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June 23, 2010

Safe Sex: Giving “The Talk” – with boundaries …

I grew up in a house that was quite open when it came to talking about sex. It’s not like we sat around all the time discussing it, but my parents seemed to be of the belief that a little extra information is better than the wrong information. Other girls I knew had parents who were a little more strict about how much information they received; yep, they were the ones who got pregnant. Score one for abstinence education!

Tomorrow night, our Girl Guide unit is doing the “Becoming a Teen Badge,” which is everything you’re imagining it is, plus a few extras. The badge focuses on learning about exercise, healthy eating, hygiene, and yes, puberty. Keeping in mind that Girl Guides is girls only, and the girls are 9-11 years old, most of the evening will likely be spent talking about boys and periods. No worries, no danger zones. Just to be sure though, we sent home a notice ahead of time with the parents, being clear to outline what we would be talking about, and that the parents should keep their daughters home if they had any concerns. As far as I know, only one parent has called. She said her daughter was allowed to attend the meeting, as long as we weren’t going to talk about SEX. Therein lies the problem.

Talks about boys, menstruation and body changes generally end up being talks about sex. Girls get concerned about the changes in their bodies; having periods means they they are physically able to get pregnant, after all. And really, what better environment to have these kind of talks than an all-girl, parent-free environment? The girls are comfortable talking to us; they would rather come to us than their parents, and we all know that schools don’t do the best job. So really, what other options do the girls have? Learning incorrect information on the playground?

The fact is, girls are starting puberty much earlier than they used to, and socially they are more aware of sex (both mentally and physically) younger than they used to be as well. So we, as adult members of society, have a choice: ignore the fact that these girls need the information before they need it, or help them take care of their unplanned babies and undesired STDs later, after they’ve been douching with Coca-Cola and jumping up and down afterward.

Returning to the issue of tomorrow night: To respect the mother’s wishes, we aren’t going to be talking directly, blatantly about sex. Girls with questions about sex will be invited to speak privately to the leaders. Because I have a responsibility to the unit I will do what the mother has asked; however, I disagree with her view. Her daughter may be only 10 years old, but she is probably much more aware of sex than her mother realizes. Keeping the lines of communication open (about everything, not just sex) is what will save this girl as she grows up, not keeping her naive and ultimately ignorant.

Whether we like it or not, kids today are growing up faster than we ever did. We all need to be prepared to deal with it, head-on. Talking about sexual health and safe sex does not give kids permission to have sex; it gives them the tools to do it safely. Kids have always had sex; let’s try to keep them safe.

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2 Comment(s)

  1. mikeg | Jun 23, 2010 | Reply

    I appreciate your sincerity in trying to eudcate your girls about their bodies and their sexuality. However, my concern is I didn’t read anyting about the importance of moral character. Which is the heart of the matter. So important because young girls end up being the biggest loser when it comes to the sex game. So many carry those hidden hurts in the marriages and marriage bed that more often than not ends up sabotaging the relationship and the sex life they had previously sought..in the wrong places. Information unattached from values ends up being just additional information that may or may not be used.

    P.S. Just because your friends got pregnant cannot be traced back to their parents silence on the issue. If that were the true 94% of all girls would experience an unintended pregnancy. Keep up the good work. We need it.

  2. Cheryl Coull | Jul 6, 2010 | Reply

    I don’t disagree about teaching values when teaching about sex; your body is your own, you have the right to decide what happens to it, you have the right to say no, etc. However, the nitty-gritty of “morals” (as opposed to values) is more difficult, because it is a gray area. Not everyone’s morals are the same; one-size-fits-all sexual morality isn’t appropriate in a Girl Guide unit, where we have girls and leaders from different cultures, religions, political backgrounds, and sexual orientations. What one person may consider moral, another may find objectionable. This is why we stayed away from talking about pre-marital sex as a yes/no issue; it will, ultimately, be up to the girls. As I said, sex wasn’t the main focus of our talk anyway, though we did talk about preventing disease and unwanted pregnancy.

    As for the cases of my pregnant friends, I offered it as anecdotal evidence only. There are many factors that come into play when it comes to teen pregnancy. One has to admit though, it’s an interesting correlation. (See Bristol Palin, for example.)

    The more we talk about safe sex, preventing pregnancy, and ownership of our bodies, the safer our children will be. Yes, it is scary to talk about, and we worry about sexualizing them earlier. However, I for one would rather arm them with information they don’t quite need yet, than deal with the aftermath of an uninformed choice.

    Thanks for your comment! It’s always interesting to hear from readers.

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