How Willow helped me teach my sons the ‘facts of life’

I found the following at a website for a Magazine called New Moon Girls. It is written by and for girls age 8 to 14 and this was in a section called “Ask a Girl.

    Dear Ask a Girl,
    I’m 13 and I think I’m bisexual. I’ve liked boys before, but now I have a crush on a girl. This girl keeps me awake at night and I can’t seem to keep myself from thinking about what others would say if I asked her out. I know she supports homosexuality, and so does my family. I adore her so much it hurts sometimes! I would really like to ask her to be my girlfriend, but I am so worried about what she’ll say or do. This has been going on for two months and the headaches and stomachaches are getting worse! HELP!
    Claire, 13

You can imagine my reaction! This was for preteen girls! And you are correct if you guessed I immediately pulled out the credit card and ordered a subscription for my daughter. Really. Best $34.95 I spent this week. This is exactly the kind of thing I want my daughter to be reading.

Why you ask? Mostly because I want to start conversations with my kids about things that are hard for them and me enter into conversations about. With my boys we watched all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, along with a strictly enforced rule that after the show we would have a 15 minute discussion on the episode. It opened up conversations with my kids that would not have happened otherwise. When Willow came out as an openly gay character I had some of the best and most meaningful discussions I’d ever had with my teenagers about issues I know would not have come up otherwise. Buffy introduced us to homosexuality, race relations (why were even good demons so demonized?), friendship issues, premarital teen sex, revenge, stake vs. sword. It was great. My dinner-time attempts of, “So, how about that homosexuality stuff.” largely got red-faced eye rolls. Yet filtered through Buffy (and under the tutelage of LDS writer Jana Riess’ wonderful book What Would Buffy Do? The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide) we had a grand time learning lessons about morality and ethics. Plus it was the finest show ever made. I still get misty when I realize it’s gone.

It reminds me of the elementary school sex education my kids attended when we lived in North Carolina. Somehow when I mention this in the Valley they picture a smirking teacher explaining condom use and masturbation techniques. But that’s not how it went down. It was wonderful, brilliant, enlightening, and important. The Sex Ed section, which lasted two weeks, started with a parent-teacher meeting in which detailed materials were handed out to us—including what pictures and graphics would be shown to the children during each of the upcoming two week’s lessons. We were free to pull our children out of any individual section or for the whole thing if we desired. Everyday for homework the kids were required to sit down with their parents and go through a checklist of topics that were covered in the day’s session. This gave parents a chance to add a moral dimension to the topic and teach the children their own values. Because we had a list of pre-assigned topics and outlines of the lessons, the talks were natural, deep, and meaningful.

Nearly all the other LDS couples in the school pulled their kids out for the entire thing. What a missed opportunity.

So no sex education in Utah elementary schools. (A former faculty member friend of mine in the Health Education Department called it a travesty and a massive educational failure in Utah). Thank goodness I found New Moon Girls to fill in the gaps until my daughter is old enough to watch Buffy.

Comments

  1. Kevin Barney says:

    I’m also a Buffy fan; I came to it late at my daughter’ urging, and ended up watching all seven seasons as well. Great stuff, and I can see how it would be wonderful fodder for conversations with the kids.

    I don’t get the meme of Mormon parents always pulling their kids out of sex ed, especially given that in general they don’t fill the breach and try to educate their kids on these subjects themselves.

  2. StillConfused says:

    My children had sex education in elementary public school in Utah. It was called the “Maturation Program”. Parents were invited to attend. Stardard sex ed topics were discussed.

    You need to correct your last paragraph.

  3. I don’t understand why it would be taken out. With a church that has such strong beliefs concerning sex before marriage, I would think that they would want kids to be educated in regards to it. Of course I feel that the church has a good youth program to help, however I feel that it is a massive failure in Utah to take this out of the school program. I feel there needs to be an awareness of what is out there. Our children need to know topics regarding sex, and homosexuality, morality, and ethics. Ignorance of things has never helped to prevent something.

  4. #2 StillConfused must vary regionally in Utah. Can anyone in Utah public school’s weigh in? I’m standing by my statement until we get more info because I don’t think it happened at my school unless no one told me about it and besides if it’s not called ‘Sex Education’ it’s missing something, “Maturation Program” sounds sort of like a biology of puberty class. Did they talk about sex, homosexuality and those kinds of details? That was the most important info in the NC classes.

    Kevin, all truth can be found in Buffy . . . well a lot anyway. And you are right. I don’t think kids are getting taught the details in the home.

