Stuck in the Middle

Same old thinking
Yes I’m stuck in the middle with you,

And I’m wondering what it is I should do,
It’s so hard to keep this smile from my face,
Losing control, yeah, I’m all over the place,
Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.
©1972 Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan

Those words jumped into my head as I thought of the week we’ve had here in Florida and at Care Net.

It was just a tragedy heavy weekend. The bad news just kept coming. The sense of it all just kept escaping me. But then again, I specialize in the senseless so it shouldn’t surprise me.

Daily I find myself caught between a senseless battle. Using the SRA (Sexual Risk Avoidance) model, our mission is to teach young people that the war is winnable and they already possess the weapons needed. Too often though we’re stuck in the middle between the ones acting out sexually that arrive as clients to our centers, and the ones supposed to be in charge of guiding them to better behavior and lifestyle choices. Both seemingly ignoring the urgency of the hour.

For years we as a nation have sold sex on demand to our youth and in reaping the consequences have condemned the very group we made the sales to. Senseless. In teaching in the classroom I often set up a false scenario to share:

“A teacher invites me in for student education. Nothing strange there. I begin my presentation, based on our current cultural standards of educating our youth, with a blanket statement: We know ALL youth are going to engage in risky behaviors. Today we’ll talk about a few of those. Let’s start with cigarettes. We know ALL youth are going to smoke, it’s just what they do. So when you do, make sure you smoke only filtered to reduce the risk of the negative effects we know exist.

Next let’s move to alcohol. We’ve seen the ads, watched the YouTube videos…but reality is ALL teens drink. It’s just part of youth culture and you’re no different. So, with homecomings, proms, and every celebration in between when (not if, come on we’ve covered that) you decide to drink as a teen, make sure you have your parents keep you safe and host the parties for you. They’ll of course take the keys because keeping you ‘safe’ is optimum here folks.

Moving on. Drugs, they seem to be everywhere. We’ve gone back and forth in past decades from street drugs to ones closer to home (think parent’s cabinets). The point is, you’ll pick ‘em up sometime, somewhere, it’s just what kids are drawn to. Make sure you know which ones are easier to get addicted to and for goodness sake take the ones that aren’t…you’ll be safer that way.”

At this point students have already been wide eyed and open mouthed for several minutes. So I end with “Doesn’t make sense, does it?! You can be taught to avoid all those things but sex, well sex is just bigger than you.” We’ve lived in the past decade or so with a zero tolerance atmosphere for ALL those areas under the ideology that we can TEACH our young people to avoid if not completely abstain from all these dangerous, risky activities. Save sex.

Apparently youth can be taught to avoid those things but sex before marriage, well that IS the big inevitable. Senseless. This is the message we constantly fight against. Until now.

Ascend, which exists to serve, support, and represent individuals and organizations in the practice of abstinence education, recently released a press release based on the CDC’s new data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). The findings were astounding, but not surprising to us. Here are a few and then a link to the entire study.

  • YRBS trend data shows that the percent of teens who have never had sex increased from
    9 in 1991 to 58.8 in 2015
  • YRBS trend data shows that the percent of teens who have never had sex increased from
    2 in 2013 to 58.8 in 2015
  • YRBS trend data shows that teens are waiting longer to have sex. More than half haven’t had sex in 11thgrade and 42% haven’t had sex in 12th, up from 33% in 1991. Even Seniors have increased waiting for sex by 27% since 1991.

Valerie Huber, President of Ascend, says it best, “I think this data is very clear. It confirms that SRA is realistic and that it resonates with teens.  It also tells us that we need to be more intentional with the messages we send to teens – and the importance of giving teens the skills to graduate high school without any of the negative consequences that can surround teen sex. Today, those messages normalize sex, especially for older students.  This must change.”

So today I say “Teens are saving sex. Deal with it.”

Willow Sanders, SRAS
Director of Student Services