Warning: parents might freak out - Macleans.ca

Warning: parents might freak out

These first-person accounts of teen sex can be disquieting


As she was gathering first-person accounts for Laid: Young People’s Experiences with Sex in an Easy-Access Culture, a new sex-ed handbook, Shannon Boodram observed a trend: there was no shortage of dire, cautionary tales—regrettable hookups, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, abortion, rape. Yet she was scrambling to find positive stories for a chapter she wanted to devote to healthy, pleasurable sexual expression. “It was the hardest stuff to get,” the 24-year-old Toronto freelance journalist says.

Part of the problem, she knew, stemmed from ingrained perceptions about sex education among the 18- to 25-year-old contributors she had solicited online: “Sex ed is about warning people,” Boodram says. “It’s supposed to be scary.”

But she also knew the paucity of upbeat stories reflected a deeper, little-discussed truth: that pleasure isn’t even on the sexual radar for many teenage girls. Boodram’s own experience taught her a profound disconnect exists between the Girls Gone Wild and Gossip Girl hyper-sexualization of teenagers culturally and the off-screen reality. She writes that she felt pain and then “nothingness” when she first had intercourse at age 16. After, however, she boasted to girlfriends that it had been erotic and satisfying. By age 17, she fancied herself a “sexual vixen.” Yet she faked enjoyment, taking cues from the online porn she’d watched since age 13. Despite sex-ed class, she didn’t have a clue where her clitoris was located: based on female porn stars who combusted upon contact, she deduced it had to be inside her vagina.

Frustrated, Boodram decided to educate herself and figure out why she had settled for a series of unfulfilling hookups, what she now calls “the microwave burrito of sex.” Part of it was a lack of confidence: “by limiting myself to hookups, no one could break up with me because the guys never seemed to want to be my boyfriend anyway.” What was needed, she thought, were unvarnished stories from the horny, confusing, exciting, frightening and vulnerable landscape of teen sex. Boodram selected and honed 40 narratives that range in style from raw to poetic, then organized them into chapters capped with answers to questions many teens might not ask, for fear of seeming naive. (The lack of knowledge about sexual consequences in Laid is mind-boggling: one male writes of wilfully ignoring HPV warts.) Though some might quibble with the random approach, the diverse voices provide range and preclude knee-jerk generalizing: amid the many girls who appear to be living in a rap lyric, willing to accept sex as something done to them, not for them, there’s abstinent-by-choice Desiree Dorite, who writes: “It’s not my responsibility to make sure a guy’s penis has a great day.”

Boodram’s unpreachy message is simple: sexuality is not a one-size-fits-all mass-market commodity; it’s personal, unique, and to be valued. “When I’m asked ‘What do you want people to get out of the book?’ I always say, ‘Get yours,’ ” she says. “Yours can be a hug, yours can be a date, yours could be everything or it could be nothing.” Teenagers have to put themselves first, she says: “The more empowered you are, the more confident you are, the more people are going to like you. But girls are taught the more submissive you are, the more likeable you are.” She’s particularly concerned about porn’s pernicious effect: “Young adults need to be taught about pornographic content the same way they are warned about the WWE [World Wrestling Entertainment]: it’s not real,” she writes.

Boodram ignored the advice of an agent who told her to drop the chapter on rape, which includes a girl’s harrowing account of being violated by a lineup of boys at a party. “It’s the most important chapter,” she says.
“ ‘Date rape’ happens all the time without girls understanding it’s rape.” She also persevered when Canadian publishers rejected the manuscript (the standard refrain was that it would be difficult to market). Berkeley, Calif.-based Seal Press picked it up for North American distribution.

Now the energetic journalist who hosts the cable show High School Rush is marketing Laid by herself: recently, she set up a table at Toronto’s Women’s College Hospital to sell the book; she’s also working to get it on high school curricula. Toronto sex columnist and educator Josey Vogels is a supporter: “As opposed to the often self-righteous and fear-based messages young people get from adults who seem to think all young women are handing out blow jobs like candy, Laid satisfies the curiosity young people have about what other kids are doing and offers a ‘Wow, maybe I’m not such a freak’ educational value,” she says.

Already, girls have told Boodram that they were inspired by the difficult-to-gather chapter about loving, gratifying sexual relationships: “They say, ‘I’ve never experienced something like that; it gave me hope that maybe I can.’ ” That may cause some parents to freak out. If so, they really need to read Laid; it will be an education.


Warning: parents might freak out

  1. I just bought this book and can't wait to read it, I've been looking for something like this forever and I'm glad I found something in a book like this.

    • Where can I buy this book?????………

      • At Chapters, Indigo, Coles, Barnes and Noble and some small bookstores carry it as well

    • i also want to buy it. Please tell me an online store.

