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Sexual health Postponing sex

Sara and Mark say there's no such thing as “the big talk.” Educating their son James about sexuality was a process. As he grew up, they answered his questions honestly.

At age 15, James made an announcement to his parents. “I used to think I'd wait till I was married to have sex,“ he said. “Now, I don't think so. I know there are things I have to be aware of. A girl can get pregnant…”

Sara interrupted. “It's not just about her getting pregnant, James,” she said. “You risk getting a disease too. When you decide to have sexual intercourse, consider all the consequences. Intercourse can change a relationship and dramatically change your life.”

Sara asked James to remember how he'd been raised: his parents supported him both emotionally and financially. “You'd have to make a lot of sacrifices to support your child,” she explained.

Sara and Mark wanted James to understand that intercourse can be a joyful and pleasurable experience. How would he feel marrying a woman he didn't love?

James agreed he wanted to take care of his children just as he'd been taken care of. For him, that suggested waiting to have intercourse.

When James is making decisions, he thinks back on conversations he had with his parents.

“We decided together about my morals and ethics,” he says. “I feel obligated to myself and to my parents to live by those morals.”

James admits to feeling conflict between his values and his emotional and physical desires. “When I'm attracted to a woman, sometimes I want to go beyond making out,” he says.

Some of James' friends are having sex and they appear to have good relationships and to respect each other. Sometimes he feels a little jealous.

But his parents remind him of his priorities and help him weigh possible consequences. “I don't see having a baby,” he says. “It's so far down the road. I keep telling myself that having sex is a huge risk, even with birth control pills and condoms. Nothing protects 100 percent.”

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