The Scariest Thing I Have Ever Read

Many of you have already seen this article from the NY Times Magazine (registration required, etc., etc.) this weekend. Having spent the last few days in North Carolina, I hadn’t read it until this morning. I was amazed at the casual promiscuity and lack of coherent social structure by the teenagers in the article. Am I just getting old, and this is typical curmudgeon behavior towards rabble-rousing youths? Or have things really changed since my day?

More to the point, what hope is there for Church youths in a modern world of sexuality? Can a “Strength of Youth” pamphlet have the impact it needs to protect teens? The Church’s sexual education program is lackluster to say the least, passing the responsibility over to parents without giving them enough information on how to proceed. What can/should we be doing for our youth that we’re not doing already?


  1. “Home schooled children…miss the day-to-day interactions among each other that I think could be important”

    Maybe our home schooled children are different, but we seem to have no problems finding opportunities for them to interact with other children.

    In addition, maybe schools are different nowadays, or maybe they were different where you lived, but where I went to school the only interaction was from the teacher’s mouth to your ear. The only time I interacted with fellow students in a social environment was during a 15 minute recess, to and from school, and on weekends. My children get way more interaction than that.

  2. “I do not know anyone from my high school friend groups, whose parents ever talked to him or her about sex.”

    Count my in with that group. I never received the “birds and the bees” talk. My parents borrowed a video and a book from the library and the rest I learned at school (and not in sex ed class).

  3. “Kim, that’s hilarious.”

    I admit it was in part tongue-in-cheek, but at the same time it was serious. Does sex education need to be anything else? Fundamentally, that is what it comes down too and I don’t know why many parents have a hard time addressing it as it really is.

    Mind you, sex education in an LDS home should naturally contain a lot of qualifiers about chastity, equality, love and sacredness.

    Nevertheless, I don’ see why there needs to be any instruction given to parents. After all, parents obviously know the biological issues involved and as members of the church should know the moral issues involved.

    “I think kids should have the same opportunities to be a part of society, have friends, play team sports”

    Why would home schooled children not have opportunity for these things?

  4. “passing the responsibility over to parents without giving them enough information on how to proceed”

    Could you elaborate on this Steve? It seems to me there isn’t much information you need than you already know.

    “Penis goes in vagina. Sperm comes from penis. Sperm and egg unite. Baby created. Yada, yada, yada…”

  5. Although, just to be fair, the scariest thing I ever read was probably either some H.P. Lovecraft stuff or maybe “Salem’s Lot”.

  6. Home schooled children can be a part of society, play sports, etc., but miss the day-to-day interactions among each other that I think could be important.

    As for the sex education stuff, I think most people see the teaching of the raw functioning of sex as largely unnecessary today. What’s missing are the other elements, which you partially address: chastity, emotional relationships, STDs, hormonal influences, etc.

  7. I agree with you Kevin, but along with the open, frank discussion I think there needs to be a confession from the parents: “kids, we are weird people. We do not think the way a lot of your friends think about sex. Here is how we define the bases, and here’s why you should only be batting singles at most.”

  8. I don’t personally think the journalist was exaggerating the facts. The same journalist wrote an equally disturbing article last summer about black men “on the down low” – that is- having sex with other men while maintaining heterosexual activity in public life. That was a very well-researched article, and as scary as reality is, I think it is reality.

    The saddest part of the scenario to me is that kids are coming of age in a culture that tells them they are deficient if they attach romantic feelings to their sexual activity. Sadly, this has historically been taught in many cultures to men, much to everyone’s disservice, and now it is consciously being spread to women. I see the same phenomenon around me as my single female friends in NYC protest that they are totally unattached, while complaining when they sleep casually with their partners who then never call except when they want to have sex. It’s too bad our biology is sexist, but I think it just is for the most part.

  9. I found the article truly disturbing. I actually joked when I read it- only half joked really – with Tiffany that we are not going to have children. I don’t really want to raise kids in an environment where oral sex is now considered “second base.” Unbelievable. The sad thing is I don’t think that we can call this flawed data sensationalized by a journalist, as there have been other similar studies recently. There were even reports of middle school students having oral sex on the school bus.

