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1. Not Gonna Lie

What it is: The “Not Gonna Lie” app invites anonymous comments from anyone with access to a shared link on social media.
Why some teens are loving it: “Not Gonna Lie” might as well have been invented for teens spending a lazy summer afternoon at home in the air conditioning. The app came from California and launched this past November, but started to really take off in June, when it became the most downloaded app in the Apple store. NGL provides a comment box that integrates with Instagram Stories, and users can ask whatever question they’d like (anonymously) answered. NGL is supposed to be a safe space where cyberbullying can’t happen; the developers claim that they use advanced AI to filter out insults, suggestive emoji, and bullying statements. But NBC News tested the app and found that the acronym “KYS” (which means “kill yourself”) still made it through its filter, and the app’s own website says that their Community Guidelines are “coming soon.”

2. Hot is the New Cool

What it is: As temperatures rise, teens are referring to lots of relatively mundane activities and actions as “hot.”
Why it’s the slang of the summer: The New York Times traces the evolution of the definition of “hot” to a Megan Thee Stallion song snippet from her hit “Girls in the Hood,” during which she proclaims she can’t talk right now because she’s busy doing hot girl stuff. TikTokers used this sound as a backdrop for anything that they felt was carefree or silly—be it eating pasta in front of the camera or shaving their toes. The trend of taking “hot girl walks,” four mile walks focused on clearing your mind of drama and practicing gratefulness, took off during the pandemic and are proving to have staying power. “Hot” has become uncoupled from the idea of sexuality and is now a more versatile term, used to describe any moment where you feel confident and capable of appreciating life.

3. Consenting with a Caveat

What it is: Colleges have been focusing on “enthusiastic consent” as a way of framing sexual activity. But young people, particularly young women, are noting that even the most enthusiastic “yes” can sometimes lead to regret after the act.
Why it’s the natural outcome of current educational strategy: “Consent education takes already anxious, inexperienced young people, and gives them a simplistic, binary way of understanding sex,” writes Emma Camp, a recent college graduate. She points out that young women will consent to sex even when they don’t want to have it for a variety of reasons, including feeling like it’s easier to go through with sex than to face the awkward prospect of backing out and hurting someone’s feelings. Consent education doesn’t erase centuries of complex power dynamics and societal expectations, and it can’t account for feelings of regret.Presuming that agreeing to sex is what makes it morally good leaves young people even more confused. As Christians, we know that consent, no matter how enthusiastic, cannot be the end all, be all of sexual ethics. Sometimes, sex between two people is simply a mistake, for a myriad of spiritual (and practical) reasons, and finding language to admit and discuss these mistakes is as important as it ever has been.

Song of the Week

“About D*mn Time” by Lizzo: A disco-infused pop anthem (featuring flutes!) is taking over the radio waves and TikTok. The chorus is infectious, but this song is perhaps best known for its bridge piece: “In a minute, I’ma need a sentimental / Man or woman to pump me up / Feelin’ fussy, walkin’ in my Balenci-ussies/ Tryna bring out the fabulous.” It’s the kind of song you listen to while getting ready for a Friday night out as you bid the stress of a busy week goodbye; it’s also got strong language and references to substance use. Lyrics and video (containing profanity); Lizzo’s studio album, Special, was released last week.

Translation: Consenting With A Caveat

For young women, and young men as well, the idea of consent can seem simple at first. If you want to have sex with someone, you just say “yes”, right? Well, there are lots of mitigating factors that can make the answer a little more complex. What if you’re drunk? Or, God forbid, drugged or facing the threat of physical harm? Beyond that, many people fear that a “yes,” even one given under coercion, may disqualify them from receiving help or encouragement if they regret their decision afterward.

Our culture gives young people a confusing and contradictory view of sex: have the sex you want to have, have a lot of it, and have it with whoever you feel like. At the same time, make sure all the sex you have is safe, consenting, protected, and that you feel respected and cared for. How can the two coexist? Well, they really can’t. When the whole morality of sex hangs on the string of “who said yes, to what, and why?” we find ourselves lost in a fog that can leave us feeling confused, regretful, or afraid.

As we said above, we as Christians have a very different view of what sex is supposed to look like and mean that goes far beyond consent. Obviously consent is essential, but it’s not what makes sex moral or good. God is a God of order. There are boundaries that are specifically designed not only to keep us safe, but to allow us to experience the most beautiful and sacred kind of intimacy. When a man and woman participate in sex in a loving, safe marriage, they are reflecting not only the bonds between Christ and the church, but the Holy Spirit’s marriage to our very souls. In this way, sex transcends the physical and becomes holy.

In Pope John Paul II’s book, Man and Woman He Created Them, he says this about sex and its meaning: “The body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God [God’s love for man], and thus to be a sign of it.” Consent alone is not enough because sex that is tied only to a “yes” is not strong enough to bear the image of the Creator. It is designed to be and to embody love—the pure, holy, redeemed gift of God, and must be grounded by His design and the blessing of the Spirit.

Here are some questions to help spark conversation with your teens:

  • What role does sex play in the human experience? What do you think it’s supposed to look like?
  • In what situations might “enthusiastic consent” fail to protect people having sex?
  • Why do you think humans were designed with the capacity and desire for sex? What could be God’s goal for that capacity and desire?