Kids keep doing each other. Despite the warnings, the classes and all those wasted condom-covered bananas, the number of sexually active kids in the United States continues to rise so quickly and with such fervor that even a Trapper Keeper can't hide America's collective embarrassment. According to the CDC, more than 46 percent of high school students are sexually active and, in 2008, one in four teenage girls had an STD. Since then, that number has swelled. Parents and the media are scrambling for answers, eager to link the trend to music, texting, Facebook and any other cultural phenomenon they don't understand but privately distrust.
"Goddammit, you stay the hell away from my daughter!"
And while future news stories will no doubt blame underage sex on universal remotes and Blu-ray players, I will continue to blame myself. I refuse to pass the buck because I know that I am at least partially responsible for this crisis. As the voice of a generation, I have probably done the most damage. I write about sex with such frequency and such recklessness that I am certain my words are responsible for at least 80 percent teens out there rubbing against each other. That is, until now.
For the past month, I have devoted myself to hunting down at-risk kids on social networks and encouraging them to meet me in person so that we can have an honest chat about sex together. Below are just the first few teenagers I met, spoke with and hopefully touched. I am cleaning up this coital mess one heart and mind at a time.
I found Adam in a forum arguing about the best sexual positions in cars. He had contributed pages worth of tips, some of them interesting, all of them confusing:
A lot of Adam's advice was not only ill-conceived but anatomically impossible. I suspected he was not 29 or a doctor as he had suggested in his profile, but rather a misguided kid trying one of his three hands at human sexuality. He seemed like an ideal candidate, right on the cusp of adolescence and in serious danger of making a bad decision, probably in a Saturn.
A breeding ground of bad decisions.
I sent him a message requesting that we meet. His response was immediate, asking only if I had big breasts. I told him, quite honestly, that they were average.
When I picked him up from his mother's house, he was wearing a suit and initially refused to get in my car.
"I thought you were gonna be a chick," he said, kicking the curb.
"I'm trying to protect your future. Get in the car."
He shook his head. "I'm not stupid."
"Yes. Yes you are, that's exactly the problem. Now get in the car."
Look at your tie, shirt combo. You have no idea what you're doing.
It took another five minutes of arguing and a promise to buy him some beer before he agreed to climb in. He kept his arms crossed and stared out the window as we drove around looking for a liquor store. He responded to all my questions with one word answers but I gleaned that his name was Adam and that he was only 15. When I asked if he was sexually active, he opened the door and rolled out of the moving car in one motion.
He didn't get far. I caught him easily after about 20 yards because his legs were shorter than mine and because he was working with two sprained ankles now. I sat him on the curb and gave him some frightening statistics on the likelihood of contracting a venereal disease from unprotected sex. I explained that women could still get pregnant even when you didn't look them in the eye, and that sex in general was not something to be stolen or rushed in the cramped front seat of a compact.
"It is a tacit agreement two lovers make with one anoth-" I stopped and for the first time noticed an ornately decorated sheath on his belt.
"Is that for a knife?"
Adam stared at me like I was an idiot. "It's the Elvish word for dagger."
"Where's the dagger?"
"I accidentally stuck it in a tree."
I threw my hands up and sighed. "Oh man! I just, I have to apologize for this whole thing. I didn't realize how far off from sex you actually were. I read your posts and I thought this was, like, an emergency situation."
"Can I go home now?" he pleaded.
"Oh. Yeah, of course. But, wow, right? I was way off with you. You've still got a lot of your own stuff to figure out, don't you?"
The opposite of sex.
Outside his house, I had to retie his tie for him because it had come undone during his tumble. When I finished the knot, I looked into his eyes and noticed he was crying.
"I thought you were going to kill me," he said.
I laughed and assured him that was probably for the best. "When the time finally does come for you and someone special, I want you to take a minute first and think of me, think of how scared you were tonight. That's how scared you should be of sex. Forever. I'm just trying to help you."
He nodded and limped into his house, still crying. I smiled after him. One down.
I met Carrie on the teen dating website mylol.net. Judging by the comments she left on the other member pictures, she was either already having sex or at least keenly aware of its existence.
"Dear MrtlArtist18, I am keenly aware of sex as a concept. Love, Carrie"
Within minutes of starting up a conversation with her, she offered her Instant Message name, her phone number and her address. Even after I explained that I was a 28-year-old-man, she continued to flirt and drive the conversation hard toward sex.
Sorenb: So that's the main difference between Chlamydia and gonorrhea.
ExCarrieMental: Oooh! So what do you like in a girl?
ExCarrieMental: Did I mention I'm a virgin? I think that I'd probably want to lose it to an older guy.
Sorenb: No. No you don't.
ExCarrieMental: I do. How did you lose your virginity?
Sorenb: It's not important. Did I tell you about how you can get genital warts in your mouth?
ExCarrieMental: It is! It is important! Just tell me.
Sorenb: On the back of a horse.
ExCarrieMental: You lost your virginity to a horse?
Sorenb: On the back of a horse, to a woman. Riding along a beach. Hey, I told you there's no cure for herpes right? It's forever.
ExCarrieMental: That's so cool.
Sorenb: Listen, I think you'd get more from this if we talked in person.
ExCarrieMental: Ooh! Good idea. My parents aren't home from work until 8:00 tomorrow, so ...
ExCarrieMental: Good, what?
Sorenb: That sounds fine.
ExCarrieMental: I need you to say it, specifically.
Sorenb: I will come to your house tomorrow at 8:00.
ExCarrieMental: Before 8:00.
Sorenb: Fine, before 8:00.
ExCarrieMental: To ...
Sorenb: Talk about sex.
ExCarrieMental: Perfect. Now say it all at once.
Sorenb: What? Why?
ExCarrieMental: Look asshole, it's been a long day, just say it.
Sorenb: I think we should meet at your house tomorrow before 8 to discuss the consequences of careless sexuality.
ExCarrieMental: Close enough. See you soon.
Carrie's parent's house was at the end of a cul-de-sac in a wealthy neighborhood. Carrie met me at the front door, her hair in pigtails. While her dating profile said she was 14, in person, she looked more like a 20-year-old dressed as a child. It was sad to see the world conspiring against her like that.
When I buy cigarettes, no one says anything.
Once inside, she offered something to drink and headed toward the kitchen, but I insisted that what I had to tell her couldn't wait. There in the front hall I explained how dangerous it was for her to invite a grown man into her house while she was alone. I explained that even though sex was everywhere and it promised extraordinary power to young girls, she should set it aside until she's older and capable of wielding it responsibly.
"I just don't want you to ruin your life, and someday you're going to really like sex but right now you're doing it for the wrong reasons."
"Oh god," she said. "I've made a terrible mistake. You should go, right now."
I pulled photos from my bag that I printed off the Internet of every sexually transmitted disease I could find. As soon as I pulled them free, a squadron of police appeared from every closet, stairway and corner in the house.
"I'm just saying, we went oldest to youngest last time. I should be in front."
They tackled me and I lost my grip on the papers. The entire stack of lesions, scabs, welts, warts, parasites and discharge fluttered around us like a nightmare sex blizzard as they pinned me to the floor in a choke hold. It was loud and confusing, but through all the commotion I could just make out the look on Carrie's face.
I had done it. I swayed her. My words had found a hole in her salacious facade and penetrated the soft interior of her adolescent soul. I struggled to speak but they only squeezed harder. "One at a time," I reminded myself as the lights faded and the police high-fived each other. "One at a time."