Let’s Talk about Sex…

On Friday, we’ll discuss the documentary film Let’s Talk about Sex (dir. James Houston, 2009):

 

Check out the official viewing guide here. The film ends with this intertext image, which lists actions that filmmakers believe we should work toward, in order to improve sexual health in the U.S.:

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Obviously, these messages are directed towards parents–which is something worth talking about. But more generally, do you agree? What do you think should be done to improve sexual health in the U.S.? Did the film address these issues? What could government and/or communities do to address these issues? And do you feel about the sex education you received, either in school, from friends, or from parents?

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49 thoughts on “Let’s Talk about Sex…

  1. I was raised in a small farm town where there were more churches than any other establishment. Sex education for us was essentially nonexistent. If asked, our teachers and counselors would say “It’s not our place to fill your mind with such disgusting things, your parent’s would be ashamed” or “Only people who love each other have sex, you’re too young to even worry about those things.” From religious leaders, we heard “Stay pure or you’re going to hell for your sins” and “Girls who throw away their virginity are impure, dirty, less desirable. No one will ever want you.” And so it was. Discussion of sex was avoided at all cost but that didn’t mean it never happened. On the contrary, I was in class with a girl in the 8th grade who dropped out because she had a baby. My freshman year of high school our student body president got pregnant and was kicked out of all of the leadership positions. I learned quickly that sex, pregnancy, disease, is not confined by any quality one might have. Social status, income, race, none of that mattered. It could happen to anyone. Thank God my mom was the “crazy lady” who believed if I was old enough to ask, I was old enough to know (within age appropriate reason). No topic was off limits and she never judged me for asking. My mom was 18 when I was born, because none of the adults in her life taught her how to have safe sex. She wanted me to have options, so the conversation was ongoing. I never had the dreaded “talk” because there were many small conversations thrown into everyday life. By the time I reached high school, I knew all I wanted to know because my mom was very open with me. However, I still felt very conflicted, shamed even, when I had “impure thoughts” which would eventually land me a nice hot spot in hell with all of the other sinners and failures. My mom did all she could do as a parent, but society strangled me into submission through lies, guilt, fear, and shame. I was terrified of my body and any remotely sexual contact. When you are taught that holding hands is a gateway to temptation and sex, high school can be pretty rough.

    Yes, parent’s are an immensely important part of this conversation. However, the responsibility does not stop there. Schools, churches, summer camps, adults generally, must be responsible for teaching today’s youth the truth about sex. This means abandoning the lies and treating sex like a normal part of life. Forcing purity vows on 7 year old girls (but not boys, interesting eh? I see a double standard) and teaching them that sex must be accompanied by love is a very dangerous path. I have seen this ideology lead a very good friend of my to stay in an abusive relationship because “nobody would want her” if she left her boyfriend. I don’t think it’s enough to treat sex like a taboo to be ignored. Nor do I think we should address it purely as a health issue.

    Sex is not bad. Sex is not good. Sex is sex. It is an amoral action between individuals. However, it is not just a health issue or a religious issue. It is an emotional issue which has health ramifications and should be treated as such. While sex and love are not the same thing, it is important to teach young girls AND boys (because boys who have sex have feelings too) that their feelings are ok to have. Training children to hide from their feelings and suppress their desires will only lead to emotionally maladjusted adults who are afraid of themselves. We must remove the double standard between boys and girls and teach children that they should respect their sexual partners, even if they do not love them. Teach them to use protection, and make that protection readily available. If condoms had been accessible when I was in high school, many of the young mothers I know probably would not have children today. Finally, we must open up the conversation. We must be willing to be uncomfortable and out of our element and most importantly honest with our children if we want to keep them safe.

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    • “My mom did all she could do as a parent, but society strangled me into submission through lies, guilt, fear, and shame.” Powerful statement. This makes me think of the documentary we’ll watch in a few weeks called _Sexy Baby_. I can’t wait to hear what you think about the youngest subject they follow (13-15 years old during the film)!

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  2. Being raised in rural Alabama, sex was something that society just didn’t talk about. It was always swept under the rug. When it was talked about (i.e. schools, health class), it was used in a way that was intended to scare or shock kids into deciding to be abstinent. I believe that sex education in schools should be more like it is in Europe. Sometimes when you drive and force things, it does more harm than good. It’s alarming that America is statistically ranked so high in areas such as teen pregnancy, HIV, etc. compared to other countries. Personally, it seems more effective to have a more passive approach towards sex, although it’s important to be informed. I feel like we should not try to scare kids, but still put the information out there in a more useful way. Regardless of what parents/educators say, kids today are still going to do whatever they want.

    In my opinion, sex isn’t a bad thing, but can definitely be abused. Going back to the ‘sex before marriage’ thing, I don’t necessarily believe that is the best policy. Sure, it’s based on religious principles, and being raised in the South, that was a common theme. However, I feel that sex should be shared with someone you love, regardless if you’re married or not. If sex is abused, it seems as though the consequences are much worse, and if you try to force teens to stay abstinent, they’ll usually rebel either immediately or in the future.

    My parents never really sat me down and had ‘the talk’. I really always knew what sex was and how I intended to use it. It really just comes down to a personal decision about whether or not sex is something you value and want to share with another person through an emotional bond or if it just becomes a bodily pleasure. I, similar to the kids from the film, have encountered similar experiences regarding having sex, and I agree with the parents’ viewpoints. It just seems more natural to, if the kids want to have sex, don’t change their mind, just allow a safe environment, and ensure the safety of the act.

    In short, America is definitely doing something wrong. Compared to the other countries in the world where sex/pregnancy issues are less of a problem, America is falling behind. I think we should change our approach to become more like Europe in that we educate our children, but not force anything upon them. We can put the facts out there, but not change their minds, because that in the long run does more damage.

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    • Ah, “the talk,” the dreaded talk! Why do we dread it so much, I wonder. And I’d love to hear more on what you mean when you advocate “a more passive approach towards sex.” Did you see an approach in the film that aligns with your thoughts?

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  3. I grew up in Palos Verdes, California, which is a suburb off of Los Angeles. Though how sex education was dealt with obviously differs from family to family, I feel like it was a lot more laid back in my town compared to most just because of how liberal the area is. In biology my freshman year I remember being shocked at how open sex was talked about. From rumors to questions, it was everywhere. We had a homecoming dance the first week and that day in biology they had all the freshmen put condoms on bananas to prepare for what might occur that very night. I believe students should be educated on the consequences of sex and its negative aspects. Because of this openness at my school, watching this video was somewhat shocking to see the lack of sex education in America. Though sex is used in TV shows, commercials, fast food restaurants and essentially everywhere. In other countries, sex is talked about in a more direct manner and I think that is the best way to ensure that kids will be safe and use contraceptives in order to avoid diseases such as HIV or AIDS. Lots of scaring tactics have been implemented but those are essentially useless because if children are going to have sex, they are bound to do it with the consequences: scare tactics or not. Instead, in my personal opinion, I concur that the truth should be stated to kids and not hidden. Additionally, having parents be a tad more open can lead to children talking to them about sexual related problems and even lead to parents having easier discussions with kids involving sex and its consequences.

    I liked how at my school they started sex education early. In fifth grade we were sat down and made to watch a video detailing everything from puberty to sexual feelings and other changing hormones and body parts. The next day, we were taken into a room full of girls or boys depending on your gender, and were told to ask any questions to the corresponding teachers. I remember it being so awkward and there was a lot of nervous laughing, but thinking about it in the long run, it worked well. My parents had never told me this stuff before so watching it in the movie informed me in a direct and educational way that made what was happening to me easier to understand. Conversely, at some of the other elementary schools they did not have this movie or open discussion. In middle school some of those kids had to learn about sex during health class where it was a lot less personal and more awkward with everyone mixed together.

    All in all, I think that parents need to focus more on creating a more open environment for children to feel easiness in talking and asking questions about sex because the consequences are aggravating and lets face it sex isn’t going to stop because of them. Though the systems used in countries such as Europe are more effective, America is so different than them. We have adopted different cultural values and ideas of what we idealize that we need to come up with a way to foster a more open sex education system that is personalized to our American values.

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    • We grew up in cities pretty close to one another! 🙂 I love the image you paint teens in a room asking teachers questions about sex. Do remember the questions asked? And when you say “in the long run, it worked well,” I wonder if you’d advocate to keep that approach, augmented it, or do an overhaul? Excited to hear more tomorrow.

