When I think about some of the more cringe-worthy conversations about sexual and reproductive health, I’m always drawn back to the insufferable Coach Carr from Mean Girls. “If you do touch each other, you will get chlamydia… and die.”
Woah, not so fast! Chlamydia is a bacterial sexually transmitted infection or STI that is totally curable with antibiotics. And honestly, it’s quite common AND it’s on the rise in young people. So, what gives?
Why the anxiety and unease when talking about something so vital as our sexual health and the importance of STI testing?
At Berks Teens, it’s part of our job to talk about sexually transmitted infections, among other things related to sex. And there’s a noticeable shift in the room when we start talking about STI testing. The energy thickens like smog as each person blankly stares at the pariah who dare talk about gonorrhea and syphilis in PUBLIC.
But our conversations and workshops look a little different than the “shame and fear” tone like the one given by Coach Carr.
There are a few absolutes in this life: death, taxes, and the fact that shame-based conversations always end poorly. And they’re ineffective at stopping kids from having sex. It seems the sex ed convos of yore are still omnipresent in today’s society.
If adults are having these conversations with youth at all, they are often limited and laced with shame and fear.
And to a degree, I get it, because that’s largely how we were taught. But if you take a moment to seriously reflect on the conversations surrounding sex from your own upbringing, what did you feel was helpful? Was there even a conversation about the importance of getting tested to keep you and your partner safe?
If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation when discussing sexual and reproductive health with the young people in your life, that’s okay! We’re here to help.
Resources from Berks Teens
At Berks Teens we respect your family values and ideals surrounding young people and sex. We just hope that you will have fact-based conversations that aren’t rooted in shame and stigma. And it’s totally okay not to know an answer to a curveball question that your young person may throw at you (what is a genital wart mom?). The important thing is letting your young people know that you want to come back to the conversation after you’ve had some time to thoughtfully prepare.
Not sure where to turn for resources? We’ve got you covered at BerksTeens.org. We’re all about providing parents and teens with scientifically backed resources (sans the stigma).
Maybe you’d prefer to start the conversation in a different way by simply letting the young people in your life know that Berks Teens offers FREE STI testing and treatment at our office at 429 Walnut Street. All we’re saying is… you’ve got this.
Keep the Conversation Going
Remember parents, talking about sexual and reproductive health should be an ongoing conversation and not one singular destination.
Don’t be like a Coach Carr. Be the resourceful and empowering adult who encourages the young people in your life to take charge of their sexual health. Learn more at BerksTeens.org.