Let's talk about sex, baby
Sex. It’s been on my brain. Not that it’s unusual for an LDS mid-single woman to fixate on sex. But it’s been on my mind a lot. Had some really indepth discussions lately, with a good friend, about sexual practice (and non-practice) and expectations. Talked with an old friend about sexual activity way back in our college days. Read this nostalgic romp down memory lane over at Zelophehad’s Daughters. Listened to NPR and heard this great teen news report by Johanna Greenberg, which brought to mind that old song by Salt n’ Peppa. Which doesn’t really say a whole lot about sex, just that we should talk about it. Which makes me wonder, where did I learn about sex?
Not from my parents, that’s for sure. I vaguely remember my mother talking to me about menstruation, but not much else. And I have oddball memories about talking with some girls at school about the sex-ed class we were going to have one afternoon (but not memories of the actual class itself). I remember watching a lot of Fantasy Island, Love Boat, Dallas and Falcon Crest (the last two I confess to sneaking, watching behind the blinds of my father’s study). But I never actually talked to anyone about sex.
What did I do? Simple. I read. I suppose that if I were a teenager today, I’d get most of my info online. However, back in the dark ages of my youth, Prodigy was a distant dream. Anyhow, I read. Some factual books that I found in my parents’ collection of books, when I was about 13. Some steamy teen-age romances that I got at the library, when I was about 16. Some steamy adult romances that I found at homes where I babysat, when I was about 16-18. And some non-fictional works that a friend lent to me, which were rather explicit, when I was in college.
I am still single, and have yet to have sex. And when I say that I haven’t really talked to many people about sex, that is not to say that I don’t joke about sex all the time with other LDS singles. We joke about sex all the time. In fact, I’d hazard a guess that LDS singles joke more about sex than anything else.
Anyway, getting back on track …
Greenberg’s little bit of reporting really made me think and question. How do we talk about sex to children? Greenberg posits that she and many of her peers are not getting “The Sex Talk” at all, and that parents are shirking their duty when they fail to discuss sex and relationships with their children, and that children today are learning about sex from the internet, the television, and whatever “facts” their friends are anxious to share. And this scares me.
So, I went on-line to see what it is that teens these days are learning about sex. Some of it is not half bad. At Teensource (affiliated with the California Family Health Council, Inc.), I found a rather comprehensive list on different sorts of birthcontrol, everything from abstinence to sterilization. At Sex, Etc. affiliated with Answer at Rutgers University Center for Applied Psychology, I found a wonderful discussion, lead by Dr. Winnie King, on how to talk about sex with kids of all ages, as well as a lot of forums for discussion between teens, and between teens and experts. Of course, some of this information is much more explicit than many conservative parents would like. In which case, they should start talking to their kids right away.
I was particularly impressed with the comments of Tamara Kreinin (President and CEO of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, prior to 2004). She advocated for not having one big “Sex Talk” with children, but keeping sex among one of the many topics available for everyday discussion. She acknowledged that children ask about sex all the time, unless they learn that they should not discuss it with their parents. To this end, she urges parents to talk about sex with their children, and even offers some good leading questions that can help the discussion along. Why are you asking me that today? What do you know about that? Do you understand?
What it comes down to, for me at least, is that there is plenty of information out there. Any teen with a library card or internet-abled computer can find out a wealth of information about anything they want to know about sex. What they need from parents, and role models, is an idea of how to navigate through the roiling seas of puberty, hormones, peer pressure, the desire to be loved, and media hype. They need to talk about sex as an introductory topic so that they can talk more deeply about relationships and love.
These days I learn mostly about sex from friends who are married. Not that they give a lot of detail. They don’t. Nor do I want much detail. But they share enough of what they learn so that I can benefit from their experience. For which I’m grateful.
So, how did you learn about sex? Did you learn from parents, leaders/role models, books or contemporary friends? How do you talk to your children about sex? Do you? Have you? What’s been successful? What was awful? How would you do it differently if you could wind back the clock? Are there any resources you’ve found valuable that you can share? Let’s talk about sex.