignoring the emotional rollor coaster that plagues these kids when sex is taken unbound from even a minimum of caring between partners. You are aware that depression and suicidal ideation in teens is correlated with sexual activity, right?

And beyond that, this campaign to trivialize sex likely serves to weaken marriage with all the associated problems that comes with it.

But yeah, kids get to have more sex. Woo hoo.

"One other point is that all this talk about what's good for society, etc., kind of obscures the fact that teens are individual people who don't deserve to have their freedom drastically curtailed for your social engineering project."

Oh, I never said that they didn't have the freedom to do what they want. I don't think the government should be the hand of discipline here. I think parents should be teaching kids why having sex before marriage is a bad idea and I think society in general should foster attitudes of sexual propriety.

"It'd probably be good for society if there were no such thing as chocolate or television, but that doesn't mean that you should forbid your kid from having either one."

But it does mean that I have the prerogative to limit the use of same. I'm not saying my child can't have sex - he can, but within the context of marriage. Same way I might limit him from watching TV on school nights or eating chocolate before dinner.

Jewish Atheist said...

Orthoprax:

You're conflating a whole bunch of things. There's a world of difference between a kid who grows up in a stable family and raised in a thoughtful manner to become a responsible and caring young adult choosing to have sex with someone he cares about and a kid from a screwed up family with little empathy going around screwing people he doesn't even like.

You're also at times pretending you're talking only about "kids" when you oppose premarital sex in general. Or do you think everybody should be married by 21 or so?

And beyond that, this campaign to trivialize sex likely serves to weaken marriage with all the associated problems that comes with it.

Is that the same magical thinking that thinks gay marriage weakens (straight) marriage?

But yeah, kids get to have more sex. Woo hoo.

Uh, yeah. Woo hoo. More sex, more love, more pleasure. Oh, how shallow! They could be learning Talmud instead!

Oh, I never said that they didn't have the freedom to do what they want. I don't think the government should be the hand of discipline here. I think parents should be teaching kids why having sex before marriage is a bad idea and I think society in general should foster attitudes of sexual propriety.

I think parents should be teaching kids that irresponsible sex is... irresponsible, and that sex that seems like there are no strings attached often has strings attached, but I see no reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

But it does mean that I have the prerogative to limit the use of same. I'm not saying my child can't have sex - he can, but within the context of marriage. Same way I might limit him from watching TV on school nights or eating chocolate before dinner.

Forbidding all premarital sex is not really analogous to forbidding tv on school nights. Closer to forbidding tv before marriage, maybe. And what if your child turns out to be gay? Would you insist on life-long celibacy? Or that he should marry a woman and imagine Brad Pitt when he's making children with her?

Holy Hyrax said...

Forget it OP

You guys have two separate value systems. Nobody is going to convince the other

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"You're conflating a whole bunch of things. There's a world of difference between a kid who grows up in a stable family and raised in a thoughtful manner to become a responsible and caring young adult choosing to have sex with someone he cares about and a kid from a screwed up family with little empathy going around screwing people he doesn't even like."

What are you talking about? I'm conflating them because you just told me the chronological story of teen sex in America since the 1960s. Once upon a time teen sex was taboo. Then it became alright if the couple was going steady and was likely to lead to marriage anyway. Now "friends with benefits" is the leading type of relationship in America where teens have sex. But yeah, *your* 15 year old is surely going to be mature enough to know the difference.

"You're also at times pretending you're talking only about "kids" when you oppose premarital sex in general."

I oppose premarital sex generally, but I oppose teen premarital sex much more.

"Is that the same magical thinking that thinks gay marriage weakens (straight) marriage?"

Oh, you're right. Permissiveness for sexual activity outside of marriage surely had no effect on the institution. That's why marriage is as strong today as it was in the 1950s. What kind of magic was I thinking of?

"Uh, yeah. Woo hoo. More sex, more love, more pleasure. Oh, how shallow!"

More disaffected youth, more depression, more suicide, more disease, more unwanted pregnancies, more abortions, more teen moms. In the face of this - yes, your pursuit of pleasure is completely short-sighted and self-centered.

"Forbidding all premarital sex is not really analogous to forbidding tv on school nights. Closer to forbidding tv before marriage, maybe."

Well, duh, the magnitude of the problem is that much more severe for teen sex than teen TV watching. I would be even more severe for still more dangerous activity and say, for example, no methamphetamines - ever.

"And what if your child turns out to be gay? Would you insist on life-long celibacy? Or that he should marry a woman and imagine Brad Pitt when he's making children with her?"

How come you're trying to change the subject?