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  4. Westport CT, where I grew up, is a fairly liberal town. Most of my friends’ parents are diehard democrats and shudder at the name “Reagan.” . However, despite being raised in a fairly liberal town, I still found sex to be a rather taboo topic. I think this is because it is not a matter of liberality–just as it said in the documentary, being open about sex “is not liberal, its practical.” It does not matter how liberal or conservative of an upbringing one may have, sex in the United States is still widely considered to be an uncomfortable topic among most persons and this is becoming increasingly problematic.
    Destinynlagarce, I like how you said that, “I never had the dreaded ‘talk’ because there were many small conversations thrown into everyday life.” I believe that should be the more common approach in households today. Parents should begin discussing sex periodically at an earlier age in an attempt to combat the scary stigma that is so attached to the topic. To this day, I remember the date that my 5th grade class got separated into boys and girls and had “the talk.” It was May 9th, 2007 and the speaker who came in was named Mrs. Sands. Why is this such a vivid memory for me? Because as kids, sex is an untouchable and incomprehensive subject and the day that untouchability begins to disintegrate is a monumental day for a young child.
    The presence of sex in America versus other countries shares many similarities with the debate of the drinking age in America versus other countries. After a study in 2013, blogger Hannah Loewenthell, writes that, “In the U.S., the nation with one of the highest binge drinking rates worldwide, people tend to abuse alcohol. In Europe, by contrast, more people enjoy drinking alcohol without binge drinking because leisurely drinking is an important part of social interaction.” Furthermore, “The rate of female binge drinking in the U.S. exceeds that of any other developed country, according to Daily Mail.” When an extremely prevalent part of society such as sex or alcohol is stigmatized, it induces abuse. For example, many US teens today binge drink excessively and make poor sexual decisions since it is so rebellious to do so. The documentary cited that European nations, such as Holland, have fewer problems with STDs and teen pregnancy, likely because of the open conversation that exists around sex. Loewenthell says the same thing about drinking in her blog post. It appears that when children are told not to do something either by law, their parent’s, their religion, etc. they are more inclined to not only do the forbidden action, but to do so improperly or unsafely.
    As both commenters mentioned above, sex ed needs to be taught at younger ages and be more comprehensive. That’s not to say that kindergarteners should have sex ed. However, puberty can begin as early as 10 years old and it is crucial for pubescent kids to be taught accurately about their bodies. Kids should think of sex as something the must be informed about in order to grow into responsible adults and not something they should be ashamed to be curious about.

    http://mic.com/articles/57211/can-you-guess-where-in-the-world-people-are-binge-drinking-the-most

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    • So fascinating how you juxtapose sex and alcohol here, especially since many folks link the two in their understanding of lots of issues surrounding sex. I hope we get to talk more about this tomorrow–we will in November, for sure (…cuz I put it on the syllabus 🙂 Thank you for the link!

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  5. Like many others, sex was never talked about in my childhood. It was joked about often, but never discussed. I was raised in Church of Christ and an overall extremely religious community. From an external standpoint, I was told that sex and sexual thoughts were bad. Sex was to be had only in the confines of a heterosexual marriage and anything else would automatically put me on the list for Hell. I was reprimanded when I tried to talk about sex and my parents lied to me when I would ask about their personal stories. I was raised to be ashamed of myself for being unable to control my thoughts. Basically, my upbringing didn’t exactly set me up for success, or anyone else.
    In the seventh grade, I found out a fellow cheerleader was pregnant. Obviously, our abstinence based sex education hadn’t worked for her or her boyfriend. Over the years I found out more and more people had been failed by the education provided to them by our schools, families, peers, and places of worship.
    For the sake of future youth, we need to make a change. Parents have to open the lines of communication to have honest dialogue with children. Sex education needs to become an actual educational experience. Children need to know that they can ask someone for information and that there are resources available to them.
    We have buried our heads in the sand for too long. It is time for us to talk about sexuality and the responsibilities that come with it.

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    • A powerful response! Thank you. For you, how do we get to where you think we should be? (I know, HUGE question!) For instance, you imagine a space where children feel free to ask questions. Who, in this scenario, are they asking?

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    • Why is it that sex outside of a marriage between a man and a woman is an automatic sentence for Hell? I mean, my church was very similar to yours in that regard. But where do they find that information? I mean, if God is all forgiving and can use everyone to further the message from murderers to prostitutes, then why on Earth would someone be condemned to hell for sexual exploration? That seems extra harsh for a loving God if you ask me.

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  6. After watching this documentary, I was shocked by the vast differences in approaches to talking about sex shown between the United States and countries in Europe. It is interesting to see that in spite of having similar aged children, participating in similar activities, parents can have such completely different takes on what is social acceptable or morally appropriate.
    Growing up, my parents had their firm beliefs about premarital sex as well as the purpose of sex, and never failed to express their thoughts when thought it was appropriate. In spite of their influence, I developed my own opinions of what sex meant and when I thought I was ready to have it. Although my parents and I have very different opinions, I do not think that either of us are necessarily wrong. They grew up in a more conservative generation where modesty was held in higher esteem. I believe that our generation is one where freedom of expression is highly valued, and being sexual is one form of expression. Because of this, I think the approach taken by parents in Europe seems to have a more positive impact on their teens and on the health and safety of those who are sexually active. I was fortunate enough to go to a private school that spoke very openly about sex and presented all options of birth control and having safe sex. I think that this method of teaching helped to educate me without trying to pursue me to stay away from sex or encouraging me to take sexual interactions too lightly.
    One measure that should be taken to help illuminate the negative stigma surrounding sex in the United States is to begin sex education earlier on and allow it to be an open and comfortable conversation. The parents interviewed in the documentary seemed very confident that they knew about their children’s personal and intimate interactions. However, the parents of the children in the United States had been lied to, and their children felt such remorse and guilt at hiding the truth. In Europe the parents were well informed and had positive communication with their children about what was going on. By teaching children at a younger age what sex is and how to stay safe, parents can create a line of communication that can help prevent the spread of STD or unwanted pregnancies.

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    • Thank you for this! I wonder how many of us went through a sex ed program like the one you experienced? How did students receive it? And also, what age, specifically, do you believe kids should be taught about sex? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

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  7. To deny someone the knowledge that could help them make important decisions about their lives and bodies is oppression. Denying people sexual education is a human rights issue. Keeping people ignorant of sex and sexual health is the equivalent of controlling a person’s, or a people’s, means of reproduction. It is a means of controlling bodies and yielding power over them.

    That is what we have done in the U.S.–deprived youth of accurate and comprehensive sex education. As the film said, “We’ve made our children vulnerable.” The adverse consequences are numerous…STIs, teen pregnancy, unwanted pregnancy, slut shaming, victim blaming, poor body image, eating disorders, rape culture, identity issues, suicide….and the list goes on. 

    Young people need reproductive justice.

    I help found Vandy Sex Ed two years ago when I was a sophomore, largely because I didn’t have a proper sex education myself and the feminist in me wanted everyone to have easy access to information and resources. One of the things VSE does is facilitate Let’s Talk About Sex, Vandy. We do this program at dorms, greek houses, and at other events. It’s given me a lot of insight into the lives of students and their thoughts surrounding sex. I realize that sex ed is nothing without changing consciousness. You can educate people on anatomy, on safe sex practices, etc., but to to create sex positivity, it is critical that we change how we approach and talk about sex. We must frame sex in a positive way, using language that normalizes and humanizes, rather than shames and stigmatizes.

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    • What a powerful comment. Thank you. Please do share more about your experiences with VSE and what you’d deduced about sex on campus. I feel like the senators who drafted the Campus Sexual Assault bill should have coffee with you 🙂

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  8. Growing up, my parents wanted to make sure that my siblings and I lived a fulfilling life with as little hardship as possible. With that being said, they gave us goals to reach in order from small to big. Those goals were getting a good education, live in a stable home, then starting a family (but must be with a husband, before any children). My family is a religious family, so each goal was surrounded with morals that explained the whys and why nots, which I believe made the goals a lot easier to achieve. But, my parents did not give us an actual sex talk until after my school began having the sex ed classes and we began going to them with questions. I think that it worked out well that way because we had in our minds that we needed to be able to provide for ourselves first before we could provide for anyone else (Sex Ed just taught us how to make the actual family with a lot of scare tactics trying to keep us away from sexual activity). My parents also said, like one of the families said in the movie, that sex should be with someone you love, someone you will love forever and that should be the only person you have sex with. Although, all their rules were not followed, I do believe that me and my siblings have made better life decisions and have been safer than most would with our relationships.

    I think that improving sexual health does begin with the parents and that first the parents should learn how to talk to the kids about it before they begin hearing it from their peers. I think that once children hit the age where they have to make a name for themselves and keep their popularity, they will follow what they hear and not really know what they may be doing. I do believe the film answers these issues, from both viewpoints of the child and the kid. I feel that the government/teachers should not use as many scare tactics and just talk about abstinence. I think that they should start putting goals and try to lead students down the right paths instead of just saying do not do this and do not do that. We should also look at the ideas of other countries and how they go about their sex education. I also feel that in the movie the families from other countries acknowledged that there kids could be having sex, so they made sure they told their kids if they were going to be having sex use a condom to be safer (which they said they gave away for free at school). I feel it is better to acknowledge it than to act oblivious to the situation.