      • At Chapters, Amazon or Barnes and Nobles. Go to Chapters webiste and type in LAID, it should take you to the book's page.

        thank you

  2. Congrats to @shannontboodram on the Macleans feature and for being just as incredible as her book. See my take on why

  3. Many years ago in the hippy era I had a female apartment mate who took it upon herself to educate young men in how to make love to a woman and to treat her right. I heard through the grapevine that she was quite successful. I met Shere Hite some years later and she, too, was trying to get the message across. Young teens need good role models for that to work and they need to be pointed out. It's amazing after all these years that things are still so haphazard in teen's sex lives.

    • You just described the plot of Sweet November (I hate myself for knowing that). Did this hippy woman entertain one man per month? Did she have a terminal inllness which motivated her to do this?

  4. Imagine that, and here all this time I thought waiting til one was mature enough to deal with the ramifications of sexual activity before becoming sexually active was just old people-talk.

  5. The warning that should be inscripted on any book aimed at teaching teenagers sexuality "Important if true." Any one of these tomes, and dare I say those especially written by women, will be heavily tinged with the author's experience and bias. Like the article writes: everybody's different.

    • Especially written by women? Sorry, I'm having trouble deciphering why you think women are MORE prone writing tinged with our experience and bias. Of course everybody's different. If these stories are supposed to be individual experiences that can spark discussion, then of course they'll be different. And they'll show their biases.

  6. It is depressing that sex remains such a tormented subject for so many teens. I am particularly struck by the continuing ignorance on the "how" of good sex. Even when sex is not a massively fulfilling emotional experience, it can at least be fun and pleasurable and there is no reason why young people should not be taught, in some way, how it should be done.

    That said, don't ask me to broach this subject with my adult children!

  7. Why are we trying so hard to put our children into a situation they are not ready for. All I can do is cry out to the lord to ask for forgiveness. We are not doing these young people any favor by teaching them how to make sex plesurable. The resulf will be more abortons and lives ruined. Planned Parenthood is a joke that is not funny(I dropped when I saw a page on how to make sex pleasurabel with links to sex toy stores.) I think there are some well meaning misguided people that would do better to put their time and energy into Pro Life.

    • Most teenagers are going to have some form of sex, whether you like it or not. Abstinance based sex-ed has been PROVEN to not be effective. Why so many states in the US still use it is beyond my understanding. Isn't it better that teens learn that sex can be good, and a pleasure, within a loving relationship, than to think it's just something they should do because all their friends are? Do we want our girls going into adulthood without being told that sex should be good for them as well as their partner?

      And I think there are some well meaning, misguided people who would do better to put their time and energy into Pro Choice.

      • Just because you know some people will engage in bad behaviour is no reason to actively encourage more of the same.

        What do you mean by “loving relationship”? Any sexual relationship in which either party retains the option of ending the relationship unilaterally is not a loving relationship. It is using the other person as a mere means to an end (eg. one’s own sexual pleasure). That is the reason that being dumped is such a painful experience for many people– because they can no longer hide from the fact that they have been used.

        A lot of people throw the term “Pro Choice” around without giving it much thought. If you are talking about the choice to kill an innocent unborn human being, on what grounds do you justify that? I have yet to see a rational explanation for what is usually meant nowadays by “Pro Choice”.

        • Dan is absolutely right. Young immature girls don't realize they are being used. Young women today have given away their power and they don't even realize it. They also put themselves at great risk for pregnancy and std's. When you look at it the womens liberation of the 70's has turned into men's liberation. They can get sex with multiple partners very easily,.They don't have to take responsiblilty for pregnancy (in my day you got married and it lasted). Every taxpayer is on the hook for their actions. They no longer have sole responsibility for the financial responsibility of the family, yet take little responsibility for daily household chores. It's still a man's world ladies.

    • We must model for our children a loving relationship where the parents are committed to each other for the long haul. Hook-ups only lead to disappointment at best and likely a feeling of complete failure that can take years to overcome. Don't give your affection away cheaply to someone who has no intention of being committed to you. What TV and Movies display as loving hook-ups are as fake as WWE wrestling and computer generated movie scenes.

    • You've got to see the children I work with, conceived thoughtlessly in poverty, ignorance and violence. They might have been cute fetuses but they're on their way to juvenile delinquency now, and about to use more of your tax money on Welfare and prison upkeep. Makes you wonder about whether forcing every baby to be born is really the right thing to do. Ideally, their parents should be sterilized, but I'd be crucified for saying so in public.

      • Perhaps teen-agers should have to pass some sort of parenting course before being alowed to bring a baby home. As we have seen by the outpouring of generosity & concern for Haitian orphans, there is clearly a shortage of babies out there. It's impossibnle fr a 15 year old to be able to properly look after a baby – they are still children themselves. Why these kids are allowed to keep their babies, especially since they will probably rely on public support- is ridiculous & a failure of our society. Especially the kids who have kids, and are from dsyfunctional families themselves, without any visible support network of any value.

