“Talking with teens about sex can be difficult and awkward but don’t put it off or expect sex education in school to convey everything.” This is the caption under a picture of joyful teens standing on a beach, arms in the air, on the first page of the “Lifestyle” section of a major newspaper. The article beneath the picture, entitled “Teen sex talk” is intended to reassure parents that help is available if they feel embarrassed or inadequate to address this issue with their teens.
This is admirable. Most parents would readily admit that they welcome such help. But before you decide to follow the advice given in articles like this you should ask yourself some serious questions:
- Where do you want your teens to learn the information they don’t get from sex education in their schools?
- Who do you want to instruct them?
- What is the goal of the instruction?
Such articles reassure you that you can improve the way you talk with your teens about sex and relationships, that you can become more knowledgeable and confident.
- Where? At “education-based sex shops” in your city and online at sites that encourage teens to “explore” their sexuality to find out what kinds of sexual intimacy they like and don’t like.
- Who? Individuals who believe that sexual intimacy is a natural and normal part of life at any age, and that all sexual orientations and all forms of relationship are equally valid.
- What? The goal of instruction is to present teen sexual activity in a positive light, a source of pleasure; to caution that both partners must consent and a condom must be used to prevent disease; to inform about and provide access to aids for sexual pleasure (“your first vibrator”) or for transitioning from female to male (“a binder for your breasts”); to answer questions about sexual activity (“I want non-monogamy. She doesn’t. What can I do?”).
Ask yourself, “Is this the information I want my teen to receive? Is this a healthy view of sexuality?”