To subscribe to our weekly Faith and Family Findings: click here.
adolescent sexuality

adolescent sexuality

Three Short Periods That Shape an Individual’s Journey Through Life

adolescent sexuality, child well-being, culture, economics, family, family structure, love, MARRI, marriage, mothers, parenthood, religion, sexuality, society, young adults, youth No comments

Three phases are foundational to a sense of well-being throughout life: The child’s early experience of his mother, the teenager’s decision about sex and God, and the newly wedded couples agreement on suffering. The first and last involve the two most important persons in his life. The middle- the teenager’s decision -is personal, private and alone, or alone before God. All three phases shape life way into the future by shaping the individual’s capacity for the wellbeing of spouse, children, friends, family, and colleagues at work.

The child who experiences the constant attention and affection of a self-giving mother during the earliest phase of life, is blessed beyond measure. That mother is giving him a great introduction to “reality as a pleasant place to be.” Life is good, life is warm, life is full. Well taken care of, that baby is ready to take life on! Depending on the mother’s capacity, both from within herself and from the environment around her (her own early experience of her own mother, her husband, her home, her support from family and friends), she fills her child’s emotional heart- his relational “cup”- full, half-full or quarter full. Less than full means the child will have a corresponding limp in human relationships for the rest of its life– without realizing it.

In a recent conversation with friends who live in Spain we mulled the mother-child dilemma in that country where almost all married women are expected to return to work four months after the birth of the child. Many fear that moment because of the pain of leaving their child so soon. By any research calculus, four months with mother is way too little as a norm. Spain is undermining the relational capacity of its children and guaranteeing fragile marriages and difficult parenting twenty-five to thirty years from now.

It cannot but be that most Spanish children will limp relationally to some extent, but it will be hard to spot because most other Spaniards will have been similarly affected. For almost all Spanish couples — even the middle class and higher — a culture of shame exists for husbands if their wives do not work. (The poor and the working class can’t afford the luxury of such shame.) Caring full-time for children at home has become rather socially unacceptable. In Spain, the marketplace is more honored than the child. The market now significantly shapes Spanish children’s relational capacities.

The next period to shape life takes place in the inner sanctum of each teenager’s heart. Between the age of fourteen to sixteen most teenagers decide very privately which path they will walk on matters sexual – ‘adventurous’ exploration of sexual relationships, or chaste abstinence until marriage. The other decision, rather interlaced with the first, is whether they will walk with God or without Him. Should they take the both paths the wrong way, they set themselves up for much unhappiness, broken relationships, even broken marriages, thus visiting suffering on their future children and grandchildren. Some learn their mistake before they go too far down the road. Others find chaste abstinence is possible, especially with friends who walk the same path and who go to God frequently in worship. Oh this “it takes a village” helps a lot. Though chastity leads to significant prosperity and happiness in marriage and family for decades to come, most teenagers are not aware of this, nor that, though they are free to choose, they are not free to choose the consequences, that the consequences are hardwired within them.

The third period bridges the year before and after marriage. The most basic wisdom young couples need concerns suffering. Their orientation to it shapes their future. Those who expect life together to involve some suffering and are prepared to back each other up (“for better or for worse”) will survive and thrive. Those who premise marriage only on “happy ever after” (our modernist norm) are in for a quick disillusionment, one that ends many marriages. The best definition I have come across of a great marriage is “a couple with the capacity to solve an emotionally dividing problem”. Stated differently: a couple who can confront the suffering that life throws at them and figure out how to move towards a solution they agree on.

Though all the social science dots are not yet fully connected across the three periods, enough of them are to link the first period to this last. A husband and wife whose mothers “filled their cup” in infancy are much better formed to be great problem solvers together.

Which brings me back to poor Spain! It takes the national wisdom of a child-friendly culture to deal well with family, love, suffering and children. St John of the Cross, who helped reform religious and institutional life in Spain in the late 1500’s and whose writings are explored by believers of all faiths, is one of the great teachers of the connection between love and suffering. Spanish life could do with a re-infusion of his insights. Then the rest of the world would learn from Spain, for many Western nations, and many good couples, struggle, during the first phase of the child’s existence, to solve the dilemma of mother, child and marketplace.

Pornography

abstinence, adolescent sexuality, child well-being, children, community, culture, D.C., elections, family, fathers, pornography, Technology, youth 1 comment

Recently, for a talk in Chicago to parents of high school boys, I had to update my knowledge based on a 2009 review of the effects of pornography. On this issue the world has changed a lot in less than ten years: the use of pornography has escalated and the effects are alarming.

