Saturday, April 20, 2013

Sex Education 101

Every parent dreads the moment when their son or daughter will learn about sex for the first time, a moment that can be just as uncomfortable for a child.  My best friend in fourth grade vehemently swore that her parents had never had sex.  I assured her that they must have had sex for her to exist, but she simply refused to believe it was true.  Her disbelief reminds me of the beloved Sam Weir from Freaks and Geeks who experiences an abrupt introduction to sex.

Set in the early eighties, Freaks and Geeks explores the sex and relationship developments of two Michigan siblings, 12th grader Lindsay and 9th grader Sam.  While Lindsay tries to shake her “mathlete” status by hanging out with a group of weed-smoking teens who have little direction in life, her younger brother Sam spends his free time with his two best friends (Neal and Bill), reading science fiction comics and trying to appear cool to girls. 

In the fifth episode, Sam sits in his first sex education class with a look of confusion as a classmate tells a joke about a quadruple amputee man ringing a doorbell.  Embarrassed by their lack of understanding, Sam and his friends try to learn as much as possible about sex.  They talk to a wise and trusted classmate and flip through anatomy textbooks, but ultimately find themselves watching a sex movie on a reel-to-reel projector in Neal’s basement.  The film, given to them by one of Lindsay’s new friends, Daniel, leaves Sam horror-struck and disgusted.  At dinner, he is unable to eat.  He spends the next couple of days walking in a haze, blinded by unimagined sights.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to predict when a child will first learn about sex or how they will react to the news.  Even if a parent plans to talk with their child, their son or daughter will likely hear pieces of the story sooner than expected.  Can parents prevent the denial or astonishment that my fourth grade friend and Sam Weir experienced?  Probably not, but parents can help ease the learning curve by listening and talking with their children well before puberty.  Layering conversations about sensitive topics during childhood will build parents as a resource for accurate sex and relationship information when the time arrives.  While peer groups do influence children as they get older, parents must remain in the game. 

by Kemi Ogunji, Executive and Development Assistant, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

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