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    • Thank you for your comment! You made such a fascinating aside. You said, “Sex Ed just taught us how to make the actual family with a lot of scare tactics trying to keep us away from sexual activity.” I find this so fascinating, and I wonder what the educational program presented to you as “the actual family”? So, did “sex” become synonymous with “family” (husband, wife, child)? I’d love to hear more.

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  9. We said on the first day that a lot of the content we cover in this class would probably trigger some strong emotions. I believed it, but I didn’t expect it happening so soon! I grew up in a house where the portrayal of sex was very much in line with the giant monster cartoon the film used, and definitely have faced a lot of difficulty in life that came from not having access to resources for learning about sex without that giant moral stigma attached to it. It’s great to see people who care about these issues out there in the world trying to make a difference.
    I think this film did something really admirable that a lot of critics of America’s relationship to its sexuality fail to do. It made space for religion to be a part of the solution. I think the religious right definitely is to blame for a good deal of our culture’s sexual backwardness, but I think so often people get so carried away with criticizing them that they give the impression that there’s no room at all for faith communities on the road toward progress. I think that severely decreases the number of people the message about sexual health can reach because of how deeply tied the American people are to their faith traditions. Even though religion might to blame in some sense for the problem, I think it’s still hugely important to avoid vilifying anybody and give people space to change their worldview.
    Another important point the film touched on was the fact that a lot of problems in the parent / child dialogue about sex come from the parents themselves never having any decent sexual education. That ties back to this earlier point of needing to make room for people to realize their mistakes and change their minds. Parents might be the ones pushing the ineffective abstinence-only narrative, but with the right education they can become a part of the solution too.

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    • Thank you for being so open in your response. I’m noticing that religion (or at least religious upbringing) is a common topic in many posts, and you make a strong argument for not closing down the conversation on how religion can affect sexual health. I’d love to hear more on this, and about what you said in your post: “I think [treating faith communities as anti-progressive–is this a fair summary?] severely decreases the number of people the message about sexual health can reach because of how deeply tied the American people are to their faith traditions.”

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  10. This video made me realize just how great an impact various approaches and decisions can have on consequences. The approach that my society took in regards to sexual education certainly had an impact on my initial thoughts and actions. Throughout all my years of middle and high school I was never given a concrete explanation of what sex was. I felt very confused when a teacher told us to abstain from sex to avoid STDs and pregnancy. I immediately associated sex with something immoral, yet I was still very curious to know what it was. One day my mom caught me looking at a nude female on the internet. I expected her to scream at me hysterically, but instead she calmly walked over to her closet and gave me a book about puberty and sex. I defiantly told her that I didn’t need the book, but I read it anyway after she left. The book taught me everything about sex, and my mom’s calm reaction to the situation made me realize how natural sexual acts really are. In high school I learned much more about sex from friends, movies, and the internet, but never from an adult. It seemed that the teachers’ and counselors’ only concern was to tell us to refrain from sex at all costs, which naturally urged students to rebel and do it out of pride. Most people were having sex for all the wrong reasons: to brag to friends, lose their virginity, or just to rebel against adult authority. I could see that people hated being told what to do.

    I think that the European approach to sex is far more beneficial for the youth. Many teens in the US are not educated about condoms, STDs, or pregnancies until it is too late. Sex is brought up in movies, books, advertisements, and mainstream music; yet it is considered taboo to talk about the dangers, benefits, and pleasures of sex with loved ones. I think that more American parents should learn to take the approach of Jim’s dad in “American Pie” when it comes to talking about sex with their child. Being open about the excitements and possible dangers of sex may be awkward, but it lets the teen know that the parents and adults are on their side and looking out for their wellbeing. This could change the attitude that American teens have towards safe sex, and suddenly make the idea of carrying a condom logical instead of perverted.

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  11. I grew up in Sandusky, Ohio a small city outside of Cleveland. When it came to sex in my city parents and teacher had no choice but to tell the truth about sex. Where I’m from you didn’t have to be in love to have sex. If a guy wanted to have sex with a girl or if a girl wanted to have sex with a guy no matter how old they were, that’s exactly what they were going to do. In most schools I know for a fact that teachers only talk about sex to make kids think that sex is something that should not happen until adult age, but in today’s society kids are starting to have sex at younger ages. So why not talk to kids about sex to scare them when in reality kids are going to have sex at young ages? This is a question that I still don’t understand. I strongly claim that it’s only right for parents and teacher to talk to kids about sex at younger ages because this is what our world is coming to, kids having sex, teens getting pregnant, and young kids losing their virginity before they reach puberty. In today’s society we have a lot of technology that we didn’t have in the earlier days. For example, kids can easily get on the internet and watch porn. I believe that Americans are not open enough about the whole idea of sex, as in other countries sex is something they take serious and has an opening matter. I’m not saying that it’s okay to have sex at young ages, but lets face it young kids think it’s cool to have sex nowadays.

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    • Great question: “So why not talk to kids about sex to scare them when in reality kids are going to have sex at young ages?” Do you think having “the dreaded talk” scares kids in a healthy or socially productive way? Is there a way to have the talk without it being scary, and if so, would it still be effective? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

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      • Honestly I have no idea if the dreaded talk scares kids in a healthy or socially productive way, because when my parents had this talk with me I came to them with questions and we had conversations as if we were best friends. I believe that the kid should not be scared to have this conversation with their parents, because having sex is something serious in life and parents should be thankful that their kids came to them with questions about sex before testing out the sex process with out background information. The best way to go about this so called scary situation is to be honest and open with kids, because sex is going to happen eventually. Learning about sex at a young age only helps kids understand what their going to go through. In my opinion this way is very effective as I said before sex is going to happen. So I do not think this should be scary at all just something to learn at a young age.

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  12. This video I think highlights the kind of trap I’ve seen young girls fall into, where the school system and parents fail to explain to them how to take care of and deal with their own bodies. I remember in seventh grade a non-profit christian organization coming to my school, and engaging all of us in a 7-week abstinence-only sex education. I’m sure from the faculty’s point of view, in my small conservative town with a rampant teen pregnancy problem, this was a viable, safe solution. However, the most distinct memory I have relating to this program, called “MARS,” was a few years later when a friend of mine was wearing the shirt they gave her, which said “true love waits” as she took a pregnancy test in a local Starbucks bathroom. I know for a fact a lot of parents, when they heard about the program, breathed a sigh of relief that they wouldn’t have to have “the sex talk” with their children. I think in this situation, simply experiencing a bit of discomfort while conversing with their kids could have gone a long way, especially in the case of my friend who thought she was pregnant at just 15 years old.

    I remember the program specifically stressing that anything but “~the sex~” was okay, including oral sex. I also remember the program leaders never specifically stating what this forbidden sex was, though we were expected to know what they were referring to, and sign a pledge to never engage in “it” until we were married. All in all the attitude that was portrayed was that of shame associated with sex, and shame especially associated with those who weren’t “strong enough to resist temptation.”

    Growing up, kids trust their parents, at least to some degree, to lead them in the right directions and to keep them informed of what’s important in their lives. I think this video addresses the fact that there is cultural lack in this area in the US. I think the way the Dutch approach sex and sexuality is admirable, and seems to have had better results when it comes to how the teenagers view sex and how comfortable they are with it. I also tend to agree with what the family from the Netherlands said about American culture, especially the teen’s opinion of American parents and how they tend to helicopter over their kids, who then go crazy when they are able to have any freedom at all. I think there is a certain pride held by Americans, that we are the best in all areas, yet obviously we could stand to learn a lot about sex ed and the ways in which we educate our children. Comprehensive sex education is the best it seems, as well as a positive attitude overall about sex and sexuality. All in all, I’m glad this video was able to highlight in a respectful way the ways in which America can and should do a better job in educating its youth.

