DEAR HARRIETTE: I was afraid to engage in any type of sexual intimacy when I was a teenager. My parents would have killed me. We were taught that we were supposed to wait until marriage. While I didn’t last that long, I was in college before I did anything serious, and I regret it. The circumstances around losing my virginity really weren’t good enough for me to give it up.
My daughter, who is in the ninth grade, recently told me that many of her friends are already sexually active. She hasn’t done anything yet, she says, and I believe her. But she added that she feels confident that she will have sex before she finishes high school. What can I say to her to get her to slow down? -- Drawing the Line
DEAR DRAWING THE LINE: It is true that for many of us, fear and shame were used by our parents and communities to attempt to keep us, with our raging teenage hormones, from engaging in sexual activity. This tactic is not as welcome these days, nor do I think it is helpful.
Your job, in my view, is to instill values in your daughter that will help to guide her steps. Rather than spouting judgment, fill her mind and heart with your beliefs on the sanctity of one’s temple and how important it is for her to treat it, her body, with respect. Suggest that she should not give herself to anyone sexually before the person deserves to cross that boundary. Tell her that a sexual partner should be someone she loves and respects and who loves and respects her. It should be someone with whom she shares values and interests. She should avoid intimacy with casual partners. Point out, too, that high school students rarely have figured out anything about their lives, including their understanding of intimacy. Waiting is worth it.