  5. Researcher says:

    I don’t know how things work in Utah or other states, but where we live, the coverage of certain topics is mandated by state law and then the school district has fairly wide discretion in how the program is carried out after adhering to certain broad topic guidelines.

    Every year in which the topics are covered, the school district calls a meeting to which all the parents are invited and the whole program is outlined and all films shown and discussed.

    We have used the discussions at school as a springboard to our own discussions of the subjects.

    Our school district, with a heavily religious population, has always been very respectful and tactful about how they handle the topics under discussion.

    I can’t imagine what message it would give children to be pulled out of such a program. They’re going to hear much of the content at school anyway, if in a more spurious manner.

    I’m also not sure that kids need to be “taught the details in the home.” Often general knowledge suffices.

  6. And I thought this was going to be a post about Queen Bavmorda and Madmartigan.

  7. My wife claims she had comprehensive Sex Ed in West Jordan middle schools in the late 80’s. I have never heard of LDS parents pulling kids out of sex ed. My parents did not in Minnesota. It may happen but I am not aware of it. My LDS peers around here in TX do not.

  8. So let me get this straight– I mean gay– I mean bisexual.
    A magazine that shows a girl with a family that ‘supports homosexuality’ (whatever that means) can’t figure out if she herself is gay or striaght or bi. Kind-a reminds of this episode of This American Life. Kids could grow up wondering if they will be gay, or not gay. They wonder if having a close friend they like of the same gender means they are gay. If they aren’t interested in the other gender at a young age, some will conclude that they therefore must be gay.

    I’m not one to think such magazines as this are making kids gay. But I certainly wouldn’t subscribe to it. I understand the point that it opens the door conversations about sexuality, which is a good thing–but seeking out such biased resources and having an open & healthy discussion about sexuality are two differnt things. I could start a great discussion about sex with my kids using porn too, but I’m not going to.

    Steven P you were drawn to this source and found value in it–could you be more specific? How was this source particularly good for you?

  9. Re: StillConfused, #2
    I attended the “maturation program” with my son- it was about an hour or so long, and I would not consider that sex education. It wasn’t that the teacher did a poor job- it just isn’t nearly enough. Perhaps your course was more thorough.

    This is a huge issue in my opinion. Of course you’ll find a wide range of how families handle this- from literally zero discussion to parents that do an excellent job of discussing age-appropriate stuff beginning at an early age and progressing as the child matures. But I believe this is an area that many parents, including myself, do a very poor job of educating and preparing our youngsters.

    In my opinion, it is too bad that we defer to schools to address what we as parents should teach our children. Huge “kudos” to Steven P (and any other parent that has made a conscious effort) for taking an innovative and deliberate approach to addressing these important issues with his children.

  10. I’m sure there are Mormon parents who pull their kids out of the sex ed portion of Health classes here in Ohio, but I don’t know of any personally. Most of them who would do so in this area probably are homeschooling their kids already – and I know a number of them personally. I have no problem whatsoever with how it’s handled here in our district.

  11. I’d never let my kids go to Sex Education. They can learn about sex in the gutter, just like I did.

  12. I want to hear the other shoe drop and to have you walk me through just what you’d say in your conversation with your daughter after she reads that article in New Moon. Clearly your comfort zone for introducing your kids to highly charged material is higher than mine, so I would love some roadmap about where you’d go from there.

  13. I went to HS in NE Ohio, and my parents opted to keep me and my siblings in the school’s sex-ed program. IIRC, it was covered a couple of times, in ever increasing detail (6th grade, 10th grade, etc.). 10th grade, it was include in the standard Health class. I didn’t have a problem with how it was taught.

    (Funny moment — The health teacher in HS was very open about sex practices and the like, until one day one kid joked about asking out the teacher’s daughter. Then the teacher got conservative.)

  14. @#6: Yeah, I was thinking to myself, “Willow, you i-i-i-di-o-o-ot” when I read the title.

  15. Mark Brown says:

    Steve,

    Well done. Buffy’s the best.

    But are you sure you have the sequence of events in NC right? Isn’t the SexEd in schools supposed to take place only after the voters approve SSM? That is what I have heard, anyway.

  16. #9 Yeah I thought the “maturation program” sounded like it was like an hour. NC was two hours a day for two weeks.

    #6 My last name is ‘Peck’ I understand your confusion.

    #8 & 12 just read the quote this post starts with out loud to your kids. Conversation follows. You’ll be happy you did.

