NEW LEBANON, N.Y. — Since pretty much forever, adolescents' education about sex and sexuality has primarily come from conversations between kids and teens first, likely supplemented at some point by parents offering "the talk," and perhaps some healthy or science class anatomy and physiology.
It's no secret that people talk about sex, but those talks, particularly between younger peers, also tend to be misguided, and often because comprehensive and fact-based sex education curricula doesn't reach them.
So when Darrow School biology teacher, Lily Corral, prompted her students to collaborate on a writing a book on a topic of their choosing, it wasn't surprising that the topic the teens in her classes most wanted to explore was sex. The 214-page hand-illustrated book, "Sex, Love and Misconceptions: The Actually Interesting Manual About Sex for Teens," officially launched last week. Students are now continuing to share their findings through social media (facebook.com/SexLoveAndMisconceptions), advertising and word of mouth.
An author's note explains the guide: "Our discontent with the information being offered us spurred us to fix our own problems and teach ourselves and others what we thought we needed to learn. "Sex, Love, and Misconceptions" is a book teaching young adults about health related issues which they may be questioning. We put our own questions and misconceptions into our research for the book, and came out with a greater knowledge of the necessities we should know growing up."
Junior Frank Deng said he also liked the challenge of the project. "This may be our only chance to write a book."
Those topics go beyond the male and female anatomy and fundamentals of sex to touch on the culture of consent and rape; the culture of pornography and masturbation; reproductive health, including sexually transmitted infections, birth control, pregnancy; the spectrum of sexual orientations and preferences; hormones and attraction; and the fun and awkwardness of talking about sex with a partner. The writing itself blends slang and science while staying rooted in fact.
"Biology is about the meaning of life and sex is the basic foundation," said sophomore Natasha Santiago.
"Sex education should be a part of everyone's lives, at all ages, whether they plan on having sex or not," said Corral. "Being uninformed, or making decisions based on erroneous information, can seriously harm you, and can drastically and permanently change a teenager's life." She praised her students for taking on the project with "passion" and "maturity."
"It's part of our national consciousness but a lot of people don't know a lot about it," said Louis Roberts, a Darrow sophomore from Becket, Mass. He noted how Mississippi, which has an abstinence-only school curriculum, also has among the highest rates of teen pregnancy, gonorrhea and chlamydia in the U.S.
Said junior Kevin Wang, "Sex is something you live with for the rest of your life and you should learn to keep yourself safe."