Review of Dr. Ruth’s Guide To Teens And Sex Today: From Social Networking To Friends With Benefits
Dr. Ruth’s Guide To Teens And Sex Today:
From Social Networking To Friends With Benefits
By Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer with Pierre A. Lehu
Published by Teachers College Press, September 2008, New York: 148 pp.
Quick—someone get a copy of this to Sarah Palin.
Even parents who aren’t as clueless about teenage sexuality as the Republican vice-presidential candidate can certainly benefit from the practical, straightforward advice about dealing with adolescent sexuality from the pre-eminent sex therapist and educator, Dr. Ruth Westheimer.
And it doesn’t hurt that Dr. Westheimer tempers her advice with the reassuring, experienced voice of a mother and grandmother.
While it’s never been easy for parents to deal with the tangled emotions and raging hormones of their teenage children (including coping with some of their own ambivalence about having children who are old enough to be dealing with sexual issues), as Dr. Westheimer points out, it’s even more challenging today.
Whether it’s worrying about a teen’s exploration of an Internet chat room, and the potential of an online predator setting up an in-person meeting; setting clear and appropriate boundaries about a teen’s use of social networking sites such as MySpace; withstanding the media pressures of sexually explicit content in advertising or popular shows—or even understanding the new codes about dating (including the concept that girls performing oral sex on boys somehow doesn’t count), Dr. Westheimer confronts them with her characteristic candor and lack of squeamishness.
Dr. Westheimer is also explicit in her message to parents that they be parents, and not worry about being their children’s friends, especially during the often-frightening teenage years when many adolescents may wish they could retreat from scary situations by invoking parental rules.
She also points out the way European parents handle their teens’ sexuality, with the result that there are fewer abortions and teen pregnancies in Europe. Rather than promoting abstinence, or turning away from the topic altogether, in Europe parents are more apt to give permission for their teenagers to have sex if they’re in a serious relationship and practice responsible birth control and safe sex.
“If you lay down very strict limits on your children but they’re limits that they’re not likely to obey, once they’ve disobeyed you, you’ve lost most, if not all, of your influence over them with regard to that topic,” writes Dr. Westheimer. “…As the dangers multiply, it’s only natural that parents will want to protect their children, but smothering is not going to work, either in the short run or the long run. What you have to do is help them grow up, which means you have to give them more responsibility, not less. If you can no longer just lay down laws that will stop peer pressure in its tracks, then you have to make sure that your teens are prepared to handle this pressure on their own.”
With this smart, sensitive and self-assured volume in hand, you will be prepared to do precisely that.#