On Teens and Sex and Sexuality

Video

I really enjoy a good romance novel. Hand me a Harlequin romance novel and I’ll never admit to reading it, but I will, and I will have enjoyed it. That said, when it comes to teens, the topics of sex and sexuality can be difficult to discuss. Often it seems that as a society, we waver between sheltering our teens from things we think they aren’t old enough for and making sure that they know enough to be prepared for what they might do or encounter out in the world.

Click the image for more info. She didn't explain it to me in quite this way.

Click the image for more info. She didn’t explain it to me in quite this way.

I had my first encounter with literary sex while reading the Alanna books by Tamora Pierce when I was twelve. Pierce is known for her liberal but responsable treatment of sex and sexuality in her books, as I’ve discussed before (btw, I’m a bit of a fan). It was a good introduction. I mean, my mom was great about informing me about things I would need to know; when I was five and asked where babies come from, for example, she explained how babies were made using Punnett Charts.

An interesting video we watched for a class reading suggests that a current trend in YA lit is “abstinence porn,” where the idea of the ‘pure virgin’ is a draw for readers. It was an interesting thought.

Click through for the full image.

Click through for the full image.

The thing is, it’s important to engage with teens and allow them to learn and understand what is going on with them, their bodies, and their peers. Teen sex happens, and there’s evidence to prove it.

That’s why I like the vlogbrothers. Hank and John Green are the utterly engaging hosts of an ongoing series of videos talking about everything from what’s happening in Ukraine to deep conversations about sexuality.

Recently, some allegations regarding sexual assault that began to surface about one of the vlogBrothers’ business partners (a fellow YouTube star) meant that a lot of their fans (called nerdfighters) were asking questions about consent (see Alex Day’s response to the allegations, fans’ requests for a response from the Green brothers, and Hank’s response to what was going on. More posts on the topic can be found on Hank’s Tumblr page on and around March 13 2014). The fans requested a video on the topic of consent, and Hank posted an informative video the next day. Many of the vlogbrothers’ fans are teens, and they actively try (and succeed) to engage with teens on topics that are both frivolous and serious. Their quick and informative response to the problem that their community was confronted with showed a willingness to engage in those tricky discussions.

They also are involved with a YouTube project called Sexplanations (Hank is the executive producer of the video found below). This is a channel run by a doctor trained to be able to answer the questions that people want or need to ask. That the channel is related at all to the Green brothers implies to me that they are meant to be accessible to teens (and all of the videos I’ve watched support that idea).

 

So, in short, sex and the more complex issues of sexuality cause questions in everyone, not just teens. But by modelling the attitudes and behaviours we want to see in books and movies meant for and accessible to teens, and by engaging in those difficult conversations that can be hard to have but nonetheless need to happen, teens will gain the information and tools they need to answer those questions for themselves.

 

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