Posts Tagged ‘adolescents’

When I first saw Thirteen Reasons Why available to watch on Netflix, I thought to myself, “Oh, another one of those teen shows about drama in high school that’s probably based on a Young Adult novel.” It turned out that I was correct in my suspicions, but, after watching the first episode, I had plunged into something much bigger and more emotional than I had expected. I ordered the book on Amazon because I needed to delve deeper into the story. I have since finished both the Netflix series and the novel, and I realized that I needed to write down my thoughts in something more detailed than a simple Facebook post. So many emotions ran through me, as I’m sure happened with others that may have watched or read Thirteen Reasons Why. Some people stayed away from it and refused to watch it because the subject matter can be triggering. Some people think that it should never have been made into a TV show. Some people loved it and felt that it should be required viewing for adolescents. Since you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering what I think. And to be honest, it’s a mixture of both good and bad reactions. I will be comparing the show to the original novel. Be warned in advance, there will be spoilers.
Anything that explores high school, bullying, teen suicide, and the like naturally brings out my own memories of the hell that was high school. I was the intelligent over-achiever that was involved in everything, especially the arts. French Club president, section leader and drum major in marching band, National Honor Society, you name it, and I was involved in it. Except the popular party scene. I was never the person they would invite out to parties where underage drinking abounded. I was teased and called “Little Miss Perfect” or “Teacher’s Pet.” I was teased and mocked because of my weight and the fact that I had large breasts. Every time I had the courage to tell a boy that I liked him, I would experience nothing but laughter and rejection. At one point during my senior year, I had a major manic-depressive episode and was hospitalized for over a week. I remember the rumors that spread like wildfire, the whispers behind my back, the “friends” I had that showed their true colors and proved that they really weren’t friends at all. My first thoughts of suicide began at age 14, and for the next 8 years they would slip back in my mind at various points of depression and mental suffering. I remember that one morning the principal came on the loudspeaker to announce that a student had passed away. I believe it was suicide. I didn’t know her personally, and no one really reacted that they cared that she was gone. Her death seemed less important to them than the other students who had perished in a car accident. And looking back, it makes me sick that no one had helped her see that she did matter and was loved and important.
Now let’s return to the land of fiction where Thirteen Reasons Why explores a high school in the aftermath of a student’s suicide. A student whose reputation had been blown out of proportion with vicious rumors of her alleged promiscuity. A teenage girl that was tormented by the bullying of others to the point where she decided to take her life. But before she did, she recorded tapes naming names and denouncing those who she felt ruined her life and were thus responsible for her death. First of all, while I think it’s important that we call out bullies and show them how their behavior is destructive, Hannah Baker’s approach to send every person that affected her life in a negative way tapes where she completely destroys their character with her words and accusations is straight up malicious and extreme. I can understand leaving a note, but the way she spoke and laid bare her feelings and painted the other students made me feel even more angry but also sad for them. Instead of being approached and corrected, they are hit with guilt as Hannah blames them for her death. And in all honesty, while others can push someone to feel as if they should take their life, the decision to kill one’s self is someone’s personal choice. Yes, the bullies were horrible, but Hannah chose to take her own life in the end. Placing the blame on anyone else is just cruel. Imagine if you learned that someone said you were responsible for their death after the fact. The guilt would haunt you for the rest of your life. Suicide just passes the pain onto someone else.
I’m also disappointed that mental illness and depression were not brought up. Feeling sad and empty were just passing thoughts and emotions. It was Hannah’s depression that led to her death; that was the true cause. Her efforts to seek advice and help from the counselor showed how little we are prepared to handle speaking with someone with their feet dangling over the edge. It may have been the author’s decision on his portrayal of the counselor, but I felt that he was more concerned about administrative consequences of Hannah saying that she had been raped than actively trying to help her find emotional relief and solace. It was as if he couldn’t read the signs she was showing. I was very frustrated at that. The counselor should have been properly trained and educated to be able to see the signs of severe depression. Maybe she would not have taken her life if she had received the proper help and care that she needed.
The series really glorified the act of suicide, I felt. The novel focused more on the emotional response of Clay as he listened to Hannah’s tapes and processed his own feelings of anger, guilt, and loss. The show almost made it seem like it was a “cool” thing to do, to take your own life, which I find horrible to promote. How many impressionable teenagers may have watched the show and thought to themselves that maybe killing themselves would be the best way to escape the pain. I’m not sure if this is actually true, but I heard that there was a rise in suicides after the show was released, as if it inspired adolescents to go the same route. I hope that was just a rumor. In the book, Hannah committed suicide by swallowing pills. In the Netflix series, she slit her wrists in a bathtub and actually showed the act. The writers probably chose to change the method to be something more dramatic and difficult to watch for the shock factor. Was it really necessary to show the scene in detail? I’m not so sure. Again, it’s showing potentially impressionable young teens how to go about carrying it out. I don’t think that’s really a good idea.
However, the bullying Hannah endured was very important to portray. It really captured the essence of high school life and the suffering some students face. And the fact that this show has become so popular has hopefully shown how not to behave. It’s a wake-up call for some to explain how others can interpret and process taunts and teasing. Calling someone names, spreading lies and gossip just to paint another in a worse light than yourself is just projecting your insecurities onto someone else. Why is it really necessary to be rude and horrible to each other? Wouldn’t life be better and less cruel if we stopped tearing each other down? Take some time to think about how another person may interpret your words. And taunts last forever. Sticks and stones may break bones, but words cut deeper. They are planted in the mind of the person suffering and grow into painful fruit that rot their thoughts. It’s already difficult to love one’s self; replaying hurtful words and acts make it virtually impossible to find that inner love.
I do recommend reading the book and watching the series. If you’re a parent worried about your teenager watching it, take some time to watch it yourself and be prepared to discuss it with them. Help them understand the importance of the impact bullying has on others, and also stress the fact that you love them. Explain that you are always there to listen and that if they ever feel unable to continue on that you will be there to get them the help they need. And if they make mistakes, forgive them. Let them know that hope always remains. Life and love can continue in full force towards a brighter future.


