My Parental Thoughts On "Looking for Alaska" by John Green

My son’s soon to be high school (in 7 years) recently was told by its board of education to pull the book, Looking for Alaska from an English class because of its racy content. Having read excerpts, I wouldn’t want my high schooler reading it. However, let us not be so blind to think that teenagers don’t know what sex is. Also, let us not be so ignorant to think that large portions of teens aren’t having sex. They are. Not the majority, but they are.

One person said this in the Tennessean article, “Where I hesitate and get concerned is when one parent is making the decision for every student in the class.” I agree to an extent. We are free in this country and can work to change things in ways that we deem best. I suppose I can say this gladly because I’m on the winning side of this one. I hate it when the “squeaky wheel” gets its way too, but in this situation, it sounds like more than just one noisy parent. But even if it is, once one has spoken out and changed it, why does anyone else need to say anything?

Looking for Alaska may be for educational purposes but that doesn’t mean I have to allow my child to read it. I wouldn’t let my child watch a teen sex scene on TV (which would be considered illegal child pornography) so why would I allow him to read this book? I don’t care how much the book draws on an “awkward, un-fun, disastrous and wholly un-erotic scene.” I appreciate Green’s other intended message that he said was “physical intimacy can never stand in for emotional closeness” but I can teach this moral lesson to my son just fine. Green could have gotten the same message across with less explicit language but I suppose we wouldn’t be talking about it now would we? Also, it’s a basic principle that literature is art and sometimes art offends.
It also seems hypocritical that we work to preach abstinence to teens and then allow them to read something that will do nothing but cause huge amounts of sexual frustration. Boys especially are thinking about sex, a lot. Do you actually believe a seventeen-year-old boy will be able to read the passage, separate the physical act from the social commentary and then engage intellectually with the rest of the class, having no thought of his girlfriend or the attractive blonde sitting next to him? Get real, people! Why put him through this?
I know some parents have a different view than me and put their children on birth control because “they are just going to do it anyway.” Well, this in no way teaches boundaries or self-control; two incredible qualities to possess. In fact, it’s a free pass to do whatever one wants. Should contraception be taught? Sure, but not without discussing clear guidelines regarding your family’s values towards abstinence and premarital-sex. Babies come from sex and disease can come from multiple partners. This will definitely be “learned in college” the hard way if a teen isn’t prepared.
What bothers me more about this whole issue is hidden from plain sight. Inherent in this issue is the divide between teens and parents. All too often parents reach out and grasp at air when trying to stop their teen from destructive behavior. They have waited too long and have allowed a gulf to separate them. By the late teen years, the expanse is so great that the parent has little to no influence over the child. How tragic.
When a person says, “Teens should be allowed to read the book” they are assuming that the teen has the final say over what he/she does. This is what is wrong with adults today. Adults believe that a teen can find her own way. That she can take care of herself. I’ve seen too many girls destroy themselves to believe this is good parenting. I’ve seen too many girls who needed to be dragged out of their drug dealer’s house to think that a teen or for that matter a good-intentioned adult can take care of my child better than me. Whether it’s in relationships, personal behavior, or even literature, a teen should not have the final say in what he does. If he did, parents wouldn’t be needed.
There will be struggles, rebellion and lots of rolled eyes from the teen but it is our job to lead them and help them take on values that we believe will get them through life. It’s my child; not the school’s. Also, if this means skipping a book, so be it. There’s plenty more to read.

Arnold Schwarzenegger & Maria Shriver: Should They Have Negotiated?

Here you can read an article by sexuality counselor Ian Kerner. He, in an admittedly minor way, suggests that having an open marriage can be helpful. By “open” I mean you stay married but can have sex with other people. Here’s what I think:

Kerner says, “’Negotiated monogamy’ is a way for some couples to stay committed to each other without having to stay sexually faithful.’” So in order to stay committed, I have to not be committed. Also, having sex with other people won’t make someone want to leave their spouse. Right. Gotcha. 

George Costanza put it best when Jerry and Elaine tried to make a similar “sex with no strings attached” deal on Seinfeld.

