Childrearing

Reading About Sex Will Not Make Your Daughter A Whore

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girl readingAs a young girl, I was a voracious reader. Any and everything I could get my hands on seems like an acceptable way to describe my tastes. Through my tween years, I mixed young adult fiction with my mom’s romance novels and my teacher’s favorite classics. At any given time I could have had Carolina Moon by Nora Roberts, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Native Son all competing for space in my purse or book bag. I had an odd habit of reading multiple books at once so that I would always have something to suit my mood.

Plenty of my reading choices contained content that one wouldn’t normally expect for a young girl. It didn’t matter what section of the library I was pulling from, I could have easily grabbed a book that eluded to sex, or described it outright. I know there was plenty of swearing. Sometimes things even got gory and violent, though that’s normally not my favorite. Looking back, I know that I read about a myriad of situations that would have been inappropriate for me to recreate or emulate.

And you know what? Even as a young person, I was perfectly able to understand what behavior was appropriate and what wasn’t. Even though my first favorite heroine, Alanna in Tamora Pierce’s Lioness Rampant series, had sex with her boyfriend as a teenager, it never made me assume that I should be having sex as well. Really, I don’t even remember thinking about the sex. It was just part of the story.

Parents are always worried about the media that their children consume. I can understand wanting to protect them from negative influences and inappropriate images. I’m not saying that tweens should be flipping on Skinimax. But at the same time, the idea of only letting kids read “age-appropriate” literature that won’t expose them to any questionable behavior or morals is completely ridiculous.

First of all, the written world is a completely separate medium from any other source of media, and it deserves different considerations. Reading doesn’t ask you to sit back passively and watch a story unfold. Simply because the reader has to imagine the action in their own mind, reading invites thought and consideration. It actively engages kids in thinking about the topics presented. And whether any of us like to admit it, tweens and teens are going to think about sex. Literature might help them to see the situation from various angles and consider ideas that they hadn’t yet.

In my own example about the Alanna books, the main character decides to have sex with someone she loves. That doesn’t make their bond last forever and it doesn’t ensure that he’ll treat her well. They have a different connection, one that makes them moody and jealous at times. She learns a lot about love through sex, but she learns its limitations and its dangers, as well as the emotion it expresses. Those lessons were the perfect ones to teach a young girl who might be faced with the choice of when to have sex in the upcoming years.

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