  17. Steven,
    We already discuss stuff like that with our kids as it comes up (and it has). They are 10 and 7 (the two of our 4 kids that it has come up with–the other ones are younger). I just still don’t get the reason for the subscription.
    I, like jeans, would like to hear about the ensuing discussion.

  18. I live in the Bay Area, we have an excellent sex ed curriculum where I live. Members sometimes still opt out. The reason for them is that is should be taught at home. Sure, it should be taught at home, but it’s also just as biological as the digestive system, endocrine system, and the reproductive processes of other living organisms, so I don’t get why the big fuss.

  19. Steven P (as per your #4), I work for the state in the area of public health and Utah’s practices regarding sex education are not only a source of frustration for local public health people, but for some on a national level as well. Some of my colleagues have reported being badgered at national conferences regarding why UT is such an oddball. From what little I understand about this issue (it’s not my area of focus), whatever sex education is offered in schools is very limited and I’ve been told there are strict rules regarding the kinds of statistics that can be cited in the classroom (ie, they can only say that condoms are 80-ish% effective at preventing pregnancy and spread of STDs as opposed to the 99% effectiveness that most of us are familiar with and may even…ahem..rely on).

  20. GatoraAdeMomma says:

    Where we live the only pregnancy avoidance kids can be taught is abstinence. It’s really not very helpful.
    I’m kind of on the fence as I think some school systems do Sex eductiona well and some don’t. But we do need to talk to our kids early and open the doors for discussions or it never happens. If the school program is decent and not teaching kids things like they have options like strawberry flavored condoms as one niece’s school did, then I’m all for re-enforcing what we teach at home at school, too. I definitely like those kids who don’t get taught anything at home to have some formal instructions on the subject.

  21. I really don’t get why this is about whether or not they teach condoms and how to avoid pregnancy. They should teach basic biology–including how humans reproduce. Why does the course have to entail anything about abstinence? or birth control?

  22. I borrowed from a friend and watched all seven seasons of Buffy. My family ridiculed me. Then the veneer started to crack. My wife bought me the seven seasons for a Christmas present two years ago. Then this past Summer, my wife watched the first season. Then the second. Within a month period she had watched all seven seasons. Now we are a fully-informed, fully invested, fully accepting family of the BuffyVerse.

    I agree with Steven P that this type of entertainment can be an excellent springboard for terrific conversations with our children. Are there things in Buffy that wouldn’t pass some people’s reading of the “For the Strength of Youth Pamphlet?” Yes, but that is precisely why I think Buffy should be part of the YM/YW program. The Duty to God program could be broken up into the seasons of Buffy with a mandatory discussion period with parents. I know that Buffy (and other media) have opened up terrific conversations with my children.

    Buffy explores various types of evil. For example, the mayor who was Mr. Family Man. The epitome of the white shirt and tie but inward were dead men’s bones. He was probably the scariest of the evils because he was so nice.

    Probably what I liked most about Buffy was that nothing was gratuitous. There was always a consequence for an action. The consequence typically didn’t happen in the current episode (so I couldn’t defend whatever my wife saw and disapproved of when she walked in on my Buffy watching four years ago). But, several episodes later, there was a consequence. One of the most heart breaking scenes I carry around in my heart was of Willow. Her friend (Xander, a young man) was someone that she loved and wanted him to love her back. But Willow was never pushy or in your face. Xander was enticed by and slept with another young woman. When Willow found out, she was crushed. There was no finger pointing or sermonizing on the point. Rather, the camera cut to Willow who had gone into the bathroom. She was sitting there sobbing. The scene ends. I walked away with one of the most powerful reasons why you don’t take pre-marital sex lightly. It can hurt people — people you love. And God said so. But the latter point seems to be lost on a teenager with hormones a raging. The former point is felt (even through the hormones).

    Thanks Steven P for the reminder why I liked that series so much. And I concur about the book “What Would Buffy Do?” by Jana Reiss. It is excellent. It is not a tongue-in-cheek slap at the statement “What Would Jesus Do?” Rather, it is a well thought out view of a young woman (Buffy) who happened to save the world more than once — a young woman who showed us what it means to sacrifice for others.

