With the availability of social media platforms where young people spend most of their time interacting with friends, various stakeholders are concerned about issues related to the content shared, including privacy, information leakage, and the possible destruction of one’s self-image. Such platforms have led to the establishment of friends with benefits and other relationships whereby adolescents engage in sexual activities with a view to fulfilling their emotional desires while not being aware of the consequences of such irresponsible practices. Major concerns entail whether mainstream media in North America carries adequate information on human sexuality. There is a possible failure to emphasize the purpose and the logic behind using contraceptives during sexual intercourse among sexually active youths.
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As a result, young people in North America engage in irresponsible sexual activities without considering the outcomes of their actions. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that the film industry, television, the Internet, and the music industry carry sexually implicit materials that encourage the thriving of friends with benefits among youths whose major goal is to satisfy their sexual demands. Such industries have failed to spread information on sexually responsible behaviors, abstinence, and the importance of birth control measures. Based on this criticism, this paper argues that it is socially reckless for young people to have friends with benefits with whom they engage in different forms of sexual activities only for sexual satisfaction. Such practices ruin their personal image and the future of the society.
Insecurity Associated with Sharing Private Pictures
Different people in North America have conflicting viewpoints regarding sexuality and sex-related issues. While some of them support all forms of intercourse, including penetrative and non-penetrative sex, others recommend the embracement of one method based on the underlying moral, social, and religious implications. However, as indicated in a study by Olmstead et al., engaging in early sexual activities exposes youths to risks of unwanted pregnancies coupled with the likelihood of being infected with sexually transmitted diseases (809). Factors that lead to their early involvement in sexual activities in North America include the uncontrolled use of the Internet, uncensored television programs and movies, and reading magazines containing embedded sexual contents directed towards youths (Olmstead et al. 810). Young people may not sense any danger of engaging in sexual affairs with friends, as long as such activities satisfy their emotional needs. However, they risk exposing themselves to sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDs.
Data on young people’s engagement in sexual activities indicates that this behavior is problematic in not only the U.S. but also the whole of North America. In 2009, a survey on risky behaviors among adolescents indicated that 46 percent of senior-class young people in America engaged in sexual intercourse whereby 14 percent had over four partners (Fahs and Munger 189). Despite the reduction in pregnancy prevalence levels since 1991, the U.S. continues to record higher teen expectancy rates compared to other western nations (Olmstead et al. 810). The birth rate in America increased by about 3 percent between 2005 and 2006 due to the high number of young people engaging in sexual activities (Fahs and Munger 189). This finding suggests that early intercourse involving friends with benefits presents a significant health risk to youths. Irresponsible sexual activities lead to different issues related to sexting. For instance, in addition to affecting youths’ long-term relationships, they result in personal and health safety risks.
Sexting involves sending and receiving sexually implicit materials via mobile devices. Such contents mostly involve nude pictures shared with the intention of evoking the emotions of one’s sexual partners or friends. Despite the inadequacy of research on sexting practices among adults, there is a high probability of many young people aged between 15 to 24 years in North America engaging in these behaviors (Rodrigue et al. 219). However, although some scholars such as Owen et al. may regard this practice as normal acts, the Internet may be hacked whereby information is made accessible to the wrong people (1444). This possibility explains the root behind many public scandals associated with leaked private images in North America. Despite the existence of guidelines on how people can safely share private pictures via the Internet or through mobile devices, these images may be forwarded and sent to wrong recipients. The outcome is the destruction of one’s public image. Indeed, even when an individual trusts the beneficiary of such leaked photos, other accidental people may access them secretly from one’s phone. Sharing private pictures may compromise other people’s reputation.
Sexting among young people in North America has some legal implications. For example, leaked pictures may be distributed to Internet users without the owner’s permission. Among young North American people, sexting has been a major source of cyberbullying, harassment, and stalking (Odrigue et al. 221). The actual act of engaging in sexting may result in legal suits where underage persons send their private pictures or those of other minors using Internet-enabled devices (Fahs and Munger 193). In North America, when older persons receive such pictures, they may be charged with child pornography. However, a debate remains on whether the act of two consensual minors sharing private photos through sexting translates into child pornography. Nevertheless, adults may be penalized for child harassment and molestation when they send their classified pictures to juveniles. Leaked confidential pictures belonging to young persons have irreversible impacts on their personal images. Apart from being bullied in school, an adolescent may not fix any negative perceptions of their characters created in people who watch their private pictures.
Effects on Youths’ Long-term Relationships
Making one’s friend an intimate partner influences the two parties’ companionship and long-term relationship. However, the idea of “no strings attached or any form of engagement in such a commitment” (Quirk et al. 45) seems ideal for friends with benefits in relationships. However, questions arise on the sustainability of such a friendship. Their closeness may advance to involve intimate affairs. Some North American young people may argue that friendship with benefits helps one to meet short-term sexual intercourse needs. However, these deeds involve two people who already think they are compatible while overlooking the underlying risks, which often exceed the perceived benefits (Quirk et al. 47).
