SEXUAL CURIOSITY IN ADOLESCENTS
“Hassanah, the golden girl as her grandmother called her, was growing really fast and she knew it, at 14, while her mates battled with puberty induced acne her brown skin face seemed to defy the odds and remained porcelain clear. Her glow was easily noticeable and she now towered over most of her friends. She had long straight, spotless legs, slightly wide hips, ample breasts and a tiny waist, she fit the description of ‘hourglass figure’. At 14 with a body like that, she was beginning to get so much attention from males, at the start of the new school year, she had noticed the changes in her body when she tried on her uniform and her body filled out the spaces she used to have in the fabric while the length, jumped to now rest well above her knees.”
From the text above, we see Hassanah is no longer the child she used to be, she is experiencing bodily changes, making her physically attractive and getting her some admirers. These changes characterise adolescence, and are caused by puberty. After puberty, children look different, and a lot of questions arise within them as a result of these changes that have occured. Adolescents are most curious and vulnerable at this stage of development, and need to be actively attended to, empowered and educated rightly on their sexual feelings.
SEXUAL CURIOSITY IN ADOLESCENTS
Curiosity can be described as the bedrock of all knowledge. Your desire to know, fuels your search for an answer. Curiosity can be observed in our behaviors, as we try to answer questions with our sense: smell, using our nose; taste, using our tongue; vision, using our eyes; hear, using our ears; touch, using our skin. Sexual curiosity isn’t a phenomenon that arises at adolescence. We can find it in younger children even before they hit puberty. Sexual curiosity in children could be seen when questions about how babies come about, and when they enquire about their sex organs or why girls do not have penises and vice versa. This form of questions, and other broader interesting albeit embarrassing questions occur before and continue through puberty and into adolescence. Of course we might find it easy to answer how family members are related, but there are few who might ignore the question of where babies come from or the questions relating to the sex organs. The maturational changes that occur at puberty, sparks off new experiences, leading to multiple questions in the mind of an adolescent. Puberty gives rise to an increase in curiosity, which requires the right attitude and self-restraint to navigate this search for answers. The adolescent develops increasing interest in their changing physical characteristics, emotions and growing sexual interest in the opposite sex. With an array of options of where to get the answers they search for, the adolescent or teenager may take paths including premature exploration of their sexuality. In day to day life, the adolescents sexual curiosity is further sparked by the physical contact (touching, hugging and playing), pleasant and unpleasant emotions they experience with parents, and classmates. In reality, peers have little to no knowledge, and can give misleading information based on their own limited knowledge, which can reinforce fantasies and masturbatuon in adolescents. It is important that adolescents receive the right guidance, so as to help them understand and navigate these new experiences.
HOW PARENTS RESPOND TO CURIOUS ADOLESCENTS
Parents often respond to curious adolescents in various ways. Some enjoy and encourage the curiosity of the child, and supply them with the necessary information. Some may go as far as sharing with their child their own experiences as a way to drive the messages home. Some parents however, are dismissive and non tolerant towards the adolescents' curiosity, and hence might be repelling the sexual themed questions posed to them. This either dissuades the child from seeking further answers, or encourages the child to discover from other welcoming albeit, misleading sources. Other parents could make use of diversions, so as to ignore the questions posed by the adolescent. It is advisable that parents should be proactive and involved in this stage, and empower the child adequately to make the best decisions. Parents should note that children will get the information somehow, so they should rather be feeding their child’s curiosity. It is certainly a myth that talking about sex with your adolescent child would encourage them to engage in sexual activities.
WHAT SHOULD PARENT TALK TO ADOLESCENTS ABOUT
Parents should introduce to them features of physical and emotional aspects of puberty (menstruation and wet dreams) the basics of reproduction, pregnancy and childbirth,), basics of contraception, the consequences of unprotected sexual intercourse such as contracting sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy etc. It is easier to delay sexual activities in our adolescents, if we arm them with the necessary information to help them make good decisions.
BEHAVIORS ASSOCIATED WITH SEXUAL CURIOSITY IN ADOLESCENTS
Maturational changes don’t just occur in one's physical and emotional development, but also in social relationships with peers. Sexual curiosity often leads adolescents into:
Define the kind of relationship with peers: During puberty, adolescents begin to see the opposite sex as attractive, as a result, they may begin to experiment on various methods to seducing or getting the opposite sex to notice like them. Dating begins, and if there is a deep emotional connection, there could be sexual intercourse.
Sexual curiosity has been regarded as a prerequisite for sexual debut in adolescents. This curiosity often results in early sexual activities. The experience of sexual intercourse, can reorient the adolescents previous understanding of sex and either reinforce their fantacies or satisfy their initial curiosity or not. Despite the knowledge of contraceptives, adolescents are likely to initiate sex without the use of protection.
The media and the internet play a major role in materialising sexual content thus feeding the curiosity in this stage. Adolescents are more likely to search and watch pornography, read highly sexualised content (books, magazines, comics), looking at pictures of naked individuals, viewing or listening to sexualised music.
Other behaviors could include masturbating, wanting more privacy, touching private parts in public (uncommon), use of psychoactive substances to enjoy sex more or enhance sexual performance etc.
Parents should watch out for the stage of sexual curiosity, occurring in adolescence as an important process in the lives of their pubertal children and be empowered to help them navigate it. They can manage sexual curiosity in adolescents by educating them on the maturational changes they are experiencing and the aftermath such as self-awareness, sexual attraction and exploration. Parents shouldn’t shy away from giving children the sex talk, as a lack of this education, may lead to disaster laden albeit avoidable choices.
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