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  13. After watching the video “Let’s Talk About Sex” and giving it some thought, I am thinking about what sex has come to be in American culture. With the media and what people think of as the “norm”, what used to be thought of as the norm is not what it is now. Thinking on how the norm has changed brings up a specific time with one of my friends. “Joe”, we will call him, and I were talking about past girlfriends and boyfriends and then he brought up sex. Joe does not have many religious views so he doesn’t understand the views some people have about waiting until marriage to have sex. He said, “I don’t understand at all why people wait until marriage to have sex. It’s like buying a car, you gotta test it out before you buy it. Same goes for sex. You need to test having sex before marriage because if you wait until the wedding night and the sex is no good, then you’re stuck with shitty sex your entire life.” This is the perfect example of how people’s views are changed about sex from the media today. The internet provides all sorts of knowledge that keeps lowering the age that teens start having sex year by year.
    Learning about the differences between Dutch culture and American culture, I feel like it would help our society a lot to have the trust and openness that Dutch families do. The fact that the parents and teens can talk openly about sex and that the teens feel comfortable asking their parents for condoms is a lot safer than the way American culture works with sex. Some people would argue it is awful for the Dutch parents to let their children have sex at such a young age, but my personal view on it is that the Dutch culture is a lot safer. Having an open and trustworthy friendship between parent and child like the Dutch families do keeps their kids out of trouble. In reality, the teens in America do the exact same things that Dutch teens do, the only difference is it is behind their parents’ backs. Looking back, the way that the world is now with the media and people’s view on sex, the Dutch culture is a much better way of handling teen sex than the way that American culture handles it.

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  14. So I am from a small town outside of Houston, Texas where everyone knows everyone’s business. So kind of like Erin my parents prepared my brother and I for this by creating goals for us to achieve to make sure we stay out of trouble. I guess you can say they found ways to “distract” us but also affect our lives in a positive way. For example, I started to seriously play basketball when going into the 7th grade which is when some of my friends started having sex. But even though it was used to distract me, I fell in love with the sport and it affected my life in a positive way because I am here now are Vandy doing something I love while getting an amazing education. When growing up my family was always religious and like in the video we also had that program called “True Love Waits”. Well my church did this program my summer going into 9th grade. I did not participate in the program but I went to get information because before and even after my parents really never gave me the “talk”. To this day my parents have never really brought the subject up. I am not sure if it was the reason that they thought it would put thoughts in my head and get involved in things they thought I shouldn’t be doing. A good way to describe what my parents did was they sheltered me and kind of told me what I should and shouldn’t do instead of letting me learn for myself.

    I believe that schools and parents really need to start teaching children about Safe Sex when in middle school because kids are starting to become sexually active younger and younger. I believe if you throw the stats at them that was in the video it may shock/scare them into waiting longer. I just feel that kids think they are invincible and that they won’t get pregnant or get a sexually transmitted disease. Like most other people I believe America needs to educate kids younger and younger because clearly what we have tried isn’t working and we are falling behind other big countries. I think other than America doing things parents need to as well. Parents need to have an open relationship with their kids so that the kids feel comfortable and safe asking question to their parents instead of either finding things on the internet or asking friends. I believe that as a child they are somewhat afraid to talk to their parents because they are afraid of what they might think or if they are going to be angry, upset, or even judge them instead of informing them to make the right decisions and loving them for them. I just truthfully believe that people need to learn from their own experiences and mistakes because it is the best way to learn and I never go to experience that aspect unless I lied to my parents. This I hated to do but I wanted to make my own choices and not be controlled by what they thought was best for me without even asking me. So I just know if I were a parent I would want to know my children are being safe or even the fact that they feel comfortable asking me questions. I say this because as someone who doesn’t talk to their parents about anything in that genre it is difficult. So hopefully we can find ways to fix this issue of Safe Sex and informing teens so they make good decisions before those alarming stats raise to even higher numbers.

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  15. Just like the person before, I was raised in Alabama. It was definitely a unique experience in the fact that the adults may not have talked about it, but to the kids it was a main topic. In middle school we were signed up to take a sex ed class ( that only taught abstinence of course) but scheduling errors pushed it back until it just never ending up happening. Most of the stuff I know now is through other kids talking about it. My mother is very open about the topic of sex, she was a mother at nineteen and she knew what it was like to be uneducated. But because she was uneducated, in turn that means I was uneducated. That’s what is wrong with what is going right now. Because eventually almost all of us will have children and if we are never given information, or even given the wrong information (HIV can travel through tears??) then we don’t know what to tell our kids.
    Americans like to believe that we are the most superior citizens in the world, and that is sort of true if what you’re trying to be superior in is teen pregnancy. I had a friend in 9th grade, my freshman year of high school, get pregnant and drop out of school. In my freshman year of college, that same friend now has two children. In middle school we used to joke about which friend of ours were going to get pregnant first, because to us it was bound to happen to someone. But I believe what the documentary said was true. If you tell kids not to do it, but then don’t talk about it then their first instinct is to do it anyway because they want to find out what is so bad about it. And then they are filled with shame and guilt, something kids shouldn’t feel so early on in their lives.
    Sex is normal, it’s natural; there’s no secret behind it so why are we trying to shush it whenever the topic is presented. There is sex all around us in the media, in television, movies, art… everywhere but in reality the communication about sex is dwindling. We can see it in the other nations around the world that openly talking about sex early on is beneficial and if it is treated like a normal part of conversation then there won’t be so many issues with it. What is most important is that we need to make this country feel comfortable with asking for information if they need it, and stop making everyone feel so guilty over something that is just a fact of life. Create places that kids see as safe spots: school, church, and home as places that are actually safe to talk about whatever whether it’s sex or relationships.

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  16. I grew up in a fairly liberal town however sex was not discussed AT ALL in my household as I was growing up. I guess my parents expected the school to do that job for them and there was nothing else that needed to be addressed further. At the end of the day the answer was always “no” however, or “just don’t do it”, like that ever stopped anyone (insert confused face). My sister even asked my mom at one point “can I have sex” with the answer of course being “hell no”, but it is absurd to think that she had to ask for permission to make choices and have freedom over her own body. The sex education that was offered in my school system was given in 7th grade through the “health class”, which means of course sex ed was only a portion of what we were learning. Oh, and I guess I can’t forget about the Robert Crown field trip that was taken in 5th grade to explain our reproductive systems but not everything it is used for, such as sex.
    Most of what I knew about sex then came from my peers and lunch table conversations junior year in high school, which is very dangerous to me. You have kids teaching kids information they were never really taught themselves and possibly passing on very false information. I think it is very important to have more comprehensive sex education in schools and ones that emphasize both abstinence AND safe sex and protection. Teenagers and young adults should be equipped with ALL the information they need to make informed decisions when it comes to their sexual activity. Many countries do not struggle with consequences such as teen pregnancy and STD’s because sex and conversations around sex are not as taboo. I think the United States has the tendency to frame simple and natural human tendencies as taboo and out of the ordinary. They shame us into thinking we are out of the “norm” or somehow different for wanting to have sex before marriage. To me, all this does is bring more attention to the subject, and to rebellious teenagers make it even more glorifying to obtain. This is seen in the case alcohol use. When alcohol was banned in the early 19th century it created a frenzy of people doing everything they can to either sell or consume alcohol, all because the government told them they could not and made alcohol consumption a taboo topic. This lead to even more dangerous practices occurring due to alcohol, that when was finally legalized again, seemed to dissipate some of these dangerous actions.
    In order to make good decisions, one must be informed and informed with ALL information. We are doing a disservice to children by not comprehensively teaching sex education.

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  17. While I do agree with the messages directed towards the parents at the end of the video, I think one that needs to be emphasized perhaps more so than the others is the final message about places of worship provides truthful information to kids. By extension, this can apply to anyone in a position of power or influence over an adolescent. For someone to hold an authoritative position over a young and easily influenced mind and abuse that power in the context of anything, not just sexual health, is unacceptable. One of the most horrifying aspects of the culture created around virginity and purity is that young girls are pressured to take their pledges often times before they reach puberty. Unable to hold meaningful, self-derived opinions on marriage, love, or sex, how can we expect these girls to commit themselves to their virginity before they really know what it means?

    Although the quest to improve sexual health seems daunting at first, one of the most important things parents and adolescents can do alike is initiate the conversation. Of course, the onus is initially on a parent to open up on the subject of sexual health and create an environment where the child can ask questions without fear of shame or embarrassment. I think the film did a good job at addressing this issue, and one of the next steps to be taken is to encourage/eventually mandate comprehensive sexual health education across the board. Keeping children in the dark about any other aspect of their health is hardly ever debated, and sexual health should be no different.

    Growing up in a suburb of Memphis, I knew plenty of kids who were given almost no guidance from the home when it came to sexual health. And while I would say we went to a relatively liberal high school, the sex education curriculum we were taught was comprehensive but still emphasized abstinence. In order to change way Americans address sex education and sexual health as a whole, we must first look at the home and alter the relationship parents have with their children concerning sex.

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  18. When I was in high school, every freshman had to take health class and a small part of it was sex education. It was an abstinence plus program meaning that the main focus was to abstain from sex until marriage, but the teachers also informed students about safe sex. There was no banana and condom demonstration, but they did what they could to convey the idea that it was in our best interest to wait until love or marriage to have sex. However, like in the film, the school made it seem like sex was some terrifying, disgusting thing that we should never want to do at least until we’re older and wiser. They lumped sex with drugs and alcohol in terms of toxic things that could enter our high school and ruin the rest of our lives. I believe my school was on the right track in terms of teaching safe sex, but something has to be done about accepting sex as a normal, healthy thing that is okay to do instead of something that should scare us.

