My question for this post is: When exactly are teens ready and able to learn more than the basics about sexuality and to understand it? I think it's an interesting question, because sexual curiosity and the cognitive appreciation of it is developmental and goes along with a kid's developing ability to understand other things, for instance, adult humor.
Kids move from knock knock jokes at age seven, to puns at age 11, and on to more sophisticated humor, such as The Simpsons, a TV show young teen boys, including my eighth grade son, found hilarious. The Simpsons happened to contain adult humor, often about sex, clothed as a cartoon. I began to watch the show as well, and realized that my son's understanding of the world was more sophisticated than I had realized. But I didn't want The Simpsons to be his only source of information about human sexuality. He was ready for other sources.
But what comprises adult humor? According to John Vorhaus author of the book, The comic Toolbox: How To Be Funny Even If You're Not, aside from death, most, or at least a great many, adult jokes have to do with sex.
To illustrate, here's a really, really dumb joke about sex I discovered on a website, The Jokeyard: "How did Burger King get Dairy Queen pregnant? He forgot to wrap his whopper."
Pre-adolescent kids will not get this because they are not developmentally ready. To understand it, one has to be able to make certain connections concerning getting pregnant, ie, involving sex, and appreciate that a whopper might refer to something other than a burger, as well as understand the notion of condoms and birth control.
Does that mean that if a child is beginning to get dumb adult jokes, he or she can probably understand, or at least begin to understand, the deeper complexities of sexual relationships? In my opinion, yes, and it means they are ready to hear correct information that a just a couple of years earlier, would have made no sense whatsoever, or stir any interest.
Teens who are reluctant to talk to parents about sex, and most probably are, can find what they need to know in books. I particularly liked Deal With It: A Whole New Approach to your Body, Brain and Live as a Gurl, by Esther Dril, Heather McDonald and Rebecca Odes. It leaves nothing important out. Besides the concrete physical facts, it discusses feelings, gender identity, body image, drugs and religion, to name a few chapters, written in an entertaining way.
But boys won't read it because it's for girls. In that case, Sex: A Book for Teens, by Nicol Hasler, is a book to consider. The first book I mentioned is longer, discusses teen emotions, family, body image, and other things that directly impact teens, especially girls. The later book is shorter, but doesn't neglect emotional needs and the importance of respect. I have linked reviews with the above titles. Both deal openly with GLBT issues, in a non-biased manner. Both books present material with humor, which teens will definitely get.
Parents should read these books and browse others that inform teens about sex before buying. There may be content a parent is not comfortable with. But if parents find a book they like, it might provide a platform from which to begin a dialog with their kids.