Tech & Media
I Watched a New Show About Sex for Teens — Here’s Why I’d Show It To My Kids
By Brianna Bell
Photo Echo Media
Oct 6, 2020
I turned 15 in 2004, which was half a lifetime ago for me.
I celebrated with my friends in typical early-2000s style, wearing my trendy birthday outfit: ultra low-rise jeans, a form-fitting spaghetti strap top and a pukka shell necklace.
I felt like I was ready to take on the world, but I had no idea how challenging life would be for me at 15. It was the year I lost my virginity, and entered into the confusing world of teenage sex.
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My teen years were fraught with confusion and shame surrounding my sexuality, from my involvement in the evangelical church and purity movement, and my lack of understanding around important topics like safe sex and consent. In the early aughts, sex education class involved watching a horribly outdated video of a woman giving birth, and attempting to put a condom on a banana. A sign on the classroom wall claimed that abstinence was the best form of birth control, but I didn’t know many teens who managed to take that route.
Now that I’m raising three daughters I’m determined to engage in an open and honest dialogue with them about their bodies, reproduction and sexuality. While they’re quite young now, at ages 8 and under, they are still knowledgeable and willing to learn about age-appropriate topics around sexuality. My younger kids know the anatomically correct words for genitalia, and have had conversations about healthy boundaries around their bodies and privacy.
My older child knows what sex is, and she understands how bodies change during puberty and has had ongoing discussions around sex and sexuality.
A new sex show for teens
In September, CBC Gem released a new original series called About Sex, a series aimed to provide an educational and helpful resource for teens.
When I was offered the chance to review the first 10 episodes, which are around six minutes long, I was eager to see how the topic of sex and sexuality would be approached.
Each themed episode contains an entertaining scene, usually featuring a teen couple dealing with an awkward sexual encounter, like when one girl has three orgasms and pretends she doesn’t because she feels bad that her male partner only gets to have one. Then, the episode turns a bit more educational, and incorporates insights, facts and interviews with real-life teens. The themes covered include masturbation, contraception, the “first time” and the clitoris.
I found the episodes were packed full of valuable information, but they also infused humour and felt relatable (like when a teen guy makes balloon animals out of condoms or a young woman holds doughnuts up to her chest).
I can still see teens eye-rolling their way through some parts, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be secretly taking notes. There isn’t even a hint of shame around sexuality in the series, and I love that the general agreement of the show is that encounters with sex will happen at this age.
It does feel like this series leans heteronormative, which I believe could be easily remedied. Emphasis on the dynamics of queer sex, for example, and more discussion of it in the interviews, animations and cold opens would be great.
I’d still show About Sex to my kids, while pointing out my issue with the fact that there’s barely a hint of queer sexual dynamics. It is a show about sex primarily and more generally, for sure, but that doesn't mean that there can't be some specificity, since the dynamics of queer sex can be different from heterosexual sex.
(To the show's credit, it does feature a discussion of foreplay between a lesbian couple, wherein they talk about feather tickling and erotic massage. There's also an animation of two men engaging in foreplay, which ends in laughter, so there's some representation. But again, queer sex comes with its own share of anxieties and fears and unknowns for teens, and more discussion of it would be useful!)
Fifteen-year-old me would have loved a series like About Sex. It would have certainly made my sexual encounters safer, and would have helped me to feel less shame around my sexuality.
I’d love to see schools adopt these episodes and show them in class — it sure beats the horribly outdated videos I watched in sex ed.
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