The Gleaner

Parents urged to educate adolescents about sex

PARENTS ARE being encouraged to play a more active role in educating adolescents about their bodies, sex and their sexual and reproductive health.

The call comes from senior lecturer and head of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, Dr Karen Carpenter.

Speaking at the recent Pamela McNeil Lecture on adolescent pregnancy, Dr Carpenter noted that while sex is i mportant, education about sex is equally vital.

“Sex is important ... because without sex, we do not stay on the planet. The species requires sexual activity. The when, the how, the protections, the safety; those are the things that we need to teach,” Dr Carpenter emphasised.

The lecture was organised by the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF) under the theme ‘Adolescent Pregnancy – Breaking the Cycle: Protecting our Girls’.

Dr Carpenter said parents should, as best as possible, try to use language that is appropriate but can also be clearly understood when discussing or explaining sex and the human body with their children.

“We also generally do not discuss sex, and I think it’s because Jamaican parents don’t have the vocabulary ... . We are teaching our children in English but [when] Mama and Papa try to talk to you about those things sexual and they don’t have the language in Jamaican, we have a problem.”

Dr Carpenter said research shows that the level of emotional and social intelligence gained by adolescents from their parents and families can affect the decisions they make regarding sexual activity.

She noted, further, that the cultural double standard when it comes to the raising of boys and girls puts girls at a disadvantage and contributes to instances of adolescent pregnancy.

“Boys must go out, and as they say, ‘loose the bull and tie the heifer’. Who do you think they’re going to have sex with? Who do you think they’re attracted to? Their own peer group. That’s natural,” she pointed out.

Dr Carpenter further noted that young men are encouraged to become sexually active early, and this is part of showing their masculinity. “Because ... if you are a man, then you’re having sex, and if you’re not having sex, what kind of man are you?” she asked rhetorically.

She said that having different rules for boys and girls is counterintuitive and does not guarantee the desired outcome.

“So, if you tell one set that they must go and do whatever they want, and the other side must always be good girls and stay inside and not have sex, it’s never going to work. We cannot keep seeing the result of that kind of teaching and continue to teach in the same way,” said Dr Carpenter.





Gleaner Company