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BellaOnline's Teen Editor

Dating and Safety

In her book, “Hooking Up”, Kathleen Bogle describes the modern young person’s version of dating. What was once a formal affair has become much more informal. Hanging out with friends, partying, talking and eventually “hooking up” is the new dating scene. There are no real rules in place, and most kids aren’t even really sure what hooking up means. In general, it can mean anything from just talking to having sex and everything in between. The definition changes from one group of kids to another.

Because of this, there are some issues that can come up more easily than in the past such as STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), miscommunication, hurt feelings, jealousy, and the most concerning: rape. Unlike rape from a stranger, date rape can be more subtle and confusing. So much so that some people aren't even sure if it happened to them. In general, date rape has happened if one of the people involved did not fully agree (or consent) to sex.

Another form of rape happen if either party involved was under the age of eighteen. This is because, by law, they cannot consent even if they do agree because they are not considered adults. Because of this, having sex with someone under the age of eighteen (even if they say it is okay) is called statutory rape and is prosecuted under the law. This can be tricky for older teens and is something to think about carefully because if you are eighteen and sleep with someone who is seventeen (even if their birthday is tomorrow) or younger, you can end up in jail.

In fact, rape is all about consent. While statutory rape is about not being old enough to consent, date rape is about not getting consent at all. Because of this, in order to protect yourself from date rape you need to be sure of whether or not you want to have sex at all and be very clear about exactly how far you want to go before you start anything. You also need to be clear about exactly how far your partner wants to go and this can only happen if you ask them. It can be easy not to ask and easier still to assume. But just because your partner is making out with you and isn't clearly saying NO doesn't mean that they want to go all the way.

So, first be clear about exactly what you want (and if you aren't clear, don’t do anything until you are). Then, let your partner know exactly how far you are willing to go before things get too hot. Then, ask them for a clear answer on how far they want to go (and if they aren't clear, don’t do anything until they are). And if you don’t want to go all the way, don’t take your clothes off or do other things that might be considered “teasing” because they can easily lead to something you weren't prepared for. And if you do want to do anything intimate, make sure you use barrier protection like a condom to prevent pregnancy and STDs.

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