Premature Exposure: Sex should not be an initiation to the adult world

Chae Park, Opinion Editor

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]“Grow up.Be responsible for yourself. You’re too old for that. Act like an adult.”

We hear these phrases countless times. From teachers to parents to even some of our friends, everyone wants us to mature and reach adulthood. But no real guidelines have been written down, no real instructions given, no steps made for us to follow. In an unavoidable attempt to indicate coming of age, our culture has chosen sexuality as a marker for our transition into adulthood.

This brash and thoughtless decision is evident in all aspects of our culture, but perhaps the most recent example of this was Miley Cyrus’ performance at this year’s Video Music Awards. At 20 years old, not much older than most high school students, Cyrus managed to prompt both parents and children to turn their heads away in embarrassment and disapproval during her raunchy and obscene performance. The next day, her name was plastered all over the news, and angry columnists criticized her inappropriate behavior.

But no one really considered why Cyrus had acted that way—the reason behind all of the tactless behavior. The truth is, although most of us will never show this in the extreme way Cyrus did, we have the same mindset. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that in 2011 over 47 percent of high school students in the U.S. had participated in sexual intercourse. Of the nearly 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases, people between 15-24 years-old accounted for half of the cases. Somehow, we have failed to create a formal and clear passage to adulthood, and now we’re suffering the consequences of increased teen pregnancy and reports of STDs in confused teenagers.

In several other cultures and religions, a formal rite of passage, such as a bar mitzvah, still exists to serve as an indication of coming of age. Indeed, a rite of passage is not the all-encompassing solution to teenage sex, and even in cultures where a rite of passage exists, problems still occur. However, a formal passage to adulthood is crucial because it indicates a specific time when a public proclamation from childhood to manhood or womanhood is made. Through this process, young people are given the responsibilities of an adult and the community acknowledges this transition.

But in our culture, sex, now so closely associated with growing up, has become the counterfeit gateway to adulthood. To fix this, we need to redefine adulthood and realize the real aspects of becoming adults. Because of the different religious, social and cultural backgrounds that we come from, one universal rite of passage would be nearly impossible to create. But every community or even families could create the catalyst that could guide a boy or girl to maturity. Just having that adult presence and acknowledgement as one transitions from childhood to adulthood could instill a real sense of what growing up means. While by no means will this solve all of the issues, it is a step that could help change the mindset of teenagers and our outlook on what it means to become adults.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]