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Sex ed for a young person?
December 10, 2012 9:06 PM   Subscribe

Denizens of Metafilter, I need your best sex-ed materials. For a 16 year-old young man.

My family does not exchange gifts on Christmas, but in the spirit of the season (and being the only person in his immediate family who will do something like this), I have decided to send my 16 year old nephew a big anonymous box stuffed full with a variety of condoms, lube, and sex ed materials. My reasoning is, if he's not having it now he will be soon (he is an athlete, an excellent student, and extremely popular with the ladies already), and I know his education from family and public school has been insufficient. His life is quite tumultuous in many ways and the only persons who might take him aside about something like this are his church-going God-fearing Southern grandparents. I don't want to embarrass him, just provide him with the resources to make his own decisions safely.

I know exactly where to get nice condom/lube assortments online, but I am less great with educational materials. So, Mefites, what are your favorite sex ed resources?

Ideally, I would like to provide him with some reading on: STI prevention and transmission; first-time sex; peer/cultural pressure and how to choose between having safe sex and waiting; consent and healthy relationships; basic mechanics/anatomy; and something that addresses how to have sex in a (safe) way that will feel good to all.

Requirements:
- They need to be free, super-cheap, or easily printable (or all three.)
- They need to be sex positive (no Chick tracts please.)
- They need to be engaging! I could just print off the CDC website but I doubt that would hold much attention.
- I would love for them to cover oral/manual sex as well as other types of sexual activity.

Thank you for helping me help my nephew!
posted by WidgetAlley to Health & Fitness (36 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
You probably want Scarleteen.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 9:10 PM on December 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


You probably want this book, by Scarleteen's Heather Corinna.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:16 PM on December 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


This might seem obvious, but make sure this box doesn't end up under the tree and opened when everything else is...
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 9:22 PM on December 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Please, not Scarleteen--there's certainly lots of worse stuff out there, but I find her use of scare tactics offensive. I (mostly) like Karen Rayne.

That said, though, I really think giving him a box of stuff is just a horrible, horrible idea. If you're not close enough with your nephew to have an in-depth conversation about this (and see what sort of direction, if any, he actually needs) then you're not close enough to give him sex ed material/condoms/etc. Giving it anonymously is beyond creepy: if something like this had happened to me at sixteen, I would have felt extremely violated and would probably have gone to both my parents and the police.
posted by Violet Hour at 9:26 PM on December 10, 2012 [29 favorites]


Do we live in a world where sending a banjo anonymously is the world's worst idea but anonymously sending contraceptives, lubes, and other such materials to someone else's minor child is conscionable?

I don't know your nephew, so I cannot imagine what his reaction would be to receiving such an anonymous package. Would he cheer or feel violated? As the parent of two minors, I can tell you that if such an anonymous package were to come to my house addressed to one of my children, the authorities would be involved so fast your head would spin. I can't imagine how long it would take for me to feel safe for my children and my home after the arrival of such a package.

I think you really need to think about why you are doing this and what you hope to accomplish.
posted by Tanizaki at 9:28 PM on December 10, 2012 [35 favorites]


Please, not Scarleteen--there's certainly lots of worse stuff out there, but I find her use of scare tactics offensive.

I can't think of a less scare-mongering, more sex-positive resource than Scarleteen. What are you referring to?
posted by DarlingBri at 9:32 PM on December 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm going to recommend The Guide to Getting It On. It's very frank, it has topics you'd not even begin to think to search for and print out, and it's a fun read. My son, who'll be 16 very soon, has a copy in his Mom-purchased sex book library. I want him to have a great, well-considered, enjoyable sex life -- SOMEDAY.
posted by houseofdanie at 9:32 PM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


You probably want:
Savage Love
Good Vibration Guide to Getting it On

I don't want to embarrass him, just provide him with the resources to make his own decisions safely.

Unless you want to utterly embarrass a young teen, send it to his local post office (General Delivery) or ship it to a local UPS store, and email him so he knows to pick it up solo. And throw a nerf gun or light reading book in it so he can pretend it to his folks it's not embarrassing stuff.