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(In Spring 2009, I took a Critical Thinking course, and our final project was to pick an issue and defend it with a research paper and a speech. I chose the wonderful and sensitive topic of premarital sex. This will be a sensitive topic for some, but I’m just sharing what I wrote. Don’t be offended. I think I approached the ideas and viewpoints pretty well.)


Sex is everywhere. In fact, it is highly likely that not a day goes by without each person thinking about some form of sexual idea. Growing older and especially since I have moved into the life of a university student, I discovered that concept of sexuality is exponentially gaining recognition and discussion. I hear about it in all shapes and forms, learning about sexual decisions, engagements, and pregnancies among my friends  . Recently, I myself have encountered the decision on whether sex is acceptable in a situation. Through extensive consideration and research, I have found that with today’s perspective, premarital sexual intercourse can be justifiable in a mature relationship in which the couple is in a state of genuine commitment.

Compared to 50 years ago and continuing on farther into the past, society today has gone through a major shift in ideals and practices, sexuality being one that is very prominent. In the past, the man would control and define the degree of sexuality with the woman exclusively as a humble servant (Johnson & Masters, 6). The double-standard that men were encouraged to gain many premarital “conquests” while women were strongly demeaned and reprimanded for promiscuity is significantly lessening (Hynie & Lydon 448). Now women can venture out of the traditional domestic nest and take charge of their own lives and bodies. In addition, the media fuels a large fire of widespread and public sexual content. We see it everywhere in books, commercials, advertisements, games, TV shows, movies, and more. Television shows in the 1950s and 60s  such as “The Honeymooners” and “I Love Lucy” portrayed couples having separate beds in typically unseen bedrooms with touching each other barely implied, if at all. Now two-thirds of American shows on TV include some form of sexual content. In current films, there is an increase of sensual subject matter found in PG and PG-13 ratings compared with those of the 90s (Friedman). All of this considered, “each individual is now forced to fashion a private set of moral and ethical values, which it is hoped, will sustain him over the years” (Masters & Johnson 183). With our culture changing its standards of what is acceptable where sex is concerned, it is natural that we see premarital intercourse practiced more often.

