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One of the main ethical boundaries therapists face when talking to a teen about sex is the concept of a client determined therapy goal. In a family therapy model the wishes of the teen regarding self determination and sex and the teen’s parent are in conflict.
On this track, we will discuss four common misunderstandings teens have regarding sex. These will include losing virginity as planned, emotional pain, sex will create feelings that aren’t already there, and you just can’t stop.
Have you found, as I have, that many young people have a difficult time making the decision to have sex because, as a virgin, there’s no way to know what it will actually be like? Boundaries and Ethics issues arise for a therapist concerning providing an adolescent with sexual information as being misconstrued with encouraging sexuality. As you listen to these four common misunderstandings think back on how you set clear and ethical boundaries in this area in your practice.
As you know, the foundation for codes of ethics rests on the belief that the therapist should respect the inherent worth and dignity of all people. The right that underlies this belief is the right to self-determination and participation.
Here’s how I spoke to Julia, age 16, in our session. I stated to Julia, “Everyone who has had sex will tell you different things. Some have amazing first experiences, and others’ first experiences are just awful. As a result of the mixed reviews, many teens develop misconceptions about what it’s like to lose their virginity, how they will feel afterward, and how sex will change their relationships. Those misconceptions make it even harder to make the right decision.”
Julia stated, “I don’t get it…I actually planned out losing my virginity…and it didn’t work! I told Jeff, my boyfriend, that I was ready to have sex…and so I was ready for it, with shots of tequila, a blue condom from my glove compartment…I had my eyes scrunched shut, waiting for the pain of it…and then he just went limp! What’s up with that? What was it supposed to be like?!”
From other sessions, I gathered that Julia had four misconceptions about sex. The following is a general overview of what I said to Julia regarding her four misconceptions over several sessions.
Misconception #1 - Losing Virginity as Planned
First, let’s discuss losing virginity as planned. It is a common assumption that the first time you try to have sex will be the first time you actually do have sex. There is a lot that can go wrong the first time you have sex. Maybe he can’t maintain an erection because he’s too freaked out. Or maybe it seems like no matter how much he tries, nothing is going to make its way in. If the first time you try to have sex fails, it can be very frustrating.
But even if the mechanics are going right, it doesn’t mean that you have to have sex. Just because you thought that you were ready doesn’t mean that you’re obligated to do it if you change your mind. You can decide that you don’t want to have sex at any time, even if it means backing out at the very last second. You never “owe” a guy sex because he thought it was going to happen… because you said it was going to happen, or because you’ve done everything but having sex.
You may not lose your virginity exactly how and when you imagined you would, but that’s ok. The important thing is that you’re completely comfortable with the situation and that you’re doing it safely, not that it happens on the exact night you thought it would. It is fine to have a game plan, as long as you accept that it may not play out as predicted. And while you’re thinking about it, you might want to think up an exit plan as well, just in case you change your mind.
Misconception #2 - Emotional Pain
Second, in addition to losing virginity as planned and physical pain, let’s discuss emotional pain. The way many teens talk about having sex for the first time tends to set teens up for emotional disappointment. Many talk about “losing their virginity” as though it will inevitably be something that they want back.
It can sound more like a defeat than a celebration, so naturally, many girls worry about feeling “used,” dirty,” or completely vulnerable after having sex. As I explained to Julie, having sex in the wrong situation can make a person feel that way, but if you’re truly ready, most likely you won’t.
Deciding that you’re ready to have sex depends on many factors:
-- # 1. First, you must feel comfortable and secure with the person you’re about to have sex with. This means you can trust that your partner will give you the emotional support you need, both while you’re having sex and after the act is over. It also means that if you need that emotional support, you won’t be too shy to ask for it.
-- # 2. Second, be sure that the reason you want to have sex is coming from inside of you, as in wanting to share an intimate physical experience with someone, rather than outside of you, as in pressure from your friends or the guy.
-- # 3. And last, you may want sex to be something that you feel comfortable with on a physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual level. In order for you to enjoy sex, you must be at ease with the act itself. If you are comfortable with having sex, you may be doing it because you want to, you trust your partner, and you’re set to use protection, so losing your virginity may not be an upsetting experience.
Misconception #3 - Sex Will Create Feelings That Aren’t Already There
Third, in addition to losing virginity as planned and emotional pain, let’s discuss sex creating feelings that aren’t already there. Before having sex for the first time, many overestimate the bond it will create. A guy may say that he can’t really care about a girl unless she has sex with him, or that he needs sex to stay in the relationship. If someone doesn’t know what sex is like, it may be hard to know whether or not to believe him.
When you’re a virgin, sex can seem like a mysterious act that’s too intense for words. The idea of sex is often built up so much that it can be natural to feel disillusioned after the five-minutes that ends your virginity.
Having sex will not make a guy who isn’t in love with you fall in love with you, or create feelings that aren’t already there. It can make you feel more vulnerable or slightly closer to someone, but it is not likely going to alter the course of your relationship or completely change your outlook on life. If a guy cares about you, he will care about you whether or not you have sex with him. If he doesn’t want to be in a relationship with you, sex is not likely to change that.
Misconception #4 - You Just Can’t Stop
Fourth, let’s discuss the misconception, “you just can’t stop.” It is a common misconception that once you start having sex you will have some sort of obligation to sleep with every other guy you date. Not being a virgin doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t say no.
Every time you decide to have sex with someone new, you can base the decision on how you feel about that person and your relationship with him, not on how many other people you have slept with. Deciding to have sex with someone may be a big decision, which is something that many of us think about our first time, then may forget with the next few.
If you spent a lot of time deliberating to whom to lose your virginity, you can still take time to consider with whom you do or don’t want to sleep in the future. Do you have a Julia? Might she benefit from hearing this track in your next session?
On this track, we have discussed four common misunderstandings teen have regarding sex. These have included losing virginity as planned, emotional pain, sex will create feelings that aren’t already there, and you just can’t stop. As you listened to my explanation of these four, clearly if you also are treating Julia’s parents in a separate session you would need to let both Julia and her parents know the ethical boundary regarding confidentiality.
On the next track, we will discuss deciding about sex. This will include five negative consequences and five positive consequences.
What are four common misconceptions about sex? To select and enter your answer go to .