Jewish Atheist said...

ortho:

What are you talking about? I'm conflating them because you just told me the chronological story of teen sex in America since the 1960s. Once upon a time teen sex was taboo. Then it became alright if the couple was going steady and was likely to lead to marriage anyway. Now "friends with benefits" is the leading type of relationship in America where teens have sex. But yeah, *your* 15 year old is surely going to be mature enough to know the difference.

Oh come on. You really think the child of educated, responsible parents are going to have similar outcomes to those of uneducated, irresponsible ones solely by saying that safe, responsible teen sex is okay? You really think parental opposition to premarital sex is the driving factor here?

Oh, you're right. Permissiveness for sexual activity outside of marriage surely had no effect on the institution. That's why marriage is as strong today as it was in the 1950s. What kind of magic was I thinking of?

Okay, you're right about that.

More disaffected youth, more depression, more suicide, more disease, more unwanted pregnancies, more abortions, more teen moms.

Okay, the first three are causes not effects. The latter three I'll grant, but of course I admitted that in the very first paragraph of my post.

In the face of this - yes, your pursuit of pleasure is completely short-sighted and self-centered.

How is it self-centered?? It's not my pleasure we're talking about! My whole point is that YOUR position is self-centered. You're taking your kids' pleasure away so that you don't have to deal with the risk.

How come you're trying to change the subject?

I don't see how pointing out a pretty huge hole in your worldview specifically as it relates to premarital sex is changing the subject.

Orthoprax said...

HH,

"Forget it OP You guys have two separate value systems. Nobody is going to convince the other"

Maybe I'm not trying to convince *him*. What about *them*?

Holy Hyrax said...

A subject like this has already been decided by any grownup. There are people that beleive in premarital sex and those that value waiting for marriage.

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"Oh come on. You really think the child of educated, responsible parents are going to have similar outcomes to those of uneducated, irresponsible ones solely by saying that safe, responsible teen sex is okay? You really think parental opposition to premarital sex is the driving factor here?"

As we've seen in the course of two American generations, the slope is extremely slippery. I think *societal* acceptance of premarital sex is what is leading to this pandemic. The only way to turn the tide is by strong parental influence. Studies have shown that parents are likely the strongest influence on the child in whether they become sexually active.

Quote: 'Parents influential. When asked who influenced their decisions about sex the most, more teens cited their parents than any other influence (37 percent).' - http://www.icrsurvey.com/Study.aspx?f=NatCam_Teens_Regret.html

"Okay, the first three are causes not effects. The latter three I'll grant, but of course I admitted that in the very first paragraph of my post."

What? How are they 'causes'? Depression causes premarital sex? Suicide causes teen sex?

See here: http://www.heritage.org/research/abstinence/cda0304.cfm

You admitted some of those things but simply handwaved the assessment of their real dangers.

"How is it self-centered?? It's not my pleasure we're talking about! My whole point is that YOUR position is self-centered. You're taking your kids' pleasure away so that you don't have to deal with the risk."

Oh, that makes sense. I'm self-centeredly trying to keep kids from becoming single parents, contracting life-threatening STDs and depressive suicidality as well as trying to build for them a stable home and marriage towards their future.

You think you are being kind and wise by permitting to kids what they think they want. But they're as wrong as you are. You failed to comment when I told you that 2/3rds of teens who have sex *regret* doing so.

"I don't see how pointing out a pretty huge hole in your worldview specifically as it relates to premarital sex is changing the subject."

I'm willing to be tolerant of homosexual activity but that's neither here nor there because I don't think teens should be having any kind of sex. That remains true whether they are gay, straight or other.

Jewish Atheist said...

ortho:

As we've seen in the course of two American generations, the slope is extremely slippery. I think *societal* acceptance of premarital sex is what is leading to this pandemic. The only way to turn the tide is by strong parental influence. Studies have shown that parents are likely the strongest influence on the child in whether they become sexually active.

Are you saying you don't think it's possible to raise kids to have responsible premarital sex? You're still conflating responsible premarital sex with irresponsible premarital sex.

What? How are they 'causes'? Depression causes premarital sex? Suicide causes teen sex?

Okay, obviously suicide can't be a cause, but kids who are depressed, etc., are more likely to engage in risky behavior in general. I don't see how having responsible sex could cause one to become depressed or commit suicide.

You admitted some of those things but simply handwaved the assessment of their real dangers.

Who's hand-waving? The dangers are real and must be mitigated by safe sex. Teens (and others) must be taught of all the risks, as well as which ones can be mitigated (and how) and which ones cannot be. The same is true of driving and crossing the street and eating meat, though. Yes, the risks are big ones, but that doesn't mean we should unilaterally decide that the rewards aren't worth it for our children.

