For days, Ebele, a mother of three teenage children watched Helen, her last born and only 14, like a hawk. With her social activities in the last few months, she suspected Helen could be pregnant. “I went to the chemist, bought a pregnancy – test-kit and went with her to the bathroom to use it”, said Ebele. “At first she was indignant, shouting she’d never had sex, but I stood my ground. The test came out positive.
“She was as shocked as I was and I demanded to know who she’d been sleeping with. She claimed it was Richard, another teenager who lived a few houses from us. When I went to his place with Helen, he was almost rude to us, even with her parents present. How could he possibly be the dad, when my daughter had slept with virtually every lad on the street? It was then revealed that my seemingly innocent daughter had been sleeping with as many as nine teenage boys around the time her baby was conceived!”
Ebele’s predicament outraged parents in her neighbourhood, some of them alleging this all happened because there wasn’t enough sex education in schools! Makes one want to laugh, doesn’t it? Kids as old as nine years already know, through sex education and watching TV, how to have sex, what positions to use and the importance of contraception.
So where’s the deterrent? Where’s the message hat sex when you’re 12 is a no-no? It seems too much emphasis is based on how to have sex rather than telling these kids, who find sex more appetizing than the latest flavoured ice-cream, that they shouldn’t even think about having sex until they’re grown-up and in a loving relationship.
Take the average ‘rich’ teenage girl, for instance, what used to be known as jail bait. She’s got bags and bags of designer clothes and bags and could borrow her mum’s very expensive stuffs if she needs to. Her clothes reveal as much flash as any ‘professional’s’ and thanks to sophisticated mobile phones, she sends photos of herself – the raunchier the better – to her boyfriends. Naturally, when she’s ready she feels no qualms about having sex where and when she wishes with any la who takes her fancy. And one of her ambitions is to sleep with as many of these home movie stars as she could get her claws into.
What’s happening to teenage girls these days? “They used to be interested in only kissing and courting”, says Carol, a relationship expert, “but now, sexual behaviour seems to have taken over. And, for some, a night out is nothing if they don’t get straight down to copulation, raw sex and instant gratification. It’s the sexual version of a takeaway. Are the parents to blame? Should they be worried about messages society is sending out to young girls?
“Well, yes, it’s time to start telling our daughters to swim against the tide. We tolerate a culture that seems to teach girls the most noteworthy attribute they can have is sexiness. It’s more important than character, or intelligence, or talent, or almost anything else. That’s a terrible message to send to young girls who are still shaping their identity. It leads them into behaviour that won’t make them happy in the long run.”
Carol believes that the consequences could go far beyond the obvious dangers faced by girls who are having sex at such an early age. There’s a lot of talk about the physical consequences of such an unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. However, a lot of girls do have sex and don’t get pregnant or get STIs, especially if they heed advice to use contraception. But they may end up being psychologically and emotionally damaged.
That aspect isn’t discussed enough. Studies have shown girls aged 14 to 17, who engage in sexual activities are three times more likely to suffer from depression than girls who don’t. And there’s more emotional havoc too; such as anxiety, loss of self-esteem, an inability to trust men, and difficulty in forming lasting relationships later in life …”
So where does this modern obsession with sex come from? Carol accepts that there was never a time when people weren’t interested in sex. But she suggests the world has changed. “The problem now is that the sexualizing is aimed towards younger and younger girls. Then there’s this idea that young girls who act like the worse kind of men sexually are liberated”. The idea that it’s `empowering’ to just go out and have sex like a man, without emotion or relationship. That sex is another activity. That kind of attitude – popularized by shows like some Nollywood movies, and Sex in the City – has done a good deal to instil that idea in young girls. They don’t have the life experience to realise these shows are frothy fairy tales. They’re not the way life works out. You can’t just go round having sex with dozens of men you pick up at parties and not have it affect you in some way.
The way forward? “There are three simple things a parent can do”, says Carol. “First, give girls a positive vision of what they’re waiting for. What girls need is an understanding of why waiting for someone who cares about your body and mine is best. Help them develop virtues that enable them to wait. That includes good judgement, self-restraint and the courage to resist pressure. Finally, offer support. It might be through your family, from a source like a church group or, even better, through their friends”.