“Where are you living? Are you here? Are you on this planet? It’s impossible. It can’t be done. Thousands of years people have been trying to have their cake and eat it too. So all of a sudden the two of you are going to come along and do it. Where do you get the ego? No one can do it. It can’t be done.” (SOURCE:

Here’s why it bothers me as a marriage counselor. Sex is often an indicator of how the marriage is going. If things are going well, sex is good. If things are going poorly, sex is no fun. There’s probably an underlying issue that causes sex to be bad. If you’re arguing about money all the time or the kids, sex will suffer. However, if things are going well, and stress is under control, sex can be an adventure. Sex with someone else won’t help you with the primary issue. It may actually cover it up further. Also, if you’re not having fun together outside the bedroom, it won’t happen inside it either. 
Let’s say the problem is sex. Well, you’re probably doing something wrong. Most people aren’t as good in bed as they think they are and when their “bag of tricks” runs out, they’re left with nothing. This will definitely happen if you don’t discuss sex (the author’s primary point) and how you can make it better. If a new partner is sought, he/she will discover these same shortcomings in you and now two people will know that you’re a bad lover. Good job. The author said, “. . . being married should give you a level of trust where you feel like you can talk about anything.” Exactly. Get better sexually, but get better discussing it your spouse. 
He makes a point that trumps the “negotiated monogamy” idea when he says, “. . . once couples start talking about what they would or wouldn’t allow . . . they often tend to get turned on and end up going home and having sex with each other.” This is dead on and is what the article is primarily about. 
There are some couples that live in open relationships, but I’d like to see how many survive long-term. For me, the risk is too great to advise to a couple because what might sound “sexy” could really turn bad when it actually happens. Having sex with other people to strengthen your marriage? I don’t think so.
He correctly coined his list “excuses against monogamy.” This puts it in the right perspective. Animals such as bald eagles and beavers are monogamous. You’re telling me that the most advanced species on the planet can’t do it? I don’t care what The Governator did. This is little more than giving in to our fleshly desires in our post-modern “it’s all about me” world that ultimately isn’t good for society as a whole whether you’re a Christian or a secularist. What are we to do? Eliminate commitment in marriage and spur society on to living in co-ed bath houses? This is why it bothers me as a Christian. The Bible has the right idea about keeping sex in marriage. It contributes to THE most fulfilling relationship a man and woman can have on earth. The “excuses” he lists are nothing more than shortcomings. People can and do rise above them.

Gerber Is More Dependable

There is a commercial by Gerber that is advertising their latest product; the Gerber Life Grow-Up Plan. This is life insurance that you can purchase for your baby. I don’t think whole life insurance is a good investment, but this commercial is interesting. It has a hidden message that I’m not sure the producers wanted to put in there, but I heard it loud and clear. It’s not terribly obvious so here it is.
The setting is of a young, single mother talking about how she has purchased life insurance for her baby. She also mentions a few people in her life, like her dad, who “gives good financial advice.” You can tell she’s talking directly to young girls like herself who have had a baby. It’s really well done, but a dark cloud comes over me at the last line of the commercial when she says, “I want to give him something he can depend on.” BOOM!!!
For all the single mothers that are out there, take care of your baby. Grab on to all the support you can whether it’s a teacher, counselor, parent, or friend. I’m not sure life insurance is the best investment but that’s my opinion. He or she is depending on you. If you are pregnant, at this point, it doesn’t matter how you got there. What matters is how you are going to take care of yourself and your unborn child. Find help.
To the other unnamed participant in the commercial, this 30 second ad is pointed directly at you. If you’ve not figured it out yet, I’m talking about the boys who tuck their tails between their legs and run when she says, “I’m pregnant.” Something the baby can depend on? She’s exactly right because for her and many others like her, the father of the baby is not dependable. It takes a man to take care of his baby and his wife. Unfortunately, too many of my gender fall under the “boy” category.
The girl in the commercial has been through some difficult times. She’s had to tell her parents, which isn’t easy. She’s had to reevaluate her future by putting things like college on hold. Her friends and worries have changed. Where once it was sleepovers and acne, it is now midnight feedings and mounting bills. Sadly, she has probably long forgotten about child support because the father of this baby is nowhere to be found.
I hope that as we wag our heads at teen mothers, we don’t crucify them. First, we should be thankful that she had the baby, and secondly, we should work to help these types of mothers. Finally, I hope we will teach our teens about responsibility and the importance of abstinence so they don’t learn about them the hard way.

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See Miley Cyrus at the Pole, but She Won’t Be Praying

Miley Cyrus’ pole dance routine at the Teen Choice Awards Sunday has received a lot of criticism, but not from her dad. According to the Telegraph (

Billy Ray says he approves of her behavior. Well, of course he does. She’s been his gravy train ever since Achy Breaky Heart. He’s got to make sure it doesn’t stop. Although, it’s only two years until she’s eighteen, therefore she has to develop a fan base for when she begins posing for men’s magazines; following in the footsteps of Brittany Spears & Hillary Duff. How sad.

