Spaces for Youth: Why I got rejected (rightfully) on my 20th birthday

On April 7th, 2014, I turned 20 (eek!). I also tried to register as a member of an online sexuality and sexual health resource for teens and got rejected. They explained why: I’m no longer a teenager. I’m now in that murky area of young adulthood where I’m not an adolescent, teen, or adult, but I still qualify as “youth“. So when it came to membership, this website, offering sex education for teens by teens, maintained its stance. They use teenage voices for a teenage audience to provide a safer and friendlier informational space for sex topics that are specifically relevant to teenagers. As much as I wanted to be a part of it, I had to respect the safe space they are creating.

With the rise of social media, we’ve seen a lot of information on sex, sexuality, and sexual health presented on the web. However, that doesn’t guarantee that those sites have accurate information or that they are teen-friendly. From experience, go-to medical sites such as WebMD often have a vast array of scientific information on an overwhelming and cluttered display  that can make it difficult for people to find the information they’re looking for. However, WebMD (which find helpful when it’s not enabling my hypochondria), does offer a great slideshow containing pictures and facts about STIs contained in its Sexual Conditions Health Center. Additionally, many other medical sites and even general sex information sites don’t have youth sections that provide organized information on issues such as:

  • beginning puberty and menstruation
  • sex for the first time
  • how to put on different kinds of condoms and other safer sex practices
  • talking about consent with your partner
  • …and so much more!

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Resources For Teens & Youth

In addition to Sex, Etc. here are some other sites that focus on teen sexuality:

  • Scarleteen, “Sex ed for the real world. Inclusive, comprehensive, and smart sexuality information and help for teens and 20s.” Their website has organized tabs on sexuality-related topics in addition to sections, “what’s shiny and new?”, “need help now?“, and “recent questions.” They even have a guide for first-time users of the Scarleteen website!
  • Bedsider, a “Birth Control Support Network,” totally rocks their social media presence. Their website has great graphics and a fun layout. They also constantly update their Twitter account, @Bedsider, with original content and engaging questions.
  • Teensource: They have a “find a clinic near you” widget right in the middle of their homepage! They also maintain a blog and post sex information right on their site. At the bottom of their homepage, they have a really great series of videos that cover topics from reproductive health, relationships, and birth control. I also suggest checking out their resource page which lists other options for information and care, all neatly categorized by topic for easy searching. Keep in mind: Teensource is based in California so that may impact the scope for some resources they list.
  • MTV’s It’s Your Sex Life: From the source of “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” and many other youth-targeted shows (I was hooked on awkward) comes this great resource. With tabs like “What Works/What Doesn’t,” “Fact or Fiction,” “Condoms: The Dos and Don’ts,” they do a whole lot of myth-busting! It’s incredibly important for resources to de-bunk incorrect and harmful sex scripts when engaging with teens.
  • Also check out our own YTH website and resource pageYTH has current information in their resource page like clinic locators and helpful facts. YTH also keeps up fresh blog content that includes posts from the Youth Advisory Board members (that’s me!) and interns. You could also follow our Twitter account for new research, programs, and updates on what we’re up to!

My Takeaway

Even though I’m no longer a teen, I’m thrilled that teens have dedicated spaces to access stories, advice and more, from peers. One thing I have encountered, on the other end of the age spectrum, is that there is a shortage of places online for pre-teens to discuss issues of sexuality and health.  We need more spaces focused on puberty education like Power Up , led by YTH Live 2014 speaker Nikarika Bedekar.

As someone who hit puberty way ahead of my peers and got my period at the age of 10, I really would have liked knowing that I wasn’t just going to “pee blood once,” and be done with my period for life. Imagine my shock upon finding out it’d probably happen an entire week each month for another forty years or so. The school lunch table often does not cut it when it comes to sex education. These resources do.

Rebecca Lehner youth leaderRebecca Lehner (@r_lehner) is a member of YTH’s Youth Advisory Board.

She attends American University in Washington, D.C. studying anthropology, and gender and sex studies. She hopes to broaden dialogues on sexuality and identity within school health curriculums in order to educate and empower youth, reduce discrimination, and increase acceptance and understanding. +Learn more about Rebecca.

Images from Sex, etc. and Planned Parenthood