    I also got quite a bit of sex education from my friends mostly in high school. They said so many things that were completely false that made me question and scratch my head as to where they had gotten their information. I think back now and they probably were talking to other friends or older sisters and brothers since they probably didn’t have open-minded parents to turn to for advice and information.

    Luckily, I had and still have a great relationship with my parents. Unlike most of my friends, I got “the talk” from my mom when I was in middle school and later on maybe when I was a junior in high school. She approached the topic as non-awkwardly as she could, but of course, it still ended up being awkward for me especially as a naive 13-year-old. I do think that sex is a topic that should be broached at home instead of leaving it in the hands of schools, church, or any other part of the community. Parents should be open about talking about sex since in order to have a family, someone had to have sex at some point. However, most parents, mine being the exception, don’t view sex as a normal thing that happens for most healthy people. They never want to talk about it and by avoiding the issue they think it will go away and they will never have to worry about it anymore. Because of this, more communities should take action and create programs for their kids to talk about safe sex and abstinence since parents are avoiding the responsibility. It should be as normal as anything to talk about, but unfortunately, American culture doesn’t allow people to address the issue without feeling awkward, embarrassed, or out of place.

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  19. I find this video very informative and interesting, but yet I do not find it relatable. Growing up my mother was very straight up about sex. She explained to me and my sibling what it was and all of the consequences that came with it. Of course as we got older the talks became more in detail, especially thing like sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, and pregnancy. A lot of these talks would come on Sundays when my mom would be off work and we would all watch Lifetime moves as a family. I still remember the movie She’s Too Young; in the movie this “less-popular” girl had sex with a popular jock in school and he had slept with multiple other girls, but for the main girl, he was her first. Unfortunately for her, he gave her syphilis! This talk that day was so intense and detailed, my mom outlined all of ways to contract these STDs, explains how they would affect us, and even showed us pictures! At this point I had to be maybe 12. Later as we got older she told me and my sister both, that teenage pregnancy was not an option, period! Same to my brother, it just was not going to happen. I think it was useful to say that only because she had already explained to us all about sex and how to protect ourselves if we were caught up in situations. Some of my sisters friends were extremely sexually active and my mom was worried that it would influence her, but she never made her de-friend them, she trusted that my sister had enough knowledge and that she could make he own smart decisions. As we got older that was just an expectation.
    As far as in school, we did have “Sex-Ed” classes. I personally thought they were jokes. All they did was give us all condoms, lots and lots and lots of condoms. They also showed us pictures of various STDs but it was still semi-censored. I do not feel they helped me personally because my mother had done such a wonderful job at informing me already and plus I honestly didn’t take it seriously. That was just in middle school though, as I went into high school, like the guy in the film Sex-Ed was tied in with drivers ed. Absence was the main topic with this class, and of course more condoms. We also talked a lot about teen pregnancy and what happens to those teens majority of the time. I actually had a classmate who was pregnant in this class.
    For me personally, I think talking about sex helps, or better yet I won’t hut. I think it’s up to the kid who is receiving the information to choose to do what they want with it. I also feel it has a lot to who with how you were brought up and what you wee brought up around; you can either choose to me a product of you surrounds or just blend in with them. At the end of the day it’s your choice no matter what; especially now a days, there are so many things online, social media, television, etc. so you can inform yourself if no one else will. I fell teens and young adults should take more responsibility and just make better decisions honestly.

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  20. (the correct one)

    I found this video really interesting from all standpoints. From religion to education, I think the video cover why it is important to get involve with educating teens about sex. I agree that school should start talking about sex early in a child life. Coming into middle should be one of the first time children should hear about it. What I don’t agree on is the schools are waiting into high school for them to really educate sexuality. By that time it might be to late because they have been expose to it leading up to there high school years. Another thing about the video that I agree on is the way we talk about sex can be the reason why they do it. Teens can get mix signals because of the way you talk about it. In the video they said sex can be put in the same category as other drugs like cocaine because sex can be additive in dangerous. I really think churches should provide more ways that they can educate not just teens but adults on having safe sex and also the consequence such STD’s that come with not protecting your self during sex. School should have more programs and offer more class to learn about sex. My high school class were full of teens who either got pregnant while they where in school or afterwards. I think the reason why because we never really had people talking about it. We didn’t have sex classes at my school. Maybe if we did less people would be with child. Now that I am in college I am really aware of the things that come with sex. What I learn from the video is sex is apart of our everyday life. We actually need sex and sex can be a good thing. My mom always told to just to do what’s right and use protection. I just think it would be good if school made condoms available in school that would be a start for helping reduce UN plan pregnancy and other diseases.

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  21. Honestly I get most of my thrilling sex info from my best friends at home. I grew up in a decently small town in Arkansas, and everybody was always out to be the first to do something. Whether it be drinking, smoking something, throwing a party when their parents were out of town, or having sex, people were interested in being the first badass on the scene. My four best friends were no exception. I think the only reason that I was the one being told about the firsts, rather than engaging in them, was because I’ve always been kind of a scaredy cat. I wasn’t necessarily scared of my mom finding anything out, or people at my church hearing or anything like that, all those folks are pretty chill. I think I was more scared that I would royally screw something up and cause a huge scene and get in some stupid kind of trouble or something, and so it was more fun for me to hear juicy details about the spontaneous carefree lifestyles of my best friends. And dang they were having some good times by the way it sounded. Hearing about their sex lives was cool, especially since I was too scared to actually find out for myself. So, who’s to say whether I’m getting the most accurate sex education, but it’s some real life shit that’s for sure, and it’s much for fun to talk about than in a rigid parental or classroom setting.

    As far as how sexual health issues should be addressed in the U.S., I do think that those boring, awkward conversations between parents or educators and teens are necessary. I don’t think it’s cool as a parent or teacher to use scare tactics or breathe down a kid’s neck about their sex lives, but I do think it’s something that could be addressed in a casual, but slyly serious manner. I think parents should talk to their children like they care for them and respect them. This looks different for everyone, but I think it should involve ensuring that the kid feels like they are respected enough to make their own decisions and be ready to face the consequences of them. I think the kid should also feel like they have received enough knowledge from a parent, on a real level, of what’s safe and what’s not, what behaviors will be beneficial in protecting their heart and their emotions, and what behaviors, if any, would cause their parents to no longer be in support of their actions. I think clear points should come across in conversations about sex, but these types of conversations should also be open dialogues in which both parties are respected and comfortable. I think the classroom is maybe a more appropriate place for a more detailed biological perspective of the consequences, as well as benefits, of sexual activity. A student should be able to ask a teacher specific questions about the body, reproduction, diseases, and other nitty gritty sexual inquiries. While it should be a more serious space, it should also be comfortable and dialogue-driven.

    I took a class about HIV/AIDS in the global community, and we learned a lot about different prevention campaigns across the globe. Some of them, such as Thailand’s condom campaigns, have been largely successful. Others, such as the inconsistent U.S. condom and prevention campaigns, have failed in many areas. I think that shortcomings in these prevention programs should be recognized and addressed, maybe even modeled after other nations that have achieved progress or success, based on statistical data. The U.S. could massively step up its game in the prevention arena, and I think it is important to look at global epidemiological data, compare it to domestic disease and infection rates, and begin to restructure our public health outlook on issues revolving around sexual health and sexual activity.

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  22. I was born and raised in southern California. I am not from a particularly religious or conservative home, and I feel that I have a very healthy relationship with my parents. We respect each other as people and have developed efficient communication skills over the years. However, I feel cheated. I couldn’t help but feel envious of the teens in Europe who were able to talk to openly and comfortably with their parents about sex. I mean, if I can’t be honest and up front with my parents about everything, how strong can our relationship really be? But parents are not completely at fault for this severe lack of communication because they too were most likely subjected to this society that “taboos” sex— that makes it a dirty secret.
    Watching this film and seeing the mass differences between European and American sex education first of all shocked me. I had no idea that there was this drastic variation in the way sex is perceived in these two cultures. Secondly, I am a little mad. I feel like I got the short end of the stick here. Why, being from America, was I taught that sex was a scary, even bad, thing? Like I said before, for me it wasn’t tied to religion and my family doesn’t have any extreme opinions on the subject. They didn’t need to. It was the embarrassment or awkwardness that ensued when sexual topics of discussion came up in conversation. Or hearing words like “slut” or “whore” tossed around in school when people would talk about someone’s sex life. Everything I heard or any feelings I got when discussing the matter, it was all negative. Unlike in the film, no one ever discussed sex like it was a natural thing. Sexuality IS human, and I feel as though we don’t give that part of ourselves, collectively, the respect it deserves. The video gives a very good description of how sex is viewed in America. It’s almost like it’s an “opponent,” something to be fought or suppressed, rather than an accepted part of who we are. Our schools and parents most often avoid the topic, we will never learn if people don’t step up to educate us. On the other hand, the media overwhelms us with sexually suggestive material. Growing up in this culture that is so hush hush about anything sex-related, I don’t exactly feel as prepared as I should be.
    Before watching this film, I didn’t consider the issue of sexual education. I think now, after comparing my education and experiences with other kids my age from different parts of the world, I want to see a change in the way my country addresses this topic. Enough with the secrets, and the scare tactics are getting old. As people, we deserve to have a better understanding and conception of sex, because it affects our bodies and is an unavoidable aspect of life. In order to do so, we have to make it an open conversation. This is a subject that we have made so ambiguous, and obviously ambiguity has not been the best strategy, based on the statistics.

