'Guidance' type books on sex for teenagers?
December 4, 2022 3:56 AM   Subscribe

Inspired by this question. Looking for books on sex, sexual relationships, consent, self-knowledge and consent for teenage girl. Doesn't have to be 100% about sex and sex alone. Looking for something direct and funny and not finger-waggly but that talks to the reader respectfully, intelligently, and in detail.

TL/DR: question's above. Brain dump and additional details below.

When our daughter (14) was younger we bought her books about sex and reproduction appropriate to her age. I don't think she is ready to have sex or wants to - we discussed going on birth control pills to help control acne* and she was a bit like 'whoa' in the same way she was when I explained why she was getting an HPV vaccine. A bit like she'd been given a drivers license with no intention of driving a car.

While I talk to her and will continue to do so, it's helpful to have other voices besides your mom and your peers and your school in the mix.

Some considerations that would be useful addressed in resources:

-Self-knowledge and awareness about relationships and what good ones are like. Sex should be fun, and anyone you have sex with should be a person around whom you feel safe and good about yourself.

-The difference between STD prevention and birth control and why both matter.

-Being informed about sex and thinking about it doesn't mean you have to have sex or are ready to have sex. It just means you're informed about the topic.

-Sexual activity can mean a lot of different things.

-Masturbation. It exists. Everyone does it.

-Trans perspectives. She has trans friends and friends who wrestle with gender identity or are identifying as fluid or non-binary.

-Sexual preferences. She was asked out by a girl a while back but declined. I think she's basically hetero, but the book needn't assume that all kids are hetero or that all first times are hetero, or that sexual preference is always a lifelong contract. (She doesn't know this--Mom's thoughts on sex don't come up!--but I realized I didn't have a sexual preference when I was about twelve.)

-Gosh I would love it if a message was included in there to 'go to a trusted adult for help or support if you need to. The awkwardness won't kill either of you, and it's worth getting past it to get the help and information you need.' Although now that I'm typing it, I realize I can say that to her as well.

With regard to the question linked upthread, I'm all for having condoms in the bathroom. I will wait a while to avoid seeming like she's being onboarded into an inevitability she wasn't up for considering in the first place. I'm menopausal, and she's an only child, but I could just put them in the bathroom and say those are for her or any friend of hers that ever needs them so she doesn't feel like it's her personal sexual inventory system; just a resource. No questions asked.

*She brought up the acne thing spontaneously; said the look of it didn't really bother her but it's painful and she uses a prescription topical cream but it hasn't helped. I was happy with her ease about talking about it; that she didn't seem torn up about it - just she'd like to solve a problem. We'll talk to a doctor about options.
posted by A Terrible Llama to Human Relations (14 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

Drawn To Sex : The Basics by the people at Oh Joy Sex Toy might be what you're looking for.
posted by platypus of the universe at 4:08 AM on December 4, 2022 [4 favorites]

That other thread got me looking for a midcentury Dutch book that my parents left somewhere in the living room when my brother and I were teens. I think it was about two kids on a beach during the holidays. If anyone from the Netherlands is reading this, they may know it. (I most certainly read it in English). It might not be appropriate today, but I don't know. (Don't search for Dutch sex on the beach. I don't know why I even tried, it will taint my cookies for ever).

What was good about the book was that it emphasized the emotional element. As an old person, I'd say that two well educated kids in love regardless of gender who are exploring sex together is entirely a good thing. Casual sex when you are very young is less so. But my mother tried to explain that to me and failed, because she wasn't honest about it. So when my kids were teens, I made an effort to not condemn casual sex. I can't say I failed, because both kids are safe and sound adults now, but I do regret not talking about emotions with them, for my own sake, and for how they perceive me.

Still, these are a lot of words to say that I feel a lot of the sex-positive literature I have read is very focused on sex and less on relations. And as I age, I realize that everything is possible if you are emotionally honest and close.

This is obviously not an answer to your question, but perhaps it can help you evaluate the books that are suggested.
posted by mumimor at 4:25 AM on December 4, 2022

Best answer: The writers/artists behind Oh Joy Sex Toy have a bunch of great, respectful resources for teens around sex.

Let's Talk About It by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan

"Covering relationships, friendships, gender, sexuality, anatomy, body image, safe sex, sexting, jealousy, rejection, sex education, and more, Let's Talk About It is the go-to handbook for every teen, and the first in graphic novel form."
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries at 4:37 AM on December 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

SEX: The Progressive Guide by Heather Corinna, who runs Scarleteen.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:45 AM on December 4, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Cory Silverberg books are fantastic - I’m familiar with What Makes A Baby, which is for little kids, and Sex Is A Funny Word, which for kids but probably too young for your daughter. However, it looks like he has a newer third book, You Know, Sex that might be just right, though I’m not personally familiar with it.

Here’s the blurb from his website:

You Know, Sex is the first thoroughly modern sex education book for every body, covering not only the big three of puberty—hormones, reproduction, and development—but also power, pleasure, and how to be a decent human being.

