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Dr. Ashton's Five Simple Rules for a Healthy Sex Life

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This rule applies to emotional abuse, too. Once, when I was in college, I was crying to my brother about how my boyfriend had treated me badly. I wanted to give him another shot. “Jen,” said my brother, “no one deserves a second shot with you.” I feel the same way about you. Nobody has the right to hurt you and nobody who does hurt you deserves a second shot. You’re too good for that.

If you’ve been sexually abused or mistreated, please know it’s not your fault—and get some help and support.

5. Don’t date guys more than a year older than you are.

This relates back to Rule Number 4: Never do anything you don’t want to do. Boyfriends who are significantly older than you will have more experience and will pressure you to go further—sometimes much further.

I’ll never forget Lisa, a model-gorgeous fifteen-year-old. She and her mother came to see me because Lisa thought she might be pregnant by her twenty-five-year-old boyfriend. She was. She decided to end the pregnancy, but she didn’t break it off with the guy. (Note that a grown man having sex with a fifteen-year-old is not only deeply disturbing, but it’s against the law.) Within two years he’d given her chlamydia. I was very concerned about her health and worried about her having a relationship with a man ten years older than she was.

“You know,” I said to her carefully, “sometimes . . . actually, more often than not . . . older guys will put younger girls in risky situations.” With that she broke into tears. Before the visit was over, she told me he’d asked her to have sex with his friends—and she’d done it, at least once. He’d also persuaded her to try pot, cocaine, and ecstasy. I told Lisa I thought she was in danger and that these patterns often lead to physical abuse, even death. No sooner did those words cross my lips than this beautiful, scared teenager pulled up the legs on her sweatpants to reveal huge, shocking bruises. Her boyfriend had hit her with a baseball bat.

All of this, in my professional opinion, definitely qualified for breaching the doctor-patient confidentiality agreement. I felt her life was literally in danger. I immediately brought her mom into my office for a major intervention and helped Lisa and her mother find a residential treatment program that helps teens in trouble.

Lisa’s now on a much healthier path. When I saw her recently for a checkup, she gave me a huge hug and told me she’d been addicted to drugs and alcohol back then. But now she’d been sober for more than two years. At the end of our visit, she hugged me again. With tears rolling down her face, she said, “You saved my life, Dr. Ashton.” Lisa had been very close to becoming one of those statistics we hear about on the evening news.

Of course, not all older guys will turn out to be like the man who abused Lisa. But dating boys your own age will help keep you in control of the situation. Plus, they’ll probably have a level of sexual experience that is closer to your own.

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