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December 10, 2003

Comments

Sandie

Go Ask Alice is an award-winning site that has answered the questions of thousands of nervous teens and twentysomethings who needed emotional, sexual and physical health advice and information. If you look at the last 10 questions they are as follows: Why is my toenail falling off?; Vaginal smegma?; Generic versus brand-name drugs; Self-confidence; What’s that growing in the refrigerator!: A guide for storing and eating leftovers; Curfews on break;
Addicted to shopping; Do drinking and weight loss mix?; Away at college — no letters from boyfriend; AND Will losing weight lead to a larger penis?

I think all of these questions -- even the ones about vaginal goo and penis "weight" are valid and reasonable for an adolescent and beyond to ask and read. Once you start rooting around the nav, you will find a list of many, many questions, most of which are benign (of the "My first time was painful -- is that normal?" and "There's a lump on my penis, what should I do?" variety). YES, there are occasional questions about auto-erotic asphyxiation and dry humping stuffed animals. But the vast majority of the questions are not deviant.

Here's the deal: The majority of teens are sexually active way before they get to college. They have questions that they're naturally going to feel uncomfortable asking their parents. In a country where half of all HIV infections occur to people under 25, it's obvious that young adults need an unbiased resource about sexual health. The amazing thing about Alice is that no question is too stupid ("Will swallowing semen get me pregnant?") or too off-the-wall ("Does masturbating mean I'm sexually active") for the Alice team to take seriously.

Now, of course, the remaining question is whether a public library sytem should link to the site. Well, if you see the site for what it really is -- information about all areas of adolescent health -- then why not? However, perhaps it should be designated somehow for "older" adolescents and teens. I agree that it's not ideal for a 13- or 14-year-old to read about beastiality, but there are more "benign" questions than there are "deviant" ones, and someone has to tell teens the truth, or else they won't know if there are consequences to their actions or whether a particular sexual act is going to lead them to death or disease. I think, in this case, there are a handful of "out there" questions that the conservative politicos are harping on among hundreds of regular sexual relationship and health ones.

Diana Pritchard

I cannot believe that you allow such horrible satanic and immoral garbage be dispensed to our impressionable teens. It's liberals like you that are tearing this nation apart! I pray for your soul!

Thank you.

Bre

I hadn't heard of this site till Sandie mentioned it to me this morning so I just clicked around on it for a little while, but the vast majority of the questions seem to just be honest questions that teens need to have answered. The site, IMO, does an impressive job of answering questions in a non-judgemental way, of being gender-balanced in its answers, and with some of the dangerous activities like illegal drug use, of encouraging the kids to think about what they're doing and consider the negative effects while still answering their question.

I think having a site like this is really important, and it's not the only resource of its kind. Our Bodies Our Selves is a book that I'm pretty sure would be carried in many public libraries that also tries to answer questions and provide information in the same way- the difference with a website is that it's interactional so the questions are even more appropriate for the kids asking them.

I have to really disagree that sites like this do anything to affect the moral fabric of our society. I can understand that a parent would want to have some control over the information that their child is getting at certain ages. But I also think that the reality is that there obviously is a need for a resource for kids to get honest, researched, nonjudgemental answers to their questions, and this site provides a great way to do that.

I think from a health perspective I can totally understand why the city website would link to it- maybe it would be best to have the link on their public health page, but the site addresses a lot of sexual activity and safety/health issues. I think public libraries need to be places where teens can find information about it. Honestly, even if those links were removed, teens could just google their question and I bet that the site would come up pretty quickly. But unfortunately, links to a lot of other less reliable sites and porn sites would also come up. I'd much rather that a teen be able to access a site like this through a direct means of information seeking, rather than googling to find the answer to his/her question and encountering a lot of other stuff I do find more morally objectionable.

I just think that it's really important to present non-judgemental information to teens about sexuality. And to present empowering messages for teenage girls because of all the negative messages they're getting from society in general. It's a period where a lot of kids have confusion, questions, feelings that they don't know how to handle, and I think that by limiting the information they can get, it can serve to increase their confusion and possible feelings of negative self worth.

I'm also coming at this as someone who had access to a lot of this information early on (I knew what beastiality was in grade school for example, learned from a reliable educational source) and it didn't affect my sexuality, sexual practices, or moral character (at least I like to think so ;) ). I think it did make me much better equipped to handle all the confusing feelings that come with puberty and teenage-hood, and I think it also really helped me to maintain a high level of sexual self esteem- such that I was unwilling to do anything that I felt uncomfortable about and wound up waiting much longer to have sex than most of my peers.

Sandie

Thanks Bre, for your perspective (and not just because it coincides with mine for the most part). It's good to know what a future health-care professional thinks about Alice.

Bridget

I wish I'd had that website to turn to for info as a teenager. Maybe then I wouldn't have been so eager to experiment on my own. I had a very open and honest relationship w/ my parents but there were certain things *I* was too embarrassed to ask them. Yet, I had questions. Instead of turning to reliable sources for that info, I turned to my friends.

The long and short of it is this.....teens have questions. Questions they do NOT feel comfortable asking their parents. Would we prefer we ask us, as parents, of course! But since we all know that that isn't always going to happen why not make a reliable information source available to them?

Perfect example.........As some of you know, we are raising my husband's 10 year old nephew. Just last week I found him on my in-laws' non-parental controlled computer looking at the website www.sex.com. I would much prefer he looked at Ask Alice as opposed to that site which has 52 links for porn sites.

Linda

I did a quick skimming of the main links, and I think it is an outstanding resource.

As I read, I tried to fast forward my mind to 2016, when my daughters will be 13 and 14 years old. I feel conflicted, as I would like them to have all the information that they need to know. But, I don't think they will need to know all the information on that site. (oh, I hope M doesn't have to worry about schmega!)

So, I decided that I wish there were a Junior Version of the site. At the JV, the questions would reflect the questions and needs of the younger reader. I am sure that the topics would be just as shocking to some, at least they would honestly address the needs of a 13 year old.

While I don't have a problem with the linking of the site, I can say that I would love for my children to have access to information that is relevant in their lives. I doubt my 13 year old will be asking "Smoking pot while pregnant — Will it harm the baby later on?", but hope she can find the answer to "Oral sex — pregnant?"

Sandie

Linda -- Exactly! I'm pretty prudish and hope Schmoop stays a virgin until at least college (or his arranged marriage with MM), but realistically speaking, he's going to have questions about sexuality that are beyond the basic birds and the bees stuff. I want to know that there are unbiased resources that will provide *good*, balanced information. Because let's face it, he may not want to ask me questions about his uncircumcised penis, and that's A-ok with me.

Bridget

Ah, Linda, what a great idea. A JUNIOR version! Brilliant. :D

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