Friday, June 27, 2008

Sex Talk

In this morning’s Boston Globe, Ellen Goodman expresses outrage felt by many who work in sexual health. “Why does it take a myth to get attention for teen pregnancy?” she asks.

For the record, from what I’ve heard and read – and from what I know about teen pregnancy – we’re making far too much out of the word pact. I believe some of the Gloucester teens got pregnant intentionally.

Goodman quotes Patricia Quinn, head of the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy, as saying that people are freaking out because the Gloucester epidemic touches a deep fear. “We are terrified that we don’t actually decide for our kids when they have sex. We don’t decide when they become parents.”

As I wrote yesterday, I finally understood why the media was all over this story. People really can’t wrap their head around the well established fact: sometimes girls get pregnant on purpose. So when this possibility was suggested by Gloucester principal Joe Sullivan, a respected principal, the media went nuts.

Quinn urges parents to aggressively articulate their values about sexuality, relationships, pleasure, and responsibility.

Parents have told me for years the reasons they hesitate to do this. Some say they don’t know how or when to bring up the subject of sex. Others admit that their parents didn’t talk with them about sex, so they have no role models for these conversations. Invariably, I run into parents who avoid what might be an uncomfortable conversation by convincing themselves that if they talk about sex, their kids will think they’re condoning it. That’s denial in its purest form.

The U.S. has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the western world. Our kids aren’t having more sex – they’re using less birth control.

This is a tough talk for many parents to have, but if anything comes from the mess here in Gloucester, it’s that parents have been served up an opportunity to talk with their girls and boys about sexuality, choice, and what they want out of life.

So let’s start talking.

Resources
Raising Healthy Kids: Families Talk About Sexual Health
Words Can Work: When Talking With Kids About Sexual Health

Related Issues and Answers columns
Parents as educators
Postponing sex
Self-respect
Talking with kids

Related columns for young people

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