By Sabrina Weill Perigee Trade, 2005 Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Apr 17th 2007
The Real Truth About Teens & Sex is a straightforward book aimed mainly at parents about the beliefs and attitudes of teens about sex. It focuses on real world advice and is full on tips. It contains many quotations from teens writing about their feelings concerning sex and relationships. The basic message of the book is that although talking about sex is awkward for both parents and their children, it is necessary. Weill encourages parents to have conversations with their children about a variety of topics: virginity, sex on TV, sex ed, homosexuality, love, STDs and unwanted pregnancy. This will help teens make good choices when it comes to sex. According to Weill, teens want guidance and need to get accurate and helpful information, but often they are given ideas that are false and even dangerous. The writing style of the book is accessible and positive.
The book is full of striking statistics. According to the CDC, 33% of ninth graders, 44% of tenth graders, 53% of eleventh graders and 62% of twelfth graders have had sex. But they don't all agree on what counts as sex: according to a different poll, 77% agree that oral sex is sex, while only 45% say that genital touching is sex. According to the survey especially commissioned by Weill, 20% of 17-year-olds lie to their parents about whether they are sexually active; while a different survey reports that 25% of teen girls and 46% of teen boys who have had sex say their parents do not know. 34% of teens say that sex "just happens" rather than occurs as a conscious decision. 40% of twelfth graders have had sex outside of a romantic relationship. 39% say that at their school, sex is considered pretty casual, but 78% say that sex should be romantic. 81% of sexually active 12-14 year olds wish they had waited longer to have sex. 45% of teens say that their parents are the most influential people when it comes to decisions about sex, and only 31% say that friends are most important. Weill recommends that if you as a parent suspects their teen is sexually active but is not admitting it, you should give her the information she needs, such as facts about birth control.
Weil bases her advice on her experience as an editor and editor-in-chief at Seventeen magazine, and she wrote The Seventeen Guide to Sex and Your Body. She is not a clinician but she has spent a great deal of time reading about teens' lives through their emails and letters. As a journalist, her expertise is in communication rather than medical facts or family psychology. Wisely, she focuses on statistics, social trends, and ways to start conversations with teens. Her approach hasn't been scientifically tested, but it seems reasonable.
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Reviews. His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.