By Pamela Anderson, PhD | September 12, 2019
Senior Research Associate, ETR
I literally love this book! I think everyone should read it. Shafia Zaloom is offering a unique new resource, and it’s fabulous.
I’m a developmental psychologist and researcher specializing in adolescent romantic relationships. That means I’ve seen plenty of books for parents and educators on how to have conversations with teens about sex and relationships. There are some great resources out there—and this is one of my new favorites for a number of reasons.
First, it’s got short, digestible chapters that totally work for busy folks who just don’t have time to delve into deep tomes. You can read it all the way through, or pick it up and find just the section you need at the moment. It works either way.
Sex, Teens & Everything in Between: The New and Necessary Conversations Today’s Teenagers Need to Have about Consent, Sexual Harassment, Healthy Relationships, Love, and More by Shafia Zaloom.
Shafia Zaloom is a veteran teen sex educator and mother of three. Her new book gives parents and educators the tools they need to have meaningful conversations with teens about a wide variety of sex- and relationship-related topics. Available here.
It includes real-life scenarios that bring the concepts to life. Lots of books offer advice, but this one shows you how to put its ideas into practice. This practical application piece is what sets it apart from similar resources—Shafia nails it spot-on.
The end of every chapter includes great conversation starters adults can use with young people. There are examples of how to respond to a teen’s comments and keep the conversation going—almost like an answer key, but one that focuses on the types of answers you want to give. It’s helpful without being formulaic.
Shafia doesn’t take the usual heteronormative track in her examples. All types of identities, orientations and relationships are integrated into her examples and stories, and all are treated as equally important. There’s something quite beautiful about the way she does this. Her success is a model for us all.
Sexual risk is a real thing for adolescents. I know this—it’s what a lot of my work is about. But I am disheartened that so much of our sexual health education focuses only on risk and danger. This is not Shafia’s orientation. She does address risk, well and appropriately, but it isn’t her main emphasis.
Shafia likes to focus on pleasure. I know this can be a controversial term when we’re talking about young people and sexual health. But Shafia brings the notion of pleasure into conversations about consent, communication and relationships. She emphasizes the slow pleasure of building a relationship that is fun, rewarding, consensual and real. She acknowledges that pleasurable sex may be a part of this, but it’s not an inevitable or necessary part.
As a parent, I can tell you that this is the way I want to see pleasure described to my kids.
There is so much packed into this book. Every chapter includes books, videos and websites—just the right amount, and good, sound choices.
Shafia ends the book with stories from survivors. These are the voices of ordinary people, not the sensationalized incidents that draw the media’s attention. The stories make it clear that, yes, assault can happen. That it’s not the fault of the person assaulted. And that individuals can recover their strength and their lives after such experiences. I was grateful to read these.
Sum it up? This is a really good book and Shafia Zaloom is brilliant!
Pamela Anderson, PhD, is a Senior Research Associate at ETR. She is an applied developmental psychologist whose research focuses on understanding the processes by which adolescent romantic relationships develop, and related behaviors that may affect HIV/STI and pregnancy risk. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.