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Thursday, July 7, 2011

'Transformers 3,' sex and your kid

Is the sex advice in 'Transformers 3' better than nothing?

Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author, blogs about sex on Thursdays on The Chart. Read more from him at his website,GoodInBed.
Kerner @goodinbed will be live on Twitter to answer your questions about how parents can discuss sex with their kids. The chat will be Thursday (July 7) at 2 p.m. EST, moderated by @CNNhealth.  Ask CNN’s sexual health blogger what you want to know using this hashtag: #healthysex.
Last week, upon learning that one of my books was featured in the summer blockbuster "Transformers 3," I rounded up my two boys and eagerly headed off to the multiplex.
I seriously had no idea. The book’s cameo comes about a third of the way in, when Sam (Shia La Beouf) gets some unsolicited relationship advice from his mom in response to his girlfriend woes: You have to work at a relationship, she says, shoving a copy of my book "She Comes First" at him.
Sam recoils, the audience laughs and Dad adds with a sigh, "Happy wife, happy life."
The book’s subtitle is "The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman," and I wrote it to help guys better understand, respect and, I hope,  satisfy, female sexuality.
But throughout the years I’ve also received numerous e-mails from moms and dads who have either given a copy of "She Comes First" to their teenage sons or wondered if they should.
Of course, it’s up to parents to decide how they want to educate their kids about sex, if they want to at all: Many simply to choose opt out of the conversation altogether, so even if it was just the movie, I was happy to see Sam’s mom at least try to help him out.
I grew up with a single mom, and we didn’t have any such conversations about sex - and I’m sure, like Sam, I would have cringed had she tried. But, in retrospect, I would have ultimately appreciated it.
As I’ve written previously in this blog, children are awash in a tidal wave of sexual bits and bytes, now more than ever.
More than any Internet filter we can install on our their computers, we can help them by trying to give them the information and self-esteem they need to make smart, healthy decisions about sex and intimacy - decisions that don’t just protect them in the short-term, but also allow them to enjoy healthy intimate relations when they grow up. Isn’t that what we want for them?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about half of U.S. teens in ninth to twelfth grade have had sexual intercourse. If your child is sexually active, it is most important to make sure he or she is well-informed about matters of the heart as well as safer sex.
Talking about sexuality makes many parents feel nervous, as many are unsure of the best time to begin. Ideally, sexuality education starts in infancy; however, no matter what the age of your child, talking now is better than never.
Start with your own relationship. Almost from birth, children model and imitate what they see at home. If you and your spouse don't treat each other with respect, you can't expect the same from your child.
At Good in Bed, we have many free resources dedicated to the topic of communicating with kids about sexual intimacy. Don't avoid “the talk” - embrace it.
Sex educator Amy Levine writes, “Think of the important points that you want to share with your child. Maybe you want them to know that if they are having sex, your hope is for them to always use protection to prevent pregnancy and reduce the risk of STIs. You might want them to know that even though you would prefer they wait until they were older, you are here for them if they have questions, concerns or feelings they want to share. Starting this type of conversation isn't easy. Pick a time when you think your child will be most receptive. Let them know your hunch, without being accusatory, and see what they say. Then share your messages in such a way that your child knows without a doubt that you are a source of support, rather than strife.”
While the scene in "Transformers 3" was mainly played for laughs, some people in the blogosphere thought it was inappropriate for a PG-13 rated movie.
And while I had nothing to do with the book’s placement, I have written things (sometimes in this very column) that have sparked similar debate. Take last week’s post on “The Joy of Comfort Sex” in which I praise the benefits of long-term monogamous relationships, and the following thread from the comments section:
A teenager: This has GOT to be better than all those TV shows and movies and music and ads that tell all young people to be cool and popular means sleeping around with everyone. At least this article supports long term relationships and responsibility toward your partner.
Brian: Come on Jenny!! I think you are way too sensitive. This article is probably mild at the max compared to what your twelve year old has seen on MTV or even at school.
Diana: Oh please. If your 12 year old is on the internet, they are encountering things far worse than an article focusing on the relationship side of physical relations. And what's wrong with that? If they are old enough to be curious, they can learn that physical relations are a normal and healthy part of a relationship. And articles like these help depict more how it is in real life vs. the fantasy focus by rest of the internet.
hspringer: C'mon JennyTX! S3x is part of life, is normal and the more we make it out to be taboo and not talk about the more that children dabble in it on their own and sometimes get hurt. I didn't find anything offensive in this article and would have no problem if my 11 year old happened to read it. Besides, 11 year olds don't usually read news sites unless having to for an assignment. It never even crossed my mind when I read this article that my daughter might be negatively impacted. There's worse things to see on network TV or in public than this!!
Many parents have strong religious or cultural values that dictate what they believe—and what they want for their children's personal lives. One of the most effective ways to talk with your kids about sex is to have ongoing, open conversations that encourage them to share, rather than you telling them what you want them to do (or not do).
Again writes Levine, “Start by asking a question to see what your child thinks about any sex-related topic. Maybe start the discussion as a result of a television show that you are watching together that tackles a sexual storyline. Let your child know your messages and values, and why you have these particular beliefs and feelings. Ultimately, the less you put a child on the spot about what they are individually experiencing, the more likely they will share with you.”
Stay in tune with their world. Talk to your child’s teachers and other parents to get a sense of what's happening in and out of the classroom. Let your child make mistakes. You made yours. You can't shut the world out, but you can help your children live in it.

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