The most telling effect, I think, is the epidemic of erectile dysfunction (ED) among men.  For all of human history this was mainly an older man’s problem.  As recently as 2002 the rate of ED for men aged 40–80 was about 13% in Europe. By 2011 rates reached 28% for men aged 18–40. As reported above, a 2014 cross-sectional study of active duty, relatively healthy, 21–40 old males in the US military, found that one third (33.2%) suffered from ED.

Unaware of these changes, for the last year or so I had thought that the drop in high school students’ rate of sexual intercourse was good news and that, since 2007, abstinence ideas were winning, but given the above data, all of the causes may not be good news. Increased pornography use among teenage boys, resulting in decreased interest in girls, may be the cause. This also serves to put in context a disturbing experience I had a few weeks ago while driving through a wealthy Washington D.C. suburb during rush hour: I noticed (as must several other drivers waiting for the traffic lights to change) a 12-year-old moving along the sidewalk, intently looking at his smartphone in one hand while his other hand was engaged in self-abuse.  I had not yet reviewed the new research on the prevalence of pornography viewing and was quite taken aback.  No longer.  At age 12 he was already so addicted to porn and had no shame.  The average age of a boy’s first viewing of pornography has dropped to 10 years of age. Fathers be aware.

75 percent of porn-watching is done on smart phones.  25 percent of all internet searches are for pornography.  Tablets and computers make up the rest, computers being the smallest percentage. The average length of stay on a porn site is about 10 minutes. 70 percent of US college students watch porn — alone, with others, or in couples.  45 percent of women now accept it in their relationships.  10 percent of women refuse to view it themselves but accept it in their husbands or partners.

A decade ago women viewed pornography at about one sixth the rate of men.  Today, depending on the country, it varies from only one third the rate of men (US) to one half (the Philippines and Brazil).

Estimates of production range up to 4.2 million websites (12 percent of the total sites worldwide) with 420 million web pages. Every single day, worldwide, there are more than 68 million search engine requests for pornography (which is 25 percent of all search requests).

What are the negative effects for those who become habituated and especially for those who become addicted?  Changes in brain size (diminished); the younger boys start the greater the effects on their brain, and the more difficult to overcome the addiction; men see women as sex objects not as persons, have greater interest in pornography than in the company of women or girlfriends; they suffer increasingly from erectile dysfunction, become more aggressive in their relationships with spouses or partners, are more likely to believe the ‘rape myth’ (that women enjoy being sexually abused), and progress to more and more deviant pornography to attain sexual arousal, leading in turn to greater sexual deviancy;  teenagers will be more likely to engage in same-sex sexual activities. It is no wonder that American young adults and college students are less and less interested in marriage and may be on the way towards the “Japanese disease” of widespread withdrawal from interest in sexual matters among 30-year-olds.

This is a calamity of monumental proportions.  Combined with contraception and abortion, we now have a ‘society-collapsing’ conception and practice of human sexuality.

Given the borderless nature of the internet, pornography is difficult to control.  However, there is not a nation on earth for whom its effects are not massively deleterious.  This is one public health hazard on which the governments of the world should cooperate.  Without that cooperation it cannot be stamped out. And, given the rate at which porn movies are made, the industry would have to be a major source of the sexual exploitation of women, with probable links to sex-trafficking.

In the meantime, savvy parents — and even savvy teenagers — will switch to dumb phones.  Giving a teenage boy a smart phone is installing a porn-shop in his pocket… and a very alluring shop it is too: cheap (free) porn, immediately available, and anonymous. In ten minutes a teenage boy can see more and more beautiful undressed women than the greatest sultan harem-owner in history ever saw in a lifetime. Who could resist?  Not many.

One father, a friend of mine who took great care in introducing his boys into a gradual and full understanding of male sexuality and its foundational role in marriage, came up with a savvy way of helping his boys avoid pornography:  He told them that, if any boy at their school showed porn to them on a smartphone, they had his full permission to grab the phone, smash it on the ground, stomp it into bits, and then tell that classmate to have their father call his father. One can imagine their glee but, so far, they have not had the joy of following through.  Their school now forbids smartphones during school hours on school property.  Maybe the practice will spread. ‘Dumb phones’ work fine for communicating with parents, family, and friends. The world is different when dumb is smart!

Modernity/Culture

abortion, abstinence, adolescent sexuality, church, McCorvey, Prayer, pro-life, teen pregnancy No comments

Something is going well in America, and the public evidence is that love, prayer, and truth — all combined —are changing America for the good on life/abortion and sexual activity.   Modernity is capable of reform. The drift is not all downward by any means.

