Last week, the Western Australian Department of Health released a new book designed to help parents send healthy messages about sexuality to their children. The book, Talk Soon, Talk Often, was written by Jenny Walsh of the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University. According to the inside front cover, the Department commissioned the book “following research with young people that found there was a need to support parents and families as sexuality educators of their children.” The book is available online, hard copies can be ordered by parents, and it is being disseminated to school principals to spread awareness.
The 79-page book covers children ages two to seventeen, provides parents with milestones they should be prepared for, and includes tips for talking to young people of all ages about a variety of topics. It promises to help parents answer questions such as “Where do babies come from? ….Why do I look different from my brother? ….Why do I feel this way? ….How do I know if I am ready for sex? ….Why shouldn’t I post my photo online?”
Talk Soon, Talk Often does not shy away from topics that might be controversial, at least here in the United States. According to one newspaper article,
“It advises parents to normalize the issue of same-sex couples and explain that masturbating is a normal but private activity…. Among other tips, the book advises parents to discourage gender stereotypes, warns of the dangers of digital communication including Facebook, provides strategies to deal with kids who ‘call everything gay,’ and urges parents to emphasise healthy relationships as a prerequisite for sex.”
It’s interesting to note that the “prerequisite” for sex is healthy relationships and not marriage. It’s also interesting to note that the book got a decent amount of press but that none of it even hinted at controversy. Headlines such as “Toddlers ‘ready’ for Sex Education” and “Early Sex Education ‘Healthy’” promoted the book as a resource that “highlights the importance of open, regular talks with children to prevent sex becoming taboo and unwanted messages taking hold, which can result in sexual abuse or unwanted pregnancies.” The articles quote numerous experts supporting this open approach to sex education but include no mention of any opposition.
Though similar resources have been written by sexual health experts here in the United States, few, if any, have gotten this kind of government support or distribution. And, it’s hard to believe that they would get such purely positive media attention. I can only imagine the far right fury that would undoubtedly be reflected in any article that included the word “toddler” and the phrase “sex education” in the same sentence, let alone the headline.