When Teens Talk Back

When Teens Talk Back July 30, 2016

One thing we tend to forget while debating sex education for young people is that they have their own voices and agency. This example from the UK demonstrates just how savvy young folks are becoming about sex.

Public domain photo from Pixabay.
Public domain photo from Pixabay.

This article on the Bristol Post details how local police handed out pamphlets at a talk on sexual consent with the slogan “R U Asking 4 It?” The backlash from teens present was immediate, and hinged on recognizing and combating the main elements of rape culture (victim-blaming, shifting the blame to alcohol, and so on).

Apparently the pamphlets were intended more to talk about preventing other crimes, such as theft, and the police department has since apologized for the insensitive nature of the presentation.

One notable thing is that both boys and girls criticized the materials, showing that people who want to insert excuses like “boys will be boys” are wrong to do so. We have fairly sophisticated interview data showing that teens are capable of thinking critically about sex, and interpreting the messages they receive from adults. So why not act like it, and revamp our sex ed programs to treat them like mini-adults instead of naive sponges?

This is yet another reason I like to support and promote websites like Scarleteen, which dispenses accurate and realistic sex information for those who might not otherwise have access to it, and why I’m a fan of the research of scholars like Dr. Laina Bay-Cheng, who interviews teens about their sexual experiences from a trauma-informed perspective. Teens are capable of making sophisticated assessments of the sex (and other) information available to them – we just have to start treating them like they are.

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