Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

Let's talk about sex

It isn't easy, Kids, Sex education

Neighboring New Berlin's high school drama of deceit and sexual predation via Facebook has the whole nation abuzz. A male student posed as a girl (or girls) in that online community, convincing boys he knew to send naked pictures of themselves. Then, using threats to expose those pictures, he blackmailed the boys into sex acts. The whole thing seems to have gone on for some time, until one boy stepped forward to protect his younger brother. I'm sure you've heard all about it.

It seems that many are seeing Facebook, the online networking community, as the root of the problem. After all, one of the requirements for doing something is opportunity, and Facebook certainly opens some doors there.

 But I keep wondering how can it be that 30 some young men in this comfortable middle class community--kids with, no doubt, loving families--failed to talk to their parents. My friend Ellen, on the other hand, wonders "why didn't someone just beat the crap out of him? Boys don't talk about stuff like that." She has a point.

Back to the talk. It's hard to talk about sex even in formal situations where the whole purpose of the discussion is sex education. It's hard for even adults to talk to each other about sex, for that matter, without being nervous, silly, or seductive. But we need to do it anyway.

I had the privilege of teaching no-holds-barred sex and relationship education to middle school aged kids in a church community. The curriculum was called Our Whole Lives, recognizing that sexuality is part of us for all our life. When sex has a spiritual component of love and responsibility, it can be part of what makes us whole.

If "love and responsibility" is too fuzzy, try "non-coerced consent by both partners with the intention to create pleasure and joy for both, in a situation where both are able to deal with the consequences."  I suppose for some, "fulfill your marital duty" would be the ticket, but that seems a dry way to say "make it sacred."

Talking about sex isn't just about "the basic facts." It's about how to handle emotional issues, about how to manage powerful feelings, about how to respect yourself and others. It's about the R word, Relationships. And because we are social creatures, teens most intensely, we need to know about what other people are doing even if we don't approve or plan on doing it ourselves anytime soon. Then we can talk about why we don't approve. It's a conversation that starts early and goes on for a lifetime.

The sex ed classes I taught were mixed gender. That caused some discomfort, but eventually it created a rich and wonderful safe circle guided by adults in which boys and girls learned that there is nothing they can't talk about, respectfully (and sometimes with humor), with each other.

If these boys had taken such a class, they might have learned useful things. A few comments I've heard over the years, paraphrased.

  • Naked pictures?! Eeeoouuuww. Girls don't get turned on by those the way boys get turned on by pictures of girls. Most girls, anyway.
  • If you don't want to do it, you don't have to do it. You SHOULDN'T do it.
  • Your parents will survive knowing things you think they don't know or don't want to know about you.
  • Someone tries to make you have sex with them? Talk to your parents. Or tell everyone in school what's going on: gossip can be good. Or beat the crap out of him, only don't tell anyone I said that.

Now's a great opportunity to start talking about sex if you haven't yet--or if you haven't enough. In my opinion, unless your kids are saying "Mom, not that again!", it's not enough.

How they present themselves on their own Facebook page is only one talking point. Show your kids the article: here's one version. Ask them what they think about it. What was going on with the kids, what were they thinking? What about the girl whose identity was being used to snag the boys? What happened to her reputation as a result? Can they imagine something like that happening at their school? What would they do?

Then listen much, talk little.You can make your own beliefs clear (but they already know them, don't they?), but this isn't the time for lectures.

Repeat soon and often.

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