Libby Anne and Dan Fincke have been running a project called Forward Thinking. Prompts are proposed, and bloggers can respond. Every two weeks a roundup of links is published.
The most recent topic is what we should be telling teenagers about sex. Being as I was a teenager a very short six months ago, I have Thoughts and Feelings about this. Lots of them. My own sex education (in Texas) wasn’t all so hot. Like, seriously, I would have thought abstinence-only education would be all about asexuality–“Some people don’t really think sex is the most interesting! See! It’s not worth trying!”–but nooooo. So, this is what I’d tell teenagers about sex and relationships.
You don’t have to know who or what you like right now. But if you do, you get to feel exactly that way and anybody who frowns or corrects you or says its stupid or gross or weird should be frowned at the way you frown at your feet when you step in dog poo. Because that’s actually gross, and loving people isn’t.
Speaking of which, you don’t actually have to love everybody you do sexy things with. I’d like them to be people you trust and people who know what consent is and like communication, but you don’t have to love them. Kissing is fun and bodies are nice and hooking up with people who have especially nice bodies or brains or who are just friends with exactly enough time and singlehood on their hands is fun.
Condoms break. Getting Plan B is scary. Sometimes the pharmacy is out or closed or the person at the counter looks like the math teacher who was always cranky. Just buy some ahead of time, so the two of you can just fish it out of whomever’s nightstand and take a deep breath.
Just like some people prefer pistachio ice cream, you can have sexual preferences. You can like fat bodies, thin bodies, muscly bodies, femme men, femme women, women who like to be tied up, and people who only have sex in missionary. But it’s worth considering if the only reason you like pistachio ice cream is because that’s all the shops have been telling you is worth buying. Because that doesn’t mean some genius somewhere isn’t making brilliant raspberry sorbet that you could realize is five times better, if only you examine your pistachio conditioning.
Anyone who describes any part of your body as gross doesn’t deserve to see you naked. They don’t get to negotiate this.
The baseball metaphor sucks. Not only does everyone disagree on what each base actually stands for (your euphemism is a failure when you have to argue about what every part means), but it ranks things. Some people can take or leave P-I-V–or, you know, their partnerships don’t include one penis and one vagina–and some think oral sex is the best thing ever. And some people would actually rather be playing baseball.
Shaming people is stupid and uncreative. This applies equally to shaming people for all the sex they are having, and shaming people for all the sex they’re not having.
Monogamy is not required, but honesty and communication are.
Mostly, I want teens to know that adults aren’t always right–and one of the ways we’re very good at being wrong is in talking to adolescents about sex. This is also perhaps the first time that your beliefs and actions can be something your family considers morally wrong, repugnant, or unnatural…and that’s really scary. Luckily, if everybody is consenting and legal, you’re probably in the right.
Which leads me to the last thing–consent. This is actually the most important thing, and I’m okay with you rolling your eyes and ignoring my too-old-to-understand advice if you listen to this.
More of my female friends and acquaintances have been assaulted, coerced, or raped than not. I’m not estimating–that’s the reality that this college student sees. One of my friends rapists still lives in this town. I run into him frequently. He hasn’t, and probably won’t, suffer any consequences for his actions.
You must get consent for everything, every time. I don’t care if it’s painfully awkward to ask if they’re into it, if they want to go further. If a little bit of blushing is scary enough to move you from Consensual Sex-Haver to rapist, you shouldn’t be doing anything with anyone.
Also, despite everything I ever heard…you can also write about sex on the internet without the Earth exploding.
What would you tell teens?