A friend recently asked, since she lives far away and cannot attend my next class in Austin, what reading material could I suggest for her and her friends. She has a fifth grader. Here is what I said to her:
Good reading material about boys includes the chapter on sexuality in the book The Wonder of Boys by Michael Gurian and the book How To Be The Best Lover: A Guide for Teenage Boys by Howard Schiffer. This second book is good for parents to read first, to get an idea of where your conversations should be heading, but it is also one that young boys should be given to read – maybe around 9th grade, depending on the individual boy. I also think it is important for parents, particularly of boys, to grapple with the issue of pornography, and to those ends I recommend Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity by Robert Jensen. I have interviews with both Schiffer and Jensen on this blog.
There are, of course, reams of information written about girls as they are growing into adolescence, and many of them are good. However, few seem to be directed at parents who are looking to actively support their girls in healthy sexuality development. So with that in mind, I recommend reading two books to get a general understanding of the state of preteen girls today: The Body Project by Joan Jacobs Brumberg and Reviving Ophelia by Mary Pipher. Michael Gurian, who wrote The Wonder of Boys, has also written The Wonder of Girls, which may be good, although I have not had a chance to read it yet. Particularly for parents of girls, although not specifically about sexuality, I also really like Hold Me Close, Let Me Go by Adair Lara and Whatever, Mom by Ariel Gore and Maia Swift.
In terms of the gender-nonspecific, I suggest the section on sexuality in the book The Case Against Adolescence by Robert Epstein. Also, of course, since the majority of teenagers date across gender lines, I do think it is helpful to read through the books for or about the other gender from your own children, in order to have a sense of what future dates might be thinking/going through. I am looking for books about parenting homosexual teenagers, but have yet to find a good one to recommend. If any of the readers has any suggestions, I would love to hear them.
If you are looking for more comprehensive direction in how to approach teaching your children, I highly recommend the age-appropriate section of the Unitarian Universalist sexuality curriculum, Our Whole Lives.
And, of course, you, your friends, or your school are welcome to bring me there to present a weekend workshop for parents on adolescent sexuality. You can find out more about my parent workshop here.