  23. I went to school in pleasant grove, ut. I went to the maturation program. They split us up between boys and girls. The girls got a lesson about periods and pads (and obviously I don’t know what the boys were told). but there was no talk about sex. Everything I learned about sex I learned watching Pretty Woman when my mom was out of town. That might explain a thing or two…

  24. I still think it is a bummer that a 13-year-old’s life is being taken over by her romantic and sexual attraction. I wish space had been created in her life, by something like the counsel not to date until age 16, to learn more about herself. Because there is more to herself than sexual attraction, and that sense of self would provide some ballast so she wouldn’t be having headaches and stomaches for two months.

  25. here is the relevant data. It appears that UT is doing a fine job in this area. Much better then most states with comprehensive sex ed or abstinence only. If I was jdub in a conference as described in #19 I would simply refer my questioners to the relevant data.

    http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/2006/09/12/USTPstats.pdf

    Lets try and get our data straight before posting

    “So no sex education in Utah elementary schools. (A former faculty member friend of mine in the Health Education Department called it a travesty and a massive educational failure in Utah).”

  26. Who cares about data when rhetoric is sexier?

  27. #19 thanks for weighing in. I was told the same thing by my Health Education friend and my sense is that this “Maturation Program”

    #19 I think because sexuality is more than just biology. There are emotional, mental, social, ethical, moral and raging hormones that need discussion and elaboration. And there are consequences in all these arenas that need open and honest discussion. In fact the biological facts while important may be the least relevant aspect of human sexuality to our children.

    #22 A true Buffy convert! I’m glad to hear your Buffy stories! Yes it would make a great course of study! #15 we fans can be found everywhere! There is power in the ‘verse.

    #23 Pretty woman, hey? Good as Buffy?

    #24 That’s exactly the kind of discussion that you can open with your children after reading this to them. “I wish space had been created in her life . . . to learn more about herself.” was beautifully put. I think I’ll use it in my discussion with my daughter!

  28. Steven P-
    Right, it is more than biology, but should the non-biological aspects be addressed in school? or just the biological aspects?

  29. Let me be more specific, should Willow be addressed in school?

  30. #25 What’s your point. I’m not sure how this data is relevant? Raw uninterpreted stats don’t mean much. I stand by my statement.

  31. Not Ophelia says:

    mmiles said

    I’m not one to think such magazines as this are making kids gay. But I certainly wouldn’t subscribe to it. I understand the point that it opens the door conversations about sexuality, which is a good thing–but seeking out such biased resources and having an open & healthy discussion about sexuality are two differnt things. I could start a great discussion about sex with my kids using porn too, but I’m not going to.

    New Moon is the absolute best magazine for girls anywhere. Find it in your local Borders and look through it. It’s not p0rn, it’s not But the magazine isn’t about being gay, or bisexual or anything else. The magazine is written and edited by girls 8 – 14 for girls 8 – 14: their stories, their dreams, their poetry, their artwork, and yes their deep and honest questions.

    If a girl has a question like that, they will publish it and ask other girls the same age for peer feedback. The problem isn’t that these questions are out there, it’s that parents aren’t engaged in the conversation.

  32. # 24- I was raised in the church and knew not to date before 16 (and didn’t) and often was heartbroken and in angst over a crush. Just sayin…

  33. …at younger ages than 13 I might add

  34. #29 it was in NC and it was great!

    Well, it’s bed time in Vienna,, I’ll try and pick up this in the morning.

  35. bbell, it’s often hard to judge tone in this forum; perhaps you were being sarcastic. If that’s the case, disregard my comment. If the only criteria for success is the number of pregnancies, or abortions, etc., than yes, Utah may be ahead of many other states, but I think there are many other criteria to consider, and I doubt we will find hard data to substantiate the true success of any state’s sex ed program.

  36. And #31 Yes it is a great magazine. It should be in every home with a girl in that age range. Really. Really and really. Good point.

  37. Not Ophelia-
    Thanks. I am not familiar with the magazine. I just think it’s odd to subscribe to a magazine based on one snippet from letters that come and g. It sounds interesting. It’s great the girls both write and edit it. Do they have a similar magazine for boys? My son needs something like that–he’s loves to write. My daughter isn’t quite old enough.

  38. I have to add, however, I don’t think peer feedback will be very helpful with questions like this, and I would not want my 8-year-old getting dating advice from a 13-year-old ‘peer’.
    If the point of the magazine is to nurture young girls souls, a focus on 13-teen-year-olds romantic relationships is not meeting that goal.

  39. Christian says:

    I always find it interesting that parents get more excited and concerned about what schools are teaching their children about sex then what they are teaching their children about sex. Thanks Steven, for sharing what has worked for you.