Centering young people’s experiences of pressures and joy, risk and reward, and confusion and discovery, there are chapters on

body autonomy
trauma, and a lot more.

The puberty, anatomy, and reproduction chapters include trans, nonbinary, and intersex bodies and experience, and all of it takes place in our contemporary, media-saturated world (aka, there’s lots of smart phones and social media).

posted by maleficent at 5:24 AM on December 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Our Bodies, Ourselves deserves a spot on every household's bookshelf.
posted by flabdablet at 5:25 AM on December 4, 2022 [6 favorites]

Dr. Jen Gunter's The Vagina Bible, everything you wanted to know about the organ plus many you didn't think of asking. Not much on relationships, but it's more about the technical / medical side of things from actual OB/GYN.
posted by kschang at 8:53 AM on December 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

Heartily seconding Silverberg's You Know, Sex, which I've been happy to have in our house. Terrific illustrations and representation, and forays into political/cultural context told in accessible ways (e.g., misogyny, consumerism, even colonialism). The four main characters are teens with very different home lives and inner lives and levels of comfort talking about sex, which makes me think it'd be useful & relatable for a wide range of kids--or for the same kid at different developmental moments. It's often funny--the illustrations (by Fiona Smyth) are playful and positive.
posted by miles per flower at 9:14 AM on December 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

The authors of Our Bodies, Ourselves also have a book that is targeted specifically to teenagers called Changing Bodies, Changing Lives. My parents gave it to me when I was about 13 or 14 and it was very educational for me.
posted by number9dream at 9:34 AM on December 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Masturbation. It exists. Everyone does it.

Just want to put something out there: This is not true.

Some people (including me) do not masturbate. All levels of sexual desire and feeling exist, including none. Yes, this is statistically less common, but it is a possibility. It took me decades to come to terms with the fact that I'm asexual, in part due to statements like "everyone masturbates."

After all, if everyone does it, then there must be some reason I don't. Luckily, I avoided unwanted sexual encounters that I - or other people - thought would "fix" me; many other asexuals have not.*

I want to encourage you to not make statements like this to your daughter, but instead to emphasize that whatever she feels is okay. My family didn't know that I was asexual until I was past thirty; I was more comfortable coming out as bi. The first authority figure who affirmed who I was was a doctor, when I asked her if we could find out why I was fucked up - not family, not friends. My mom still asks me questions like, "don't you feel like you're missing out?" and doesn't understand how much that hurts.

So I would heavily, heavily encourage you not to make statements like this to your daughter, and instead to tell her that whatever she feels is okay. It might change over time, it might not, and either is fine. What is important is that she is true to herself in ways that are responsible and safe.

Statistically, your daughter is probably not asexual and even if she is, will probably not be on the extreme end of the spectrum like I am. But even if so, this is an important part of her sexual education, just like knowing about the existence of other sexualities.

* I hate even having to put this note here because this discourse has done me personal harm, but no, I am not saying asexuals do not ever masturbate or have sex. I am saying that some do not. In the rush to correct the misconception that every asexual is like me, asexuals who are like me often end up forgotten and pathologized by other asexual people, much like we are pathologized by allosexual people.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:36 AM on December 4, 2022 [5 favorites]

Seconding the recommendation for Let’s Talk About It by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan. I haven’t read the whole thing, but I’ve read excerpts, and I’ve followed Erika and Matt for a long time and have a lot of respect for them and their work. From what I’ve seen I think it would be a great match for the kind of book you’re looking for!
posted by peperomia at 12:25 PM on December 4, 2022

Response by poster: So I would heavily, heavily encourage you not to make statements like this to your daughter, and instead to tell her that whatever she feels is okay. It might change over time, it might not, and either is fine. What is important is that she is true to herself in ways that are responsible and safe.

Still reading and researching the other responses but just wanted to say thank you for this.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:14 PM on December 4, 2022

Looks like OBOS and Teen Vogue have teamed up.

I grew up on OBOS and Changing Bodies, Changing Lives in the 70s/80s. They were helpful at the time but may well be dated, depending on the most recent version. I also remember The Facts of Love by the author of The Joy of Sex. It’s out of print now but appears to be available used. The Amazon reviews say that it does not discuss AIDS (unsurprising) and it may also be dated in other ways (e.g. I doubt it touches on anything related to trans perspectives), but I distinctly remember it presenting the idea that sex is for fun, love, or making a baby, and that it is important that both people involved are in it for the same reason. It also has clear, detailed line drawings.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 2:26 PM on December 4, 2022

Best answer: The Good Vibrations Guide to Sex: The Most Complete Sex Manual Ever Written by Anne Semans.


- Teens Sexual Bill of Rights

- Sex Over a Lifetime--Growing up, coming out

- "If you want the job done right, do it yourself"--Expanded section on masturbation

- Dealing with disability, depression and other medical issues
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries at 4:27 PM on December 4, 2022

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