Even though it is seen everywhere, sexual relations before marriage are most ideal between couples that are mature and have significant life experience. Out in the world making a name for themselves through college education and onward, people beyond age 18 have more knowledge of society and its impending circumstances and decisions. In those years, they will have gone through a wide variety of relationships and interactions with the opposite sex. Knowledge and understanding of sexuality is an important prerequisite before engaging in it. Despite this, there is a steady increase of sex among adolescents. In 1988, 25% of females and 33% of males had sex by age 15 (Francoeur 109). A strong chance exists that an even higher percentage of young adults that age are experiencing it today. Adolescents participating in premarital sex are like 13 year-olds moving on to college after middle school. They have plunged into a new world of complex subjects, skipping fundamental life lessons in between that would have better prepared themselves. Standards and expectations change drastically. Parents and authority no longer have the same impact, leaving the young teenagers to build their own standard of living without guidance (argument by analogy). There is a notable difference between someone living on his or her own and another still residing with parents. “Teens should be taught character education, goal-setting, communication skills and consequences of premarital sex” (Friedman). When an individual is more informed and aware of the act, sex before marriage can be reasonable.

The most important aspect of a relationship that engages in premarital intercourse is found when the two people are in a state of genuine commitment with each other. Commitment is a beautiful connection between two people being assured in one another, agreeing to rely on each other, and making an effort to nurture the relationship further. Each “entrust[s] one’s physical and emotional well-being to that [other] person; it is an act of faith and acceptance of vulnerability” (Masters & Johnson 257). Caring is vital: concerning over, being solicitous of, and paying attention to the other’s needs in a loving manner. It is proposed that there is a progression of love in a relationship towards the ultimate goal of commitment. First comes passion and sexual attraction, then the partnership progresses to intimacy, and finally reaching genuine commitment (Hynie and Lydon 449). Often the line between intimacy and commitment can be blurred, and couples may believe that sex is acceptable in a state where they feel understood, validated, and cared for, which may not necessarily be real commitment. Nonetheless, the majority of people say that they wait until they find the right moment, the right reason, and the right person. These may vary from person to person, but giving oneself to another in the most complete way is a wonderful in celebrating the merging of two mates. Even if it is before marriage, sexual intercourse in a devoted and committed relationship is justified.

However, there is a popular argument against premarital sex made by the Catholic Church, and that is marriage is the only true form of commitment in which sex is justifiable. Matrimony is a holy sacrament, binding the souls together in a permanent and spiritual way. It says, “I give myself to you forever, and I unite myself to you. I want to join with you and with God in creating, raising, and educating children” (Bonacci 33-34). When engaging in sex, a hormone, oxytocin, is released and creates a sense of commitment, “blurring the vision” of irritations and “super gluing the heart to another person” (33). The first time a woman has sexual intercourse, the image of her partner is “imprinted” on her mind in a very strong and permanent way (86). What happens if the other person doesn’t become the spouse? It is more important to wait and exercise control, being faithful and respectful to the husband or wife yet to be discovered. That way there will be no comparisons and memories; virgins can learn and explore the beauty of the act together. Also, when the couple is not married there is a possibility that they will not remain together. Leaving someone behind creates a sense of loss, betrayal, being used, inadequacy, abandonment, and depression. Breaking off a romantic relationship involves leaving the other person. Therefore ending a partnership causes a sense of loss, betrayal, being used, inadequacy, abandonment, and depression (argument by causes). If premarital sex is involved, these feelings are magnified even more. When married, you don’t have to worry about STDs or single parenthood. A teenage girl having to endure pregnancy complicates life, making it difficult to achieve previous personal goals and creates physical, emotional, and spiritual risks (46). Her education and career are put on hold to accommodate a new life. With another perspective, premarital sexuality can put tremendous pressure on a relationship. Disagreements and hurt feelings can become even more magnified. When a couple is joined in the sexual bond, it distorts the perspective and “the brain is no longer in charge; feelings take over, drowning out logic” (77). This can be hazardous when the relationship is abusive. There will be tremendous difficulty to see reason and escape the situation when sex is involved. To put it bluntly, “a ‘committed’ unmarried relationship means basically that ‘I promise not to date anyone else until I dump you’” (79). Therefore, sex outside of marriage isn’t true commitment and shouldn’t be practiced.

