Here is how to ensure teenagers get pregnant and STIs:
– shame and scare them
– refuse to educate them
Sooo… how about we not do that?
Our society is obsessed with sex, but for the most part, mainstream culture either avoids frank discussion about sex, or it sensationalizes it in an unhealthy, negative way.
Children find this mixed message very confusing. ADULTS do, as well!
Many people are working hard to infuse our country with an open, honest sex-positive message, myself included.
As a mother, I was keenly interested to learn of a performance piece featuring a teen/parent sex ed theme hosted at The Ethical Society, a welcoming home for humanists with the motto Deed, not Creed, and sponsored by a local organization called Teen Pregnancy and Prevention Partnership.
I attended the program with my 12-year-old daughter.
Actor Tim Collins put on a one-man show demonstrating the struggles teachers, kids, and parents endure when faced with the fact that children don’t remain children forever and need to learn about what to expect as they reach adulthood. He did a great job, and knowing that it was a daunting topic for him to conquer made it even more impressive.
The performance was followed by a Q&A facilitated by a delightful woman named Allison Hile, a sex educator, psychologist, and mother.
During the discussion, I learned some shocking news: In the state of Missouri, schools are allowed to choose their sex ed curriculum. This means they can teach children facts via health class, or lies via abstinence-only preaching.
For example: When Allison blew up a condom at a school talk to demonstrate how stretchy they can be, one of the students expressed surprise that it would hold air. When Allison asked her why, the student explained that the woman who had visited the school the week before to espouse an abstinence-only message told the kids that condoms HAVE HOLES IN THEM, which is why they are useless for preventing pregnancy and disease.
What’s more, a woman in the audience reported that she spoke with someone who bragged about making a group of teens sweat over a presentation she gave showing terrible STI sores and diseased genitals. She crowed, “I only wish I could have gotten to them when they were in the 5th grade!”
When a group of people my age (40′s) were polled about where they got their sex ed, most reported that they got their information from friends or a health class in school. When asked where they wish they could have learned about sex from, they said THEIR PARENTS. But their parents never talked to them about sex. My parents sure didn’t – they avoided the topic or cloaked it in shame.
Thankfully, that’s no longer the case – we’ve come a long way since then. In fact, Washington University professor Susan Ekberg Stiritz told me that when she teaches her college-level students about sex, they often go back home and fill in their parents, and FINALLY bridge the gap, just in reverse order!
Do we really need to make our kids feel like the birds and the bees are more like hawks and hornets?
I think not.
In fact, my daughter was appalled to learn how awkward some adults behave when dealing with the topic of sex. She raised her hand and shared, “Actually, it’s the opposite case at my house. My mom is all about sex ed. We are not afraid.”
I was so proud of her.
As we drove home, she made an interesting request. “Mom, I’ve seen you naked plenty of times, but I’m curious to see what other normal people look like naked. Will you show me some pictures sometime?”
Of course I will.
A body without clothes on is nothing to be ashamed of.
Our bodies are natural and should be celebrated as a source of pleasure and pride.