Teenage sex fantasies and sad facts

When I was 14, this was my “sexual” fantasy:

I would go to a concert featuring Paul McCartney. He would spy me from the stage, think I was cute and ask to meet me after the concert. We would talk, hold hands, maybe even snuggle a bit.

That was my fantasy. All of it.

I don’t think I was particularly sheltered. I was just being a girl. And for young girls, “sexual” fantasies have since the beginning of time typically revolved around romance.

Instead today, one would get the impression eighth-grade girls daydream about the next time they can perform oral sex on a boy.

Such was evident, again, after the news this week that “1 in 4 teen-age girls has a sexually transmitted disease.”

“Those numbers are certainly alarming,” sex-education expert Nora Gelperin told the Associated Press. She said they reflect the “sad state of sex education in our country.”

How about reflecting the “sad state” that way too many kids are having sex they are not ready for?

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, said the new information shows that “the national policy of promoting abstinence-only programs is a $1.5 billion failure, and teen-age girls are paying the real price.”

In once sense, I rather agree. How can an “abstinence” program compete with a sex-soaked culture in which young girls are seemingly “supposed” to want to perform oral sex and/or engage in full sexual intercourse, when on their own their “fantasies” at that age would most typically revolve around tenderness and romance, not intercourse or its variants?

And by the way, let’s be clear: Many of these young girls are not having sex with the eighth-grader in math class across the hall. They are having sex with adult men who should be prosecuted — and not “enabled” by a culture that abandons its young girls to the nonsense that they are, that they should be, naturally as sexually aggressive as males.

Yes, our teen-age girls certainly are paying a price.

Men and women, and their sex drives, are typically (gasp!) different. That’s obvious. What may not be is how beautifully this is designed to work. For a culture, it means that women have the opportunity to, well, civilize men, calling them to commit to marriage and children in order to experience the benefits of a regular, monogamous sexual relationship. Within marriage itself, the seduction dance can and should be one that calls a husband and wife to more selflessness as they consider the “other,” and together find a place of oneness they can both enjoy.

When this understanding falls apart, a lot of other good things do, too.

So, what to make of a culture in which some studies showing that up to 25 percent of all ninth-graders have had oral sex and girls in the eighth grade and younger being given birth-control pills by their school cause little more than a kerfuffle?

In 2007, Washington Post reporter Laura Sessions Stepp wrote a book, “Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love, and Lose at Both.” Though she’s writing primarily about the romance-free, almost anonymous college sex culture that women increasingly engage in, the lessons are the same: She essentially asks about women and, presumably, girls (as one book reviewer put it), “If they commit to a lack of commitment, how will they ever learn to be intimate?”

When we as a culture settle for, and even teach, the nonsense that girls are or should be as sexually oriented as boys, when we think that high STD rates for young girls means they need more “sex ed,” when we don’t help girls and boys see that sex outside of marriage isn’t good enough for them — we fail both genders.

(Betsy Hart hosts the “It Takes a Parent” radio show on WYLL-AM 1160 in Chicago. Reach her through betsysblog.com.)