That is a perfectly valid argument against premarital intercourse. However, there are additional points that accept it. In third-world countries, women can be in such a state of impoverishment that they are forced into sexual relations and prostitutions, dangerously exposing themselves to the high risk of AIDS. Everywhere but the Church promotes the use of condoms as a main way to help prevent the disease. Ideas are changing somewhat in the Catholic Church, finding that in certain situations where life is being threatened, condoms may be deemed appropriate. Pope Benedict XVI may even consider easing the policy (Katel). Marriage may be vows of commitment and fidelity, but there is still the chance of divorce. All relationships can end. Matrimony may be more secure than an unmarried relationship, but people can still change and wish to leave each other. In a way, partnerships involving sex but without the marriage contract can be beneficial in the sense that discovering and breaking off incompatibility. That way the trauma and suffering possibly involving the children need not be necessary (engulf and devour). On another stance, consider the partnerships that have previously cohabited and engaged in premarital sex and now desire to commit more permanently through marriage. The Church really has no business or right to pry into their personal decisions and condemn them. Instead, they should celebrate the courage of the couple to commit in this new manner. Canon law actually forbids denying the sacrament of Matrimony. In these times, marriage is being delayed through the 20s to incorporate establishing life and career, and young people don’t tend to wait that long to engage in intercourse. Therefore, these two people ready to take this next step “need understanding and encouragement rather than draconian rules” (Greeley). For the right reasons and consideration, premarital sex shouldn’t be so condemned but sought to be more understood.

In conclusion, due to the change in society’s standards and views, when a couple has reached maturity, significant life experience, and in a state of genuine commitment between the two, premarital sexual intercourse should be reasonable. “Intimate relationships should be based on love, that love justifies sexual activity, and that sex with love is a more fulfilling human experience” (Francoeur 106). Sexual intercourse is “our most intimate way of relating to another person…reflecting all the things that mean warmth, love, affection, and security to us…in a real way, some of the purposes and meaning of life” (Masters & Johnson 29). This can occur when outside of marriage. If you think about it, is marriage truly necessary for this commitment to take place? With more exploration into the realm of sexuality, more discoveries will be made in this complex aspect of life.



Works Cited

Bonacci, Mary Beth. Real Love. San Francisco: Ignatus Press, 1996.

Francoeur, Robert T, ed. Sexuality in America: Understanding Our Sexual Values and Behavior. New York: Continuum, 1998.

Friedman, J. (2005, September 16). Teen sex. CQ Researcher, 15, 761-784. Retrieved April 17, 2009, from CQ Researcher Online, <http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2005091600>.

Greeley, Andrew. “Let’s stop harassing couples who finally commit.” U.S. Catholic 66.6 (June 2001): 24. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Emerson Library, St. Louis, MO. 17 Apr. 2009 <http://library3.webster.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,cookie,url,uid&db=aph&AN=4464239&site=ehost-live&gt;.

Herold, Edward S., and Marilyn Shirley Goodwin.. “Adamant Virgins, Potential Nonvirgins and Nonvirgins.” Journal of Sex Research 17.2 (May 1981): 97. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Emerson Library, St. Louis, MO. 17 Apr. 2009 <http://library3.webster.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,cookie,url,uid&db=aph&AN=5687078&site=ehost-live&gt;.

Hynie, Michaela, and John E. Lydon.. “Commitment, intimacy, and women’s perceptions of premarital sex and contraceptive readiness.” Psychology of Women Quarterly 21.3 (Sep. 1997): 447. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Emerson Library, St. Louis, MO. 17 Apr. 2009 <http://library3.webster.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,cookie,url,uid&db=aph&AN=9710106103&site=ehost-live&gt;.

Katel, P. (2007, January 19). Future of the Catholic Church. CQ Researcher, 17, 49-72. Retrieved April 17, 2009, from CQ Researcher Online, <http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2007011900&gt;.

Martin, Paige D., et al. “EXPRESSED ATTITUDES OF ADOLESCENTS TOWARD MARRIAGE AND FAMILY LIFE.” Adolescence 38.150 (Summer2003 2003): 359-367. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Emerson Library, St. Louis, MO. 17 Apr. 2009 <http://library3.webster.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,cookie,url,uid&db=aph&AN=11066250&site=ehost-live&gt;.

Masters, William H., and Virginia E. Johnson. The Pleasure Bond: A New Look at Sexuality and Commitment. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1974.

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