Recent posts

Messages To Teenage Girls (And Boys)

Those of us who spend a lot of time on the internet will have seen this “letter to teenage girls” that has been circulating. The author, a mother, is basically telling teenage girls to stop taking sexy-looking self photos and putting them online, because it’s not good for the innocent eyes of her chaste sons. Or something like that. There’ve been a number of responses, pointing out that this upholds the idea that women are responsible for managing men’s sexuality (which they are most certainly not!), or the notion that girls need to be modest (an idea that varies by time period and culture) while boys do not. Personally, I was struck by how much the letter demonizes sexual self-expression, arousal, and, well, sexual stuff in general. Continue Reading →

Teens And STI Results Via Text Message

A new technology allows teens (and others, presumably) to share their STI results using text messages in the Los Angeles Unified School District, which has long been concerned about sexuality activity among its students. Detractors worry that encouraging this kind of openness is the same thing as condoning teens having sex, while proponents argue for a sort of harm-reduction view, saying that if teens are already having sex, we might as well recruit technologies they love to use to help them share and access information. I’d love to see a study of how this technology is being used, and whether it’s affecting STI transmission – or even just communication – in any significant way. Continue Reading →

What Would Good Sex Ed Look Like?

This piece in the New York Times documents a one-of-a-kind sex education class for teenagers at a private Friends’ high school in Philadelphia. In contrast to classes that teach students that abstinence is the only viable option (having pre-marital sex apparently just might kill them) or that teach only a handful of basics about contraception, STIs, and pregnancy, the “Sexuality and Society” class creates a comfortable environment in which students are encouraged to ask anything and everything about sex. It’s a long but worthwhile read, so I’ll summarize a few main points. The article contains some historical tidbits about sex education in the U.S. (apparently in the 1970s and 1980s sex education wasn’t a politically divisive issue, and was almost universally taught in schools), in addition to ruminations about the current sad state of affairs. According to one estimate in the article, 70 percent of teenagers have had sex by their 19th birthday, which can have negative consequences if they are as woefully unprepared as a lackluster sex education curriculum (perhaps only spanning a few class lectures) might leave them. Continue Reading →

Pizza, Teenage Boys, And Masculinity

A year-long District of Columbia program called the “Men of Strength” club—MOST Club—entices high school boys into discussions about masculinity and gender roles by offering pizza at lunch-time meetings. It’s a bit devious, perhaps, but there are worse ways to go about things. Facilitator Kedrick Griffin spends an hour every week at each of various school around the district, hoping “to challenge traditional masculinity and push his young charges to respect their female peers.” Recognizing that sexist behaviors are rewarded by other teenage males, Griffin tries to persuade the guys in his group to think about how harassment, for example, feels from the girl’s perspective, and to learn to deconstruct hegemonic masculinity. Some topics go over better than others; many students, for instance, are still reluctant to accept gay men as masculine enough and as deserving of rights. Continue Reading →

Don’t believe everything you hear about teenagers, sex, oral sex or prostitution

Unfortunately, this ABC/Good Morning America article opted for sensationalism rather than responsible reporting, in my opinion. In it, they discuss a filmmaker who taped teenagers talking about sex including having oral sex at young ages and stripping or having sex for money or consumer goods (what they term “casual prostitution”). However, ask most researchers who study adolescent sexuality and they’ll tell you a very different story: Continue Reading →