I have a twleve-year-old going through Sex Ed right now at a public school. Also, I like to write books for teens, so for me, the sexual habits of teenagers are as thoroughly fascinating as they are concerning. In books for teens it’s almost unrealistic not to at least mention the subject. What’s interesting to me is that the way the subject is being handled in books is more honest, more healthy, and helpful to teens than what they’re getting in class (at least, my kiddo’s class).
What’s in YA books: Everything. But, in the books I read the sex means something to the development of the character. Over the few years I’ve been writing, I’ve seen more sex scenes and themes than I thought I would. I think this is great. I want my kids to read them. (I want my kids to read ALL books) I have a sex scene in my book (Oh help me when/if my parents read it), which I figured would get cut somewhere along the revision process, though I hope it wouldn’t. It hasn’t yet, but there’s still time. I have solid reasoning for having in there that I’ve been prepared to voice, if questioned. I don’t want to give specifics here on the blog because that would be spoilery. So, let’s say it’s pretty important to character development. It’s one of the things in life that separate the men from the boys, if you will. And in YA literature, isn’t that the central struggle of any book? The blurry area of kid-ness vs. adult-ness. One of the things I appreciate so much about YA is that when a character in a book (and hopefully one that the reader is rooting for) goes through growth and change because of sexual relationship, it can shape the reader’s ideas about sex. And, we’re all just so damn curious about it at that age! If done well, the character will have consequences for their sexual actions, whether it be sex is pretty awesome or we should’ve used protection, or so this is (or isn’t) love, or whatever. My point is that the reading experience is far more informative and meaningful than class.
What’s in class: Abstinence. (and other people) My daughter brought home a paper we had to sign that acknowledged the school stance on sex. Josh signed it alright, and included a few words about how unrealistic it is to think teaching abstinence will be effective. Day one, Eleanor came home and was surprised and irritated that she was the only one brave enough to ask questions (Go, Eleanor! Proud parent right here.) The next day she came home scared of AIDS and asking how many people Josh and I had slept with before we got married. (I told her, btw.) I’m not bothered that she was scared of AIDS, because everyone should be. But the school’s answer to AIDS is abstinence. So, I was left to inform her that I wasn’t ashamed of or scared to have sex with people who hadn’t become my husband, because I’d used protection. Thanks, public school. The third day she came home and said, “I asked my teacher how we were supposed to have babies if we never had sex?” The teacher replied that he was teaching abstinence because that’s what the school had told him to teach. (That’s Eleanor’s paraphrasing) And Eleanor concluded (right or wrong) that he probably didn’t believe what he was teaching. Now, I’m thrilled my kiddo is asking questions at home and at school, but I KNOW she’s in the minority. And even with her asking all the questions, I hope she’ll explore the issue in her reading, where it’s safe and she can’t get AIDS.
15 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Sex (Ed)”
Go Ella! I am so glad she’s willing to speak up. Hoping some of her peers will find the courage too.
Me too, Amy. To everything you said.
What a great kid you’ve got!
What schools fail to understand is that, in a majority of cases, if kids don’t get the right information from a good source, they’re going to get the wrong information from a bad source. I can’t tell you how much bad information about sex was going around my junior high (and high school) when I was a kid.
Shaun, you’re absolutely right. I wonder what the school board fears by talking about birth and disease control? So weird. I know I already said it, but I really liked what you had to say about sex on your blog a few weeks back. Here’s to doing our part as writers!
I’m so glad I was willing to be frank and think realistically with my kids, because god knows nothing they’re taught by the school system is reality-based. I have two boys (14/21) and a girl (19) who all talk to me about everything — and I mean everything. And no, that doesn’t mean they run all activities by me beforehand, but it does mean that they value my opinion because I’m willing to listen to theirs, and even if we don’t agree, it’s not going to get them in trouble with me. I want the commmunication lines wide open. Obviously you do too, so YAY for you and Eleanor, who will have a GOOD source of information on the subject as she imbarks on young adulthood (I couldn’t agree more with Shaun on that, good lord).
Tammara, this is just another reason you and I are meant to be friends. Is it mean for me to point out that I cracked up that you said communication lines should be “wide open?” Sorry, I’ve just belittled my own post, probably, but I couldn’t help it!
Not all ‘rents the age of you mom and dad are rigid and close minded.
I dunno, Chuck. Limited experiential data suggests otherwise.
So, I am disturbed that the BIG QUESTION Eleanor came home with the first day was how many people her parents had slept with. What presentation points led her to that question? There’s so much weirdness in the basics of physical sex to ask about–how did she come away with that one?
LLD, I think it stemmed from their AIDS discussion. I’m not sure, but she had the basics down I guess. 🙂 Oh, inquisitive child o’ mine.
I went to a Christian private school and had Sex Ed as part of science class in 7th and 8th grade as well as in health class in 10th grade.
I remember learning all the basics of fallopian tubes, etc. and symptoms of STDs, but I honestly don’t remember if they taught us about contraceptives and the like. I asked both of my sisters and they can’t fricken remember either!
What I DO remember is that I had subscriptions to YM and SEVENTEEN from the age of 14 and up. I have a feeling that most of what I learned about boys and sex was from those magazines. I’m really thankful for the approach they took in educating girls. Who knows how clueless I would have been otherwise!
Mindi, I’ll also commend the teen mags for their approaches. I had the same subscriptions. I hadn’t even considered what I learned from them, but you’re right; it was eye-opening and helpful.
Just now found this. Wow, I love that kid. 🙂 And props to you for answering honestly. That is not a conversation my Catholic family EVER had.
Great reading your blog posst