  8. As a nurse working with adolescents I see daily that nothing for girls has changed in the last 30 years. Instead of the "sexual liberation" of the seventies which labeled you "frigid" if you weren't "doing it", they are now pressured into having sex too early because of mainstream porn, sex in advertising, and the desire to be popular and up to anything. They still have so many bizarre beliefs about sexuality and pregnancy, and so many of them are unable to experience pleasure with the act. But they all pretend they're sex queens until you call them on it. It breaks my heart.
    Boys on the other hand, have not changed. Sex is over after their own pleasure, and girls are judged on their "performance" which they freely share with their peers. Like Ms Kingston, I worry if porn is being used by young males as the template for normal female sexuality. Guys, IT'S FAKE!

  9. Agreed. I think the main problem is that porn is so accessible and this seems to be the main teacher of sexuality. It's visual, you can see it on your own time and watch it again and again. Only problem is, compared to the real thing, it's ridiculous. But if you have nothing to compare it to, other than verbal warnings about the potential problems with, then their sense of balance will be messed up.

  10. I am over 65 now…and want all those babies that are being aborted to be passed on to loving adoptive families…with the option of one day being reconnected to the mother if they both want it….and when the child is 18 they will want to…………..there are so many families with loving children that would have been aborted if the option had been there………….if you are going to have unprotected sex…young women take your vitamims..spina bifida….no drugs or alchohol…fetal alcohol syndrome…………..

  11. testing 1 2 3

  12. of course is calm and relaxing,is a prison__

  13. sure, it is a good post, I will sent to my friends

  14. For years I said that women gaining their political independence was one thing. Gaining their financial independence was another. I said that gaining their sexual independence was what would cause the real turbulence. It had to happen and times of transition are painful. I have confidence that present and future youth will get it worked out. My generation moved things along to some degree but many of us still have hangups we wish we did not have but do not have the wisdom to shake. I am frankly impressed that young people seem okay with their world. I do suspect that an age of role reversal is nigh. Women may become the studs and men the sluts who don't get called. With many more women than men in university, it might be becoming a woman's world. We guys may have to make our way, on the beach, servicing vacationing women for gold chains and dinners or as product demonstrators at conventions and trade shows. As long as they don't make me go to NASCAR races!

  15. I agree with a lot of your opinions, having been a victim of teen-aged sex that led to an "accident". I chose to give my accident up for adoption & was rewarded by knowing that he was received as a bundle of joy by his new parents- who were able & ready to give their love & care to a child, but couldn't.
    Abortion is an easy way to deal with an unwanted pregnancy, but not the best solution foor everyone. I never regretted my decision, although I'd like to know things about him while he was growing up, the reports from the agency that handled the adoption showed that he was a source of joy & pride for his parents. That is comforting. Having him end up as mutilated tissue in a bedpan – not so much.

  16. As a 16 year old girl, I would like to disagree with the notion that young women submit to their partners surrender their satisfaction when engaging in sexual intercourse. Personally, every time I have sex, I end up just as satisfied as my partner. I think that you are mislead when you say that teenage girls rarely ever experience pleasure during sex, and walk into sex clueless about their own bodies. When I lost my virginity, any pain or discomfort dissipated quickly, and I felt closer to the person I had chosen to share my experience with. Each time I have made the choice to have sex since then, I have not been left feeling empty, I have only felt the satisfaction, exhilaration, and happiness that should follow sexual activity. Unfortunately, I understand that this is not the case for some young women. But to make a generalization that girls cannot partake in sex without sacrificing their own enjoyment and self-respect, is wholly inaccurate. I do not feel that sex is demeans or depreciates my self-respect. I believe that it would be beneficial to young women to discontinue the victimization of teenage women engaging in sexual intercourse. Convincing girls that it is impossible to take part in a healthy, pleasurable sexual relationship, and persuading them to believe that sex only occurs in degrading circumstances is harmful to the female psyche. Many young women are able to engage in sex that only reaps positive benefits, and as long as they go about it in a safe manner, are just as capable as their male counterparts of feeling empowered by sex instead of depreciated.

    • I'm not sure you understand that the purpose of this book is to educate women who can't enjoy sex properly so that they can enjoy it. Yes by the way an alarming number of women areunaware of the potentials of sex and continually have negitive experiances. The author did personal research and had alot more difficulty finding the positive kind for one.

  17. Love and Be loved !

  18. Umm… it's not abstinence that's been proven ineffective, it's the teaching of "abstinence-only." It's an important distinction.

  19. A lack of positive stories, the hardest to get…perhaps there is a reason teens shouldn't be having sex after all. But that obvious conclusion seems to have eluded this author.