Dear high school grads,
I know you’re inundated with advice right now, so I’ll keep this short and sweet — my Top Three Things to Think About from your friendly neighborhood sex lady.
Hooking up: Everyone (and I mean everyone from teens to senior citizens) thinks high school and college kids are hooking up all over the place. But they’re wrong. Only a small percentage of people these ages actually do engage in hooking up. While some people like the idea of the unplanned nature of hooking up, there are some real dangers, so here are some things to consider if you think you might hook up:
• “Hooking Up” does not have a universal definition in our culture. Be aware of exactly what you are and are not saying yes to, and exactly what you are and are not receiving a yes for. Trust me, this can prevent a lot of heartache — not to mention preventing pregnancy and disease.
• Alcohol and drugs often play a significant role in hooking up. They also impair judgment. It’s a combination that can lead to major regret. Be aware of your choices. Take a friend when you go out and watch each other’s backs.
• Use protection. That means condoms, condoms, condoms. The pill, patch, ring, implant, shot and intrauterine devices are all excellent at preventing pregnancy — and they don’t do a thing to protect anyone from a sexually transmitted infection.
Sexual assault: While gains have been made in awareness about and reduction of sexual assault, it is still all too prevalent amongst teens and young adults, especially on college campuses.
• Consent is something that is talked about a lot and even taught in some schools. There is still a vast disparity in common understanding of what it means, however. Don’t assume the person you are with has the same definition you do. Talk about it.
• If you are assaulted, get support. There are people who can advocate for you, who know the system and can increase the likelihood of your being taken seriously.
• See “hooking up” (above). Especially in an inebriated state, one person’s “hook up” might be another person’s assault.
Relationships: Many people find a long-term or lifetime partner during the years right after high school.
• Remember, healthy relationships that can go the distance are based on respect, caring, mutual support, open communication and trust.
• Extreme jealousy, isolation, physical violence of any kind, consistent disrespect and constant arguing are all signs your relationship is unhealthy and you need help. Maybe you can work it out with help, maybe not. Staying and doing nothing will likely be unhealthy for both you and your partner.
• Keep healthy friendships alive. They are important, too.
I hope that you will think about all this now, before you head off on your next adventure. I hope you will think about what you want and what you don’t want. And I hope you will be true to yourself and not compromise who you are for anyone else.
Wishing you much joy on your journey.
Amy Johnson is a trainer and educator in the Pacific Northwest. She specializes in sexuality education and promoting safe and healthy sexuality culture. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.