    As the father of 4 boys and a girl, my wife and I have successfully used “How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex” by Richard and Linda Eyre. Although they are LDS, it is not geared toward LDS per se. The “big talk” comes at age 8 and educates children about the basics of sex ahead of the curve and before the “ewww” factor sets in and before they start hearing most of the false and salacious stuff from others. It facilitates great discussions as they get older. I highly recommend it to anyone (with children of any age) who don’t know how to start.

    Plus, not being a Buffy watcher, now I can start watching past seasons as a father who just wants to be a better parent! Thanks for the great post.

  40. 32/33 Double L: I had angst but not heartbreak before 13, so maybe I just don’t get it. Growing up in California in the late 1970s, knowing I was “off the market” gave me enough emotional buffer space. I’ve got a couple daughters in the New Moon demographic, and I’m always looking for ways they can develop positive experiences and skills. Not only to shore them up against the sexual-object culture, but also to counterbalance all those get-married lessons being taught in Beehives and Mia Maids.

  41. basicly the data simply illustrates that utah teens are doing much better then most teens in other states regarding std’s, pregnancy, and abortions. Its simply refutes the opening post as being based on a false premise that Utahs teens and LDS parents in particular are somehow doing their teens a disservice in this area. The data simply refutes this as a false assertion. If you take active families in Utah the data gets even more lopsided in favor of the LDS approach to teaching teens about sex.

  42. bbell: I don’t think we can attribute a low std, pregnancy, or abortion rate in Utah to its schools or to the parents of these kids. Just my opinion though- I have no data to substantiate it.

  43. I personally think that more than just the biological side of sex and sexual behavior should be discussed in school. And also out of school. Emotional, mental, social, ethical, moral and raging hormones are parts of life, and sex education should inform about these issues. It is education. And I feel that all of those topics deal with education.

    I opt for high school sex ed classes to just watch Buffy, and then have discussions afterwards. It is an amazing show and can teach you more, and in a better way, than I think most sex ed classes that are around now.

  44. Jennifer in GA says:

    I’m not a Buffy fan (too much loathing for Sarah Michelle Gellar), but my 8 1/2 and 10 year old girls are HUGE Doctor Who fans. They didn’t say anything when Captain Jack Harkness kissed both Rose and the Ninth Doctor good-bye, but perhaps that might be a good jumping off point for opening up a discussion along these lines with them…

  45. Just as one can become pregnant or acquire STD’s without knowing or being taught anything specific, one can also avoid pregnancy and STD’s without knowing or being taught anything specific. I’m not sure Utah’s rate (which is commendable) has any bearing on the effectiveness of its sex ed.

    I see it as a fairly direct result, instead, of the strong religious/social barriers erected (and rightly so) by Church leaders, who tend not to go into exquisite biological detail (and probably rightly so).

  46. bbell, i’d hesitate to claim that what you cite there is THE relevant data. There are lots of ways to look at this. Of great concern to many is the fact that rates of STD infection are greatly increasing in Utah. Sure, Utah teens are doing “better” than teens in other states, but while national rates for some STDs like gonorrhea are decreasing, Utah’s rate has begun to steadily climb in the past few years. I’m not saying this is all because of Utah’s sex education policies, or lack there of. But tensions definitely mount between those who want to do something more to combat those climbing rates and those who don’t want to address it. But, like I said before, this isn’t really my area of focus, it’s just something I hear about from time to time at work.

    http://ibis.health.utah.gov/indicator/view/GonCas.UT_US.html

  47. StillConfused says:

    Do we need to teach about lesbianism in the schools?

  48. Who cares about data when rhetoric is sexier?

    Pejorative use of “rhetoric” only contributes to the loss of the art. Listened to a political speech lately?

  49. I think kids should be aware of homosexuality and that it should be explained to them.

  50. Cap,
    Why?

  51. “And They Were Not Ashamed” by Laura Brotherson is a great book that addresses the challenge of sexual fulfillment in a culture that discourages pre-marital sex yet doesn’t encourage open dialogue about sex prior to marriage (or even after for that matter). In addition to being a terrific book to read together as a married couple, it has three chapters on preparing future generations for sexual fulfillment in marriage. The author is an LDS woman with a degree in marriage and family therapy. The book can be found at Deseret Book and on Amazon.

    Mentioning this book provides a segue to discuss bbell’s comments at #25 and #41. The data cited are merely statistics of teenage pregnancy, including rates of birth and abortion. What the national data shows is that pregnancy rates are at the lowest point of any year since 1986 (the first year shown in the report). Birth rates and abortion rates also show sharp declines.