You think you are being kind and wise by permitting to kids what they think they want. But they're as wrong as you are. You failed to comment when I told you that 2/3rds of teens who have sex *regret* doing so.

I'm extremely skeptical of that figure and you did not provide a citation. And I'm not saying to permit kids anything they want, but to educate them of all the risks and rewards and gradually let them make their own decisions as they grow into young adults.

I'm willing to be tolerant of homosexual activity but that's neither here nor there because I don't think teens should be having any kind of sex. That remains true whether they are gay, straight or other.

Well, it's big of you to be tolerant of it, but it's still ridiculous to simultaneously reject premarital sex AND to forbid an entire demographic from ever getting married.

Why can't Orthodox Jews ever answer that hypothetical? What will you do if your child turns out to be gay? Do you all really think it can't happen to you?

Holy Hyrax said...

>What will you do if your child turns out to be gay?

Whats the big deal? Haven't you seen "Trembling before God" Some orthos accepted their kids while others shunned them.

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"Are you saying you don't think it's possible to raise kids to have responsible premarital sex? You're still conflating responsible premarital sex with irresponsible premarital sex."

I think it's just as possible to have responsible premarital teen sex as it is to have responsible teen drug use.

"I don't see how having responsible sex could cause one to become depressed or commit suicide."

Throwing the word "responsible" before teen sex doesn't make it real. You want to make this a No True Scotsman thing? The point is that teenagers are generally NOT responsible about sex. There is such a thing as safe drug use too.

"Yes, the risks are big ones, but that doesn't mean we should unilaterally decide that the rewards aren't worth it for our children."

Right - ideally we should teach our children correctly and recruit them to being good guards of their own well-being.

"I'm extremely skeptical of that figure and you did not provide a citation."

I actually did, just not explicitly. From the Heritage.org site related above, quote: "If you have had sexual intercourse, do you wish you had waited longer?”[6] Among those teens who reported that they had engaged in inter­course, nearly two-thirds stated that they wished they had waited longer before becoming sexually active." This number included 72% of girls, btw.

"And I'm not saying to permit kids anything they want, but to educate them of all the risks and rewards and gradually let them make their own decisions as they grow into young adults."

I agree - but your attitude is wrong. You would support them in their decisions to have sex. What exactly are you not permitting to them?

"Well, it's big of you to be tolerant of it, but it's still ridiculous to simultaneously reject premarital sex AND to forbid an entire demographic from ever getting married."

The obvious solution is to have them try to achieve as close to a regular union as they can. I've said in the past that I support civil unions. But in general this paranormative behavior isn't my focus with respect to basic policy.

Jack said...

Is there any pleasure in life comparable to having sex as an adolescent?

I have to agree that teenage sex was fun, but it gets so much better. I have some good stories, but in truth the sex I had later on was far better. And that is as much detail as I am providing.

jewish philosopher said...

For a slightly different point of view on the joy of teen sex, this is interesting.

Jewish Atheist said...

ortho:

Your point about teens regretting it is thought-provoking. Rather than jumping to the conclusion that we must forbid premarital sex, though, perhaps we should just do a better job of educating our kids how to responsibly start sexual relationships.

You would support them in their decisions to have sex. What exactly are you not permitting to them?

I'm looking at it from a standpoint of raising children to be good decision makers rather than of a standpoint of rules and enforcement.

The obvious solution is to have them try to achieve as close to a regular union as they can.

Gee, it'd sure be helpful to make available to them an institution that's been recognized for centuries for its (relative) success at doing just that. This is the most frustrating part of the gay marriage debate -- the argument for gay marriage is fundamentally a conservative one -- the same as that for straight marriage. And yet, because of religion, we can't convince conservatives.


Jack:

You're right. My line about teen sex being the best was a throwaway line I meant kind of as a joke. But I sure am glad I didn't wait until marriage.


Shir:

Thanks for the compliment! I'm actually engaged to a wonderful Jewish (but not religious) woman now, so I guess you could say it worked out okay. ;-)

jewish philosopher said...

"we should just do a better job of educating our kids how to responsibly start sexual relationships"

It's called "get married".

Holy Hyrax said...

>But I sure am glad I didn't wait until marriage.

Im glad I waited in my twenties till I got married.

Theresa said...

Not allowing children to have sex is different from not allowing adults to have sex. Adults are responsible for their own actions and the harm that may befall them.

Teenagers are seen as not having the ability yet to make their own responsible decisions in important adult situations, hence it is the role of the parent to prevent them from doing stupid things.

I'm sure that you can agree that most teen sex is stupid and risky. But maybe you would argue that this is due to parents not teaching their teens how to have 'responsible sex'.

