Teen librarians and library workers don’t shy away from the tough topics. We’ll learn coding and computer science alongside teens, or dive into K-pop or Doctor Who even if it’s not our personal favorite just to connect with the teens we serve and learn more about their interests. We reach out to homeless teens, we advocate for LGBTQ+ teens, and we educate ourselves on the mental illnesses that teens experience. No subject should be out of our comfort zone or off limits if it is relevant to the information needs of the teens we work for and with.
Not even sex.
The Need for Information on Healthy Relationships and Consent
Sexual assault and rape—sexual activity without consent—occurs at an alarming rate, especially on college campuses. Studies on the way college students conceptualize consent indicate that many find aggressive behavior or deception an acceptable way to obtain sexual consent (Jozkowski and Peterson, 2013). As many as one in five female students experience a sexual assault while in college according to a recent study that surveyed 150,000 students on college campuses across the United States commissioned by the Association of American Universities.
Most sexual education in schools is focused on preventing unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, while healthy sexual relationships and consent are not generally a part of the conversation. “Although sexual education programs are often offered in schools, they rarely address social factors, such as adherence to traditional gender roles and sexual scripts, that are empirically linked to negative sexual health outcomes.” (Grabe, et al., 2014, p. 742).
Of course, we’d hope that parents and guardians should be talking about sex with their teens. We’d never want to cross a professional boundary when connecting teens with information. But unfortunately, there’s a lack of education for teens on healthy relationships and sexual consent, which undoubtedly contributes to rape and sexual assault. Teen librarians can—and should—fill that gap by offering programs and collections to support the education of young adults with regards to healthy, consensual relationships.