    For example, the national pregnancy rate in 1986 was 106.7 out of every 1,000 women under the age of 20. In 2002, that number was 75.4. National abortion rates during that time period fell from 42.3 to 21.7.

    By contrast, Utah’s pregnancy rate in 1988 (the earliest year of comparison) was 69 and in 2000 that number had dropped to 53. Utah’s abortion rate in 1988 was 15 and in 2000 that number had dropped to 6. Clearly, Utah’s rates are lower than the national averages but they trend in the same direction.

    One must be careful of confusing correlation with causation. The teenage pregnancy statistics are nothing more than raw numbers. They say nothing about causation. Bbell seems to infer that since Utah’s pregnancy rates are better than average that Utah is doing a fine job with sex education. I disagree.

    I would imagine that Utah’s rates are lower because of the strong influence of the church in this area and the near constant message our youth hear about the inappropriateness of engaging in any sexual activity prior to marriage. My concern as a parent is less about the inappropriateness of pre-martial sex (yes, I do believe it is) than the manner in which the information is communicated. I think that our culture (church, not government) does little more than scare our youth about their eternal salvation. But, this scaring comes at a cost. We, as a people, don’t know how to engage in fulfilling sexual relations even once it is allowed in marriage. While I’m sure this is a generalization, men want it and women push back. The marriage is frustrated. Many suffer in silence. Many go to therapy. Books are written. I was told early in my marriage that it shouldn’t be so important to me. That was a quandary – before marriage I was to wait and after marriage it shouldn’t be important. Well, I did wait and it was important.

    Now back to sex education. I think that almost anything that gets us talking is a good thing. We can do a better job in talking about the challenges of navigating these marvelous but treacherous waters. It is more than biology. While knowing the how of sex is important for our children, knowing when, with whom, and where are also important to the very real emotional, physical, spiritual and mental impacts of sex.

    As for me and my family, whether it is the sexuality on Buffy or Ellen Degeneres’ position on gay marriage, I find that an open dialogue is a good dialogue.

  52. I don’t think that knowing about homosexuality will make someone gay, or a lesbian. I think it will help them to be more accepting, and understanding of people. That is also a topic that I feel should be discussed at home, (as should all topics regarding sexuality). And if someone had those types of feelings then, or at an older age, I don’t think they would be feeling like the 13 year old girl with head aches, or at least with that much of an extreme.

  53. SMwaters,

    To be honest I do not believe that the style of sex ed matters much at all in Utah. And for the record I am in favor of comprehensive sex ed. Its clearly the impact of nuclear families and the influence of the church that keeps rates so low. Whatever is happening in Utah is working far better than what is happening in TX or Michigan.

    Its simply false to say that whatever is occurring in Utah in regards to Sex ed is somehow wrong when the data is so positive that the methods used in Utah by schools, parents and the Church clearly has such a positive outcome

  54. Bbell,

    Here are two quotes from smwaters:

    “While I’m sure this is a generalization, men want it and women push back. The marriage is frustrated. Many suffer in silence. Many go to therapy.”

    “While knowing the how of sex is important for our children, knowing when, with whom, and where are also important to the very real emotional, physical, spiritual and mental impacts of sex.”

    The pregnancy rate may be down, however, not knowing the spiritual, and mental impacts of sex, and not knowing the emotion, and ethics, etc. involved can cause a lot of pain. The church plays an important role, but I also think that sex education should be apart of that role. It should be considered an important role.

  55. We did the NC program when The Child was in 5th grade. It’s officially called Family Living, Ethical Behavior, and Human Sexuality program, FLEBHS for short.

    I have never been so happy as I was the hearing my son description of the first day of FLEBHS. At recess after the first lesson all of the boys ended up on one side of the playground and all the girls on the other and neither group would look at the other one. He said everyone just stared at their shoes.

    He also announced thathe would never do anything as disgusting as what they learned about that day and that the only way he was going to marry was if his fiancee agreed that they would only adopt children.

    I briefly considered making him sign a contract to that effect…

  56. Cap,
    Makes sense. Thanks.

  57. Oh, and my best friend has taken to calling my son Flebhs as a nickname; a la “Smooth move, Flebhs.” Sorta rhymes with “Cletus.”

  58. When I turned 13 my dad bought me my first Playboy, so yeah, I can say from personal experience that opening a young teen’s eyes to the facts of life through periodicals is priceless.

