Preteen Sex: Do We Really Need To Have This Conversation?

A lot of times we like to think that sexual activity and behavior doesn’t become a topic for discussion until kids reach their teenage years.

As a matter of fact, I found it frustratingly difficult while doing research on this topic, to find good scholarly information, demonstrating the lack of attention this topic receives.

However, from personal experience as a counselor, I know that preteens as early as 9 years of age are engaging in sexual or precursors to sexual behavior in ways that either often go unnoticed or are overlooked as normal play and socialization.

Preteens at times can be just as curious to what it means to be in a relationship, mature, or desired, as their older peers.

They are often exposed to a host of sexual behaviors either through watching their parents, older siblings, older teens or of course, the media and unfortunately, sexual molestation, usually at the hands of a family member, older teen or adult.

They are often curious about themselves and each other, especially the opposite sex. They often sit, fondle or cuddle in ways that may seem harmless, but are at times precursors to future sexual behaviors.

A lot of preteens I’ve worked with are already “making out” with boys and sexting, two very good predictors to early sexual activity. I’ve met preteens that have already voluntarily engaged in oral and even vaginal sex by the time they were 12 years of age.

Early dating, overly strict parenting as well as lack of parenting are all predictors of early sexual behavior.

Here’s another tip: preteen girls who have a lot of male friends are more likely to be exposed to drugs and alcohol and are much more likely to engage in sexual behaviors.

Also, men 18 and over are responsible for 50% of the babies born to girls 17 and under.

Sure many of these teens grow up in unstable houses, have poor self esteem and are looking for acceptance when they stumble into the world of sexual behavior, but many of them also are just curious, precocious children that have no clue what they are really doing.

Preteens, just like teens, are much more likely to not use any type of sexual protection, so they are at higher risks of being exposed to STDs and pregnancy.

Yes, some preteens can get pregnant. Puberty can happen as early as 9 in “normal” girls and as early as 6 in girls born with abnormalities that cause them to go through puberty extremely early.  In my research, girls as young as 6, 7, 8 and 9 have given birth to children, usually after being molested by a family member.

Parents of preteens and teens need to be proactive and honest with their children about sex. Educate your child and take the mystery out of sex, puberty and love.

Having this sort of talk with your preteen may be uncomfortable, but it’s better to have this educational, proactive talk now than to have it when it’s a little too late and you discover that your child is either pregnant, has an STD or is engaged in sexual behavior, much earlier than you ever expected.

Try to be the type of parent that gives your children all the answers they could ever ask, as detailed and as often as needed, so that they will always get the best advice (at least as much as you have educated yourself) and they don’t have to learn it from their peers or by making huge mistakes.

No parent is perfect, and neither is either child, but through communication you’ll be more likely to help your child make wise and healthy decisions today and for the rest of their lives.

 

Sex Trafficking: Modern Day Slavery

Watching the local news last night I saw where two separate sex trafficking stings saved two teenage girls who had ran away from home and then found themselves forced into sex trafficking by men who controlled them through threats, physical violence and drug use.

One girl was 17 years old and was scared to leave the guy who took her from hotel to hotel advertising her over the internet. The other girl was a 14 year old runaway who was found drugged in the passenger seat of the sex traffickers car.

Both of these operations weren’t done in some shady part of town, but in a tourist area where hotels are often cheap and it’s easy for the sex traffickers to blend in with the multitude of tourists visiting our city.

Whenever I hear the word sex and trafficking put together I get an uneasy feeling in my stomach. Sex trafficking is a form of modern day slavery.

Victims of sex trafficking are usually female, are often under the age of 18 and coerced through force, fraud or coercion to perform sexual acts for money, drugs, favors, etc.,.

Often psychological coercion such as “No one loves you but me”, “Your family doesn’t want you”, “You’re nothing without me”, etc. are used and/or physical coercion such as violence, threats of violence and even physical bondage are used.

Sex traffickers use a number of ways of getting their victims. In foreign countries they are often lured by:

• A promise of a good job in another country
• A false marriage proposal turned into a bondage situation
• Being sold into the sex trade by parents, husbands, boyfriends
• Being kidnapped by traffickers

(Human Trafficking Resource Center)

Here in the United States, sex traffickers often lure runaway teenagers with the promise of love, protection, money and/or drugs.

Sex traffickers frequently subject their victims to debt-bondage, an illegal practice in which the traffickers tell their victims that they owe money (often relating to the victims’ living expenses and transport into the country) and that they must pledge their personal services to repay the debt.

In the United States sex traffickers often tell their victims that they owe them money for drugs, protection or housing.

Sex traffickers often “condition” their victims through confinement, rape, gang rape, beatings, starvation, physical abuse, forced drug use and threats of harm to their families or to shame them by making their family and loved ones aware of their activities.

Physical and Mental Risks

Some of the risks victims face are health risks, mental risk and alcohol and drug addiction.

Physical risks can include concussions, vaginal/anal tearing, broken bones, traumatic brain injury, sexually transmitted diseases, sterility, miscarriages, and forced abortions.

Mental risks include dissociation, depression, anxiety, shame, self-hatred, suicide, suicidal thoughts, distrust, fear, hatred towards men, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and a sense of helplessness.

Victims may also suffer from traumatic bonding – a form of coercive control in which the perpetrator instills in the victim fear as well as gratitude for being allowed to live.

Types of Sex Trafficking Include

  • prostitution
  • pornography
  • stripping
  • live-sex shows
  • mail-order brides
  • military prostitution
  • sex tourism.

Victims that are forced into prostitution and pornography are usually exploited the most and are at greatest risk of danger.