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The whole idea shifts from non-strings-attached sexual relationship to one characterized by intimate affairs. Therefore, two youths engaging in such sexual practices regard future relationships with other partners as acts of infidelity, although they cannot openly discuss this issue. Such a situation breaks people’s hearts due to emotional attachments associated with friendship with benefits. The idea of friends with benefits translates into an irresponsible sexual behavior among North American young people. Although youths want to enjoy sexual activities, they are unwilling to take responsibilities that come with these affairs, for instance, pregnancy and hospital expenses in case of sicknesses.
Having a zero-commitment relationship has no legal consequences. This practice is common among North American college students. Nevertheless, it raises moral questions. As Rodrigue et al. observe, many students report having had at least one of such relationships (220). A friends-with-benefits interaction falls in between causal affairs and total romantic connections. Despite friends-with-benefits relationships eliminating some risks involved in informal interactions, they are not romantic (Rodrigue et al. 220). They lack commitment and the possibility of youths building their future.
As a result, the moral foundation of friends-with-benefits affairs becomes questionable. It is crucial to find out whether benefits such as sexual pleasure, exploration, and serving as placeholders have any morally appropriate purpose. Rodrigue et al. respond to this question by noting that only 10 to 20 percent of such affairs end up translating into romantic relationships in the future (220). Youths who engage in these interactions risk losing friends, especially if one of them fails to meet the expectations of the other. A study by Jonason reveals that 28 percent of young people engaging in such relationships in North America were afraid of losing their close friends while 65 percent others experienced unreciprocated feelings (1408). Overall, when young people are involved in friends-with-benefits relationships, they risk ruining their friendship circles.
Personal Safety and Health Issues
Some friends-with-benefits interactions among North American youths involve two people who usually meet through Internet-enabled platforms. Such persons may be criminals looking for access to one’s family and other close friends. However, some studies claim that friends-with-benefits relationships are not only healthy but also safe. For example, research involving 1000 students conducted in 2013 by Owen et al. in Louisville University, Kentucky, suggests that the relationship is normal and harmless (1445). These researchers observed that 300 of students surveyed reported having a friends-with-benefits relationship that ended during the same year (2013) (Owen et al. 1445). However, 80% of them indicated that the friendship went on normally later. Another 50% of them claimed that they ended up being closer to their friends after they had the relationship (Owen et al. 1445). Nonetheless, 30% revealed that they were no longer close. From this study, differences were noted between male and female college students who had friends-with-benefits experiences.
Owen et al. observe that friends-with-benefits relationships among learners have tragic outcomes (1447). Sexual tension is witnessed. In other situations, sexual affairs fail to work in the expected way. In addition, one of the parties may end up falling in love with or without reciprocation. Indeed, if the relationship is safe and normal, one may need to question why some friends-with-benefits relationships among North American young people, especially college students, result in lost friendships. According to Owen et al., youths who claim to have ruined their friendships after having sexual intercourse argued that their relationships were anchored on sex, as opposed to pure companionship (1447). Therefore, these researchers conclude that if one’s friendship cannot withstand the storm of any physical intimacy that ultimately ends, it is possible that the comradeship is not worthwhile. The conclusion drawn from the study by Owen et al. supports irresponsible sexual behaviors without factoring in the underlying moral foundation or health risks (1447).
Reckless sexual practices among North American young people exposes them to health dangers such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), which include HIV and AIDs. According to Quirk et al., adolescents have the highest likelihood of contracting STIs in comparison with any other age group (54). Olmstead et al. support this assertion by noting that despite young people aged between 15 and 24 years accounting for only 25 percent of the total sexually active people in the U.S., they contract about 50 percent of all detected STIs each year (814). Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that in four teenagers, one had contracted a particular STI (Olmstead et al. 815). Indeed, even with protection mechanisms, one cannot be 100% free from STIs. A major argument may be that some forms of sexual intimacy are safe. However, according to Olmstead et al., even oral sex may lead to the transmission of viruses causing sexually transmitted diseases among people of all ages (817).
Mainstream media portrays sex as a normal activity. Although some forms of media may distribute censored images of sexual materials, others, especially in an online environment, may not mind the implication of sexually implicit contents to the audience. Consequently, young people in North America may engage in different forms of irresponsible penetrative and non-penetrate sex without being aware of the underlying impact on their long-term relationships. This paper has argued that some relationships among North American young people such as friends with benefits lack moral backing and commitment, which are important aspects that reinforce intimate relationships. Friends-with-benefits affairs expose youths to personal safety and health risks. Acts such as sharing private images with minors may have legal consequences. Although various scholars assert that some of these forms of sexual activities have no harm, the paper counter-argues that it is socially irresponsible for young people to have friends with benefits and other intimate affairs, which are only meant for emotional satisfaction purposes.
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