Many parents don't think their kids are interested in sex, but believe that everyone else's kids are, a new study reveals.
"Parents I interviewed had a very hard time thinking about their own teen children as sexually desiring subjects," said study researcher Sinikka Elliott, an assistant professor of sociology at North Carolina State University. "At the same time, parents view their teens' peers as highly sexual, even sexually predatory."
Elliott interviewed 47 parents of teenagers, including six fathers and the rest moms. Interviews, which lasted from one to 2.5 hours, included various questions about parents' beliefs and experiences regarding teen sex. Questions about sexuality focused on what parents teach their children about sex and the dynamics of those discussions, including: why parents say what they say; how they feel about talking to teens about sex; and what they think of teen sexuality.
Parents consistently characterized their children as young, immature and naïve. Essentially, these parents considered their teens as sexually innocent, and even asexual, Elliott said.
Parents seemed to have no trouble envisioning other people's teens as having sex, however, saying their teens' peers were "real sexual," and "promiscuous." One parent said, "[Teenagers] got their cute little bodies and their raging hormones. They're like raring to go."
"This binary thinking does more than simply establish their teens as asexual and, therefore, good; it also creates a scenario in which their teenagers are imperiled by their peers," Elliott writes in the May issue of the journal Symbolic Interaction.
For instance, parents of teenage boys often voiced concern that their sons might be lured into sexual situations by teenage girls who, the parents felt, might use sex in an effort to solidify a relationship. Meanwhile, parents of teen girls expressed fears that their daughters would be taken advantage of by sexually driven teenage boys.