Last Tuesday, I showed the documentary “Let’s Talk About Sex” to a group of around 75 parents and students at my school in Durham, North Carolina. The film explores the disconnect between the widespread sexualization of teenagers in American culture and the hesitancy of Americans to address adolescent sexual health in educational and healthcare settings. After I showed the movie, we had a discussion about some of the issues raised in the movie.
Parents and students split off into groups, and I led a discussion of the students. We came to the conclusion that a lot of us were open to talking about sex, sexual health, etc, with our parents if parents were not so hesitant about talk about it themselves. And, parents bring a lot of their own baggage, biases, expectations, and judgments to those conversations, which can sometimes make open communication difficult. However, the fact that so many parents came to see the movie and participate in the discussion shows that people are willing and open to address the important issue of young people’s sexual health.
A parent at my school summarized her experiences at the forum:
“I watched the movie, "Let’s Talk about Sex," and now I want my daughter to see it. Though I walked in with the desire to be a more a part of my daughter’s sexual education, I left with more courage and great ideas as how I could actually make that happen. The synopsis of the gathering: Knowledge based on facts isn’t an invitation to our children to enter into their first sexual experiences; it’s the foundation for our children to make empowered choices when we, their parents, aren’t around.”
I am so happy that was able to convey this message to parents and students at school. I hope to continue to facilitate shifts in attitude from sex and sexual health being something taboo, to something that MUST be discussed from a place of respect and responsibility. While activists can work on the policy level to improve sex education, until we change the culture surrounding sexuality to be more open, and rights based, we will never fulfill our obligation as a society to provide young people with the tools and environment to make healthy decisions.
Dan Jubelirer is a 2010 Netroots Youth Fellow at Amplify, a youth-driven community dedicated to promoting sexual health and reproductive justice.