Review: Beyond Birds and Bees, Bringing Home a New Message to Our Kids About Sex, Love, and Equality By Bonnie J. Rough, Seal Press
1. If you care about improving the sorry state of sexual health education in the United States, The often cited “Dutch Study”* offers a tantalizing indication of how we could do much better. The 2010 data show that while teens in the Netherlands tend to experience sexual debut at the same age as American teens, their rates of STIs and unintended pregnancy are much lower, and their experience of sexuality is much more positive. What’s up with that? Inquiring minds will find plenty to ruminate over in Bonnie J. Rough’s well researched new book, which covers territory well beyond the scope of the “Dutch Study.” At More Than Sex-Ed, we are confirmed sex-ed geeks, and really love digging through the extensive end notes for our personal edification, but actually this is a great read for a general audience.
2. Rough has written a very personal account of her evolution into becoming a parent who is confident and comfortable talking with her kids about every aspect of healthy sexuality. It’s a beautiful thing, the way she recounts so many short conversations she and her husband have had with their kids, both the ones that were spot on triumphs of developmentally appropriate learning, and the ones she’d like to do over. I mean, the struggle is real, folks! What American parent isn’t concerned about raising kids in our sexualized, sexist culture?
3. Considering the open and positive sexual attitudes that lead the Dutch to normalize beginning formal sex-ed in kindergarten, it’s reasonable to ask if those social norms result in the rampant promiscuity among youth that American parents worry about. Glad you asked! Actually the lack of embarrassment with which Dutch parents and their kids talk about sex, in combo with the culture-wide un-erotic comfort with nudity, empowers children to own their body autonomy. And results in much more conscientious decision making about sexual behavior as young adults. It’s really quite the opposite of advocating a sexual free for all. Bonnie Rough details actionable steps that any parent can find immediately useful, regardless of their child’s age.
4. The contrast between our two societies is stark, and Rough paints a fairly bleak picture of the status quo in US, but really offers practical ways to shift the cultural conversation out of the land of murky taboo into a place of supporting sexual well-being. We are so pleased that in the mix she cites, “…the Our Whole Lives curricula [as] some of the best sex ed on offer in the United States.” Our Whole Lives is so foundational to our programs at More Than Sex-Ed, and we are glad to include Bonnie Rough’s book on our must read list for parents. We feel she’s a real ally in our mission to further the conversation about healthy sexuality.
5. Would you like a free copy of Beyond Birds and Bees? We have two to give away! Click this link to enter!
* Emerging Adolescent Sexuality: A Comparison of American and Dutch College Women's Experiences Margaret Brugman PhD, Sandra L. Caron PhD & Jany Rademakers PhD (2010) Emerging Adolescent Sexuality: A Comparison of American and Dutch College Women's Experiences, International Journal of Sexual Health, 22:1, 32-46, DOI: 10.1080/19317610903403974