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  23. Before watching this documentary, I was unaware of the vast differences in the ways that America handles the sex education of their youth and the ways that other countries educate their youth about sex. I was under the impression that “abstinence is the only safe sex” was a universal idea. The idea of sitting down with an adult or authority figure to have an honest discussion about real ways to protect oneself from sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies is foreign. Now that I know of other countries where sex is openly discussed with youth, I feel deprived. At this point in my life I’m aware of all of the ways to protect myself from the outcomes of unsafe sex practices but I certainly did not learn them from a concerned adult. I had to watch my sister get pregnant at sixteen to deduce that having sex without a condom would get you pregnant. Members of my class in high-school had to contract sexually transmitted infections for me to even know that STI’s were a thing.
    It is my honest belief that that America is setting its young people up for failure by choosing not to disclose valuable information about safe sex practices. The most baffling part about the choice to preach abstinence as opposed to educating youth is that the adults hiding the information were young at some point. They know very well what goes on with humans of a certain age. They know that young people have sex with each other and that abstinence is not a prevalent idea among American youth. They know because they were once sexually curious and uneducated youngsters doing what sexually curious and uneducated youngsters do: having sex despite encouragement to remain abstinent. America is not blind to the fact that abstinence only teachings are ineffective. It is not a secret that teens are having a lot of sex these days. The number of teen pregnancies alone is a testament to that fact. Why would a country continue to knowingly leave generation after generation of its young people unequipped to properly handle the sexual situations that they regularly find themselves in? My only guess is that they haven’t figured out how to keep tax payers happy and educate youth at the same time.

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  24. Please excuse my language.

    I went to an All-Boy, Catholic High School on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. When I tell people about my Alma Mater, I often receive some rather confusing looks. For instance, the guys immediately wonder if I ever knew what a vagina looks like. The girls try very hard to understand my definition of a Bromance, finding it hard to distinguish it from playing for the other team.
    The age of the individuals within this film really came as a surprise to me. I can with confidence say that all my classmates as well as the girls who attended nearby All-Girl schools, no one at least to my knowledge is even worrying about Sex to the degree that this film portrays. This is not to say that kids in single-sex schools are deprived of experiences with the opposite gender, believe me, far from it. ‘
    Sex for my friends and I is really something that we simply do not care that much about. As guys, I think especially having the walls of our school to shelter and foster our Boy Code, we really had the chance to prioritize what are truly important to us. Realistically from what I can recall, if one of my buddies can get laid, I am sure the rest of the group will congratulate him. If he fails, I am just as equally sure that a barrage of jokes will follow. But within the grand scheme of things, Sex, being the guy who gets the most girls simply is not enough to gain the most respect with his group of friends. Why you ask? Well, because I went to a high school where every guy, regardless of what they might look like, e.i jocks, computer nerd, etc, are all nerds. To even apply for admission, you needed 90+ in every subject from 6th to 8th grade. Hence, the one number goal was getting into Ivy League. We expected the rest of our lives to fall into line following our admission into great colleges. As Tony Montana from Scarface said, “In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women.”
    Our teachers more or less understood this unspoken mindset among the student body. Also I just realized that I did not had a Health Class until my Junior Year or so. I think the most hilarious/best advice I was ever given was actually from a resident Jesuit Priest who suggest I go about prom night with, “leave a few inches for the Holy Spirit”. Yes, Jesuits are the Jedi Knights of the Church.
    I personally believe that Sex, if you really want to approach it in the best way possible, you can do it through habits. One instance and I am not advocating it, is to think of Sex/Dating in general in a Opportunity Cost way. I could go to this party and pursue this girl, but the hours, the money for the date, is there something else that I can be doing besides it? Truth be told, I find nailing that high profile internship interview to be more satisfying than a simply hook up. I find the first to be of greater scarcity and more difficult to obtain.

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  25. Being the youngest of many siblings, I always had an inquisitive side. I used to question everything I heard from my family members. I used to reiterate the actions and language of my older siblings. This particular behavior definitely caused conflict in some parts of my early life. I remember when I was in first grade, and I heard my sixteen year old brother speaking about sex. He went into complete depth, and without his understanding, I sat back chuckling and absorbing all the information. It all seemed to make sense to me; the birds and the bees came as second nature. I went to my first grade classroom and openly told every student about sex. Of course I had no indication about the small details, but I was just fascinated by the word itself. “Sex is how babies are made,” “Sex is what people do,” “sex….” This outburst ended poorly when the teacher explained my actions to my mom. Instead of acting cavalier and giving me the talk, it became an extremely big deal. In the end, it results in my mother telling me that my definition of sex is invalid. I later found out she lied and it was all a trick just to keep my pure brain shielded.

    So often do parents continuously try to keep their children’s brain pure. In this respect, they prevent kids from gaining knowledge about the sex and protection. While parents think that this is the best approach, they fail to realize that it’s the most detrimental. With rising tension against both teen pregnancy and homosexuality, teens find it immensely difficult to connect with their parent’s conservative views. In the documentary, Let’s Talk About Sex, the narrator reveals that 10,000 American teens catch STDs in a single day. In a way, the juxtaposition between ignorance and self-discovery has a major impact on these rising statistics. American adults fail to fully educate their children about the importance of condoms and birth control. In lieu of that “awkward” discussion, parents preach more traditional practices like abstinence. These abstinence practices are not highly valued today, which is evident through the explicit sex appeal in movies, commercials and advertisements. This, thus, is a counterintuitive approach and should be modified to strengthen the loop of understanding between adults and teens.

    One way to ensure teens understand safe sex is to incorporate it into the early American school system. This would allow students to not only become acquainted with the perimeters of sexual affairs, but also become conditioned to talking about sex in an open atmosphere. This would essentially eliminate the uncomfortable feeling that teens get when talking about sexual encounters. Furthermore, the more adults discuss this matter with teens, the more that boundaries will become miniscule. In the documentary, opponents argue, “Schools should teach students how to be children of God not monsters.” In this sense, sufficient data does not support that discussion leads to high yields of students engaging in sexual activity. Other countries, like Holland, are a testament to the positive impact sex education has on youth. America must revolutionize the way sex is viewed and spoken about in order to see uplifting change.

    As far as my own sex education, I never really had formal education. Lessons came from my friends and siblings. In reality, I could still be ignorant to many things.

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  26. I actually don’t remember the first time I learned what sex was, but I do know that I was extremely young. I also know that I first became aware of sex from watching tv. Of course my mom wasn’t aware at that time. However, I wrote an extremely graphic “love letter” to one of the boys in my class. I think it’s necessary to add that it was for my friend. As I was handing the letter to the boy, my teacher walked over and confiscated it. Of course, she informed my mother who punished me. Afterwards, she had HBO removed.

    Though at the time I regretted writing this love letter, as I now think about it, I’m happy I did because doing so allowed my mother to see that refusing to expose me to certain topics wasn’t really effective because somewhere and somehow, I would find out. This led to the creation of a very open relationship with my mother. Much like the parents in this documentary, she doesn’t think that having sex at an early age is a smart decision. On the other hand, unlike these parents and most parents, she does realize that preaching and promoting abstinence isn’t always the best choice. Instead, she chose to warn us about the disadvantages of having sex at such an early age but she also taught us (my siblings and I) how to prevent pregnancies and protect ourselves from STD’s.

    As I watched Kelsey, I was reminded of friends who have been/are currently in that situation. Like Kelsey, most teenagers really hate to disappoint their parents and think highly of their parents’ opinion…even when they don’t agree with them. I really feel for teenagers who have parents who have such strong opinions and expect their children to feel the same way because it promotes ignorance. This could be the reason for such high teen pregnancy and STD rates. If parents were more understanding, their children could come to them and seek advice, but some teens are so afraid to disappoint their parents that they’d rather ask their friends who are probably just as clueless as they are. This also prevents a self-identity from being formed because this experience promotes the notion that we as people must seek confirmation and validation from others to exist. More over, I think that parents should allow their children to formulate their own definition of “sex.” Instead of saying that you should only have sex with your husband/wife, they should allow the teen to determine who they would have sex with and,why they would have sex with that person.

