Youth Forum reveals teens' opinions on sex and relationships
By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Wed., Feb. 9, 2011
At the Connecticut Youth Forum’s monthly meeting in the cafeteria at Glastonbury High School Feb. 8, the topic of the open-but-guided discussion tied in with Valentine's Day, asking teens about the realities vs. perceptions of relationships and sex.
Approximately 150 students from 18 high schools attended the meeting, which is held at a different high school each month.
Although some of the speakers couldn't resist cracking a joke here and there, and there were a few signs of immaturity, many of the comments revealed the modern teens’ attitudes about sex and dating, and some showed a perhaps-surprising amount of wisdom.
The conversation started with the question of who does or does not like Valentine's Day, and why.
“I don't like Valentine's Day, because I think it's pointless,” said Christy, a student from East Hartford High School. “Why does it have to be a specific day for you to be romantic?”
Tyler, from Stafford High School, said he doesn't like the holiday, because for him, plans often don't work out. “Nothing ever goes right on that day,” he said.
One consensus seemed to be that dating choices are personal ones, and not influenced by peers or parents.
“Just date whoever you want,” one student said. “A guy, a girl, a transsexual, or an alien – whatever makes you happy.”
“My parents want me do go date a girl,” another male student said. “I'm thinking of dating a guy and just not telling them.”
“My parents are very open,” another student said. “They say if I'm having sex, to use precautions. I feel that we should have conversations with our parents, even though it's hard. It helps, because you have someone to go to.”
“I've never lied to anyone about my sex life,” said Cody, a Glastonbury student. “But I'm pretty sure the reason people would is to make themselves cooler in front of their friends.”
Many students said social media, such as Facebook, should not be used by people to broadcast the details of their private lives, and there are sometimes consequences if they do.
Chloe, from East Hampton, said a boyfriend told her he wanted some time apart, and changed his Facebook status to “single,” but then saw a picture of her on Facebook with two male friends, and became incensed. “So that put a definite end to that relationship,” she said.
“I feel like Facebook messes up relationships,” one student said. “A lot of people feel like they're entitled to know your business, to know your sex life, who you're dating, and who you're talking to. They don't.”
“I don't think anyone should know what your sex life is on Facebook,” a Glastonbury student said, adding that she thinks there is no way to really know what a Facebook poster is actually doing, or not. “If [you] can,” she added, “you should delete your Facebook.”
“If you put stuff up that people should not know, then that's your problem,” said Shane, a student from Pathways To Technology Magnet High School in Windsor.
Most of the students at the forum seemed to place value of a real connection with a partner over sex, and seemed to concede that many teens aren't capable of understanding all of the ramifications of having sex.
“People are having sex, and they don't understand the consequences of it,” one student said. “You have to mentally prepare yourself for what can come with it.”
“If you can have sex and then just leave a person, then it's not a relationship. It's not love,” a male student said. “It's a trust thing. If you have the romantic part of it, and the sex part of it, then the relationship is complete.”
“A good relationship is one of compromises,” said Christy, from East Hartford. “There's no one that's perfect. If you really love someone, and they're not into sex, and you can wait for them to be ready, I think that's true love.”
Youth Forum Associate Danielle Joseph said data is compiled, not from things said at the forum, but from surveys before and after the event, and at the beginning and end of the school year.
“Our meetings are focused on connecting youth to each other,” Joseph said. “This one was more focused on letting people know that they are normal. Kids often think they are on the outskirts, and that no one understands, and this is a place where it doesn't matter what school you are from, or how you think, and people understand you. Whether you're having sex at 13, or you're abstinent until marriage, people can relate to you.”
The next Connecticut Youth Forum will be March 16 at Ellington High School, with a topic yet to be determined.