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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Cycle Savvy: The Smart Teen’s Guide to the Mysteries of Her Body.

There seem to be four ways of going about educating teenagers about sexuality:

1.) Shaming them and filling them with fear and misinformation. This method, called “abstinence only education,” is currently splitting all the government grants allotted for sex education with phony abortion clinics.

2.) Ignoring the problem by being too freaked out to talk to your teenager or by being generally unapproachable. I have no data for this, but suspect it’s a more common method than one would hope.

3.) Giving them the go-ahead to do anything, anytime, with anyone. Although Planned Parenthood, liberals, hippies, and feminists usually get the credit for coming up with this plan, it has not yet been proven to actually exist as an educational method.

4.) Giving the teenager solid, factual, medically-based information about the reproductive workings of the human body, then presenting options for controlling reproduction in a clear, non-judgmental way, as well as thoroughly going over peer pressure, sexually-transmitted diseases, and the effectiveness of various birth control methods at preventing both pregnancy and STDs.

The last method is the one I most approve of, and happily, it’s the method used in Cycle Savvy: The Smart Teen’s Guide to the Mysteries of Her Body.

Toni Weschler, author of the successful Taking Charge of Your Fertility, is back, this time with a book teaching teens how to chart their ovulation cycles. In Cycle Savvy, Weschler firmly stresses that charting fertility is not to be used as birth control for the teen set. Rather, she encourages young women to pay attention to the rhythms of their bodies, pitching the advantages of being accurately able to predict when the teen will get her period, when she’ll get PMS, and when she’s ovulating. Being in tune with your body, Weschler posits, is a great, even essential way to generate self-respect in the teen girl, and self-respect, in turn, is the best method of birth control there is.

If the teen chooses to have sex anyway, Weschler provides a strong argument for condom use as an absolute must-have, wisely pointing out that if a boy does not care if he gets you pregnant or gives you an STD, you shouldn’t be having sex with him.

Equally valuable are the appendices she provides with a complete rundown of the most common STDs as well as valuable information for health resource contacts such as Planned Parenthood, the STD Hotline, and the Emergency Contraceptive Hotline, and numerous websites devoted to aspects of teen sexuality and education, (including one of my favorites, Scarleteen

Weschler has a very personable, easily accessible style, and in between the medical information gives plenty of anecdotes from women telling stories that range from the embarrassing to heart-warming. Additionally, she peppers the book with fun quizzes and crossword puzzles.

Not having any teen girls of my own, and not seeing any coming in the foreseeable future, I loaned the book to my cubicle neighbor at the large company where I work.

Like many Orange County natives, she leans a little to the right (and admitted that so far she was leaning toward Option 2 on my methods of sex ed list.) So I thought she would be a good balance for my Option 3 ways.

“I really like this book,” she said. “I like the way everything is so factually laid out and the information is so specific and clear. I would definitely give this to my daughter.

“And discuss it with her,” she added.

Cycle Savvy: The Smart Teen’s Guide to the Mysteries of Her Body
By Toni Weschler, MPH
September, 2006 by Harper Collins
Paperback, 205 pp
ISBN: 0-06-082964-8

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