I'm feeling a touch of sympathetic embarrassment for the poor lad.

Giving it anonymously is beyond creepy:

Huh. Yeah, I'd be majorly squicked out, and wondering what creepy neighbor is stalking me. You're going to have to do this confidentially but non-nonymously. Refer to a fictional Birds-and-Bees talk you had with a mentor or suchlike and mention that a fictional 'colleague' or coffeeshop friend thought it was a good idea after you bounced it off them.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:35 PM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, geesh, why did I skim the first paragraph? Do not send a child an anonymous box of sex-related items. Do not. Do. Not. Either give the box to one of his parents or else have the nadz to look your nephew in the face and have an actual conversation, even if it's a short one.
posted by houseofdanie at 9:38 PM on December 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


1) Scarleteen and "scare tactics" in the same sentence is baffling to me, Violet Hour. Are you sure you're thinking of the right website?

2) WidgetAlley, I too missed that your plan is to send this anonymously. I don't necessarily think that it's the worst idea to give a 16-year-old information about sex and the means to do it safely even if you aren't that child's parent (I think it's less than ideal. I only mean that I can imagine scenarios where it's the best of a couple of bad options.) but I don't think that doing this anonymously is a good plan. I think you may be underestimating how tender many teenagers feel about their sexuality, and how scary it would be to receive a box like this with no idea who sent it or why.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 9:42 PM on December 10, 2012


Nthing that this is a very inappropriate thing to do. Send the kid an email with a link to Scarlet Teen and the local Planned Parenthood and be done with it, if you feel he needs information. But by no means should you send these items anonymously through the mail to a kid that is not your kid. That's incredibly violating to all persons involved. He could even get in trouble himself if his parents opened it first, assuming the worst. Just really, I know you have good intentions but this is not the way to go about it.
posted by greta simone at 9:46 PM on December 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


The fact that it is anonymous is creepy. His initial assumption will probably be a gag/joke from friends. Which is good because knowing it was from a well meaning aunt who was interested in his sex life would be very weird. There are many ways for the delivery of said anonymous package to go wrong.

A bright, popular, 16 year old kid does not need your help finding information about sex. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that his knowledge might not be limited to insufficient sources such as: "education from family and public school."

It would maybe be ok, if still slightly weird and off-putting, to get him maybe one good book with the information you'd like him to have. But lube, condoms, etc? Over the line.

I'm not sure whether it's worse to do it anonymously, but it's bad either way.
posted by pseudonick at 9:48 PM on December 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


A bright, popular, 16 year old kid does not need your help finding information about sex. I


In the query:

His life is quite tumultuous in many ways and the only persons who might take him aside about something like this are his church-going God-fearing Southern grandparents.


I'm guessing the poster knows what (s)he's talking about and I know damn well that there are lots of bright, popular, 16 year olds who could use a giftbox of (lube and) condoms and a book that talks about having good safe sex which doesn't assume the reader is necessarily straight.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:01 PM on December 10, 2012


That may be true but I agree with others that it is a terribly bad idea to give a minor an anonymous box of sexual material. Nephew or not.
posted by Justinian at 10:05 PM on December 10, 2012


> I don't want to embarrass him, just provide him with the resources to make his own decisions safely.

Big anonymous box of stuff is not the way to go, then. C'mon, put yourself in his place. It's a whole box of stuff to hide from his conservative family. It's a whole bunch of stuff reminding him that he's apparently supposed to be needing a box of sex stuff. Just because he's popular with the ladies and his hormones are doing their thing doesn't mean that he's sexually active, or even ready to be sexually active.

Also, why the HELL would anyone in their right mind use condoms or lube from an anonymous source? Would you?