Sex Trafficking Operations

They can be found in highly-visible places such as on the street with prostitution, on the internet and residential houses. Like I said, here on the news it was discovered in a popular tourist location. Often they take place behind closed doors of massage parlors, strip clubs and other fronts for prostitution.

Some times victims may start off stripping, and then get tricked or persuaded into prostitution or pornography.

Help for Sex Trafficking Victims

If you think you have come in contact with a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1.888.3737.888.

This hotline will help you determine if you have encountered victims of human trafficking, will identify local resources available in your community to help victims, and will help you coordinate with local social service organizations to help protect and serve victims so they can begin the process of restoring their lives.

For more information on human trafficking visit http://www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking.

(National Human Sex Trafficking Resource Center)

Understanding Teenage Girls: Motivations and Psychological Meanings in Relating to Males

The other night I happened to catch a television reunion of the reality show Love & Hip Hop Atlanta.

I stared at the screen in not so much as shock as pity as I watched four different women vie for the love and affection of two guys who treated them more as if they women were merely whores, and the guys were their pimps.

The guys seemed to think the heartache and embarrassment they caused these women by their ongoing cheating, lies and manipulations were funny, while the women basically said that no matter how bad they were being treated, they weren’t going to leave their “man”.

One said it was because of good sex, money and furthering her her music career. Another said it was for love and yet another said it was because she had a child with the guy.

To me, none of these were reasons to stay with a man who obviously saw them as being little more than sexual toys to be used and abused.

Still, this got me to thinking.

Working with teenage girls I am always keenly aware of some of the internal conscious and unconscious motivations that effect their decisions, especially in relation to dating, sex, and self-esteem.

As a girl learns about sex, she is also learning about other things such as giving and receiving affection, self-worth and what she means to others.

She also learns about trusting and honesty (or dishonesty) through the ways she is first introduced to sex, especially through the ways she is protected or not protected from being exploited.

“I learned about sex from my dad. I never had a chance for my first time with my boyfriend. Who knows, maybe I [would have] wanted to wait until I got married. But no, I never got to have that chance. I don’t even remember the first time… I feel it ruined my life.”  -Anonymous Teenage Girl, Young Poor and Pregnant: The Psychology of Teenage Motherhood by Judith Music

Shame, fear and guilt are also valuable lessons, as they will (if she is fortunate) help her learn how to keep herself from situations and feelings that may be too painful for her to deal with physically or emotionally.

When these life lessons are learned and experienced in ways that inappropriately shape her sexuality developmentally, they are likely to have far reaching consequences through out her life in the way she perceives her world and those in it.

This effects such a major part of who she is that it also effects who she thinks she can become, what she is capable of and her ability to show and receive love as well as her ability to take control of her destiny.

For girls who grow up in disadvantaged situations, inappropriate sexual socialization is usually the final breaking point to other risk factors such as poverty, unstable family environment, fatherlessness and lack of appropriate nurturing, that already have made this girl vulnerable to men (and teenage boys) looking to exploit her.

This added with social isolation from other people (outside of her family and community) and institutions, becomes a recipe for disaster (often disadvantaged girls are only exposed to people in their immediate communities where important social services are either absent or insufficient).

Social isolation and psychological vulnerability mean that many disadvantaged young women will be controlled by their relations to men not only in the bedroom, but also in the classroom, the street and eventually even the work environment.

“The adolescent female’s sense of self in relation to males is the internal representation of her past experiences with men and- perhaps equally important- of her mother’s roles and relationships to those and other men.”  -Judith Musick

It’s sad to see teenage girls who grow up with a damaged sense of self because of their past relationships to men either directly or vicariously.

These young girls often turn into teen mothers, get stuck in poverty, abused by men, single mothers with a multitude of children by different fathers, abuse drugs, or get caught up in one of various avenues of the sex world such as prostitution.

It’s important that we protect these young girls as much as possible from being exploited and abused, physically and mentally. It is also important that we help build their self-esteems, educate them and teach them the their value is priceless and doesn’t depend on a boy’s, a man’s, or anyone else opinion of her.

Does the Baby’s DNA Change if the Mother Has Sex with Another Guy While Pregnant?

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I’m a strong proponent of the “there are no stupid questions” rule (in most cases), but can I propose that there are stupid statements?

The other day, an 18 year old client of mine, who is about two months pregnant with her ex-boyfriend’s baby, told me that she hasn’t told her new boyfriend that she is pregnant because she plans on changing the baby’s DNA from her ex-boyfriend’s to her new boyfriend’s by having repeated, unprotected sex with him. I nearly passed out from the shock of her ignorance!

I explained to her that it doesn’t work like that and tried to give her a crash course in human reproduction, but she quickly dismissed me, saying that she had a cousin who did it before (the cousin was probably never pregnant the first time to begin with, but that’s another story). I was so appalled that I could’t even debate with her because apparently she knew more than I did. It just made me more concerned about our youth and our future!

I took the liberty of researching her absurd question and was shocked to find that many people have asked the same question on forums such as yahoo answers! Not only that, but they asked such questions such as, “Does swallowing semen change the baby’s DNA?” ! What is wrong with these people? I know part of the problem is that we took sex education out of schools, so now we have a whole generation of children being raised not knowing the basics of human reproduction, human sexuality and anatomy and they will soon be raising and educating kids of their own! Scary! They’re not even concerned with real things that can “change” a baby’s DNA such as the mother’s diet and toxins such as smoking cigarette’s while pregnant. These things can alter DNA and make a child more prone to things like asthma, obesity, illnesses and allergies, but they nor can anything else turn “Mike’s baby” into “John’s baby” just because the mother and “Mike” no longer are together.

Few things scare me more than the state of our children and our future and the fact that they think they know everything when they at times don’t seem to understand the essentials of life.