    I am from Mississippi. Needless to say, my health class focused solely on abstinence as if abstinence is the only option. Preventative measures weren’t discussed which is quite ridiculous because with Mississippi having one of the largest teen pregnancy rates (if not the largest), you’d think that the State would find it useful to promote the use of birth control and condoms. However, because of religious views, teachers are forced to feed us “abstinence.” I even remember signing an abstinence contract. Again, this promotes ignorance. Teaching abstinence is quite absurd because the talk about sex is centered around the belief that we should “protect” ourselves. When practicing abstinence, there isn’t much you need to be protected from. If we’re going to discuss how to protect ourselves, we must first acknowledge the fact that yes, there are some very young children having sex. Pretending that an issue doesn’t exist doesn’t make it disappear, and I think that this is what many educators and parents fail to realize.

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  27. The documentary film, Let’s Talk About Sex, directed by James Houston encourages parents to talk to their children about sex. This is mainly because nobody talks about it! In America, children grow up learning little about how to have safe and protected sex. This is one of the reasons percentages for teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections skyrocket above the percentages in European countries. European culture seems significantly different than American culture when it comes to sex.
    In Europe, families and friends talk about relationships, sex, and condoms openly. America is almost the opposite. Parents and children tend to maintain an awkward relationship when it comes to talking about intimacy. This, more often than not, can lead to teen pregnancy, the spread of sexually transmitted infections, and overall, uniformed teens. The documentary provides a solid explanation as to why this is. There is a false notion that children do not think about sex until it is brought up to them. Children begin hearing and thinking about sex at a young age. If adults postpone reaching out and talking to their children about safe sex and condoms, it may end up being too late. Children who are educated and open with their family about sex have a better and much safer sexual experience. At one point in the documentary, American citizens explain that if a guy carries a condom in his wallet he is a “pervert” and if a girl carries one she is “skeezy”. Yet the European citizens state that everyone carries condoms and it’s normal. It makes sense to carry a condom in order to have safe sex, yet in American it is, for some reason, looked down upon.
    Growing up, my parents never talked to me about sex. We are not a religious family; therefore abstinence never came up either. Also to be honest, I think abstinence for most teenagers is very unrealistic. If parents push abstinence upon their children it will just force the children to go behind their parent’s back. I had a few sex education classes in middle school and high school that were uncomfortable, but somewhat helpful. I never had any friends or heard of anybody my age getting pregnant, so maybe those sex education classes did get something right. I do think there is a negative association with sex in America. As a child, it seemed like some forbidden secret that was awkward, weird, and painful to talk about. But a conversation about sex should be the opposite. I think the U.S. needs to take some steps towards improving sexual health. People should carry condoms with them at all times, schools should teach children about sex at a younger age, and we need to rid sex of the disapproving connotation it has.

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  28. I’m pretty sure the first time I learned about sex was when I was younger, maybe around 5 or so, from television. From then on, my education surrounding sex was either underground, misinformed, passive, or nonexistent. When I first asked my mother what sex was, I was around 10, she looked shocked and changed the subject. The very next day, I came home from school to find an “age appropriate” book regarding the subject on my bed. It talked about anatomy, the possibility of pregnancy, and some unnamed, horrible diseases / infections that you could contract if you engage in the act. There was nothing about what actually happens during, what feelings surround it, when (not) to do it, etc. I was confused, but had to take it for what it was because it was fairly clear that my mother did not want to go there with me (and I certainly was not going to ask my dad).

    I grew up in Memphis, TN. In middle school, we learned about puberty and the changes that bodies go through, but never about sex. Sex was never brought up or entertained by the teachers, even when questions arose. In high school, we learned about the “dangers” of sex, not to engage in the act, but if you were to do this awful thing to use protection in the form of a condom. We learned nothing about the other many forms of contraceptives, the different types of sexual relationships, or other sexualities. In addition, it was fairly clear that most of us had already begun having sex without any real, honest, accurately informative conversation with anyone about the matter. We were basically kids teaching kids about something we never formally learned.

    Watching this really made me think about how completely terrible most of our sex education in this country really is. This idea that if we keep accurate information from others, it will in some way help them in the long run is completely counterintuitive. When speaking to kids and young adults about sex, people make it out to be some secret act that you only do under certain circumstances, but if you don’t go about it the right way, your life will be ruined forever because of it. But does anyone actually talk about how to do it the “right” way? No. It’s expected that “when you’re older” you’ll have somehow figured it all out and won’t make “poor decisions.” If you compound this with the media’s portrayal of sex, it’s particularly confusing and damaging. On the one hand, sex is this fun, amazing, satisfying thing that everyone is doing; on the other, it’s this dangerous, forbidden act in which seemingly everyone is telling you not to engage. And then adults are shocked when teens and young adults have such high rates of pregnancy, births, and STIs. The temptation from the media, the temptation of engaging in a forbidden act, and misinformation / no information at all is what gets us these alarming figures. It is baffling that not everyone is catching on to how these different representations of sex relate to one another and affect how young people are approaching sex.

    It was definitely surprising and refreshing to see how families in the Netherlands were treating the conversation about sex. The openness, respect, and trust that they have with their children and students is something that we need to employ in the US. Many people in the US are letting the fear of awkwardness come before the health of their children – and I agree with whoever in the film said that this is a health issue, because it truly is. One needs ALL of the information in order to make an informed decision, which is why comprehensive sex education needs to be employed everywhere. Not talking about it doesn’t mean that it’s going to solve itself or that it will go away, and scare tactics don’t work.

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  29. There were male and female condoms in the bathroom at my high school. Rarely did you hear about anyone using them for their practical purposes—primarily they were the source of snickers and dares in the hallway. In my experience, the people around me talked about sex, but never did they discuss human sexuality. In the seventh grade, I was a master of identifying ‘parts’: fallopian tubes, epididymis, bladder. You name it, I could find it on a diagram. What was lacking in my sexual education, however, were the emotional components of sex and relationships. Although I understand that every person’s sexual experiences will happen at different times and in different ways, it’s hard to imagine that my classmates who couldn’t take a condom seriously would be able to be intimate with anyone in a way that was responsible or mature. As a young woman, I have had the privilege of seeing a healthy, adult relationship develop. My mom and her boyfriend have been together for three years now, and I can understand and identify some of the reasons why their partnership is much stronger than was my mom and dad’s marriage. Even though the conversations that my mom and I have had about her current relationship aren’t exactly about sex, it is easy to find a connection between the two. I truly believe that adding a real-life component to sexual education in schools is the key to creating open conversation between parents and their children.
    One of the most striking examples of this open communication that I’ve encountered took place while I was babysitting three boys who live in my neighborhood. Before bed, we would always pick out a book to read. At one point I was shuffling through the bookshelf and landed on a book entitled “Where Did I Come From?” which explained the non-stork version of how babies are made. Initially I was skeptical of any parents showing the book to their kids, but now I realize that those three boys will grow up knowing exactly what the biological piece of sex is—and it will keep them from learning through locker room rumors or secrets in the hallway at school. It also takes away the dreaded conversation called “the talk.” Similar to the way that the word abstinence can create shame around the word sex, “the talk” generates stigma that sex is not necessarily natural or appropriate for young children. Sex is a part of the human experience. If parents keep the conversation available to their children, I don’t think sex will seem so taboo to young adults.
    The trusted adults in my life have always been my parents. I have never really been a part of a religion or a follower of any particular god, so I can’t truly understand the role of a church leader in a young person’s life. From my limited point of view, I can’t see why it is wrong to discuss safe sex or sex in general in a house of religion. At the same time, however, I also find that when a religion is involved in the sexuality of a human being that it can have very negative and shameful consequences for someone who has “broken a vow” or “sinned”. If a religious leader is going to talk about sex to his or her students, it seems advisable to deliver the facts in a non-biased way (which is also a risk). In my opinion, any method in which the message of accepting sexuality and removing the stigma around it is a positive one.

