Safe and Consensual: Talking to Teens About Sex and Relationships
For the past few years I have been lucky enough to spend my time talking to people about sex. Yes, sex! I spend 8 hours a day either talking or writing about sex and relationships. Now, for some people, just hearing the word “sex” or “vagina” makes them run for cover, but for me, it’s a chance to conduct honest and meaningful discussions about some of the most intimate and pressing moments in our lives.
Working as a reproductive and sexual health educator for Planned Parenthood allows me to interact with a wide range of individuals—from parents who struggle to talk to their teens about sex, to middle school teens who grapple with the ins and outs of puberty. Although I work with a variety of people, I spend most of my time with high school teens and find that it is increasingly harder for them to advocate for themselves.
Quite often, teen girls struggle to effectively communicate with their romantic partners, while teen boys have not yet acquired the proper skills to listen and accept the personal boundaries outlined by their romantic counterparts. This breakdown in communication ultimately disrupts the power dynamics in any teen relationship, either by leaving them without a voice to speak up for themselves, and/or by allowing them to completely dismiss and override one another’s personal boundaries. Likewise, both teen girls and teen boys receive mixed and often misguided messages about communication and relationships, which has a negative impact on the way they interact with each other.
Due to their inability to communicate effectively, many teens struggle to create and maintain positive relationships and ultimately decrease their ability to engage in safer sex practices.
July 31, 2014