Q: Dear Bella, My 14-year-old niece is posting provocative pictures of herself on Facebook. She claims to be pretty chaste with boyfriends, not doing much beyond kissing. She’s been caught sexting and had consequences from her parents, school, and the boy that she scared with her sexts.
So, what to do about these pictures? I’m curious about your take on it. Mine is that she doesn’t really know what she’s doing. The internet does not forgive, ever, and she’s giving away her powerful sexuality in a cheap way. Or maybe you disagree. I would like your take on it, please.
A: Dear Concerned Auntie,
This is my second question this week regarding sexually precocious teenagers and social media. It’s hard to be a sexually budding youth, hormones in a tizzy, body curving and sprouting and tingling all the time. I didn’t have to worry about the internet and cell phones when I was a promiscuous teen. Goddess only knows what kind of trouble I would’ve got into.
Oh, how tantalizing it is to be liked— all the more reasons to snap another cleavage-popping selfie. Like me! Like me! Like me!
You’re right, she cannot understand the full implications of what she is doing; she’s a child. And yes, the internet can be unforgiving.
Is she giving away her powerful sexuality in a cheap way? Maybe. Take steps to discover if this is typical teenager angst and rebellion or is she trying to get attention from her parents?
So what are healthy boundaries? What’s okay? This could be different from household to household. The thing is we don’t really know her sexual history. Is she a saucy little thing needing direction or has she been a victim of sexual abuse? This is important to know.
What I do know is that kids who grow up with parents who are sex-positive and have talked about sex as a healthy, natural part of life have an easier go at it. Trial and error sucks.
Step one: Talk with the parents and ask what they have tried. I suggest (the parents, if they haven’t already done so, or you) spend quality time with her. Offer to take her on a trip to somewhere she wants to go. Our little sister needs a loving person she can trust.
You’ll want to discover what’s prompting this behavior in the first place. What does she really want? Maybe she wants to dye her hair blue or get her eyebrow pierced and she’s acting out. Perhaps she secretly needs someone to ask, “are you okay? Do you need to talk about something? Are you exploring your sexuality with others?”
A teenage girl dabbling in sexual activity is likely to experience confusion, anxiety, and regret, which she is unable to process fully without support from a big sister, momma, auntie, teacher, or mentor.
I am a huge fan of gifting our children with a rite of passage ceremony. I sent my son to Headwaters Outdoor School for a boy’s rite of passage program when he was this age.
She’s unconsciously begging for somebody to initiate her into womanhood. Start a young women’s rite of passage weekend workshop for girls age 13 to 18 in your community. If that is too much, print her a things-I-wish-I-knew-about-sex-but-didn’t-when-I-was-your-age pamphlet.
Step two: Educate. We need to give our youth shameless sex-ed without any agenda other than to educate. It’s our job to inform them about the hormonal surges running amuck in their bodies and to provide them with mentors and role-models.
Unfortunately, sex-ed is still shrouded in religious propaganda and media hype. Rarely is honest, one-on-one counseling with a sexually open and educated adult available.
Teach her to be empowered. One of the greatest practices you can share with her is The Own Your “No!” Practice. Have her practice saying the following with conviction:
“No, don’t, I changed my mind.”
“Stop, I am suddenly feeling like this isn’t a very good idea.”
“I want to slow down and I’m not comfortable with your hands there.”
“No, stop, wait a minute, I need to talk to you about birth control.”
She’s already putting herself out there. Do her a favor and teach her the power of clear, strong language.
Step 3: Let her know how confusing sex is. Nobody knows by her sexy pictures what she is doing, but they are all making judgements and filling in the blanks. Tell her to honor her choices and to never apologize for being a slut or a cock tease. She gets to decide. But be informed. Our bodies are our temples and our playgrounds. Learn how to have safe-sex before you have it. Learn to respect the boundaries of others. Sexting isn’t for everybody, she needs to learn to ask before she starts spewing her verbal load.
Before all the sex-ed nitty gritty on how to not get prego and how to avoid STDs, kids deserve powerful lessons on how their sacred, sexual parts work. If young girls were taught to honor their yoni as their sacred grotto, they may be a little more discerning about who they let poke at it. Before she starts sharing her private parts with others, it would be wise to encourage her to develop a healthy relationship with her pussy first.
Advise her to give her sweet grotto a name, to pull out a hand mirror, and explore the depths and folds of her flower—what does her nectar taste like and notice how she blooms as she becomes aroused. Tell her that masturbation is natural and normal and nobody should be shamed for it. These sex-anatomy basics are overlooked and avoided.
Teach everything from the basic anatomy and operation of the sexy parts on both genders to the types of orgasms each can have.
Teenage sex includes a whole lotta bumbling along the way. There is a natural organic process of discovering our bodies and it’s pleasures. The deeper more profound aspects of sex builds on emotional maturity. We cannot expect a teenager to grasp these concepts but we can at least give them an inclination that much much more is available over time. And, they have someone to talk to. Tell her she may have consequences for being openly sexual no matter what age. Give her my email and tell her I’m here to help if she has any questions.
I highly recommend the Netflix-able documentary Sexy Baby. It delves into the issues of sex in the cyber-age. I hope you can watch this with your niece, she may really feel a kinship to the young protagonist of the film, Winifred.
PS: Do you have advice of your own? Comment below with you suggestions!
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