I mentioned in a post earlier this month that two really great things happened to me immediately following ALA Midwinter. The first I covered in that post. The second one I didn’t get to talk about yet, but I got the message about it quite literally as I was sitting in the gate area, getting ready to fly home from Philadelphia.
Now I can share it.
First, a little back story. Perhaps this is personal, but maybe it’s not. I suspect a lot of readers will have this kind of story or know this kind of story or have thought about it. So here goes.
I didn’t get one of those sex talks growing up. There was never a time I was sat down and talked to frankly about sex. Sure, I sat through this terrible school sex talks — one which included a paper heart that yes, was torn into pieces to show girls what happened to their purity each time they had sex — but it was never more than that.
My information about sex and my body instead came from three places: my friends, the internet, and books.
I remember distinctly learning about oral sex in 3rd grade, when my best friend at the time told me what one of the lines in an Alanis Morissette meant (I’m sure you know the line).
I remember the day I discovered Scarleteen, the forums and Q&As that spoke directly to me and answered questions I had, as well as questions I didn’t know that I had.
I remember picking up books like Judy Blume’s Forever and Deenie and Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret and having those messages about sex and sexuality given to me when I did and didn’t know I was looking for them. Not to mention the countless articles I read in Seventeen and other teen magazines (I was too young for the hey day of Sassy, but I was that kid who dutifully checked the back issues all out from the library when I was 12 and 13).
I remember the things I really learned when I went to high school and then even more so when I went to a very liberal liberal arts college. Where I kept a jar of condoms in my room. Where I heard about other people’s first and second and eighth experiences and where I had my first.
There were things I wish I’d known before then. Things I wish I’d read or seen or thought about.
And today, there are teen girls who have not just with those same thoughts and worries and questions and interests and curiosities, but they’re riddled with even tougher work to get real, honest information about those things. It’s not that the information isn’t out there. It’s that there’s so much out there now, that figuring out what it is you need to know can be tough because it’s not always easy to discern, say, porn truth from real truth or agenda or fear based truth. The waters are a lot murkier, cloudier, and tougher to navigate.
So when Amber Keyser approached me about a project she had in mind, I was all in because not only was this the kind of thing I wish I’d had when I was a teenager, but because it is the kind of thing I wish I could hand every single teen girl who needs it now.
From Publisher’s Marketplace’s announcement:
As you may remember, I wrote a lengthy post about female sexuality and about positive portrayals thereof last June. It was from that Amber reached out to me, and we talked about including a portion within her anthology about books (and perhaps films) that portray female sexuality in positive, empowering ways.
My portion of this book will be a Question & Answer section, delving into the various issues surrounding sex, first times, and what there is available that portrays these things in positive, worthwhile ways. In other words, where are the books girls can turn to to read healthy experiences regarding masturbation or losing her virginity?
Because we know information girls receive about sex comes from those around them, as well as the media they take in, this is geared toward being a guide to better understanding the language, the labels, and the experiences girls see and feel and have and live when it comes to their sexual lives.
This will be an edgy, no-holds-barred approach that is meant to empower girls with decision making tools and hopefully (!!!) allow them to better understand themselves and where it is they stand on making decisions about their sexual lives.
I’m thinking of this as a putting my money where my mouth is — we can shout from the rooftops that we want to empower girls and we want to educate them, but until we talk about these issues with them, rather than talk about these issues with each other as adults, we don’t know whether the message is being heard.
This is about the message being heard, as well as giving girls the tools to find and think about those very messages.
While we’ve fleshed out much of what it is we want to ensure we hit in this Q&A, since this is a work in development and knowing that many of our readers here at Stacked are teachers, librarians, writers, and/or former teen girls themselves (if not teen girls now!), I also wanted to open up an opportunity for anyone to weigh in. What are the things you wish you’d known about sex and virginity growing up? What are some of the things you wish today’s teens knew or had the tools to think about? The angle of this book is positive — meaning that choice (which of course means choice to be sexually active and choice not to be sexually active) is a key player in any and all decisions here — but we will touch on the negative sides of sex and sexuality, as well.
I’ve opened up a form for anyone to drop in their thoughts and ideas (if you wish to be anonymous or elaborate), and the comments are open for suggestions as well. Have you read YA books with awesome, sexually empowering messages or themes? Great articles on this topic worth thinking about? What about less than excellent depictions? I’d love any thoughts or ideas or leads you may have.
I’m so excited about this opportunity (and this might not be the last announcement I make about this) and I’m even more excited that this book will exist for teen girls who will benefit tremendously. While Spring 2016 may seem like it’s forever away, my deadline is . . . not that far away. It’s going to fly by.
There is nothing else out there like The V-Word geared towards teen girls in a positive, empowering manner.
A huge congratulations goes out today to our girl Jen, who gave birth to a healthy baby girl this afternoon.
We’re so happy for her and the family and wish them all the best!