A New Year, A New Sex Talk

10 01 2011

Well, not new, really. The terminology and the trends might change, but the fundamentals remain the same. (They remain the same, right? There’s not been any big changes I should know about?)

Last summer, my coworker and I gave our teen girls’ group a sex talk. It was a real learning experience for all those involved. The girls learned about how to access services at their local Planned Parenthood, how to avoid STDs, and about the effectiveness of various forms of birth control. I learned that, if 14 year olds don’t know how to do something, they will make it up. And no matter how many times I say “ejaculate,” I always want to giggle.

I’m actually rather comfortable with sex talks. Anatomically correct terminology, and shockingly specific hypothetical questions really don’t faze me. (“So like, if a girl’s having sex, and she hits her head on the ceiling because they’re in the top bunk, and she gets pregnant, would there be anything wrong with the baby? No, it never happened, I was just wondering.”)

What makes me uncomfortable are some of the girls’ attitudes. They are at best old-fashioned, at worst Puritanical, and almost always sexist.

We started with a pretty common activity. We listed the reasons that people have sex, and then broke down which of these reasons the girls thought were good, and which they thought were bad.

Amongst those reasons listed were wanting to have a baby, wanting to feel grown up, trying to keep a boyfriend, feeling pressured, wanting to fit in, being in a relationship, and being in love.

None of those were considered good. And none of them involved the woman enjoying herself. That concept, in fact, was considered radical, and a little inappropriate for discussion.

Hey, ladies, was that journey over on the Mayflower rough? I was waiting for them to tell me that they just, “lie back, and think of the Bronx England.

They fear sex. They think of it as nothing but bad and dirty, and something boys are trying to get out of them so they can brag to their friends. Even when they were asked about why a woman might want to have sex with her husband, or partner she was in love with, their answers were disturbing. “To prove to him she loves him.” “Because you’re supposed to then.” “Christians say it’s OK to have sex if you’re married.”

Well, if Christians say it’s ok…

Some people might think it’s good for these teens to be afraid of sex. If they’re afraid of it, then they won’t do it! Here’s the thing–I’m afraid of clowns. So I don’t go to the circus. Problem solved. But attending the circus is not a normal part of human development and relationships, at least where I’m from, so I’m in the clear.

Not so with sex. It comes up. (Stop snickering.) And scaring the shit out of these kids by telling them that their “junk will fall off*” doesn’t help. Because eventually, they want to find out for themselves. They might get curious, they might feel they’re ready, they might be pressured or coerced. But it happens. And then they find out that, while it might not be the be all end all of human existence, they made it through, junk intact.

I find that with these girls. Their views on sex, and their actions that they admit to in group, just don’t match up. They think it’s bad, but they’re all doing it.

And apparently they, and their teenage boy counterparts, are quite inept. The boys are enjoying themselves, but the girls? I think they do their nails throughout.

This is how they think things are supposed to be. They don’t expect to get anything out of these types of relationships, except maybe a baby or a broken heart.

Suddenly, I feel like I’m writing a country song.

The idea of telling kids that sex is something that should be enjoyable seems a little taboo. We’re supposed to be preaching about the responsibility and the risk.

But maybe if these girls start thinking that there’s actually something in it for them, they’ll be a little more selective, and develop some new standards.

If not, at least some nutty social worker gave them a transit map of the Bronx, with all Planned Parenthoods circled.

*Direct quote

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6 responses

10 01 2011
Esther

I did my internship in Salt Lake City at an alternative high school that had a young parent program. Yes, I know. . . It’s Utah, the Mormon Capitol of the world. You would think teenage girls would have to wear metal chastity belts here, but we’re just like any other state.

I spoke with the girls about sex a few times. Contrary to what you’ve posted most of the girls here actually did enjoy sex. Guess their grimey boyfriends must be better lovers here in Utah or something!

Although their boyfriends were just as slimey as can be most of these girls truly believed they couldn’t do any better. One girl was 15 and pregnant with a 41 year old man’s baby. One was missing for a few months and we found out her boyfriend wasn’t allowing her to leave the house, and had actually handcuffed her to her bed whenever he left the house. Amazingly, they lived with her mother who was allowing him to do this!

When I told them that I was a virgin at 28 and was about to get married to another 28-year-old virgin they gave me a standing ovation! It was a fun, sad, and wonderful experience.

10 01 2011
socialjerk

Wait…so I didn’t have to wear that chastity belt when I was visiting Utah?! Somebody played a prank on me… 😉

I think you hit on the really sad point–feeling that they don’t deserve any better. That they don’t deserve to be happy, or have a good relationship. And the feeling that they have no agency in their lives. That handcuffed to the bed story is pretty insane. I don’t think I’ve heard of one quite so bad! But it sounds like you had a great experience. It’s so cool when you’re able to share something like that, that is so outside of their worldview, and they can learn that different things are possible. I remember one girl’s mind being blown when I told her that my boyfriend had never yelled or cursed at me.

I helped run a group when I was an intern, which was my first real experience in having these kinds of talks. One of the girls had been horrifically sexually abused as a child, and as a result had zero boundaries, and just no ability to say no. At our last group, she told us that the day before she had been at a boy’s house, about to have sex with him, when suddenly she realized she didn’t want to. So she said “no,” and got up and left. We all clapped for her too, because she told us that it was the first time she had ever said no to a man. It was remarkable, but also incredibly sad. I wonder about her all the time.

10 01 2011
Fos

How sad 😦 Saying that, sex was something scary and confusing until I was about 24! I’ve been sexually active since I was 15.

Nobody teaches girls about what they can get out of sex, or what they should expect from their boyfriends in return for being choked in yet another disappointing BJ on a cheesy dick.

When I was women’s officer at university I was dealing with 18 and I used to get a friend who organised Ann Summers parties to come in and speak to the girls. We used to hire out one of the rooms above the student nightclub and put signs up that we were holding the party. People know what Ann summers means (knickers and sex toys!)

If I helped just ONE woman get hers then I’ll consider my job done. We used to do a vibrator race, but I guess that wouldn’t be appropriate. 😉

10 01 2011
socialjerk

I think I’m going to mention your vibrator race idea to my supervisor, just to see her reaction. She almost caught the vapors when I told her that one of the girls asked what “pulling out” meant. Love it…

The blow job thing is particularly infuriating. When girls are asked why they do it, they’re just sort of like, “you’re supposed to.” Why, for the privilege of some tool telling all his friends what he got out of you?

4 02 2011
Nectarine

I think that some young girls do want/get pleasure out of sex, but are not encouraged to talk about it. It seems that this is harder for them to admit to at risk of being labelled a “slut” compared with the sexist attitudes you described which are more culturally sactioned.
Sounds like an interesting group! I’d love to run something like this in my job eventually.

4 02 2011
socialjerk

That’s a good point. One of my favorite moments in Glee (I think I’ve mentioned that I’m a bit of a fan…) is when Rachel announces during a Celibacy Club meeting that, “Girls want sex just as much as guys do!” The look on the boys’ faces is priceless, and, I think, accurate.

We tried talking about the term “slut” and how meaningless it is. I don’t know how much got through, but I’m hoping that being exposed to a new viewpoint at least gave them something to think about.

Teen groups are my favorite thing in the world, if it isn’t apparent, haha. I would definitely recommend it if you get the opportunity!

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