Saturday, April 14, 2012

What's All This Fuss About Sex?

What is it about the subject of sex that makes people in this country so uncomfortable? I’ll admit I really didn’t have the faintest idea of how people would react when my daughter, Kimberley Johnson, and I started work on The Virgin Diaries. She had the idea, I thought it was great and the book was born.

Our aim was to create a book for virgins of all ages and, since virgins are generally young people living at home, for their parents to use as a tool for opening a dialogue with their teen about first time sex and the emotions associated with the experience. We had no agenda when putting together the accounts we gathered. There was no judgment or advice given regarding what a person should or shouldn’t do. It is a book that is simply meant to inform and allow the reader to come to his or her own conclusions and apply those conclusions to their lives.

Once we got the book finished and out on the market, we did what any author would do. We went looking for reviews. And that’s when we found out that people were actually “apprehensive” and “afraid” of what was between the covers. I don’t know what they expected to find. It’s not explicit. It’s not “dirty.” It’s not erotica, which to my mind is just another term for female porn (thank you to Joey on the TV show Friends for that observation, which I have just co-opted). It’s 72 stories from real people telling what it was like both emotionally and physically.

One woman said she thought it was a good idea but she didn’t think it was appropriate for teens under 18. To that I have only this to say: in most instances, the horse is out of the barn by then and Elvis has left the building! There were so many stories where the first time took place at an achingly young age: 12 and 13. The average age? Around 16. Why on earth would a parent want their teen to be uninformed or misinformed about something so important? In then end, our adult reviewers gave us rave reviews.

Teens shied away because we’re older – I could be Grandma and my daughter could be Mom, so who wanted to listen to us? So my daughter went out and sought teen book bloggers. Again, we were greeted with that apprehension. Surmounting it was pretty easy. Kimberley told them to just read it and if it makes you uncomfortable, put it down and forget about it. None of them put it down and all of them gave it a great review.

Studies show that in states where abstinence is the only thing taught, the teen pregnancy rate is higher than in states with a comprehensive sex education program. Even then, sex education deals more with the biology than with the emotional aspect. Again, my question is why do parents wish to stick their heads in the sand and deny the physical urges associated with puberty, the peer pressure and the pervasive sexual messages in advertising, movies and music throughout our society and the effect those factors exert on their children? Particularly when there is so much at stake? Knowledge is power and it is the duty of every parent to arm their children with every resource necessary to meet the challenges of modern society and sex is one of the biggest challenges faced during the teen years.

If this book had been around when I was a teen, I would have devoured it. The same goes for Kimberley. So many people who contributed their stories had the same thing to say. Our teen reviewers DID devour it and saw the value of the information and never once considered it to be titillating or embarrassing. They were grateful for the real input from real people. The Virgin Diaries is timeless and yet a book for our times.

Visit The Virgin Diaries Blog and join the conversation.

1 comment:

  1. A hearty "amen" and thank you. I can still remember my mom telling me that when she was a teenager, she had no idea what was happening when she had her first period and had to secretly write off to Kimberly-Clark, the makers of Kotex sanitary napkins, for a brochure to get the straight explanation. That was in the 1930s. I am happy to say that my own daughter got the straight answers both from her mom and from me, as well as from her school. You and your daughter have done a great service, but it does seem there is still a lot more "educating" to be done. Good luck!