Before you fire off those “hell no’s,” rock with me for a second…

I was perusing the NY Times this weekend when I came across an interesting article by Amy Schalet, a professor and author of the forthcoming book “Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens and the Culture of Sex.” In her article, Schalet writes about differing attitudes held by American and European (specifically Dutch) parents about the sexual habits of their teens.

Through her research Schalet found that American parents tend to adopt a “not under my roof!” manta when it came to their teens having sex at home, while Dutch parents were more welcoming and accepting of the idea.

Her findings were extremely interesting. While most American parents would scoff at the idea of 1) their teen having sex and 2) their teen having sex in their home, Dutch parents tended to be more accepting of the idea. According to Schalet, the can be attributed to cultural differences.

Schalet writes:

The difference in their experiences stems from divergent cultural ideas about sex and what responsible parents ought to do about it. Here, we see teenagers as helpless victims beset by raging hormones and believe parents should protect them from urges they cannot control. Matters aren’t helped by the stereotype that all boys want the same thing, and all girls want love and cuddling. This compounds the burden on parents to steer teenage children away from relationships that will do more harm than good. 

The Dutch parents I interviewed regard teenagers, girls and boys, as capable of falling in love, and of reasonably assessing their own readiness for sex. Dutch parents like Natalie’s talk to their children about sex and its unintended consequences and urge them to use contraceptives and practice safe sex.


Schalet also found:

Cultural differences about teenage sex are more complicated than clichéd images of puritanical Americans and permissive Europeans. Normalizing ideas about teenage sex in fact allows the Dutch to exert more control over their children. Most of the parents I interviewed actively discouraged promiscuous behavior. And Dutch teenagers often reinforced what we see as 1950s-style mores: eager to win approval, they bring up their partners in conversation, introduce them to their parents and help them make favorable impressions.

In the end, Dutch teens seemed to be less promiscuous and more educated when it came to their sexual health. According to a national survey, by age 16, 7 out of 10 Dutch girls reported that their parents talked to them about sex, and by the time they lost their virginity, nearly 60% were already on the pill. Moreover, “Widespread use of oral contraceptives contributes to low teenage pregnancy rates — more than 4 times lower in the Netherlands than in the United States.”

So while American parents freak out about sex, labeling their children as hormonal fools incapable of making sound decisions, our European counterparts are teaching their children about the risks, ways to protect themselves, and how to enjoy sex responsibly.

What do you think Clutchettes and Gents…are American parents too uptight about sex? How do you think our teen pregnancy rate would change if we adopted more European ideals about teaching kids about sex? 

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  • omg

    i know an american woman who spent time in germany in h.s.

    a guy she was seeing invited her over to his house – to spend the night, and do whatever.

    her host mother told her it was normal. in fact,she said the guy’s mom would make breakfast/lunch for her when she was there.

    germans don’t see to have nearly as many problems as we do when it comes to std’s, teen pregnancy, etc.

    can’t say i would be comfortable if i had a daughter who wanted to bring her boyfriend over, but i’m not sure how it’s hurting the germans and others…

    in the u.s., we do view sex as being precious and usually throw some sort of religious thing onto it.

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  • LaToya

    I can definitely attest to the fact that not all parents in America are like that. I’m an American, and my mother took to explaining sex to me as early as nine years old (and of course it did not stop thre). I’m very glad she did that. I don’t think it is uptight to want to wait until you are married. I don’t, I just want to be in love with the person because to me that is more important, but it is a personal choice either way, and it does not make one “uptight.” If anything, it makes you strong- you resisted the temptation! Ha!
    But seriously, I think it is a mistake not to talk to your children about sex. Now, regarding the statement Taylor made about TV, I think it is considered ‘sensitive’ material because like I said, it is private, and honestly American TV irritates me with all of the sexual innuendo that it uses in advertising day in and day out. It just irks me personally, because not everything is about sex! Blood and gore have their time and place as well, I would not want to see that everytime I turned the television on either. But, I hate when people say that you are uptight because you choose to keep your sex life private and not talk about it with everyone you meet. There are way way more important things in life than sex.

  • blah

    i definitely think its pretty uptight. i mean, if you’re going to allow sexual activity, what difference does it make if the child does it outside or at home?

    btw, sex is not like drugs. sex can actually be considered healthy.

    we grew up in a sexually conservative American society. its hard not to sleep around and not think of ourselves as whores/studs. because thats what we were taught. its engraved in our heads.

    i think that people can and do have a different and much more liberal attitude towards sex without being disrespectful towards women/men.