Last year I did a parent seminar called “Social Media 101” and in preparation for that seminar I read Mark Oestreicher and Adam Mclane’s book A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media. I really enjoyed that book and would highly recommend it to parents. A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Sex & Dating by Mark Oestreicher and Joel Mayward is another book in this series that I really enjoyed and would also recommend to parents.
Packed in this little book is a ton of helpful information for parents (and youth workers) about teen sex and dating. Oestreicher and Mayward start the book with laying a theological foundation for sex. Whenever we talk about things regarding sex it’s always important to go back to the theological foundation God put in place for sex, marriage, and relationships. I love how they started the book with this and even explained how the fact humans have been created in the “image of God” (imago dei) impacts how our sexuality. On that Biblical foundation the writers deal with myths from culture and the church about sex (chapter 2), gender-specific sexual issues (chapter 3), how to talk to your teenager about sex and creating boundaries for dating (chapter 4-5), and covering specific issues in regards to sex and dating such as masturbation, homosexuality, oral sex, and modesty (chapter 6).
As much as I liked this book, I did however disagree with some of the writers conclusions on a few of the sexual issues they covered in the last chapter, namely masturbation and homosexuality.
In regards to masturbation, they say, “Masturbation is one of those subjects that Christians have done a horrible job of addressing” (page 59). I totally agree with that. Masturbation is a subject many times in the church we overlook and don’t address while teenagers, especially guys, are struggling with this addictive habit. However, the writers seem to simply dismiss masturbation is an issue that is normal for teens (being part of their development) and we shouldn’t worry too much about it. I have a hard time being ok with that conclusion. I do not believe the act of masturbation is a sin. There is no verse in the Bible that says it is. However, masturbation and lust are linked. One cannot masturbate without lusting (well maybe 1 in 1 billion people can). Also, I would argue that God’s plan if for a man and a woman to come together in sex and when one masturbates that receive sexual gratification in a way different from what God has planned. Because of that, I think masturbation is an issue we need to address with teens and help them see it’s closely linked to lust, which is clearly a sin, and goes against God’s plan for sex.
Not only did the writers conclusion on masturbation not sit well with me, their conclusion on homosexuality was a little fuzzy and not clear. They seemed to skip around the issue of homosexuality being a sin and just addressed how we should respond to teens struggling with this issue. I agree we need to respond better than the church has in the past towards homosexuality and we need to love and help those grapple with their sexuality, but at the end of the day homosexuality is a sin and we must call it a sin.
Overall I really enjoyed this book and it gave me a better understanding of teen sex and dating. It also helped me understand how important parents are in this area and how I can encourage them to shepherd their child in the area of their sexuality. I would recommend parents of teenagers to grab a copy of this little book and read it. It will help you understand you minister and shepherd your teen immensely.