You're worried that your nephew isn't getting good, healthy sex ed and want to help him, which is awesome. But a big tube of lube isn't what he needs, he needs someone to have the balls to talk to him about details like how women get wet when they're aroused and when extra lube is still needed and maybe how to use it without intimidating the bejeezus out of a teenage girl who is also inexperienced. As for condoms, if you want to do the young man a tremendous service, tell him to stay away from rubbers with nonoxynol-9, which seems to treat men just fine most of the time but often horribly irritates the tender bits of women.
posted by desuetude at 10:23 PM on December 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Nthing that it is terribly inappropriate, creepy and scary to send such materials anonymously, without his permission and with the risk that he will be embarrassed or even chastised. Moreover, he's a minor. As long as he's a minor, you have to respect his parents.

Send him a Christmas letter. You could enclose it in a card, but be wary that he might open it in front of his parents. Wish him well. Tell him he can talk to you about anything, even sex. Enclose a gift card for a drug store. Tell him he can use it for whatever he wants, but that you happen to know that the drug store on ____ Street has a lot of people go by and that no one would look twice at what he buys. Tell him that if he ever wants to go to a Planned Parenthood seminar, you'll cover his cab fare and give him some spending money.

The other thought I have is that you could invite him to visit you. And in the bathroom, you could have a basket of items and books, with a little sign that says "free". If he asks, just say you have that there for every body. A high school counsellor I knew did that for her kids, their friends and so on. And then it's his choice as to whether to consume those things and you haven't done anything like send it to his home where it may feel invasive, traumatic or like a burden to hide.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:26 PM on December 10, 2012


...and in trying to keep it short I somehow deferred to awfully heterosexist examples, egads.
posted by desuetude at 10:29 PM on December 10, 2012


Yeah, my aunts are cool, but I'd rather have had a good sex-ed book from them than a birds-and-bees talk.

he needs someone to have the balls to talk to him about details like how women get wet when they're aroused and when extra lube is still needed

Especially a birds-and-bees talk that is detailed enough to be useful.


Enclose a gift card for a drug store.

A gift box at a UPS store would be less embarrassing. And gift cards don't work (100% of the time). Which is why stores push them. And I wouldn't trust any teenager to go and buy a good-and-safe sex book. "Here's a gift card. Go embarrass yourself at a pharmacy and sex toy shop."

And in the bathroom, you could have a basket of items and books, with a little sign that says "free".

A gift box at a UPS store would be less embarrassing.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:31 PM on December 10, 2012


You remind me of a phrase in James Hillman's powerful a critique of pornography, "Pink Madness." It might be appropriate for an adult seeking to educate a young man about sex. I recall Hillman's very candid—some would say graphic—observations of images repeated over and over in porn. And what's missing in it and why. He asks, "How can a young man know the depths of what might happen, of what can happen?" I think he's referring to real intimacy, the stuff that really rocks our world, and how so much of what young people see on TV and the internet is just the superficial symbol of those depths. It's true that there's no depth without surface, but it takes thoughtfulness and nuance to hint at what lies below the surface.
posted by R2WeTwo at 11:32 PM on December 10, 2012


By the way, I would point out that by wanting to do this anonymously, you're saying sex education IS something he should be embarrassed by. Don't do that. Just put everything in a bag and say "I'm not sure what resources you mom and dad are giving you so I just wanted to make sure you had all the info you need to take care of you and yours. You know I'm here for you." Then whack him on the back and ask him about bible camp or the Mets or Call of Duty or... whatever.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:36 PM on December 10, 2012


I would omit the condoms and lube. If he has chosen to NOT have sex right now, this would be really, really uncomfortable.

Larry Gonick's Cartoon Guide to Sex, however, would be a good book choice as it discusses every aspect of sexuality - mechanics, sexual development, science, conception, contraception, sexual diseases and prevention, sexual ethics, sexual problems, and sexual problems in a frank, honest, non-judgemental, non-biased, and funny way.

My fear is that "The Guide to Getting it On," while an awesome book, would kind of assume he IS going to have sex - whereas this would be more like, "here's the facts, and maybe you are and maybe you aren't, it's all good."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:06 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Frankly, I'd talk to him online or on the phone first.
posted by gryftir at 4:09 AM on December 11, 2012


If you send an anonymous package, and if the family went to the authorities, your fingerprints would be on the stuff.
posted by jgirl at 4:42 AM on December 11, 2012


Don't do this. Can you imagine how he would feel when he opens the box at the dinner table with people around? Creepy isn't strong enough -- this is a flat out bad idea.

