It was just a routine check. When Susan and Tom gave 13-year-old Josh his first cell phone, they told him that they would occasionally look through his text messages. But Susan was completely unprepared for what she found that Saturday morning.
She waded through a couple hundred short, inane messages, more than slightly confused by the shorthand that kids use when texting. She was struck by the fact that Josh and his friends seemed to text each other more than they actually talked. And then something different popped up. There was no confusion about this message: “If you could have sex with me, would you?”
Her mind spinning in disbelief, Susan continued looking through the texts. And a story began to emerge: While hanging out with some friends a couple weeks earlier, Josh had met a girl from another school. They began texting each other the next day, and it was clear that she had quickly begun pursuing him sexually. With suggestive language, she talked about what she wanted to do with him, and within a few days she lured him into sneaking out of his house in the middle of the night so they could meet for sex at a relative’s empty apartment. “I’m wearing a thong,” she wrote. “Can you sneak out tonight?”
Susan was so stunned that she could hardly breathe. Josh has never had a girlfriend, never even kissed a girl, she thought. We’ve raised him in a good home. How could this happen?
In a daze, she found her husband and filled him in. He was just as shocked. They knew they would someday need to talk with Josh’s younger sisters about how to handle boys who wanted sex, but they never expected this.
A shift in our culture
Sex among teenagers is old news, unfortunately, as are the trends of aggressive boys pursuing girls, men pursuing women, and adult women pursuing adult men. But a growing number of parents like Tom and Susan are learning that something has shifted in our culture over the last few decades.
Increasingly, girls are aggressively pursuing boys—in high school, middle school, and even earlier—in numbers we never saw in the past. The rules have changed, and many parents are asking for help in how to protect their young sons. This shift has caught them by surprise, and they don’t know what to do.
A few years ago, I wrote a book entitled Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date. I challenged dads to man up and take steps to protect the purity of their daughters. Interviewing a young man who wants to date your daughter is a good way to filter out the undesirables, so to speak, and call young men to treat a young lady’s sexuality with respect and nobility.
After that book was published, I heard stories about fathers who stepped up and had some great heart-to-heart conversations with young men. But what I didn’t expect were the messages from readers and FamilyLifeToday® radio listeners asking for help in protecting their sons from aggressive girls. Here is a sample:
“We have three grown daughters and a 16-year-old son. You would think our family would have experienced plenty of aggressive behavior from boys toward our daughters, but nothing compares with what I see our son going through.”
“I have a 14-year-old son. He is contacted by girls all the time on Facebook and texts. One went so far as to take pictures of herself in scant clothing (in my opinion) and send them to him. This occurred without the knowledge of her parents and when my son was in seventh grade.”
“My 10-year-old son was enticed by another fifth grade girl via e-mail to open another e-mail account so that I couldn’t monitor it. But I found it and canceled it. She is sending e-mail messages and e-cards to him and two of his friends in a love quadrangle that she’s brilliantly orchestrated.”
“I have two sons who attend public school. Recently, they were talking at the dinner table about the girls that grab their butts in the hallways. My husband and I were shocked. They said, ‘Welcome to public school, Mom!'”
“I have a 13-year-old boy, an 11-year-old boy, and a 7-year-old boy. All of them have been pursued by girls. I think what shocks me the most is the encouragement from the parents of the girls who mistakenly think it is ‘cute.'”
“We recently were hunting for a church nearer to our home. We found a good one, except that girls in the youth group zeroed in to our son like heat-seeking missiles.”
There have always been girls who are flirty and crazy about boys, even some girls who could be labeled as “bad girls.” You probably remember a few from your own days as a teenager. But now, the “bad girl” problem is becoming more commonplace. Over and over, parents are expressing the same concern: Girls are pursuing their sons more openly and relentlessly than ever before. They are calling, texting, sending suggestive photos, setting up romantic liaisons … and they’re doing these things at a younger age.
I want to make it very clear that I am not placing all the blame for teenage promiscuity on girls. I also understand that parents need to protect their daughters from aggressive boys, especially as those boys move into the latter years of high school and beyond. A shocking number of men and boys have, and continue to be, sexual predators. I make absolutely no excuses for them. But I’ve heard from enough parents to realize that we also have a growing problem with aggressive girls. And most parents tell me they just aren’t prepared for it.
The need for a plan
The fact is that many parents just don’t realize how little training they are giving their adolescent and pre-adolescent sons in how to relate to the opposite sex. I’m not just talking about sex education; our boys need to learn what to expect in adolescence—and beyond—and how to handle it. Temptation, lust, and sexual attraction are bearing down on them. They need to be prepared. You need to prepare them.
I wrote my recent book, Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys, to offer time-tested counsel to empower you to teach and equip your son to understand a biblical perspective of sex and how to protect himself from seductive girls who would do him harm. I write about three commitments you need to make as a parent that will keep you engaged in your son’s life as he moves through the years of high hormonal temptation.
And I discuss seven conversations you must have with your son. Six of these are founded on passages from the book of Proverbs and focus on helping your son understand what God says in the Bible about maintaining sexual purity. These conversations are intensely practical and will help you establish boundaries for your son and also prepare him for specific situations he will face with aggressive girls both now and later in adulthood. Each of these chapters ends with a suggested step-by-step guide for directing the conversation with your son.
They thought they had more time
Tom and Susan, the parents in the story at the beginning of this article, found themselves dropped in the middle of a minefield. Their son, Josh, had never even been on a date, so they were shocked to find that he had become sexually active. When they met with Josh and told him that they knew what was going on, he tried to deny the extent of his involvement. But the evidence was clear, and he finally admitted what he had done.
Tom and Susan immediately took away Josh’s cell phone, shut down his Facebook page, and grounded him from going out with friends for a period of time. They made sure he kept busy with school and sports, so that he wouldn’t have idle time. And they moved him out of his downstairs bedroom into a room upstairs with his little brother.
The wounds were still fresh when Susan related the story. “Josh knows this isn’t what God wants for him.” But the future seems unclear. How do you restore a child to a path of purity after he’s already lost his virginity … at age 13? They are praying that God will use the experience for good in Josh’s life.
“I wish we had known these things were going on,” Susan said. “I think we would have been more prepared.”
Adapted by permission from Dennis Rainey’s book, Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood, FamilyLife Publishing, 2011.