Not My Kid: What Parents Believe about the Sex Lives of Their Teenagers

Overview

Teenagers have sex. While almost all parents understand that many teenagers are sexually active, there is a paradox in many parents’ thinking: they insist their own teen children are not sexual, but characterize their children’s peers as sexually-driven and hypersexual. Rather than accuse parents of being in denial, Sinikka Elliott teases out the complex dynamics behind this thinking, demonstrating that it is rooted in fears and anxieties about being a good parent, the risks of teen sexual ...

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Not My Kid: What Parents Believe about the Sex Lives of Their Teenagers

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Overview

Teenagers have sex. While almost all parents understand that many teenagers are sexually active, there is a paradox in many parents’ thinking: they insist their own teen children are not sexual, but characterize their children’s peers as sexually-driven and hypersexual. Rather than accuse parents of being in denial, Sinikka Elliott teases out the complex dynamics behind this thinking, demonstrating that it is rooted in fears and anxieties about being a good parent, the risks of teen sexual activity, and teenagers’ future economic and social status. Parents—like most Americans—equate teen sexuality with heartache, disease, pregnancy, promiscuity, and deviance and want their teen children to be protected from these things.

Going beyond the hype and controversy, Elliott examines how a diverse group of American parents of teenagers understand teen sexuality, showing that, in contrast to the idea that parents are polarized in their beliefs, parents are confused, anxious, and ambivalent about teen sexual activity and how best to guide their own children’s sexuality. Framed with an eye to the debates about teenage abstinence and sex education in school, Elliott also links parents’ understandings to the contradictory messages and broad moral panic around child and teen sexuality. Ultimately, Elliott considers the social and cultural conditions that might make it easier for parents to talk with their teens about sex, calling for new ways of thinking and talking about teen sexuality that promote social justice and empower parents to embrace their children as fully sexual subjects.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Elliott (sociology, North Carolina State Univ.) examines parents’ attitudes toward their teenagers’ sexual identity and finds that parents equate sex with dangerous and risky behavior, which in turn colors their views of their teens’ maturity. She emphasizes how these views are closely tied to a broader cultural attitude that stems “in large part from a complex blend of free-market economics and restrictive sexual morality…characterized by a paradoxical mix of sexual obsessions and sexual shames.” Essentially, parents do not view their “biological children as sexual agents with sexual desires, even though they view adolescents in general as highly sexually motivated.”
VERDICT Elliott’s sampling of four schools from a liberal city in a conservative state is far too small to draw cultural conclusions from, but her book provides interesting background for reframing the conversation about adolescents and sexuality. Appropriate for undergraduate and graduate sociology collections.

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From the Publisher

“Beautifully written, engaging, and insightful, Not My Kid advances our critical understanding of the complex tensions, contradictions, and paradoxes parents decipher as they make sense of the sex lives of their adolescent children. Sinikka Elliott invites readers to think critically about the revealing stories of parenting and family life that give life to this relevant book, and the emerging implications for the future of sex education programs and debates in an increasingly diverse and technological society.”-Gloria González-López,author of Erotic Journeys: Mexican Immigrants and Their Sex Lives

Not My Kid is an engaging and incisive contribution to contemporary debates over youth and sexuality education. As Elliott debunks prevailing myths about parents, kids, and ‘the talk’ about sex, a new picture emerges in which parents navigate and contribute to a broad social context characterized by ambivalence, anxiety, and persistent inequalities. Elliott helps readers appreciate the need for social policies that confront the culture of fear surrounding young people’s sexuality and bolster parents’ efforts to support their children’s development as sexual beings.”-Jessica Fields,author of Risky Lessons: Sex Education and Social Inequality

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814722596
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 8/13/2012
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 736,847
  • Product dimensions: 8.80 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author


Sinikka Elliott is Assistant Professor of Sociology at North Carolina State University.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction 1

1 Sex Panics: Debates over Sex Education and the Construction of Teen Sexuality 9

2 The Asexual Teen: Naïveté, Dependence, and Sexual Danger 20

3 Negotiating the Erotic: When Parents and Teens Talk about Sex 47

4 The Hypersexual Teen: Sexy Bodies, Raging Hormones, and Irresponsibility 63

5 Other Teens: How Race, Class, and Gender Matter 83

6 Anxious Monitoring: Strategies of Protection and Surveillance 99

7 Uncertainty in Parents' Sexual Lessons 118

8 Conclusion: Reconstructing Teen Sexuality 144

Methods Appendix 157

Notes 165

References 183

Index 203

About the Author 216

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