Talk to him, take him out to dinner, offer to buy him books/supplies/etc, but don't do this anonymously.
posted by Forktine at 5:50 AM on December 11, 2012


To add to that, when I was a teenager, if a box like that had appeared, I would have assumed that it was kids at high school playing a prank and would have tossed the whole thing into a dumpster quick before my parents saw it or any of my friends came over.
posted by Forktine at 5:52 AM on December 11, 2012


At sixteen, I'd have been pretty creeped out to get an anonymous sex package in the mail. Heck, even now.
posted by banwa at 6:24 AM on December 11, 2012


Whoa, clearly I should have explained the anonymously part better! Sorry to worry everyone; this is anonymous ONLY in that he knows it's coming from a family member who cares about him. It is NOT totally anonymous (that would be hella creepy.) I have already had the birds and the bees talk with him.

For various reasons I won't get very in-depth to (severe social anxiety and mental illness), his mother feels she cannot do this for him, but I have cleared it with her and she thinks it's a good idea. So this will only be an anonymous box full of stuff given to him IN PRIVATE by his mom and signed from, "Someone who cares about you". Presumably he will think it's coming from her. It's anonymous coming from me in the sense that it's actually from me, NOT her, and he will probably not know that unless he directly asks her.

Anyway, I'd really like printable resources here.
posted by WidgetAlley at 7:01 AM on December 11, 2012


Also I might add that I am doing this at the request of his mother so I do not have to worry about having the cops called, and he will have a safe place to store his stuff.

However, I really like the gift card idea for ease of use-- he could take it with him to his grandparents' and not have to worry about getting caught. Good call.
posted by WidgetAlley at 7:06 AM on December 11, 2012


I.. still think this sounds creepy. Are you sure this wouldn't make him uncomfortable? Especially if he knows that several members of his family are in on him receiving this big awkward package? In this day in age, with google and everything, it's really, really not difficult to find some straight up information about how everything generally works. I'm also not sure that anyone at the beginning of their sex life needs a vast assortment of lubes, novelties, etc.

It would probably be a lot more meaningful, and less strange, just to sit with him and have a talk or ask him if he has any questions. It's kind of the sincere, open thing to do.
posted by mermily at 7:42 AM on December 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


I will recommend The Basketball Diaries book. Don't bother with the movie. I read it when I was 10. It changed my life. It got me into reading, it kept me off drugs, alcohol and sex until I was well into college.
posted by parmanparman at 8:06 AM on December 11, 2012


> For various reasons I won't get very in-depth to (severe social anxiety and mental illness), his mother feels she cannot do this for him, but I have cleared it with her and she thinks it's a good idea. So this will only be an anonymous box full of stuff given to him IN PRIVATE by his mom and signed from, "Someone who cares about you". Presumably he will think it's coming from her. It's anonymous coming from me in the sense that it's actually from me, NOT her, and he will probably not know that unless he directly asks her.

It's still shrouding the whole issue in a whole lot of shame and anxiety and assumptions about expectations...with no way for clarification on any of it. He could draw all sorts of conclusions about what this gesture is supposed to mean, what the adults in his life think of him, why he's not supposed to ask any questions.

Can she just tell him the truth? She can just say that she thought that it would be a good idea for him to have more info and supplies, but as his mom it makes her uncomfortable, so she asked WidgetAlley to put this together for him.

(Even the most healthy, non-anxious, salt-of-the-earth parents often feel uncomfortable talking to their kid about the realities of sex. Totally not weird for a parent to invite their kids to talk to their aunt/uncle-type person instead.)
posted by desuetude at 9:08 AM on December 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


However, I really like the gift card idea for ease of use-- he could take it with him to his grandparents' and not have to worry about getting caught. Good call.

Ease-of-use???? W-T-F??? It's a copout is what it is.

Buying this sort of stuff the first time is embarrassing for most teens.

