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Get With the Program

by Bianca VelezPEP Program Assistant

I’m not a ho, I’m not a slut. I’m not a bitch, nor am I “his bitch”. But I am one of the many American teens whose sexual behavior has been portrayed as “rampant promiscuity”. I’m not going to apologize, nor will I whine about how I’ve been misunderstood. But I will try to explain, and not for my sake, but for the sake of the adults who are pulling their hair out for no good reason.

Teen dating is the biggest change in American culture that has contributed to the discussion of teen sexuality. In other words, the way in which we date has changed. There no longer exists that general concept of “going steady”, but rather varying levels of “hooking up”. I say “varying” because even teens have different understandings of what “hooking up” means. Of course, the scariest version to adults is the one that involves sex and/or sex acts. The problem lies in the fact that adults, as per media portrayal, assume that the majority of teens are engaging in risky sexual behavior. But, as more than one survey, poll, research project, or other form of substantial evidence has shown, the majority of teens AREN’T having unsafe sex.

As program assistant to a reproductive justice non-profit, a peer sex ed educator, and teen, I’ve felt the impact that the media has had on how adults view youth and their sex lives. Honestly, it’s appalling. But if I know anything on a personal level, it’s this. It’s something that I’ve experienced in my family: the random conversations about how the news said girls are contracting HPV like it were a cold, the pep talks about how girls that date are considered promiscuous no matter what. I’ve always been disgusted, but that was only on a personal level. Now, I’ve become aware of how it’s seeped into popular talk shows, news articles, and the like. And I want it to stop. Not just for me. But for the girls I teach. For my best friend, my girlfriends, my sister.

It especially amazes me how adults have become fearful of something they don’t talk about. How ironic: you don’t talk to your teen about sex and they have sex. Interesting. Here’s a better one: you don’t talk to your teen about SAFE sex and they engage in risky sexual behavior. Wow. Who would’ve thought?

See, that's my problem. No one talks to us! And then, of course, the teens that do practice safe sex and/or are in safe and healthy relationships continue to be plagued by all these media fear tactics. I'm personally offended by all of this because for one, I've been that teen that messed up, that didn't always practice safe sex. But that didn't happen because I was "fooling around" or "experimenting"; it happened because I trusted the wrong person, someone I thought I loved. And it happened because no one ever spoke to me about what happens when you want to have sex with someone you love. It's COMPLETELY different (and means something different to teens in terms of contraception) from when you're sleeping with someone you're simply attracted to. In this case, both situations are condemned.

And it’s come to the point where I refuse to believe that my parents and my friends’ parents and other adults are really that dense. We’ve always been told, “I was your age once”. Then you know what it’s like. So get a grip. Yeah, we’re dating, we’re having sex. And reality is, you should be, too!

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