    I think that the church will need to be increasingly specific about what is and is not allowed and the seriousness of sexual sins. I think that there needs to be more frank discussions about these issues with the youth in the church, rather than veiled references. My experience is that parents routinely drop the ball when it comes to sexual education. I do not know anyone from my high school friend groups, whose parents ever talked to him or her about sex. For as much as they fight in Utah to keep sex education out of the schools under the rubric that it should be taught in the home- it appears to actually happen in very few homes.

    Whether children are home schooled or not, it would seem that we will need to be much more open with our children about these issues.

  10. I posted on this a few months back in a post I thought aptly titled “Hacking at the roots: Dating & Relationships” at
    In it I pointed to an article in the Christian Science Monitor that said the same things without some of the more sordid details in the NYT.

    And I thought we were ‘peculiar’ when I was in youth a *decade* ago. Very disturbing indeed.

  11. I skimmed the article, and it is pretty scary.
    I think one of the better things that is officiallly being done is that the church is using clearer terminology in defining boundaries.
    I’m only 27, but I recall reading and hearing talks about “necking and petting.” We could make a good guess at petting, but what the heck was necking?! No one ever explained that bit. Compare that to the new version, which says under “sexual purity”

    “Before marriage, do not do anything to arouse the
    powerful emotions that must be expressed only in
    marriage. Do not participate in passionate kissing, lie
    on top of another person, or touch the private, sacred
    parts of another personÂ’s body, with or without clothing.
    Do not allow anyone to do that with you. Do not arouse
    those emotions in your own body.”

    That’s fairly clear.

    Perhaps what we need is parents who are not embarrassed or uncomfortable speaking bluntly to their kids.

  12. I wasn’t a home schooled child, so it’s tough for me to say. You’re clearly in a better position to give insights, Kim, although you aren’t a home-schooled child either, I don’t think.

    Where I went to school (Calgary), there was plenty of inter-student interaction. The school you describe where the only social interaction is during recess doesn’t really exist, I don’t think — think of all the goofing off, passing notes, skipping class, etc. that define youth!

  13. Janelle says:

    I’m sure this topic of conversation is long dead, but I’d thought I’d put in my two cents anyway. Being only 23, I don’t feel too far from my highschool days in Connecticut where “hooking up,” as described in this article, was a common phenomena. Maybe it is because of this background, but I don’t think the teen scene is as scary as you all seem to think it is. Self control can still exist. Good values can still exist. I think it is an insult to teens, particularly teens with good, aware, involved parents, to imply that because other people are doing it, they’re going to end up doing it too unless drastic measures (such as home school) are taken.

  14. If we goofed off or passed notes in class, we were instructed to stop, and often ridiculed for being disruptive. I never skipped class until high school. That being said, I don’t see how skipping class is reserved for public school children. after all, homeschool children “skip class” all the time. ;-)

    I just want to reiterate my previous post. The vast majority of the time I spent in social interaction with my friends was outside of class time. Class time did not develop social skills with my peers any more than sleepovers next door developed social skills with my teacher.

  15. It makes me think of home schooling too, which is sad and unfortunate, because I think kids should have the same opportunities to be a part of society, have friends, play team sports, etc

  16. Kim, that’s hilarious. If that’s all that’s involved for you, you have the most utilitarian relationship I’ve ever seen.

  17. Kim-

    The sad truth is that your parentsÂ’ actions with the library book and video go far beyond the experiences of most of us.

  18. Scary stuff indeed. We have gone from the break down of taboos against sex outside of marriage to the breakdown of taboos against sex outside of romantic relationships. One hopes that the results are exagerated by journalism, teen age bragadicio, and the problems of social science based on unverifiable self-reporting. Still, it is a pretty grim picture.

  19. Sometimes immorality is referred to with words such as “wantonness” or “riotous living.” The utter lack of sexual control and sexual chaos these teens engage in brought these words to mind. It’s really frightening to read about this happening.

  20. Sorry, the new version of the For the STrength of Youth pamphlet, convenientyly available in .pdf

  21. Greg Call says:

    The Times Magazine has taken its lumps for shoddy reporting in the past, but we’ve seen enough of these kinds of stories (didn’t Tom Wolfe write a book called Hooking Up about this?) that there must be something there. This kind of stuff makes me think about home-schooling more than poor test scores and class sizes.

  22. Whoops. That was me, not Mary. Bloody cookies.

  23. You ought to track what is happening in Japan and China.

    Yes, these things are scary, in many ways.