“We hooked up last night.” This is a statement bound to provoke not only anxiety but confusion in the mind of parents of teens and young adults.  Most parents remember a time when sexual experimentation was more explicit.  There were “bases” and making out was very different from doing it. 

Now, hooking up can mean anything from a friendly conversation to a single kiss to intercourse.  It means different things to different people, and to the same people at different times and in different contexts.  Young people may talk freely about hooking up, yet even their peers don’t necessarily know what they’re talking about.

 Possibly the term itself is evidence of our culture’s ambivalence about sexuality.  We are aware that the media bombards out kids with sexual images from an early age, and that stars who don’t “hook up” are considered misfits.  Ads are as provocative as shows.  Yet colloquial or profane words used to name rather than demonstrate sexuality are bleeped out.  The impact of culture on family dynamics and parent/teen relationships is important to understand.

An abstaining teen once asked me, “Why does everyone “f’” their brains out, but nobody can say the “f” word?” 

We can guide our young people by helping them through this daunting maze of mixed messages.  Research shows that the only sure way to delay sexual experimentation is to talk – really talk – to our kids.