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The Teen Guide to Sex Without Regrets

The Teen Guide to Sex Without Regrets
Teen writers at Youth Communication and Andrea Estepa, Keith Hefner, Laura Longhine, Rachel Blustain and Nora McCarthy
Youth Communication
331 pages.

The Teen Guide to Sex Without Regrets Cover

This guide is the result of 10 years of collaboration among adult and teen staff members of Youth Communication’s New York City magazines, New Youth Connections and Represent.

“What concerned us most was not that so many of the teens we knew were having sex,” say the editors in an afterword aimed at adults, “but that so much of the sex they were having was both joyless and careless.” Young writers expressed regret about unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), broken hearts, and feeling rushed, forced or apprehensive. When editors asked why they got into such situations, the most frequent response was “It just happened.” Girls particularly felt “little control over their sex lives.” Many wished they had waited longer to have sex.

After Youth Communication’s staff of all ages and sexual identities began the dialogue, hundreds responded to magazine essay contests about what teens should know about sex. From these sources, staff members compiled lists of “questions that teens should ask themselves before having sex.”

Organized around 52 of these questions, each of the book’s nine chapters opens with a short introduction that offers five to 10 questions for teens to ponder. The 37 stories by teens that follow – first published in Youth Communication’s magazines between 1987 and 2008 – demonstrate why the questions matter.

The opening chapter, for example, examines readiness for having sex with 10 questions, including “Do you know what gender you’re attracted to?” and “Are you ready to behave responsibly?” Among six teens’ stories that respond, both a boy and a girl suffer from too much sex too early. In “Why I Hate Sex,” Lenny Jones, whose sexual experiences began soon after middle school, finds sex “boring.” He’s “an emotional wreck” at 19, “because having sex with someone I don’t really care about makes me yearn for the right person.” In “Looking for Love,” after losing her virginity at 13 to fill her absent father’s “empty space,” Fetima P. writes: “I would always go into the bedroom thinking this guy might actually like me. Then when everyone knew about it the next day, I would realize I was wrong again.”

Chapter themes range from “Doing It” to finding the right partner or avoiding the wrong one. The final chapter asks tough questions about consequences, from breaking up to “what you’d do if you got pregnant.” A 19-year-old recounts the result of his impulsive one-night hookup in “Am I the Father?” Holding the baby while awaiting his paternity test results, he realizes, “It’s frightening to look at something so small and know how much he needs you. But that doesn’t make it right for fathers to leave.”

This valuable roadmap to the realities of teen sexuality ends with practical information that includes a humorously illustrated introduction to STDs, a clear guide to birth control methods, a detailed description of a first gynecological exam; a sex readiness quiz and a selected list of web and print resources. (212) 279-0708, ext. 115; www.youthcomm.org.

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