The Body Scoop for Girls is a new book out in a very familiar genre. I’m all for new books in this area, because there aren’t many that I like. Disappointingly, this is another one I don’t like.
But before I review the book, I feel compelled to ask: Why another one for girls? First, there are so many more books for girls out there than there are for boys. And, while we’re on the topic, why even specify what gender the book is for? I’m just confused by this trend.
Okay, back to The Body Scoop for Girls, by Jennifer Ashton, M.D., Ob-Gyn (with Christine Larson). There are issues with the book in many places, but I’m going to skip over them and come to the point.
Chapter 9 is called Never Tell Your Boyfriend You’re On The Pill. Dr. Ashton lists this as the first in her five “simple rules for a healthy sex life”. Here’s what she has to say about why she includes this rule:
Yes, you heard me right. I’m telling you to lie to your boyfriend. Because, I promise you, if he knows you’re on the pill or another form of birth control, he won’t use a condom every time. And you always need to use two forms of birth control – one to prevent pregnancy (see my list of options at the end of this chapter), plus condoms to avoid sexually transmitted infections.
So, as I advise all my patients, don’t tell your boyfriend you’re on the pill or other birth control. If he asks why you’re not, tell him you get migraines or you have a clotting disorder, so you can’t take birth control hormones. Yeah, it’s a white lie. So what? What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.
. . . . Seriously??
Dr. Ashton is saying it’s okay (1) for girls to lie to their sex partners about their sexual and reproductive health, (2) that it’s okay for girls to have sex with someone that they don’t trust with their sexual and reproductive health, and (3) that the decision about whether to use a condom or not is the boy’s decision, not the girl’s. I deeply reject all three of these points and am rather affronted that anyone would agree with her initial statement.
And Dr. Ashton’s other four simple rules for a healthy sex life? I’m not so into them either. Here we go:
2. “Tell your mother (or father) when you’re sexually active.” Dr. Ashton, that’s just not always possible. Talking to some adult, somewhere? This probably is possible. But parents just aren’t always the most sane people in the world, particularly when it comes to their children’s sexuality. In fact, some parents make their children’s lives just downright hellish when they find out their children are sexually active. Or kick them out. Or other very, very bad things. This is a rule Dr. Ashton might use with judgment in her practice – assuming she knows the parents of her patients well enough to judge whether she thinks they will be open to the idea – but she should not simply print it in a book as a generalized rule.
3. “If you want to engage in adult behaviors, you need to act like an adult.” True, absolutely true. And while Dr. Ashton points out that this includes potentially awkward conversations with a potential partner about pregnancy and STD prevention, which are of course critical, she also says it includes “seeing a gynecologist regularly – complete with stirrups, speculum, and regular pelvic exams.” And this is just a basic scare tactic, which is hardly helpful when you’re trying to help teenagers gain a healthy, happy sexuality for the rest of their lives. It’s also more likely to scare teenagers off from gynecological exams than from sex.
4. “Never do anything you don’t want to do.” Yes, yes, yes. This short section is relatively straightforward and fine.
…and, drum roll please…
5. “Don’t date guys more than a year older than you.” We can debate this rule another time, particularly the rigidity of the “one year” part. But what I truly dislike is the story that accompanies this rule, which is about a 15 year old dating an abusive 25 year old. Rather than suggesting that teenagers date within a very narrow age range, how about teaching them how to recognize an abusive relationship and reach out for help in getting out of it? A friend responded to this section by saying, “It totally explains why XXX was abusive, though, doesn’t it? I mean, he was one year and 27 days older than me.”
To be fair to Dr. Ashton and her co-author, I haven’t read the whole book. But I object so strongly to the parts I have read, that I feel confident in not recommending it. If you are looking for some age-appropriate reading material for high school students about sex and sexuality, I recommended S.E.X. by Heather Corinna some time ago, and it’s still the best thing out there. Oh, and it’s for all genders too.