Ages 13-17 (Teen)Sex and Sexuality

The Dating Game: Another look at all of these rules.

Lou has been doing such an awesome job taking down those silly “rules for dating my [insert gendered child-type here]” in the Internet Meme Demolition Derby- go read them if you haven’t yet, because you may want context. And one of the things that’s come up in comments is well fine – we’re generally agreed that our kids are not property and we cannot and should not control every aspect of their dating lives and neither should we be threatening other people’s kids for having the temerity to be interested in exploring the dating world with our children. But this begs the question – what would a skeptical, non-Biblically rooted list of “rules” look like?

I actually threw a list together on the fly several months ago when I first saw one of these. Of course, now I can’t find it for the life of me, but I do remember that it was gender neutral – both in terms of my child and their hypothetical dates – and included some of the following (more or less):

1. Respect my kid. Expect my kid to respect you. This means socially, sexually, however you interact with each other.
2. Use protection. There’s a bowl of supplies on the book shelves over there, help yourself.
3. If you have concerns, talk to an adult. It doesn’t have to be me. It doesn’t have to be your parents, but talk to someone who can help you.
4. My door is always open if you do want to talk.
5. Your body is your own. My kid’s body is theirs. Neither of you belong to other people.
6. Keep your friends, even if they don’t like my kid.
7. You don’t have to like me. You don’t have to hang out with our family. But you are welcome if you want to.

There were probably more, but you get the gist. And I still think these are some pretty good guidelines, as are these, which I really love, but for one really salient issue – I don’t get to make rules for other people’s kids. And I definitely don’t get to make rules for other people once they are adults.

Sure, I can tell anyone in my house to follow our house rules – no matter what your age, no throwing things at the TV or my irreplaceable paintings, don’t pull the cats’ tails, please take your shoes off before jumping on the beds and stay out of my bedroom full stop. In other people’s houses, other parents can set limits and enforce rules. Curfew, for kids in high school or younger? Absolutely. But if we’re really going to throw a critical eye on these lists and make them better, then our first step should be directing them appropriately – at our own kids.

Thus, a different, if really similar list – “Rules for my children with respect to dating“:

1. Respect yourself and respect your date. Expect the same in return. What does respect mean in this context? It means listening to each other, making sure you’re with this person because you like them and want to spend time with them, not because you feel social pressure to date someone/anyone. It means not assuming that they want to do the same things as you do and listening to what they tell you.

2. No means no. I don’t care if it’s sex of any stripe, kissing, hugging, going on a date in the first place. Zie says no, you back off.

3. Use protection. Same spiel about the bowl of supplies…

4. If you have concerns, talk to an adult. Your dad and I are happy to be that adult, but it doesn’t have to be us. If you want us to help you find an adult, be it a doctor or a counselor, or even one of your aunts or uncles or older cousins, we can help.

5. Your body is your own. Your date’s body is theirs. Neither of you belong to other people.

6. Keep your friends, even if they don’t like your date. Encourage your date to keep their friends, even if they don’t like you. Explore non-overlap – it will make both of you more interesting and appealing.

7. Please stay mindful of everything you’ve learned about internet safety – this means sexts, naked pictures, open gossip over social media – whether by you or your partner.

8. You might want to date more than one person, either casually or seriously – this is fine, so long as all of you know that you’re not exclusive and are okay with it. And you use protection if you’re getting sexual.
8b. You might not want to date anyone, at any given time or ever. And that’s fine too. Make the relationships you want, not the ones society tells you to have.

This is a start, at least. What would you add to the list?

(Featured image by Flickr user nattu.)

Emily Sexton

Writer of incomplete novels, entertainment lawyer, mom of two with a wide age spread, blogger here and elsewhere, wannabe vocalist and v/o actress, atheist, weirdo. That last bit went without saying. Find Em on twitter @emandink and maybe she'll use it more.

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  1. Love these. I would add – It’s okay to disagree with the person you are dating. Yes, you want them to like you, but don’t lose yourself in the process and they might not end up liking the real you.

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