Yes, they’re doing it

I'm not a mother to a teenager. Yet. In fact, I live in fear of the day my 4-year old gorgeous daughter, Cameron sprouts breasts and starts slamming doors in my face. I have a number of ideas about how I'll deal with her first pimple and truancy episode, but I'm pretty sure none of them are in line with our Constitutionally inshrined human rights.

The truth is, though, I was a heck of a teenager - truant, tempestuous and totally rebellious. At the age of 16, I just didn't care what anyone above the age of 20 thought - I knew it all. And leveraging on that, did it all. My dearly beloved Dad once referred to me as the ‘ultimate’ teenager, and said that, of the 3 children in our family, I was the ‘most challenging’. Diplomacy was always his strong point.

I'm sure the day the cacophony of music echoes down the passageway and I pass Cameron an angle grinder to ‘scrape that kilogram makeup off!’, I will quiver in fear.

This morning, I got a taste of what to expect. Tasked with presenting and talking to a hall full of rowdy, hormonal school boys, about the HIV-911 programme, where I work, I looked up at the crowd and thought:

‘I wonder if their parents know they're having sex?’

As our fantastic HIV-911 team and the high school boys engaged in a good conversation about the programme, the boys became one thing I didn't expect they would - they became honest. Brutally honest.

HIV/AIDS and sex are intertwined, true. And the first thing that came out of a learner's mouth was that learning about HIV/AIDS is boring.

Why is the topic HIV/AIDS boring to the exact people it should be of highest concern for? The highest prevalence group in our country is between 14 and 24. So, why aren't our teens engaging with and assimilating the information we give them?

Talking with these learners today made me realise a few things: Our teenagers know how to put on a condom, they have some pretty far-fetched ideas about where HIV/AIDS originally came from and, most of all, they're not afraid to talk about sex. Under-estimating their already-gleaned-from-their-friends-and-the-all-seeing-Internet knowledge is the first thing you should not do. I've never had such an open discussion with anyone about the different types and brands of condoms on the market with anyone before.

The key to getting these learners to talk about sex, though, was not a condom demonstration, or telling them that we have well over a million orphans of HIV/AIDS in our country. It was our team being willing to be honest about themselves. As the conversation progressed beyond our programme, the boys really opened up and started talking about their own sex lives.

Yes, parents, read that line again. Your teenage kids are having sex. Whenever and wherever they can. Accept that, soon, please.

And don't think it's not YOUR teenager. Chances are, it probably is and no, it's not your fault. You haven't raised them incorrectly, they're just hormonally-raging, trying to find their way in the world, teenagers. You should know, you were once a teenager too, you know.

You see, talking about the dreaded taboo of sex with teenagers is a minefield. But, just being open, just being honest, and not being afraid to talk about allegedly taboo things, meant that the boys we spoke with today, were honest about their own lives. Maybe that's an anarchic concept and approach - I'm okay with that.

Do you believe today’s teens are more open about sex?
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