There has been a lot of controversy here in Massachusetts about a sex-ed informational website for teens called Mariatalks.com, providing teens with information on SEX. OOHHH.This is a website designed by the AIDS action committee. It seems some of their funding comes from the state, and the Citizen's For Life group are up in arms and want the site taken down. It seems that the site actually talks about sex. It provides information on men's and women's anatomy(with pictures), different choices men and women can make regarding sexual activity, information on birth control, abortion and abstinence, STDS, AIDS, and masturbation. From my perspective it pretty much covers all the bases. One of the opposers of the site has said:"There are words I would find difficult to speak." as a reason the site is inappropriate. Yes they do use words like "vagina" and "penis". Shocking! I think the site is extremely well-done and informative without being preachy or too cool.
These sites are important, because it seems that many parents are extremely uncomfortable about taking to their teens about sex. I just finished grading 30 papers from one of my college courses called Psychology of Family Life. The final paper assignment was to write an autobiography on their own family's influence on their life. One of the questions they had to include in this paper was: How did you acquire your sex-education, how has it influenced you in your decisions around your own sexual activity? I got some really interesting answers: "In my household, sex was something that was never talked about, in 5th grade I pulled an encyclopedia out after school with my friends and looked up sex." Another student writes: "Growing up, sex was never really brought up to me.I was embarrassed to ask questions about sex, and then I was embarrassed to admit when I became sexually active, so I was to afraid to ask to go on the pill. I ended up getting much of my sex-ed from my peers."And from a 19 year old mother of a four year old:" My education about sex was slim to none when I was growing up. I knew what it was, but not the consequences of it. Sex was something the older kids were doing, and I wanted to do it too. I knew absolutely nothing about birth control, or how to get it, and that's how I became pregnant."
The research shows that kids really do want to talk with their parents about sex. But like a dog who senses fear, a teen can sense their parents discomfort and realize its better to go elsewhere for the information. Sometimes that elsewhere place is misinformed friends, pornographic websites, or aggressive partners who can convince them that sex is good, lets just do it, without thinking of consequences, both emotional and physical. Sites like mariatalks.com are good. At the least if you feel uncomfortable talking about sex with your teen, you can say: " I know you are at an age when you are going to be having to make decisions about sex. This makes me uncomfortable, I still think of you as my little boy/girl but I know how important it is for you to get the right kind of information. Here is a great website, I have bookmarked it on the computer so you can go to it when you want. " Obviously the best case, is that you get over your own discomfort, and start talking with your teens about sex. Watch a movie or a tv show that has teens dealing with issues about sex, (that shouldn't be hard, since its everywhere) and use the show as a jumping off point for discussion. Find some common ground to start with. Maybe you had a high school boyfriend/girlfriend, and you can use your own experience, and struggles with decisions about sex as a catalyst for discussion. Its good for your teens to see you as a person who, like them, didn't quite know what to do. It makes you human. Sex is good, sex is a natural part of development, but you are not born with information and the ability to make the "right decision". Your teens need your help not your hesitancy.