By Debra Kent, author of the "Sex & Body" column for Seventeen magazine.
My boyfriend wants me to have sex with him. I really love him and I want to do it, but there's always a chance I might get pregnant or catch something. I've asked some of my closest friends and it's two yes, two no. What should I do?
When Seventeen magazine gets letters like this one (and I get them by the bushel), I always say that abstinence is the only sure way to prevent pregnancy. If they're worried about sexually transmitted diseases, they'll want to avoid oral sex, too. I ask readers to base their decisions about sex on their values and religious beliefs. I tell them they shouldn't have sex just because their friends are doing it or their boyfriends are threatening to dump them if they don't have sex. I also urge them to postpone sex until they are in a serious, committed, mature relationship such as marriage. It would be nice if I could leave it like that, but I can't and I don't. That's because many kids are having sex right now.
Make no mistake, it's happening in your neighborhood. In one southern Indiana county, for instance, 38% of eighth and tenth graders have had intercourse. Asking why teens are having sex is a question worth exploring, but I'll have to leave that to the researchers. Whether they should be doing it is another question, but it's not my place to make moral judgments.
I have one concern: giving teens -- the millions who are already having sex and the ones who are considering it -- the information they need right now to stay healthy and avoid pregnancy. Teens are at highest risk for catching diseases that could either ruin their ability to have babies or kill them altogether. Yes, it makes good sense to tell them why postponing sex is a fine alternative to "going all the way." But the millions who don't choose that alternative, for whatever reason, deserve the information they need to avoid pregnancy and to stay healthy. These kids have real questions about sex. Those questions must be answered.