Above: Illustration by Jarrett Ramones/The kNOw
By Paulina Rojas
Editor’s Note: Olga Montes is the Community Engagement Coordinator at Planned Parenthood. A sexual health educator for over 18 years, she says with the internet and social media there is more openness about things like LGBT issues, but also more pressure. She sat down with Coachella Unincorporated to share her thoughts on where young people in the Valley are at when it comes to sex and how parents can help guide them.
What are some of the most common misconceptions that youth have about sex?
I think a lot of it is that they need to know that they are normal. Cause no one really talks to them about these feelings. We also tell youth that being sexually healthy does not mean being sexual. They can be sexually healthy and not be sexual, it is about the way that they feel about themselves and that they are totally normal. Starting off with that is really important.
Over the years, what is the biggest change you’ve noticed in young people’s attitudes towards sex?
They do seem to be more open about things, especially about LGBTQ issues, which is really great. It shows that these kids are a lot more open and accepting.
In what ways do you think the internet and social media have changed the way young people think about sex?
It’s interesting because on the one hand the internet gives young people more access to information but on the other hand they get exposed to this warped view of how they are supposed to be and how they are supposed to look. There seems to be a lot more pressure and the way [young people] are communicating with each other seems to be a lot less personal.
What are some of the reasons that make parents afraid to talk to their kids about sex?
They’re embarrassed to think about their kids being sexually active. While they understand that they need to be protected, a lot of it is just that they don’t know how to approach the topic. During our presentations we usually tell parents, “It’s okay if you don’t know everything, the important thing is that your children see you as a source to go talk to.”
What is a good starting point for parents when talking to their kids about sex for the first time?
We go over values and beliefs first and then we ask them what they grew up with. Did their parents talk to them about sex? A lot of times they haven’t. A good place to start is by saying, “hey we’re in this together, I might not know everything but we’ll figure it out.”
Part Two: Youth Get Real About Sex
About the author:
Paulina Rojas joined Coachella Uninc. as a beat reporter in February 2016 after working as a city reporter in the eastern Coachella Valley for more than a year. Although born and raised in New York City, Paulina feels right at home in the eastern Coachella Valley. She loves the warmth of the people and buying fresh bread from her favorite bakery in downtown Coachella. Paulina is a graduate of the University of Houston, and her work has appeared in The Las Vegas Review – Journal, The Houston Chronicle, HelloGiggles and Vivala. View her author page here.