Billy Ray defended his daughter saying her moves were all good, clean fun. Where did he think he was; the Teen Choice Awards or Déjà vu in Downtown Nashville? Call it want you want, Miley seems to be on the path of many other teen actresses; that of selling her sexuality. Regrettably, our daughters get this message loud and clear. Ashley Tisdale did her part in proclaiming this mantra on America’s Got Talent. (8/25/09). Sexually provocative in her dress, she said, “Just have fun.” Interviews with Miley about being good and reading her Bible are forgotten as she wears less and less to appeal to the young boys who love her and the young girls who idolize her.

Preteen girls everywhere think, “I want to be like Miley, and I want to dress and act like her.” Even if they don’t think this way, a young girl’s self-esteem plummets when she realizes that she may never look like Miley who probably has more stylists than my car has spark plugs. It is particularly dangerous when a girl’s concept of beauty says that pretty girls have a certain body type and certain body features. This is a lie that we have been telling our girls ever since the first Barbie was introduced in 1959. Beauty takes many forms, and strong parents communicating this to their daughters will be well served. Hopefully, the latest cat to prowl down the aisle has not already thwarted these efforts.

While we watch these young women grow up on screen and slowly move into the “adult” realm, I hope we don’t allow our daughters to follow them. Scantily clad and having fun on stage does not translate well in the real world when girls go partying and guys get the wrong idea. Also, it distracts from what is truly lasting and beautiful about a person; things the camera does not show. Encourage your daughter to look inward and be happy with herself before she gets the wrong message from Hollywood.

"NPR, the Arts, and Porn???"

I enjoy listening to NPR (National Public Radio) and watching NPT (National Public Television). Antique Roadshow is a Sunday afternoon favorite, and Garrison Keillor is funny to put it plainly. Malita calls it Nerd News. Well, I suppose it is and I suppose I am, but I just can’t take the pointless blather that prime time TV dishes out. I want to be enriched, not en-grossed-out. Well, NPR turned my world upside down. While I’m fine if James Dobson never endorses the station, I do expect it to have some class.

David Edelstein’s story on Fresh Air entitled, Hardcore Turns Hilariously Awkward In ‘Humpday'” was a travesty. He states that there’s, “Yet another reason to envy folks who live in the Pacific Northwest . . . . [There are apparently lots of people] — respectable people, straight, gay, and bi — who sit around brainstorming about what kind of eight-minute hardcore [porn] movie they’d like to make and/or perform in” for a contest called HUMP. I don’t envy this. There’s something about having a monogomous relationship with my wife and not contracting STD’s that appeals to me. Edelstein goes on to review a movie entitled, “Humpday.” This movie is about two straight guys who want to enter this pornographyic movie contest by having sex with each other.

I appreciate Edelstein delving into obscure titles like, “‘The Cove’: A Stirring Crusade Against A Grim Trade” but to call “Humpday” anything but repulsive is to fail. While he sees the humor of the movie, I see a theme that blatantly wrecks homes everyday; that of pornography. He can review what he wants, but I question NPR’s decision to air the story as I look to them for my artistic sustenence (I don’t have good cable). Their show on Mark Rothko is still one of my favorites, but who was at the helm on this one? I understand that art can, and sometimes should be, offensive, but for me, this went too far. Just because some stoner dudes made a movie does not mean it should be discussed, but hey, that’s just me.

"Teen Abstinence from Kissing"

I received this question via email. A mother of one teen girl and one teen boy asks, “What does the Bible teach about kissing before marriage? I have taught my children that it is wrong to kiss before marriage, mainly to keep them from going any further, but have often wondered. Can you give some feedback on that matter? I think that kissing can lead to other things, if you know what I mean. I really do think it is part of sex. Thanks for your help.”

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:1 & 2, that a man should not touch a woman, but because of sexual desires people should get married (paraphrased.) Does this mean that if a boy and a girl hold hands that they will eternally burn in the lake of fire? Well, no, but it does solidify something that we all know; “if you don’t get started, you don’t have to worry about stopping.” It says something else too, “since you’re going to want to do it, you better do it right, so get married.” (also paraphrased). Your question is ultimately about abstinence, so let me begin there.

In the last century the age that people get married has gotten older. At one time it was not uncommon for people to get married at what is now the middle of your high school career. To follow Paul’s recommendation at the first sign of sexual desire is impractical in light of this. However, when you consider that a boy’s sexual prime is at age 18, our culture puts young people in a precarious situation, sexually speaking. Helping them deal with this struggle should be at the top of every parent’s to do list.

