Talk About Sex

Planned Parenthood once told me a woman is lucky if she has only a few unplanned pregnancies during her fertile years. I started menstruating when I was ten, and didn’t stop until I was 55. That gave me 540 opportunities to get pregnant. I wasn’t sexually active all those years, so that cuts it down a lot. Let’s say by two-thirds. Only about 200 chances for pregnancy. Boy, am I lucky to have only one little duck of my own.

Different kinds of birth control have different levels of effectiveness, with even the best being 99%. That looks pretty good, until you realize that even if I do everything right, and plan to have NO children, the odds are I’ll have two babies. I will tell you that, even at 60, these numbers are daunting.

On top of the math, nature has programmed teens to really, really want to have sex. It’s our nature to procreate while we are young. In fact, passing on our genes is our only biological purpose. Just 100 years ago, we could only expect to live 40 years. Lots of babies, and mothers, died in childbirth. No wonder teenagers have sex and babies.

Another issue for me was growing up in a family that didn’t talk about periods, much less s-e-x. I didn’t date in high school, or college really, though I did learn about sex, experientially. Though I prefer hands-on learning, it’s not the best way to learn this particular subject. I do remember a lecture in my sophomore religion class, so we must have had a unit on sex. Sister Mary Alphonse said if you masturbate, you are almost certainly a Lesbian. Though I didn’t know what a Lesbian was, I was sure I didn’t want to be one. I was terrified!

Then, college, the peace movement and “women’s liberation” changed my life. I started working with kids, and suddenly they were asking me questions and confiding in me about sex. So, I learned. I hosted women’s workshops in my tiny house in Cedar Rapids. I taught a very open catechism class for eighth graders. I listened as kids came out to me, and I told them they were ok, and that I still loved them. Even so, I didn’t really understand.

When I came to Des Moines, I began partnering with the adolescent pregnancy prevention coalition. And I began to talk about sex. I began to talk about my own experiences, and eventually I confronted the more painful ones. I talked to kids about their sexuality, and more often I listened. In the process, I became an approachable adult.

Now I’m back in the business of teen sexuality education and pregnancy prevention. I’m working with EyesOpenIowa to develop a peer review process for sex educators. Over the next few months, I’ll share resources for approachable adults. I hope you’ll let me know what you think, and pass the helpful ones on to others. Join me in peeling back our sexy onions.

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