Monday, March 03, 2008

Cancelled in Connecticut

I was supposed to speak to parents next week in a nearby town on how parents can educate their children and teenagers about sexuality in their own homes.

The school superintendent cancelled the talk as too controversial, after as I understand it, receiving some concerned calls. Part of the issue that was raised was the flyer that was to be sent home to parents contained the word "sexuality", and the fear was that some parents might now want that word coming into their home.

Really. I wonder what those parents do about television, magazines, radio, newspapers...and oh yes, those ubiquitous Victoria Secret Catalogs.

I've only had events cancelled two other times in my 25 years as a public speaker: once by a group in the deep south who had not done their homework on my positions on abortion and GLBT issues and once because of an unrelated community controversy that meant the timing wasn't right for a visit.

Talks for parents, whether at schools or religious institutions, are probably the least controversial thing I do. My talks, like my books for parents, encourage parents to give their own values about sexuality to their own children. And they are based in the research that shows that when parents talk to their children openly and honestly about their values and about sexuality, their children are more likely to delay sexual intercourse and more likely to protect themselves if they do have sex.

It is hard to believe that in 2008 in Connecticut talking to parents about talking to their own children about sex would be seen as too controversial and risky.

The point is -- the point always is -- that our children and teens are bombarded with sexual messages that we can't control, whether or not there is sexuality education in the schools. As I learned a long time ago, the question is never whether young people receive sex information or not -- it's only whether it comes from trained teachers, trained religious leaders, and empowered parents or whether it comes from the media, their friends, or the street.

I'm sorry that this town chose the latter.


Anonymous said...

What are people afraid of? It puzzles me. I can see being embarrassed to talk about sexuality with ones kids, but I mean, they NEED this. Other than that, I just don't understand.

Betsy Neale said...

I, too, conduct workshops for parents on talking with their children about sexual topics. I work across the state of Kentucky. I don’t recall ever having one of my workshops cancelled as too controversial after it was scheduled, but I certainly have run into communities and school administrators who felt this topic was too hot to handle and declined to consider hosting my workshop. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.
One of the things I particularly appreciate about doing parent education is that it usually avoids the controversy that schools run into about what can be taught to kids – I’m teaching adults. And although what I teach them may shock some of them (the idea of explaining intercourse to a 5-year-old often draws complaints), I stress that it is up to them what they tell their children and at what age. Interestingly, Questions Kids Ask, the parent book published by the socially conservative Medical Institute for Sexual Health, also advises explaining intercourse to young children.
On the positive side, many schools and health departments enthusiastically welcome my program into their communities. Most people recognize 1) the importance of parents talking with their children about sex (even SEXUALITY!!), and 2) that most parents need help knowing how to communicate with their children about sexual issues.

Betsy Neale, Ph.D.
Title X Family Planning Consultant
Kentucky Department for Public Health
206 Shady Lane
Lexington, KY 40503
859 277-6101

C4bl3Fl4m3 said...

I'm a bit of a radical, so if this would happen to me, I'd find my own place to speak in this town and go do it anyway. To me, any place that denies this kind of conversation is a place that needs it more than ever. :-)

Anonymous said...

I work in New Haven with other local partners (libraries, local government, etc.) and our main mission is to help educate parents about talking to their kids about sexuality. This is something that parents not only want, but need given our current environment (as already pinpointed in the blog) that is heavily saturated with so many mixed messages presented by media about relationships, love, sexuality, body image, etc. If opportunities (such as this cancelled event) that will provide parents with the tools to have open, honest, and balanced conversations about sexuality are taken away, what does that communicate to our youth? How is this keeping them safe? I can speak from experience as someone who grew up in a home where sexuality was not discussed, only something to be admonished. Needless to say, I joined the ranks of my other peers receiving tons of mixed messages from other sources. We need to make sure there are opportunities in Connecticut (and everywhere else) to empower the parents to talk to their kids.

Shanta L. Evans, MBA
Real Life. Real Talk. Manager
Planned Parenthood of Connecticut