A long time ago, my alma mater, Freed-Hardeman University, used to have a total, 100% hands-off rule. What did the students do? They made sticks with a one inch dividing marker. Courting couples held the stick. You can make all the rules you want, kids are going to find a way around them. Also, you can’t be with them 100% of the time, and as Paul points out, sexual desires are very strong. So, we must equip our children with knowledge and an internal desire to do the right thing.

We should not be so blind to tell our children to abstain, and then give them no reasons as to why. So, guidelines should be discussed with your child (start before they’re a teen), but beyond that, the reasoning and wisdom behind your guidelines will ultimately be the driving force to their decision to abstain from sex.

First, don’t shame kids into thinking their sexual DESIRES are wrong. Their bodies are reacting to a very natural part of what God has given them. How they control these desires is what should be focused on and discussed within your family. Prayer that teens will not give in to this temptation is the biggest tool they can use in their pursuit of purity as it employs God as their biggest defense.

Second, you must discuss boundaries. This is what your “no kissing” rule is doing. It is establishing a definable boundary that all teens need. The only boundary some kids use is found in their pockets. They’re not given clear information on how to abstain or its benefits, only ways to not get pregnant. Teen pregnancy is an unwanted result indeed, but there’s more at stake here as emotional problems and STDs are still possible.

Teens are not taught a lot of things today and thus have a skewed view of sex and its place in one’s life. Girls must be taught how their bodies tempt young men and that too much flaunting gives guys the wrong idea. Also, boys must realize that girls are not objects to be used. In thinking this way, boys set themselves up for a lifestyle that God did not intend; that of using women.

Teens engage in sexually provocative behavior and parents wonder why their kids become active or experiment with sex. Some teens believe they must have sex to be accepted or appear normal. Well, a 2002, study done by the Centers for Disease Control showed that 47% of female teens and 46% of male teens had sex at least once. “Everyone is doing it” is a myth.

In today’s world, many believe that if it feels good, do it. This should not be the Christian’s view. Self-restraint brings one closer to God as it develops spiritual and emotional discipline; traits admired by all whether they want to admit it or not. Teens who have the inability (or lack of desire) to think about the future consider the fun of sex but not its consequences. In order to thwart the “do what makes you happy” mentality, the spiritual component of sex must be discussed with Christian teens.

Lasciviousness, an unbridled expression of sexual urges, is condemned by scripture (Galatians 5:19). Keep in mind that it is the expression that is warned against and not the desire which we have mentioned is normal. This same passage talks about the fruit of the spirit which is what should be pursued; “. . . love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”

It is a basic Christian teaching that we should avoid fleshly desires (sex, drugs, etc) and pursue spiritual things. Galatians 5:25, Romans 8:1-14, and 1 Corinthians 5:5 are just a few examples. If kissing keeps one focused on the flesh, then don’t do it, but I also believe that kissing is an innocent tool that one can use to express a God given trait.

It is critical to point out that in 1 Corinthians 7:1, Paul was warning against fornication. So, is “no kissing” a reasonable boundary? If kissing helps the teen abstain from going further then it is useful. In her book, Strong Fathers Strong Daughters Meg Meeker discusses girls she sees who are dealing with depression. In many of these cases, this emotional state is the result of a promiscuous lifestyle, not a kissing one. Kissing, hugging, and holding hands bring a couple closer together (good if you like him) and can be an outlet for the sexual energy we have discussed. Intercourse, and “going further than kissing” involves fully giving oneself to someone. Kissing, I believe, doesn’t do this and thus doesn’t bring about the emotional and spiritual problems sex outside of marriage does.

However, a final thing to consider here is the setting in which the kissing is taking place. “Back seat and home alone” are not words you want to use along with kissing because it can very quickly become something more. So, before “no kissing” is even discussed, it must also be pointed out that being alone with someone you are attracted to can make the temptation almost unbearable.

If I’m trying to lose weight, I can’t even be in the same room with cake and ice cream. Sex is the same. Daniel 1:8 says that he (Daniel) “made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank . . . .” You and your teen must discuss sex and they must decide now what their stance is on sexual expression because 9pm on Saturday night is not a good time. This will keep them out of dangerous settings and not give temptation a chance to creep in. You are right in believing that kissing is a part of sex and that it can start other things, but it can also stop there if your teen has the desire and the will to do so.