Getting him a gift card means pushing a bit of embarrassment onto his plate because you're nervous about this stuff. "I don't have the balls to give you a box of condoms, dental dams, lube, and a sex guide non-anonymously, because I feel embarrassed about that stuff. But I expect to you to have the balls to go to a sex toy shop or drug store and buy a box of condoms, dental dams, lube, and a sex guide yourself, even though I have just demonstrated that this is shameful, hush-hush stuff by doing it anonymously."

A gift card will be less effective than the real thing. Easier for you, harder for him.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:30 AM on December 11, 2012


Another book to consider: The Joy of Sex. I read it in my early teens, and would credit it for providing an adult view of healthy sexual relationships, which was sorely lacking in the rest of my sexual education at that time. The original edition seems a bit dated in some regards, but I would guess that the current edition is, er, current.
posted by 1367 at 10:33 AM on December 11, 2012


I appreciate everyone's concern, but please let me assure you that there is a lot more going on here that it is not my privilege to share (health, mental illness and family issues), and his parent and I agree that this is the best way to address this at this time. The way we go about this is not up for discussion at this time (I mean, obviously it is, because it's AskMefi), but it would be great if we could let it rest for now.

He knows he can reach out to me at any time for advice or help, but because of previously mentioned factors (the aforementioned health, mental illness, family issues), the chances of that happening are slim to none. If you want to help, you can help by pointing me towards great educational materials that will point him towards making his own decisions and answering his own questions.

The back-and-forth on the giftcard idea is really helpful in considering what the best route to take is, so thanks for that!
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:12 AM on December 11, 2012


I like Bish - it's a UK-based sex ed site aimed at over-14s, with articles on pretty much all the subjects you mentioned. It's written in quite a humorous way, has great illustrations and is a bit less 'wordy' and more engaging than Scarleteen IMHO. The articles aren't designed specifically to be printed though.
posted by amerrydance at 12:16 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


They need to be free, super-cheap, or easily printable (or all three.)
Presentation and readability are important, especially for an advice book. I'd shy away from a ill-formated printed copy of a website or an emailed link to a website for this reason. He'll value the information much less than in book format, because we privilege books over printouts.

If you dig a bit, you can find cheap and like-new or new copies of most books at abebooks.com.

Here's a $6 (including shipping) new copy of Savage Love by Dan Savage.

Dan Savage's early* columns do an extraordinarily good job of talking about STI prevention and transmission; first-time sex; peer/cultural pressure and how to choose between having safe sex and waiting; consent and healthy relationships; basic mechanics/anatomy; and something that addresses how to have sex in a (safe) way that will feel good to all and in a talking-to-equals way, not a talking-to-teens way, (or even a teens-talking-to-teens way) which any teen will appreciate.

And it's compulsively readable - Savage is fun to read. Your nephew is more likely to read Savage on first-time sex; peer/cultural pressure and how to choose between having safe sex and waiting; consent and healthy relationships than similar material in a 'sex advice for teens' or 'sex advice for adults' book. Almost all advice books have (important) but dry chunks that a reader doesn't bother to read even if he should. Or skims when he should read closely and internalize. The chopped-up formatting and fun-to-read nature of Savage's column avoids this.

Putting myself in the shoes of a sixteen year old teen, I'd probably read most books on sex advice given to me, but skim the boring preachy bits, even the ones done in a chatty style. I'd also be a bit embarrassed but thankful.

Receiving Savage Love, I'd read all of it. And I'd get warm fuzzies that the gift-giver respects my agency as a (near-)adult. Receiving a generic or even superb book on sex advice as a teen, I'd be thankful, but I wouldn't exactly get the same warm fuzzies that the gift-giver respects my agency as a (near-)adult, because I would flag it as advice from an adult to a teen. Even if it was one of the books on sex advice for adults.

Thinking about it, The Cartoon Guide to Sex book ($5 with shipping, used)
would probably also slip past my advice-from-adults-teens sensor as well, and would be fun to read, which means I'd read all of it.

*His later columns are more focused on politics.
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:58 PM on December 11, 2012


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