Rachel Kramer Bussel
July 4, 2007
Thirty-seven-year-old Seattle resident Heather Corinna‘s mission is to make sure teenagers have accurate sex information that speaks directly to them. In 1999, she started her pioneering site Scarleteen.com, which gets 10,000-30,000 visitors a day, and has just come out with S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College.
WireTap: How is S.E.X. different from other books for teens about sex?
The two largest differences are that it is holistic and inclusive. It’s holistic in the sense that it presents sexuality as being one part of a larger whole. There’s information on body image, self-esteem, personal identity, gender roles, general health, and both interpersonal relationships and the relationship one has with oneself.
It is inclusive in that it doesn’t presume that it’s speaking to girls or guys, to heterosexuals or homosexuals, to people who are dating or people who aren’t.
You start out telling readers that they can choose to create a “healthy, happy and fulfilling sexual life.” This notion alone is at odds with the tone of most media reports about teens and sex; why do you think teen sexuality sets off such controversy?
Teenagers being sexual are often presented as teens “out of control,” even when historically, psychologically and physiologically what they’re doing is completely developmentally normal and appropriate. I think one reason why teenage sexuality is so controversial has to do with adult fears about losing control over a class of people who, quite earnestly, can have an awful lot of power and influence when they choose to harness it.
But some of that is also just plain old worry, coming from a good place. A lot of parents really love their kids, and feel they made errors with sexual partnership or sexuality they don’t want their own kids to make.
You approach the topic from a feminist, activist perspective, including information about body image, self-worth, masturbation and sexual orientation. How does your identity as a feminist factor into your sex ed philosophy?
It has a pretty strong influence. One of the biggest errors we see with both sex education and with cultural sexual ethics and practices is that it’s usually done in the context of the prevailing oppressions. For instance, most sex ed is glaringly heterosexist, and presumes a heterosexual default. Much of it is overtly or covertly noninclusive when it comes to class, race, sex, gender and orientation.