    The articles and interviews were great, too.

    Would I pass the favor on to my 12-year old daughter? Um… maybe we’ll start with Buffy.

  59. Bravo! The church needs more people that are willing to talk about these subjects as we have too many trying to sweep them under the rug.

    I’ve talked many times here about the Romeo and Juliet Syndrome. And that much of the membership’s censorship is self-defeating. Case in point, take the poor girl in the letter. In reading and talking about it and thinking it through with reasonable people she could come to the realization that many times in the teenaged years people get infatuated with their same sex friends. Doesn’t mean they’re gay or bi.

    Now if she was not allowed a way to vent and talk about this and instead just got “that’s wrong!” what do you think she’d do? I’ll give you a hint, it wont make the feelings go away. You’re only adding guilt on top of them.

  60. nasamomdele says:

    I think you’re being stubborn about the Utah education thing. How hard is it to let go of that? Do you have some resentment towards Utah? Because the comment doesn’t make any point, really.

    As for the interesting aspect of this post- I’m not sure I would have spent the money for such a thing, but you provide good reasons why you did, and I respect that completely.

    Personally, I would hope that my kids can approach me at a level of confidence in themselves and respect for me that we can have an open dialogue. I would rather not have our conversations filtered through the likes of Buffy or teem magazines. I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel right to me.

  61. nasamomdele: You just hope? I think that’s what is so great about StevenP’s approach. He isn’t hoping and waiting for the kids to come to him. He is making it happen because if he starts it and makes the open dialogue normal from the beginning then the kids WILL be more willing to approach him with a question. He doesn’t have to hope. And he talks about all things (including homosexuality) so they don’t feel restricted in what they can ask him. I for one am taking notes (am pregnant with my first and this is great advice).

  62. I like the idea of being pro-active with my daughter regarding her sexuality when that time comes (she’s only two right now). Whether it includes Buffy (or whatever popular show is on when she is of age) depends on the content of the show. I think Buffy is a great show, but I don’t like how, with each year, they devolved morally. I mean, it speaks to how morally our nation devolves, but it isn’t a good barometer for the standard I wish to teach my daughter.

  63. Smwaters #51 makes an excellent point. Too often kids grow up with sexuality’s negatives so deeply entrenched that its full expression as an adult becomes very difficult. When children don’t learn how to talk about sexuality or parents have made it an uncomfortable topic or portrayed it as something that should not be talked about in schools (or anywhere else likely) talking about as married couples is difficulty and straining. Smwaters points out that this is a common problem in LDS marriages. Talking about it, opening it to discussion, with honesty, love and expressions of its wonderfulness as well as its dangers in an important message that children need to hear.

    And ronito’s #59 and Not Ophelia’s #31 point about children actually feeling like this girl in the letter, needed a voice and an opportunity have an open discussion with those she loves so she can learn what these feelings mean and how to deal with them is important. Imagine if she had grown up all her life with sexuality being something not talked about (except perhaps that such feelings were of the devil) and she genuinely experienced these feelings, What are her options? Guilt, fear, confusion? No space is open with her loved ones because they’ll just think she is a terrible person (or so she might believe). Just being able to talk about it with her parents could make all the difference in the world to her self image and sexual identity. If someone, as ronito’s suggested, has opened the conversation with a letter like this, and she was able to say, “Yeah, sometimes I feel like that.” in an open safe place, then her parents can show they love and explain how they feel about with love. But Not Ophelia is right–the conversations aren’t happening. How will you start your conversations? New Moon Girls works for me.

  64. nasamomdele says:

    DoubleL,

    Yes, I hope. I’m sure Steve does not hold to the notion that you insinuate you do- that one can compel or cause such confidence and open dialogue in some way. I live and die by D&C 121 raising my children.

    The role of being a parent is working to instill that confidence and dialogue, whatever the measures. That’s why I respect Steve’s approach.

    I hope you wouldn’t think that because parents say they “hope” for the best for their children that they’re somehow not working at it.

    Congrats on the new one, BTW. It’s interesting when they come- there is a realization of just how little control a parent has…

  65. nasamomdele says:

    # 62 Dan,

    That is an excellent point.

    I also don’t think that these issues have to be addressed from the current moral standards of society.

    The ideal would be to address these ideas in terms of the Gospel and testimony, where Jesus’ sermons of tolerance and love are emphasized.