  • Teen sexual activity: Prior to pregnancy comes sexual intercourse and on that the data is very encouraging from every perspective. On the sexual side there is good news in the classroom: continued significant decrease in teenage sexual activity, most pronounced among black teenagers who are coming closer to the national norm. We blogged before on Collier County Florida where, through effective abstinence-only education in the public schools, the STD rate plummeted and almost disappeared for some STDs among teenagers, while their teenage birth rate more than halved. This program is spreading throughout the country.
  • The Norma McCorvey story, above, points to the enduring power of love to heal the wounds of hate, rejection, violence, and abuse. The prolife movement has expanded from protest and argument to a much broader and very significant movement of compassion and service to the mother tempted with abortion.
  • Prayer: From myriads of ‘national-sample’ charts we know that the more people pray the more their prayers are answered. Public prayer outside abortion clinics is the face of God and man cooperating in public on this issue; it is the meeting of suffering and compassion. Also, behind this public prayer there is the hidden prayer in homes, in hearts and in churches.
  • The effect of mimetic desire. For a young single woman an unintended pregnancy is a major stumbling block in life, and, as Rene Girard illustrates, when we stumble we desire the easiest way around the obstacle and copy solutions we see others using .   Thus, proximity to abortion clinics correlates with higher incidence of abortion. The absence of abortion clinics removes such mimetic desires and increases the incidence of mothers coping successfully, giving occasion for different desires to awaken, and different models to copy. And, on the issue of teen sexual activity, as reported above, the presence of more and more teens who abstain from sexual intercourse makes it more likely others will desire and copy the same.
  • Sonogram technology makes the baby visible and shows it to be very much alive. Even a poster has had dramatic effects, as the case of Norma McCorvey illustrates.
  • Political action and prayer has led to the closing of a significant number of abortion clinics

So, on the foundational dimension of human behavior, the sexual, teenagers are increasingly going the right direction —- because adults are putting lots of effort into the fundamentals. A new culture is being formed.

Sexual Abuse

abuse, adolescent sexuality, war on women No comments


Sexual abuse of adolescent girls inflicts enduring wounds on the victim’s heart, mind, body, and soul. Young girls seduced into an early sexual debut—generally victimized by their partners—exhibit these consequences over their lifetime. Disconcertingly, about 60 percent of sexual abuse cases are never reported to authorities; the majority of these are young females.
However, in a backdoor attempt to facilitate the abortion industry, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring relaxed reporting rules for healthcare providers.  This decision issues implicit support for sexual licentiousness and statutory rape. Most unnerving, the repercussions for young women have been grossly ignored by political pundits and the mainstream media. 
An early sexual debut is likely to bring about negative physical, mental, social, and economic outcomes. These effects are frequently permanent because the earlier a woman begins sexual activity, the more sexual partners she is likely to have over her lifetime. For example, girls who began sexual activity at age 13 are twice as likely to become infected by an STD as girls who started sexual activity at age 21. Correspondingly, early sexual intercourse is negatively linked to happiness. This parallels the finding that early intercourse leads to an increased likelihood of forcing a partner to have sex, having sex while drunk or high, unstable relationships, and having an unplanned pregnancy. Not surprisingly, this life pattern increases abortions. While 30 percent of girls who started sexual activity at ages 13 or 14 have had an abortion, some 12 percentof girls who began sexual activity in their early 20s have had an abortion. This figure is especially alarming given the biological link between abortion and breast cancer.
Early sexual debut also has economic ramifications. Women who became sexually active at ages 13 or 14 are more than three times as likely to become single parents than are women who initiate sexual activity in their early 20s. This contributes to maternal poverty. One study found that 27 percent of mothers who began sexual activity at ages 13 or 14 were living in poverty, whereas 11.7 percent of mothers who began sexual activity in their early 20s were poor.
Herring’s ruling is an abomination to the parents of young girls. He is in essence saying:  I will not protect your young adolescent girls from older predators.  Where are the feminists on this?  On his side!  Promoting abortion and the radical sexualization and  “dysfunctionalization” of young adolescent girls. Protector he is not.  Who now guards the guardians?  Who guards this rogue guardian?
Promoting women’s well-being mandates widespread support for the intact married family. It is within this environment that girls are most protected from sexual abuse, and it is within this environment that young women are most likely to cultivate a healthy sexual relationship with her husband before God.  Herring seems bent on the agenda to wreck the future family life of these young girls. But that is the price he and his allies are willing to pay. This is war on the family of that girl, her present family and her own future family.