Simmer Down, Kids!

Sex-ed teachers want to know: How do you get hormones to listen to reason?

A confident 14-year-old named Deidre waves her hand dismissively. She's been in the TEEN program for years. "My friends and classmates talk, but they are so wrong. This one boy says erotic things like, 'I had three girls last night.' And I'm like, 'Yeah right. You can't even do multiplication.' "

Deidre had Be the One in sixth grade. She remembers only that "they talked about abstinence, and they made me write some credit card." She hopes to save herself for marriage and adds that because of T.E.E.N. Society, "I know what to do in a pressure situation."

A 15-year-old named Anthony said that in school, seventh-grade science addressed sex only in terms of clinical scientific discussions. He seemed to appreciate Siegel's helping connect all the dots. "He doesn't leave out the detail."

Beau Heyman says it's great to wait.
c. stiles
Beau Heyman says it's great to wait.

But isn't he a self-described "weird guy"? "No — he's down-to-earth," Anthony says defensively. "He's like a lifesaver. Maybe if somebody goes in the neighborhood, now they'll think twice before they get down to business."

Over at Lake Worth High School, Be the One educator Kristin Newman — a tall, pretty blond — is teaching kids about a chemical called oxytocin. Some researchers have found that oxytocin is released in the body during childbirth and sex. They say it helps people to bond.

Sometimes, when Newman gets to this point in the lecture, she will take two colors of Play-Doh and mix them together, illustrating that once you have shared oxytocin with someone, "you can't just take it out and have a completely clean start with a new person."

A footnote at the bottom of her slide reveals that her information is taken from the ideas of Eric Keroack, a former Mass­achusetts obstetrician/gynecologist who once ran the Division of Health and Human Services but was forced to resign under pressure. The Boston Globe newspaper dissected Keroack's theories and found them to be based on the work of other scientists. Those researchers overwhelmingly said that Keroack "misstated the findings" and distorted their work. One dismissed his assertions as "complete pseudoscience." (Asked about this later, Be the One's Beau Heyman said that many researchers have associated oxytocin with bonding and reiterated that the health department approved his presentation.)

Newman shows them a PowerPoint slide with the words "Know, Trust, Commit, Sex" and suggests that relationships pro­gress in that order. People can get to know each other — minus sex — with the "Three T's: Time, Togetherness, Talking. "What if you have sex with someone before you fully know them — and then it turns out they are going to steal our stuff? Or if they break up with us — they are going to be sharing that oxytocin with other people!"

Newman pulls up the statistics on marriage: The best environment for children is in a healthy family. Married people are less vulnerable to suicide. Married people live longer.

So shouldn't kids hurry and get married? No, she says, because teen marriage is the best indicator of the probability of divorce. Cohabitation's bad too — there's a 75 percent breakup rate! The point is to value one's self and wait. Instead, focus on goals. "We live in a microwave society," she says, where some sex is "fast and cheap" — like eating at McDonald's. Waiting to have sex until marriage, she says, is like enjoying a sitdown meal at Applebee's.

She ends the class with conviction: "The best and most fulfilling sex is in a healthy marriage."

Newman, 27, has never been married and never had sex. "I do believe in this, and I live by it," she says proudly.

As the class files out, health teacher Elizabeth Lopez said she considers Be the One to have the best presentation she's seen in her ten years of teaching. A girl beaming with admiration lingers to talk to Newman. A boy, Syed Ali, says the presentation "teaches how to make good choices and not make mistakes." He won't have sex before marriage, he says, because of his religion — and besides, he needs to focus on becoming a cardiologist.

During lunchtime in the courtyard, though, students' budding sex drives are visibly evident. A mature-looking boy and a big-chested girl, oblivious to stares, are clutching each other and demonstrating how the term sucking face might have come about. In a shadowy corner, one boy rubs up against a girl and nuzzles her ear. "No, you are not coming to my house after school," she purrs, sounding conflicted.

Nearby, three tall boys laugh at Be the One's message.

"Nobody's virgins," scoffs one, his boxers hanging out of his low-slung jeans.

"Not everybody's going to get married," another says. "Teenagers don't really wait until they're 30."

According to them, kids are having sex all the time and everywhere. They already know about condoms, "but not all girls like to use condoms, you know," says the first boy, raising his eyebrows knowingly.

"If somebody told me condoms didn't work, I wouldn't use it then," boy number three chimes in. "If a girl gets pregnant, then she gets pregnant, that's all," he says, as though it's the most casual thing in the world. "She could have an abortion or have the baby."

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