Spider-Man has always been one of my favorite comic series. I mean come on. He’s in love with MJ. Which is short for Mary Jane. Which is so much cooler than what my MJ stands for, but still. It turns out that Spider-Man has been even cooler for other reasons. Rant and love for Planned Parenthood ahead, if you want to turn back now.
According to this article on Buzzfeed and some pretty convincing images I’ve found elsewhere, it looks like the makers of Spider-Man got together with Planned Parenthood back in the late 1970’s and made a comic book to try and help keep kids from getting pregnant or catching an STD. My favorite part of the comic is the “What the facts are” section which explains the “truth” about sex, pregnancy, homosexuality, and VD. Many of these things are still true, and many of these things need to be updated for today’s teens.
I know that for a lot of people, Planned Parenthood is very controversial, but from my experience, I think that they are an organization worth commending. If for no other reason than all the help they provided me with. As a teenager and an adult, I went to Planned Parenthood for many reasons. Free condoms and birth control as a teenager, STD testing and treatment as an adult, and low price birth control when I was unemployed.
As a teenager, the night I lost my virginity was a big deal, but unlike all the advice from adults, I decided to go with a boy I didn’t know and thought I’d never see again to be my first, so I wouldn’t have to tell anyone if I didn’t enjoy it and the “big” question of whether or not it was actually fun would be answered. Well, like most teenagers, I found I enjoyed it enough that I was going to have sex whether we had protection or not. I mean, I was invincible anyway. STD’s and pregnancy happened to other kids, not me, but I took my birth control when I remembered to. However, if there was protection around, I would always use it. Planned Parenthood made sure that there was almost always protection available. I would get bags of condoms free every month, and I rarely used them all and always carried more than one with me.
As a parent, do I want my kids to make the same mistakes I did? NO! Do I want my kids to be informed in case they do? YES! And I want them more informed than I was. (It turns out I wasn’t invincible, and STD’s can be passed on the first time you have unprotected sex with that guy you’ve been dating for six months if neither of you has been tested.) Without condoms, if they’re a teenager like I was, they could find themselves at their doctor assuming their liver must have stopped neutralizing their stomach acid (Why else would it burn so much when I peed?). I didn’t pay much attention in biology either.
So, I began the uncomfortable talks with my kids when they were a lot younger than anyone thought I should. It was years before the schools said anything and years before my kids were considering kissing anyone “like that”. I didn’t start out with graphic details or anything, just asking them what they knew about the topics and correcting any misinformation they’d received. It turns out that around age 10, my kids started getting information from other kids (usually friends with older siblings) if they asked, and that information was almost always wrong. (“Where do babies come from?” turned into a conversation about how choices make babies, not God. Unless you’re Mary, but God wouldn’t do that to a teenager anymore, since it’s so bad for them and he wouldn’t want to hurt them.)
The Not So Fun Facts
According to the CDC, in 2013:
- 41% of sexually active high school students did not use condoms the last time they had sex (before the survey).
- Almost 10,000 people (ages 13-24) were diagnosed with HIV and 78% of those sexually active high school students had never been tested!
- Approximately 273,000 babies were born to girls aged 15-19 in 2013
My takeaway from these statistics is that I’m doing the right thing. My daughter is 15 and not having sex, but she is prepared. She knows to talk to me about it and will. I know this because she’s brought up the subject with me (and we went and picked her up some condoms, just in case). My son is still uncomfortable with the talks, but can now list off the best safety methods in order of highest likelihood to protect him and least safe methods of sex. During our first annual discussion (that I started at 13), I discovered to my horrified anger, that the schools my kids had been attending preach (oops, I mean “teach”) only abstinence. There is no curriculum whatsoever for high school or junior high students that teaches actual safe sex practices. I actually had to explain to my 13 year old son what a condom was and how to use it. That’s not something he wants to hear from me.
My suggestion: This holiday season while you’re on that three hour drive to visit the folks, and their stuck in the care with you, talk to your kids. Even if it’s just a talk with the littlest ones about where they think babies came from, make sure they’re informed correctly and the way you want them raised, not the way other parents raise their kids.
Have you talked to your kids about sex? If you could pick one superhero to explain sex to your kids, who would it be?