How to talk to kids about sex. Author Cory Silverberg weighs in : Shots – Health News – NPR

by | Jul 26, 2022 | Education

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Penguin Random House

For many parents, the idea of having a “sex talk” with their kids is nothing short of cringe-inducing. But sex educator Cory Silverberg says it doesn’t have to be that way. Silverberg was raised by a children’s librarian and a sex therapist in a household where the topic of sexuality was hardly taboo. Instead, Silverberg says, it was just part of the conversation in a way that other families might talk about music or sports. “Because of what they did for a living, they were daily topics,” Silverberg says. “Sex was always on the table as something to talk about.” Much of Silverberg’s approach as a sex educator comes from their own experience as a queer, gender non-conforming person. Their new book, You Know, Sex, co-authored with illustrator Fiona Smyth, is geared toward young people hitting puberty, and their parents and caregivers. Silverberg notes that young people are surrounded by sex; it’s in the media, in the news, in pop culture. “And that stuff is not about reproduction,” they say. Their aim in writing the book was to give young people the space to think through their feelings about sex — not just the mechanics of it, but also topics like gender identity, disability, consent and power dynamics.

“A lot of sex education centers either the adult expert and what they think young people as a population need to know, or it centers parents and their fears and concerns,” Silverberg says. “Our books center young people.” Interview highlights On starting off defining sex three ways The first thing I want kids to know is that sex is a word — because we think of it as this objective thing that exists. And for young people, they often think about it as this thing that they don’t know about, that they’re not supposed to know about, and therefore, they’re usually a little bit curious about. And I really want to kind of undo that manufactured titillation — and so we start by saying sex is a word and we say it’s a funny word because it’s short, but it means many things.

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Cory Silverberg’s previous books include What Makes a Baby and Sex is a Funny Word.

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We start with, first of all, that sex is a word we use to define bodies, to describe bodies. So humans have come up with this idea of male and female as categories. And we just say very quickly, there’s more than those two categories. So there’s that. Sex is also something people do to feel good in their bodies. So for the younger children I say it’s something people do to feel good in their bodies and to feel connected to other people. So that’s sort of the second definition. And so for adults, of course, we would talk about that as “having sex.” And then the third definition that we talk about when we talk about sex is that it’s one way we can make babies, so it’s one way that humans reproduce.
On making sex education less about reproduction So much sex education starts with reproduction and the fact is that most of the sex that happens on the planet is not for reproduction. … So for me, it was fundamental to start by separating these out, because that’s our experience. … This is a book that really looks at sex and gender as relational. So when we think about these things as a relationship, it’s actually important to start with the relationship. You need to start by kind of breaking it down because it does feel for a lot of us — and this is not just for young people — it feels like a monolith, right? It feels like this terrifying thing that we don …

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