Jan. 10, 2013 - Issue #899: The games we play
What you really, really want
What your teenage self would have loved to know
During my holiday break, I went to a Platinum Blonde concert and saw the Les Misérables movie (twice). My 16-year-old self was in heaven. It seems like the universe is talking directly to her lately because this week, I found something else she would have loved—the book she really needed to read full of advice about sex and relationships that she desperately needed to hear. Oh, how I wish What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl's Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety had been around for her.
When it comes to sex information for teen girls, it seems like there are only two types. One tells them how to avoid temptation and protect themselves from horny boys, and the other tells them how to be the kind of girl that will make boys want them. What You Really Really Want, by Jaclyn Friedman, does something completely different and radically new. Instead of telling girls what to do with their bodies, it encourages girls to figure out for themselves what they want to do with their bodies.
Friedman states that there is no such thing as sexual activity that is wrong as long as all people involved are capable of consenting and do consent, and no one gets hurt. She concedes that understanding what consent is and figuring out if anyone is getting hurt is not as easy as it seems, and that's where the personal responsibility comes in. She provides a guide with detailed questions and activities to help girls understand those issues and determine what they feel would be right for them and what might be harmful. This is a far cry from the abstinence-based sex education in most schools that uses fear of pregnancy, disease and judgment to try to frighten kids away from sex.
Friedman actually attacks that fear head-on and says some amazing things such as:
• Pregnancy is nothing to be scared of because there are lots of good birth control methods and lots of ways to be sexual that can't get you pregnant.
• No matter what anyone says, you are not a slut—people who call a girl a slut usually don't even know anything about that girl's sex life, they are saying that just to hurt them. Don't fall for it.
• Don't think that because you don't look like the girls in Seventeen magazine that no one will ever love you—the truth is, people are attracted to all kinds of people and if you love and accept yourself and have confidence, there will be people who will find that—and the way you look—super-sexy.
• Just because you've been told a certain thing about yourself or about sex by your friends, family or church doesn't mean it's true—you have the right to question these assumptions and decide what you believe.
• It's OK to not have sex if you don't want to and it's OK to have sex if you want to. You don't need a reason or anyone's approval.
It's rare to read sex information for teens that doesn't talk down to them, but rather, respects their knowledge, values and feelings. I'm convinced that this book should be required reading in Grade 8, and not just for girls, but for all students and their teachers, too. What difference would it have made to my life if I had learned these things at 13 and 16 instead of 30?
Friedman will be speaking about What You Really Really Want and her vision of sexual violence prevention through reclaiming sexuality on January 16 at the Telus Centre at the University of Alberta.V
Brenda Kerber is a sexual health educator who has worked with local not-for-profits since 1995. She is the owner of the Edmonton-based, sex-positive adult toy boutique the Traveling Tickle Trunk.
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