Full disclosure: We’re total Gleeks. We love the show and were so excited for this week’s episode, Sexy, where Gwyneth Paltrow returns as a substitute sex ed teacher, Holly Holliday. And we were not disappointed! Glee dove into sex education in a way that only Glee can — poking fun at the school’s Celibacy Club and the sex-positive sex ed teacher, while still presenting poignant storylines like Santana‘s struggles with her insecurities about coming out, all while rocking out to “Do You Want To Touch Me (Oh Yeah).” (Still can’t get that song out of our heads — SO good!). But whether you’re a Gleek or not, you can appreciate the episode’s bottom-line: teens — straight or LGBT — need good information at home and at school about making safe and healthy decisions about sex and they need caring adults to talk to.
Unfortunately, many schools don’t really provide teens with either information or the support they need. Take Blaine, a character on the show who goes to a fancy private school; apparently it isn’t fancy enough to provide any sex education. Instead, Blaine says he turned to the Internet to find out the basics. Fortunately, there are lots of resources on the Internet for young people looking for information, but they need to know where the reliable sites are. Here are a few worth checking out and passing on to a teenager in your life: www.sexetc.org, www.scarleteen.com, www.goaskalice.columbia.edu, and www.amplifyyourvoice.org/youthresource.
Most importantly, take the time to talk to the young person in your life about sex. Kurt’s father, Burt, took a leap of faith and had the talk with his son. We squirmed watching father and son tackle this awkward conversation in which Burt provides Kurt with resources regarding the mechanics of sex, acknowledging his own shortcomings when it comes to gay sex. Then he artfully delved into the emotional side of sex, making sure that Kurt (and the audience) understands the importance of valuing yourself. With this emphasis, Burt reminded us that the talk is the same, whether your child is gay or straight. It was clear that, to Burt, sex is not just about physical pleasure but about connecting with someone you love. By openly communicating the values he holds around sex, Burt helped shape his son’s knowledge in a pivotal way; regardless of any information Kurt received or didn’t receive in school, he needed to know that he could count on his dad for support.
But clearly the Internet (or TV) can’t fill the shoes of a knowledgeable and compassionate sex ed teacher or parent. Holly Holliday may have been over the top and Kurt’s dad may have set the bar high, but they each had a lot to offer. If you’re a parent or have a young person in your life, it’s incredibly important to know what kind of sex ed your child is getting (or not getting) at school. If you don’t know what your kid’s school is teaching, start with these 10 questions to ask about sex education at your school. And if you’re not satisfied with what you find, contact your local ACLU affiliate.
We all want our teenagers to be safe and make healthy decisions about life. We can’t be with them all the time, but we can make sure that they have the information they need to make healthy and smart decisions, including decisions about sex and sexuality. If you’re a parent or have a young person in your life and you haven’t yet had the talk or want to continue the conversation, Answer and Planned Parenthood have a wealth of resources and information on how to start the conversation.
Or maybe start the conversation by watching the latest Glee episode together!