Dawn Turner Trice, March 17, 2008 — chicagotribune.com
Alternatives, a North Side youth agency, recently held three forums for teenagers ages 14 to 19. The series was called “Let’s Talk about Sex.” And talk, they did.In a co-ed forum, the teens pondered contraception. One well-meaning young man stood and said aluminum foil could be used in lieu of a condom. Other teens offered up myths such as the efficacy of plastic baggies, having sex while standing and bathing right after sex.Adults in attendance informed the students that none of those methods protected against unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases.
Oh wow. Wow wow wow wow. Did I just really read that bit about the aluminum foil? The baggies I can almost understand but…wow. I’m blown away. Does this boy have a girlfriend? If so, how does she feel about having sex with a cheese grater? The mind just reels…
Anyway, now that I’ve gotten all my “wows” out of the way (Wait. I need one more: wow. Thanks. That’s better.), I need to express my deep concern for the continued lack of sexual education provided to young people. Note that the kids interviewed are from Chicago’s North Side, not some uber-Right Wing Christian backwater town in the middle of no where. These are kids who are most likely growing up with extreme sexual images in front of them all day long. MTV features girls kissing each other more often than they show actual videos. Joe Francis’ ugly mug headlines the risque Girls Gone Wild commercials that assault me while watching Cartoon Network. Britney Spears & Lindsay Lohan upskirt pictures are splattered all over the internet. I cannot imagine the way this sort of content would affect a 14-year-old kind. …Hang on. Yes, I can. And it probably leads them to go get aluminum foil from the kitchen.
So here we are, faced with the same dilemma as generations of adults before us: teach our kids about responsible sexual behavior or hope that it just goes away? Let’s say you do decide to give them the straight scoop. What then? Buy them a pack of condoms? Send them to Planned Parenthood? Beg them to join the Silver Ring abstinence movement? Wait for them to come home with a scorching case of genital warts and a pregnant tummy?
I don’t have the answers. Heck, I don’t even have kids! But I find all of this quite worrisome. I think attempts at education have happened in the popular media, though mostly in conjunction with AIDS awareness. What is not being covered is responsible sexual behavior. The article quoted above goes further, discussing “rainbow parties” that involve different colored lipsticks for each girl and oral sex. You do the math. I’ve heard of this before and, frankly, think it smacks of sensationalism; I highly doubt that is happening at most high school parties. However, I do think we need to look at more holistic approaches to sexual education that involve the overall behavior and how to navigate the treacherous waters of adolescence. I was lucky enough to participate in a voluntary sex ed class in 8th grade with a very hip teacher who approached it in such a manner. My parents were not as, uh, forthcoming (my 2-minute obligatory “sex talk” still gives me the heebie-jeebies). Anyway, I felt equipped with the right ammunition to say no to things that didn’t feel right for me, and that is the (excuse me) thrust of this entire rant. Personal responsibility, coupled with straight education about the how/why/when/what, and shame-free access to contraception is what’s going to keep kids safe. Oh, and keep them from using up all your foil. (…wow.)