2008 at 9am Posted by Rebecca Joines Schinsky
As an advocate and activist for comprehensive sex education (that tells you a little something about my politics, doesn’t it, Sarah Palin?), and as a person who believes that having accurate information is the key to making informed decisions about just about anything, I love It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, & Sexual Health by Robie H. Harris, one of the ten most frequently challenged books of the 21st century (see here).
According to the back cover, It’s Pefectly Normal
offers young people the real information they need to make responsible decisions that can help them stay healthy as they approach and experience puberty and adolescence.
Now, how can this be a bad thing?
It clearly states on the cover that this book is recommended for children and teens ages 10 and up, and it is classified in our store as a teen health title, which I think is a good call. The writing is very simple, clear, and matter-of-fact. It does not present any value judgments or make recommendations about which thoughts/behaviors/desires/sexual orientations are OK and which are not. It just presents the facts using medically accurate terminology and information.
Apparently, the idea that a book discusses sex (and puberty, masturbation, contraception, preventing STDs and HIV, and much more) without admonishing children about the dangers of sex is just too much for some people to handle. (And to those people, I say again, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to read it.) In 2007, a library patron in Lewiston, Main refused to return the book after checking it out from the library because she was “sufficiently horrified by the illustrations and sexually graphic, amoral, abnormal contents.” (see here for more info) And that’s just one of the many instances of this book being challenged.
It’s Perfectly Normal does have illustrations—all drawings—of naked bodies and diagrams of body parts. It explains the concepts of desire, intercourse, masturbation, puberty, sexual health, and abortion (amongst others) very clearly and in a way that effectively normalizes the changes and feelings that actually are a very normal part of growing up (and of being human) but that many people are afraid to discuss or have been taught are dirty, wrong, abnormal, or unhealthy.
This book does not encourage young people to have sex (or discourage them from doing so), but it does encourage thoughtful, informed decision-making that considers the circumstances of consequences of sex, which I think is always a good thing. For instance:
There are some things about sexual intercourse that are important to know and remember:
- It makes sense to wait to have sexual intercourse until you are old enough and responsible enough to make healthy decisions about sex.
- Every person always has the right to say no to any kind of sexual touching.
- A realtionship that includes sexual contact often comes with complicated feelings.
- Sexual intercourse—”having sex”—can involve the penis and the vagina, or the mouth and the genitals, or the penis and the anus.
- After sexual intercourse that involves the vagina and the penis, the female can become pregnant. But there are ways that people can protect themselves from having a baby.
- During sexual intercourse, serious infections—such as HIV, the virus that causes AIDS—as well as other infections that are less serious can be passed from one person to another.
All of these statements are true, and none of them implies the rightness or wrongness of any particular thoughts or behaviors, and that makes this book a great tool for anyone who wants to discuss sex in a frank, factual manner with their child, or for any teen who wants more information. Ideally, children and teens learn about sex at home, in discussions with their parents, who share information not only about the what and how of sex but about the when, why, and where, which are informed by their family and community values. Unfortunately, this is not always so, and a lack of accurate information leads to uninformed decisions, accidental pregnancies, and increased rates of teen STDs.
It’s Perfectly Normal presents the facts and leaves the rest up to the individual. In the spirit of “knowledge is power,” I’m celebrating this fantastic, medically accurate, informative book about growing up, puberty, and navigating the choppy waters of adolescence and sexuality.
Have you read or seen this book? How do you talk to your kids about sex? When did your parents give you “the talk?”