Andrew Verrijdt in his recent Mail and Guardian article “Teens Have Sex, Get Over It” has plainly yet painfully summarized the pervasive mentality among most South Africans regarding teen sex.
Verrijdt’s assumption is that teenagers simply will have sex, and the best adults can hope for is that it be “safe” sex. As Hollywood, Bollywood, and Follygood have well taught us, waiting until marriage to engage in sexual intercourse is an unthinkable notion. In fact, sex is so associated with teenage life that Verrijdt calls South Africa’s attempts to control underage promiscuity “attempting to legislate away the act of being a teenager.”
His title is telling: “Teens Have Sex. Get Over It.” If by “get over it” he means, “don’t hide your head in the sand, adults. Recognize the problem and address it”, then I have no qualms. But that is not what he is saying. For him, “get over it” equals “accept it.” But then I ask, what would stop Verrijdt from saying: “Teens do drugs. Get over it”? Or, “Teens cheat on exams. Get over it”?
We are beginning to see the quicksand Verrijdt has fallen into, as have all the cultural left that want to throw sexual restraint to the wind and yet still make moral judgments. He says that “adult contact with children is bad” and it is OK for youth to engage in “age-appropriate sexual experimentation.” But why is adult contact with children bad? Says who? And who should decide which age is appropriate for sexual liaisons? Verrijdt never tells us but does hint at the formula he uses to define sexual morality: Consent. If partners agree (regardless of age or gender), why not?
Al Mohler has observed:
The children of the sexual revolution have gravitated toward a sexual morality that boils down to consent. In its essence, this sexual morality holds that anything consenting individuals do with each other sexually is beyond moral censure. And anything means anything. An ethic of consent is all that remains after the ethic of moral rules is discarded in the name of liberation.
So consent is the idol to which all other moral issues must bow. Mpho can sleep with his 16-year old neighbor, if she consents. Baloyi can add Mamayila, Maria, and Lacy as wives to his harem as long as they agree. Steve may have relations with a consenting Stanley. And Thandi can abort the baby in her womb as long as the child…wait. Scratch that example.
Then there are his comments about condoms.
[Teens have] been lied to about the effectiveness of condoms. [By] demonising teenage sexuality we make it more difficult for teenagers to get protection and information about how to use it. If a 14-year-old boy goes to buy condoms, both he and the cashier will know that he is intending to do something illegal. Many will simply forgo the condom, get their partner pregnant, and pick up HIV along the way. We need to make condom use more popular, not less.
Here we see South Africa’s obsession with condoms and the Safe-Sex campaign in a nutshell. Have sex as many times and with as many people as you want, but always wear a condom. Those who stand in the way are the bad guys. Family life educator Richard A. Panzer was right: “guilt about ‘doing it’ (having sex) has been replaced by guilt about not ‘using it’ (condoms).”
To which the big business condom manufacturers say: Cha-ching!
But Verrijdt saves his most risible comments for the end.
The entire enterprise is based on a flawed premise: the idea that we, “the grown-ups”, have the right to decide for teenagers what they should be doing with their bodies. But we don’t, and nor should we…. Adults have a huge problem with the idea of teenagers having sex. But that is their problem, not the teens.
O, tempera! O, mores! Every sane society for millennia has seen the wisdom of seasoned, parental counsel of youth toward the proper moral path. But this is not the case in modern South Africa’s moral wilderness. Verrijdt apparently wants consensual sex to come with no age restrictions from adults, government and (I’m assuming) parents—whom astonishingly he never even addresses. We are left to wonder if he would also apply this hands-off approach to, say, Tintswalo who hopes to get married at thirteen? If he would oppose such a union, what gives him the right to help Tintswalo get condoms in her first bad choice, but refuse to allow her to get married in her second bad choice? By what standard?
Christian parents must respond wisely to all of this. We must remember that our chief goal is following the Scriptures, not what culture defines as normal. Jesus obviously didn’t get the memo that premarital sex is impossible to avoid when he said: “Everyone (including teenage guys) who looks at a woman (including teenage girls) with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28).
If we as parents are lax in exposing our children to immorality on TV, casual relationships, immodest clothing, unlimited internet access, and unsupervised liaisons, Verrijdt may be right that our only hope in preventing premarital sex is cloistering our teens in monasteries. And to us would fall the greater condemnation.