    There is danger in turning to current culture in addressing moral issues with children. It very quickly and easily leads to a pattern of them doing so, as well as partaking of the culture for the sake of learning about them

  66. I wonder what do you do when you adopt a teenage boy, and you’re a first time mother? My instinct is to give him his privacy, and not bring up any sensitive subjects. Maybe Buffy is a good idea, though. I had parents who never spoke about anything like that, who never taught me anything at all, and it wasn’t a good thing.

  67. nasamomdele: I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to imply you weren’t working at it as well as hoping. I do think a lot of parents take the route of just hoping though. I’ve heard many parents say they hope their kids will come to them when they are ready to talk about it because they don’t want to bring it up themselves. I was mostly just trying to say, as you did, that I respect SteveP’s approach. Sorry if I came off as insulting, I really didn’t mean it.

  68. I think we tend to pass on traditions of our own upbringing in many aspects, and this is certainly no exception. My parents didn’t say a word to me about sex, and I haven’t done much better with my children. I believe it is an area that most parents can and need to do better.

  69. nasamomdele says:

    DoubleL,
    No offense taken- I understand the circumstance in #67 very well. I only mean to make clear that I hope the relationship exists on a certain level (not a buddy-buddy level, but more of a respectful, easy friendship as well as authoritative) that would provide for open dialogue.

    To a certain extent I wouldn’t chose to purchase the magazine Steve describes for that reason, though I see the benefit of it. It’s not my style.

  70. This was a great post, Steven. Thanks.

  71. Magazines don’t make teens turn gay. Band does.

  72. What a sad and unkind thing to say. All my kids have been in band and work as hard as the football team does yet comments like that are common and their efforts unnoticed.

  73. I was told that there was nothing wrong with being gay. Or in band. Yet, linking them is somehow deeply hurtful.

  74. I was in band.

  75. If you had said cowboys instead of gay, your hurtfulness would have still come through. It’s that that I find blameworthy not your particular choice of ‘other’.

  76. I had 3 kids go through band and marching band. I wouldn’t mind if there were gay or straight kids on the band but to say that band makes one gay is just stupid. Sometime kids don’t like to stay in band because they are labeled as being geeks or nerds. My kids fought that and now if there are parents or adults telling them that band makes you gay???? That hurts the kids by being labeled and the school music program!

  77. I can’t believe, in these times of crisis, that someone would dare joke about a topic so important, so sensitive, as band nerds. Shame on you “gst”!

    For more about Alyson Hannigan and the sexual proclivities of band nerds, I refer you to the end of the first American Pie. Watch it with your kids.

  78. I’m a big Buffy fan, and I think using popular entertainment as a discussion starter can be a great idea.

    Of course, I think there should be obvious limits to this. For example, I wouldn’t show kids “Hostel” to start a dialogue on torture, and I wouldn’t watch “The Wire” with my kids to teach them about inner city poverty, drug use, and crime.

    Having said that, I think Willow’s coming out story had some aspects that were troublesome, even though in many ways it was handled in an excellent fashion.

    For the first three seasons Willow was depicted as entirely heterosexual, with ardent feelings toward Xander and Oz. Then when she embarks on a lesbian relationship it follows on her break up with Oz and his departure from Sunnydale.

    I think the result is that her coming out can easily be seen, particularly by teens, as a reaction to romantic circumstance, as opposed to a realization of her identity or nature.

    In addition, Willow is depicted as having a powerful spiritual connection to her partner Tara. The moment when they consummate their love is during a Wiccan ritual, and is symbolic, rather than literal, but the suggestion is unmistakable. Because of this, and the fact that Willow had always been portrayed as straight, the suggestion, whether intended or not, is that attraction/connection is dependent on the individual and not your or their gender, or your or their orientation.

    It’s hard not to think that the writers altered a beloved character to make a thematic or political point. In what I think were the best scenes of the storyline, even Buffy, Willow’s best friend, struggled to reconcile the new Willow with the old, and I think this examination of the nuanced differences between intolerance and acceptance, and people and their choices is what ultimately made the storyline great.

  79. Band cowboys!

  80. Eric Russell says:

    Thanks to my tendency to skim through posts, I caught a bit about Willow being gay but missed that Willow is a Buffy character.

    I just realized otherwise. This whole time I’ve been thinking Warwick Davis was gay and wondering if there was some gay midget nightclub out there where he went to meet people.

  81. “Band Cowboys”

    The parades in boots while, agreed, would be a striking visual, it would be hard on the feet.

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