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  30. I appreciated how openly this video examines the way that adolescent sexuality is presented in American culture today. Sexual images and references appear routinely in advertisements, entertainment, and in pop culture that is directed at teens, and yet in many situations it is considered taboo or even crass to talk openly about the realities of sex. I remember the first time I was formally introduced to the facts about sex in my seventh grade science class. It was part of our curriculum however the various videos and power points that explained anatomy and biological processes that meant very little to a bunch of middle schoolers were not very helpful in answering my questions about the social and personal implications of sex. I still wondered about what normal feelings were or what was or was not morally correct. My mom was very open with me which helped a lot and I think that if more families were able to talk openly and frankly about the subject of sex it would help many young people to be safer and more aware. In high school I took a health class as a freshman that, as other people have mentioned above, lumped information about sexually transmitted diseases together with information about drugs and alcohol. The class stressed the consequences that teen pregnancy and STDs can have on our futures. The class was cut from my high school curriculum the year after I completed the course, which also brings up the issue of sex education being phased out of education systems entirely.
    The part of the video that I found most interesting was the interview with both American and Danish teens about their feelings regarding carrying condoms with them at all times. The stark differences in the teen’s reactions provided a very clear indicator of the differences in the degree of openness surrounding sex in both cultures. It was so normal and obvious for the Danish teens to carry condoms on their person and yet when American teens were asked about their feelings they immediately attached negative judgment and even stigmas and slurs such as “slut” to girls or guys who carry condoms with them. If I am being completely honest with myself I have to say that if I was asked the same question prior to watching this video I may have had a negative reaction as well. I probably would have been inclined to think that a guy that always had a condom with him had the main objective of just waiting for any opportunity to have sex. This is obviously not true of the Danish teens who on the contrary are simply being prepared and practical which in turn makes them safer. So why such a difference? Why is it that some American teens judge others for carrying protection when we as a nation have the highest rate of teen pregnancies of any developed country? Maybe it goes back to the brief ‘check it off the list of standards’ type of early sex education that I experienced. But this issue is larger than just sex education in schools. Cultural and societal change is difficult, sensitive, and slow, however it seams like a shift towards more open and less stigmatized discussions about sex is needed to increase the wellbeing and safety of teens.

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  31. It was most interesting to see how different people, even of the same race and gender, view sex. The different ways people think is the most influential way of teaching their kids about sex was really surprising to me. Instead of pushing their kids away from sex and telling them not to “do it”, they believed in teaching how to have safe sex. When you compare that concept to those of the church or the school, you can see the different in expectations. Abstinence is taught in the church and the school but have different purposes. Churches view sex as sin before marriage. Schools put sex in categories as drugs and is taught to prevent the spread of STDs.
    I grew up in Tarboro, NC. It is really country and a very small town. Mostly everyone is related. I am a strong believer in Jesus Christ (I believe in no sex before marriage). My parents had me when they were married and I plan on waiting as well. I find this all important because there can be so many things that can influence a person’s view on sex. Culture and society are the two biggest influences. Being raised with high self-esteem doesn’t change the age expectancy of getting pregnant but it is easier for you to say no when being pressured to have intercourse. Self-esteem is something the society likes to play around with. The sexual photos posted in America are all in the act of gaining someone’s attention. Sex is natural!! Someone’s sex appeal grabs a person’s attention and will/can possibly turn them on. It was interesting when the woman said she would feel insulted/disrespected if she found a condom in a man’s wallet that she has recently met. The fact that you would go to a room, be alone with a guy, flirt with him, turn him on, but be really disgusted to find out he has a condom. It just shows that sex is expected or very much possible but doesn’t have to be a necessity. Personally, I think its personal preference on when to have sex and it is not anyone’s right to judge someone for expecting to have sex because sex is so common in our society.

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  32. Sex is not at all a “tough” topic to discuss, but the fact that it is rarely talked about makes it awkward. Society has made it seem as if it is one of those topics that should be kept in the dark; however there are visual images of it everywhere, which is very contradicting. Depending on one’s values, the action of sex is not wrong, but a person with values usually faces less or none of the negative consequences sex can bring about. In observing behavior in life, nothing is ever a real problem or brings about serious consequences unless it is done in excess or abused. There is never a strong desire to do something unless it has been experienced before, so no one automatically has the urge to go have sex. It is peer pressure, curiosity, and influence that really causes one to engage for the first time. The statistic that 70% of teens has had sex doesn’t surprise me just because a majority of teenagers do things, especially in high school, that they know have risks such as drugs and drinking alcohol. In no way am I putting drugs, alcohol, and sex on the same level, but they are all directly correlated with each other. In contrast to other countries, America is very strict in its policies about drugs as it is with its openness to talk about sex, which may be a reason it is more abused here. A reason these things end up so bottled up is because everything is based off of assumptions and stereotypes instead of reasonable trial and errors and scientific evidence for what is better for the population. In the video, people blame more on the sexual education of the schools, churches, and parents, but at the end of the day everyone is an individual that makes their own individual decisions. In this time period, there is too much technology to be ignorant of any pressing matter that can personally effect one’s life. I feel if people are really having an issue with the education they got about it, they should go help improve things for the people coming behind them. I do realize what one receives depends on the region of country, state, or city. All in all, the fact that sex is uncommonly talked can be one of many factors that causes its consequences to have such a negative impact on America.

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  33. Throughout this film, “Lets Talk About Sex” I learned a lot from it and would have never expected some of the facts and thoughts from it. Some facts that stuck out to me most was everyday in America 10,000 teens catch a sexually transmitted disease and that the teen pregnancy and gonorrhea rate is so high in the US compared to other countries around the world! Because of this, this film wants parents and kids to be aware of America teenagers of what is happening and how to teach safe and protected sex. In the film it talks about how other countries like the Netherlands of how the teach and openly speak about sex and condoms openly to each other. An example was a lot of people just carry around condoms in their pockets, wallets or backpacks and they are proud of it and thinks its great to carry it to have safe sex and throughout America people would think have different views of each other and assumes that they are easy to get with and are sluts. It would be completely look down upon if Americans started to carry around condoms.
    So when is it a good time to talk to kids about sex? Because it could be to late and it could lead to teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. Its a fact that if kids are educated early and are comfortable talking about sex to there family they would have safer sexual experiences. For me, I grow up and my parents and older siblings talked and were very open with me about sex. We all had a strong relationship so I never really thought it was awkward. But I have realized that all the talks about sex made me aware and they made sure that I knew the risks and how to have safe sex. I think America should do a better way of influencing kids to learn and be aware of sex education at a younger age so it will help them down the long run in their lifetime.

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  34. Throughout this film, “Lets Talk About Sex” I learned a lot from it and would have never expected some of the facts and thoughts from it. Some facts that stuck out to me most was everyday in America 10,000 teens catch a sexually transmitted disease and that the teen pregnancy and gonorrhea rate is so high in the US compared to other countries around the world! Because of this, this film wants parents and kids to be aware of America teenagers of what is happening and how to teach safe and protected sex. In the film it talks about how other countries like the Netherlands of how the teach and openly speak about sex and condoms openly to each other. An example was a lot of people just carry around condoms in their pockets, wallets or backpacks and they are proud of it and thinks its great to carry it to have safe sex and throughout America people would think have different views of each other and assumes that they are easy to get with and are sluts. It would be completely look down upon if Americans started to carry around condoms.
    So when is it a good time to talk to kids about sex? Because it could be to late and it could lead to teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. Its a fact that if kids are educated early and are comfortable talking about sex to there family they would have safer sexual experiences. For me, I grow up and my parents and older siblings talked and were very open with me about sex. We all had a strong relationship so I never really thought it was awkward. But I have realized that all the talks about sex made me aware and they made sure that I knew the risks and how to have safe sex. I think America should do a better way of influencing kids to learn and be aware of sex education at a younger age so it will help them down the long run in their lifetime.
    Bekah Dahlman

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  35. I have spent the majority of my childhood in a small, moderately affluent part of New York. Interestingly enough, most of the people in my hometown were religious, but more culturally religious than spiritually religious. Many people believed the religions that they do because their parents raised them to go to temple or church, but only during important religious holidays. So, although the parents of children in my town were religious, their kids were not. And I believe this created a gap between what the parents and their kids thought were to be moral and immoral. So, as we grew older, although the parents thought that sex was “immoral” because of their religious beliefs, the children did not think this way because many of them only thought of religion in a cultural sense. The same gap of defining sexual morality that parents and children have in my town is something I can relate to. I think that this is also something that can be applied to America as a whole. Over time, America’s newer generations have become more and more secular. I think that because of this, parents of older generations and children of younger generations have had a difficult time discussing “sex” and determining what is the best strategy in regards to sex – abstinence or having safe sex.
    While first watching the documentary, I was appalled at how open one of the European students was with his mom about allowing a girl to spend the night, while his parent knew that they were going to engage in sexual activities. It’s astounding to see how open and comfortable children and their parents are about talking about sex. And because of this healthy dynamic that families have, kids don’t have to lie about what they’re doing, and instead, can comfortably find the right answers about sex. The European system is effective, but it’s not something that will change through the implementation of new legislation. This system is something that can only happen when there is a change in culture and a change in the preconceived notions that people have about sex.

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