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13. Januar 2004  
Parents face teen sex dilemma

A public quarrel has broken out in Norway over when parents should allow their teenage children to spend the night in the same bed at home with their boy- or girlfriends. The debate may take the country's sexual permissiveness to a new level.

The average age for a Norwegian girl's sexual debut has fallen by a year since 1992, to 16.7 years of age.

Oral sex is now as common as sexual intercourse among teenagers.

Norway's age limit on sex (lov om seksuell lavalder) was designed to protect youngsters from doing something they may not want to do. No country in Europe has a higher age limit than Norway. In Austria, it's 14 for heterosexuals and lesbians and 18 for homosexuals.

Psychologists remind both sides that Norway has a law actually forbidding sexual relations for those under 16 years of age. Parents, meanwhile, recommend talking with other parents to resolve the sometimes awkward situation.

Nurses who deal with teenagers, meanwhile, think the parents are much too naive.

"Many parents should better monitor where their sons or daughters are actually spending the night, when they say they're staying with a friend," advises Turid Sandvold of a youth health station in Oslo's Nordre Aker neighborhood. "Why not call the parents of that 'friend' and ask what you should send along with your son or daughter? That way it won't seem so much like you're trying to control the situation."

Others don't flinch from factors that can help give parents some control. "It can be helpful for parents to have the state age limit to fall back on," psychologist Elisabeth Backe-Hansen told newspaper Aftenposten Tuesday. "I would have given my children under 16 a flat 'no'."

She says parents must evaluate what they're comfortable with themselves. The teenagers must understand they're part of a family, and shouldn't make other family members uncomfortable.

Most parents aren't prepared when the issue comes up. "This is a tough topic, and it can help to air thoughts with others in the same situation," advises Anne Roetvold, who leads a parents' group at a junior high school in suburban Oslo.

Teenagers themselves are clear in their opinion. They want to decide themselves when they think they're ready to spend the night with their sweethearts.

"In our parents' heads, spending the night is the same as having sex," said Anne Lise Depraetere Flaeten, a 10th grader at Oesteraas Junior High School in Baerum, west of Oslo. "It doesn't have to be. It's the togetherness, being able to talk together all night long, that's important. Remember that our sweethearts are often our best friends."

She and her group of friends, all 15, unanimously scoff at the state's 16-year-old age limit. This has to be decided by each individual, they contend, noting that some 15-year-olds are more mature than many 17-year-olds.

Joergen Moltu mused that many parents' objections to sleepovers "maybe is all about their fear of losing us."

Via Aftenposten News in English



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