Dr. Sherrie Campbell
Very few things in adolescence are certain but there is one thing upon which most teenage girls agree, and that is they must be sexy. They feel that they must wear the short-shorts with their rear-end’s hanging out to fit in and get attention. Teenage girls show little loyalty to each other anymore because, more often than not, they are more committed to competing to be sexier than their female peers then they are really competing for a boy. So what is this doing to teenage girls? It is pushing narcissism, insecurity and self-obsession. Yong women are rushing to get breast, lip and eye enhancements and other surgeries to look like the reality and movie stars they see on TV.
1. Pressures: Teenage girls are under more sexual pressure than ever before and as parents we need to judge them based upon their own generation, not our own. Girls are starting puberty much earlier for reasons varying from diet and nutrition to the break-down in the family unit. If there is the loss of a mother or father, girls’ bodies jump into overdrive to survive and may provoke her physiological need to be an adult, possibly causing the hormones kick in earlier. Because they are developing earlier there is more pressure to have sex earlier. Loss of attachments often cause our girls to look for that attachment through love/sex.
2. Technology: The world of technology has completely changed the sexual landscape. When we were young we would sit by the phone praying our crush would call or write us a note. These days there is an unceasing amount of constant contact via SMS, Facebook, Twitter, texting and parents have little, if any, ability to monitor the conversation.
Teenage girls feel safe to flirt online and can hide the safety of their phone. They become obsessed with following their crush on social media constantly being in touch with where he is at, who he is with, and “liking” all of his photos or tweets.
Because they feel safe, online flirting becomes more risky. It is common for a teenage boy to ask a girl for sexy pictures. Many teenage girls become so engrossed with being the sexiest, and with winning the boy over someone else they forget about who they are internally and have no clue about intimacy, loyalty or respect. It becomes about winning. When this goes terribly wrong and a photo of her gets passed around and the teenage girl is fully naked or nearly naked, it humiliates and shames her.
3. Online Pornography: The online pornography industry is so flooded that to stay “cutting edge” it has to produce more extreme material. The trend in online porn is veering towards sex that is extremely rough, aggressive, objectifying of women and it idealizes sexual acts that women don’t really enjoy.
For many young men this is their sexual education and they expect sex to be like what they see and they copy what they see believing this is what women like. This is shaping the young man’s sexual imaginations, expectations and practices and yet what they are seeing isn’t reality. Teens are emulating what they are learning and the girls onscreen seem to be enjoying it, so the young man thinks that is the kind of sex women enjoy.
4. Unwanted sex: There has been a dramatic increase in teenage girls having unwanted sex, which shows to have potential long-term effect on how they feel about themselves and their sexuality. The main reasons this unwanted sex is happening is due to being drunk, high, wanting to fit in, not wanting to hurt a boys feelings and/or feeling pressured to do so from friends and/or boyfriends.
5. Consequences: Unwanted sex, which includes sex under pressure, sex while intoxicated, or simply performing sexual acts they regret damages their self-esteem. Teenage girls who have had unwanted sex are more likely to consider suicide, to have poor relationships, and to have a higher number of sexual partners. Having unwanted sex causes teenage girls to never feel sexy or good enough, to feel high levels of anxiety and low self-esteem. These negative psychological impacts can increase their risk taking behavior in an effort that maybe their next sexual experience will make them feel good. Sadly many teenage girls are left feeling used, abused, abandoned and empty.
6. Parenting/Educators: As parents and educators we can make sex education easier for them. A loving, nurturing family environment and parents who are open about sex help enormously. Sex should be discussed frequently and its intimate, emotional and physical pleasures should also be discussed. If all that is discussed around sex is negative and shaming our girls and boys will turn to other sources, such as the internet for information. Further, the less guidance our teens have, the more likely they are to have sex earlier and to have it unprotected.
It is important for parents to encourage both boys and girls to have respect for each other and to never choose a boy or a girl over a friend. If you find out your teenage girl is sexual do not freak out or become punishing. To maintain a close relationship with her be understanding of why it hard to say no. If you handle the situation with shaming you make her self-esteem worse causing her to feel unlovable and forever tainted because of her choice.
Due to the internet, sex education has totally changed its face. What teens see online is often a dangerous mix of misinformation and distorted images of sexuality which is influencing their behavior, leaving our young women confused and misguided on what sex is and isn’t. Sex is both emotional and physical but what our teens are exposed to is only the physical aspect, leaving out the intense emotional and self-esteem ramifications which can come from having sex too soon. Arguably, there has never been a more confusing, stressful time to be a teenage girl. However, what most teens are seeking is the feeling of love and commitment. If we can educate them on the full spectrum of sex and intimacy and be very open with it, our teens will make better choices for themselves and others.
Young women still want love, intimacy and strong relationships based on respect – and so do young men.