GROWING INTO LOVE: Teenagers Talk Candidly About Sex in the 1980s by Kathryn Watterson Butkhart

GROWING INTO LOVE: Teenagers Talk Candidly About Sex in the 1980s

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Burkhart's report on teenage sexuality covers much the same ground as does Norman and Harris' The Private Life of the American Teenager (p. 995), and in something of the same manner--that is, with lots of quotes from interviewed subjects. But Burkhart, aware of the existing survey research, has opted for more ""in-depth"" interviews with some 250 American teenagers--to get across the ""teenagers' perspective"" and ""to help parents and teenagers understand the meaning of that [surveyed] behavior and their own reaction to it."" It might take a voyeur to plow through all the first-person recollections of the first period or wet dream, first ""real"" kiss, first orgasm, decision to start having intercourse; or the feelings about masturbation (still considerable guilt), the sex behavior of divorced parents, and the need for contraception. Many who don't use contraceptives, says Burkhart, can't face premeditated sex or lack the ability to anticipate the consequence of their actions; others, consciously or not, really want to have a baby. (Goal-oriented girls tend to use contraceptives, and to have abortions if pregnancy occurs.) Much misinformation remains on this topic and others, and Burkhart was shocked at the lack of sex education in schools. Another surprise was that boys as a group have more emotional investment in their relationships than girls do, and more desire for long-term commitment. Burkhart's California contacts were the most ""liberal"" she talked to, certain rural groups the most conservative: as one Kansas boy put it, sex without reproduction is probably easier in urban areas, where ""your mother doesn't know the druggist and the doctor."" The wide range and variety of experience Burkhart discovered shouldn't surprise readers. However, she comes out ahead of similar investigators in the depth of her respect for the teenagers (and their parents), the more thoughtful remarks she elicits as a consequence, and the sensible nature of her conclusions. Parents, she feels, are understandably but unduly frightened by the sexual revolution; and though some young teens do regrettably rush into intercourse as the route to peer approval, most will make responsible decisions and ""find their way"" through the world's hazards ""just as we did."" She cites Kinsey in support of her belief that many teenagers will have ""fuller and richer marital lives"" because of healthy patterns established earlier, and she believes that even teenage parenthood, though often unfortunate, can be a positive experience. For panicky parents who will listen, an ounce of sane common-sense.

Pub Date: Oct. 19th, 1981
Publisher: Putnam