by Lysa Salsbury
My partner, Tom, is planning to teach OWL (Our Whole Lives) in the fall. For those unfamiliar with the program, it’s the UUA’s fabulous and very comprehensive lifespan sex ed curriculum. At the church I attend, it’s taught every other year to 7th-9th graders. Our 13 year-old daughter will be in the class this year, but she’s told Tom she’s okay with it, as long as “you don’t start talking about anything personal (ack! as if!) or pick on me to answer all the questions.” Fair enough. It would certainly be tempting. This is a child, after all, who has grown up listening to her mother blithely recite passages from The Vagina Monologues every spring for the last 7 years.
Having co-created and hosted, for the past two years, a wildly popular sexual health education program for college-aged students at the University of Idaho, I’m actually more than a little jealous that Tom gets to teach OWL, and I don’t. Unfortunately, the mandatory training in Portland for first-time instructors falls on the same weekend as the U of I’s start-up activities and orientation. Wishing fervently that I could clone myself unfortunately does not make it so, alas.
Anyway, now that I’m fast approaching one of those monumental parental milestones—the truly terrifying realization that my once baby girl is now a fledgling sexual being—I thought I’d pass on a few resources that I found helpful in my quest to inform myself, to be able to sound knowledgeable and wise about all things sexy. These have been extremely useful, from both a parent and an educator point of view. Special thanks to my friend and Got Sex? co-pilot, Dr. Erin Chapman, for helping me find some of these in the first place…
- Scarleteen—a must-visit site for every teen, young adult, and sexuality educator, this fantastic site provides inclusive, comprehensive sexuality education, addressing everything from consent to sexual politics. Also, check out S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College by Scarleteen founder Heather Corinna, hailed as the Our Bodies, Ourselves for the next generation.
- Sex, Etc.—Sex ed by teens, for teens. The home page features a prominently-displayed Safe Zone triangle, and posts are inclusive, informative, and non-judgmental.
- Go Ask Alice!—A health question and answer Internet resource produced by Alice! Health Promotion at Columbia University. It has a huge and highly informative section on sexual and reproductive health.
- SIECUS—the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States “promotes comprehensive education about sexuality, and advocates the right of individuals to make responsible sexual choices.” Packed with fact sheets, educator resources, and a great sexuality education Community Action Kit.
- The Guttmacher Institute—conducting global research, policy analysis, and public education on sexual and reproductive health.
- Planned Parenthood—their Info for Teens section is less broad than some of the other resources listed here, but still very useful.
- Advocates for Youth—champions efforts to help young people make informed and responsible decisions about their reproductive and sexual health. Has a helpful Parents’ Sex Ed Center, which includes sometimes little-discussed topics such as sexuality education for teens with special needs.
- The What’s Happening to My Body? Book For Girls/Boys—I bought these two books at the National Women’s Studies Association’s annual conference a couple of years ago. The one for girls, at least (I haven’t given Luke his yet) is a comprehensive, well-laid-out, and accessible book about puberty. Highlights? Undoubtedly, listening to Maya solemnly instruct her younger brother, over dinner, on what she’d learned in the male puberty section of the book about “nocturnal emissions”.
Of course, this is far from a comprehensive list, but just a few of my trusted “go-tos.” I’d be interested in hearing from other Student Affairs professionals who are actively engaged in this work. Are there other essential resources that should be on this list?