As a teenager, the child doesn't have the knowledge to be having sex. A few years dating to learn who the player is and who the good guy is before you up the stakes is worth more than 5 minutes of enjoyment.

Sex makes babies.

Teens don't need to be having babies unless they are extremely mature 19 year olds.

Sex, at least for women (maybe just at least for me as I can't speak for other women), has a huge effect upon emotions and attachment to my partner. Putting a 15 year through that turmoil if they fuck up is not anything a loving parent would do.

Making getting pregnant or a disease (the outcome) the wrong thing as opposed to premature sex (the action) the wrong doesn't make any sense. Actions are right or wrong, not natural outcomes.

Daganev said...

""How is it self-centered?? It's not my pleasure we're talking about! My whole point is that YOUR position is self-centered. You're taking your kids' pleasure away so that you don't have to deal with the risk.""

Orthoprax, you are going about this post the wrong way.

The only comment that is neccessary to a post like this is:

Next post: JA explains to us why we should be giving children as much candy as they ask for.


Afterall, what is the cost benefit ratio of candy? Nobody ever has candy and says "this isn't for me". The risks of more cavities, or upset stomachs, is only something that parents don't want because they are selfish and don't want to pay the medical bills! Give kids more candy!

tp7 said...

Dear JA I am a 16 year old jewish kid living a your average "protected" jewish life. ALTHOUGH THIS IS LONG, PLEASE PLEASE READ ON ITS WOTH IT!! The average reader of your blogs are probabaly religious parents and non-religious ones as well. The difference with me IS THAT IM IN THE FRONTLINE OF THIS BATTLE, EVERY WEEK, EVERY DAY. You have no idea just how well you portrayed this aspect from both sides of the tale. Personally I do not consider myself a shy kid in the slightest sense, I have a lot of trouble understanding the conservative view on this matter. As an orthodox parent you see your desire of the perfect child gowing to “yeshiva” and then eventually Mesivta (High school for orthodox jewish boys) and of couse marrying the perfect bais yaakov girl and having the perfect jewish kids and , well, obviously becoming a doctor lawyer or rabbi. Let me say flat out this view sucks. We are in the year 2009 (almost). It is so sickening to me that when I go to school everyday I have to put up with 12th graders whom, at times, make you think they don’t know what a female is, let alone a relationship. Having a relationship with a girl your age is an extremely vital part of adolecent maturity. Honestly if youd hang out for the first 20 years of your life with boys only, how the f*ck do you expect these kids to know how to treat a girl when the time comes, let alone the worry of not becoming homosexual?? (this is not meant to offend homosexuals in any way)?? Now I’m not going to tell you whether or not I am still a virgin myself but I will tell you I am in a secretive relationship with a girl whom I really feel close to. We have very simmilar lifestyles and respect one another greatly. Its like when Im around her nothing else matters. I feel sad and upset at times knowing that some kids will never experience this sort of relationships simply because they were guarded from it or simply dissallowed from a relationship their entire teenage lives. If my parents found out about my girlfriend, they would probably flip out. This is one of the few, that’s right, few, things that really turn me off from Judaism. If teens of any religion want to have a relationship and they are aware of its pros and cons then by all means they should get out there and see what it means to have a “real” life. I just wish Jews would stop living up to thier notorious CLOSED MINDED views on sex and try to listen out to people other than themselves for a change. I don’t know how you will respond to my comment but just know I am thankful for your post and just keep doin what you do best!! WE NEED YOU!!!!!!!!

Jewish Atheist said...

tp7,

Great comment, nice to hear your perspective. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

When you have children, you'll feel much differently

Anonymous said...

Also, if you're a teenager, or live under your parents roof, they DO have the right to tell you you cant be sexually active

tp7 said...

in response to "anonymous"

No-one except G-d, can forbid one from being sexually active. Can your parents tell you eating drinking and sleeping is forbidden as well? If you become open minded, you'll feel much differently..

tp7 said...

I may have been a little extreme towards the opposition but my prospective still remains the same.

alcoholism said...

Drugs are very dangerous especially to teens because they don't know yet the complications, that may arise in the long run. They could be dependent on the drugs to give them pleasure as well as a temporary way to forget their problems. It is best to give them advices about the risks involve in drugs and pre-marital sex, while they are still young.

Anonymous said...

tp7 - but you're just a kid

Anonymous said...

when talking about teen sex and suicide...

CORRELATION DOES NOT IMPLY CAUSATION

Just because two things go up with one another doesn't mean they cause one another. There could be a completely different outside cause, and to say otherwise is statistically irresponsible. That statistic isn't a valid argument for either side.

Sorry, I know this is a nit-picky point but it bothers me that this kind of logic is seen as valid.

Carry on...