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Sex ed? More please.

0810_sexed_post

I was at a dinner party with a gang of gals a couple weeks ago. Several of these women were in the process of raising teenagers. And of course, after a while, our conversation turned to sex.
Specifically, the challenges of raising teens in a porn-infused world, where any kid who can use google can access it.

Sometimes stuff on the internet can get into our kids’ hands way before we want it to, and way before they have any idea what to do with it. (Not that any of us have any idea, really, of what to do with all the stuff that is out there, lurking on the internet.) 

There are so many areas of life where our teenagers get so much training. My daughter just completed 20 hours of driver’s ed, with a special section on drunk driving, and 10 hours of practice behind the wheel, in order to prep for her license.  

But in the area of sex—which is so important, and a central part of a healthy, fulfilled life—they get extremely inadequate education, or absolutely no education at all.

So, how does a parent handle being handed this legacy of ignorance?

One of the most inspiring stories I have heard came from an unusually young reader of my first book. I was at a book signing in Miami, 10 years ago, and a young 15-year-old girl came up to me to get her book signed. I asked her what she was doing there, because I used the word ‘pussy’ in that book, and I was afraid she was too young to encounter that word.  

She said she was there because all of the girls in her high school hated themselves. And after finding and reading my book, it was the first time she had ever heard the sound of a woman who loved herself. And she began to love herself, too. 

I was lucky enough to catch up with this girl’s mother, just a couple years ago, to hear the rest of the story of the red-haired girl from Miami. 

Turns out, she went and gave the book to her gang of friends in her class so they could learn to love themselves right along with her. She even hosted a weekly book club meetings in her house, so they could all practice the exercises together.  

So, here we have a young group of teens learning that they are beautiful and spectacular and worthy of love. They also learned the importance of knowing and owning their bodies, learned all about what’s up down there, and learned how to self-pleasure. It was Driver’s Ed, as it were, for vulvas.  

The book, and the gang of teens, gave each other so much self-confidence, that when they started dating boys, instead of hitting their knees or imitating porn videos – these girls did the opposite. 

They had learned how to turn themselves on, and learned how to connect with their own pleasure.

This meant that each girl was not only able to teach boys about how to pleasure her, it gave her really good radar for picking a caring boy. Her higher pussy education enabled her to distinguish between boys that were selfish and insensitive to women, and boys that were really attuned and really interested in her for who she was.

When she was in college, that same red-haired girl was able to teach her first boyfriend how to touch her in a way that brought her pleasure, because she had done the research. She is a confident, powerful, young woman now, because she learned to turn on and tune in to her pussy. 

But, what if you are the mother of teenage boys? One of my students, the mom of two teenagers, 13 and 15, took matters into her own hands.  

She knew she could not compete with the videos that the boys could access. But she decided she could teach them that porn only showed part of the experience of sex. And in fact, the most important parts were the stuff that happened both before and after what they were seeing there. 

She explained the importance of treating the girls like ladies. To open doors for them, and pull out chairs for them to sit when taken out for a date. She taught them how to make conversation, and to be truly interested. And to look into her eyes. She described how nice it is to call or text both before and after a date, to check in and thank her. And she drew the boys a diagram of a vulva, so they knew where the clitoris is. 

I was so deeply inspired by this mom, who took matters into her own hands and provide an important bit of training that will save these young men (and the women they encounter) years of anguish and disappointment.

We would never ever let our kids drive without a license, and yet so many of us (and our kids) have had to do exactly that, as we tried hard to cobble together a sex education of sorts, as we were growing up.  

In the comments below, I want to hear about your experience of sex ed. 

  • How and what and where did you get the info you needed to create a healthy sex life?
  • How did you learn what you like, and what you don’t like?
  • How have you taught your children?
  • What scares you about teaching your kids about sex?
  • Is this an area which you feel powerful? Or powerless?

 
I am so curious to hear what you think on this topic – come join the conversation! 

Xo,
Mama Gena

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37 Comments / Leave a Comment

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  • CS August 13, 2016, 5:32 pm

    My sex ed came from my own curiosity (self exploration, reading) and then formally from my mother in the form of the Catholic guilt… Interestingly enough, the guilt never took hold 🙂 I always thought God wouldn’t have given me this sex drive if I wasn’t intended to use it. Lucky for me, I have a sense of who to trust and have not been in a situation that made me fear. I also learned (and I don’t know where except for divine inspiration) that I could say no… And I said no many times before I was in a situation that would have been harmful. I’m in my 60s now and somehow it seems like there could have been an easier way?

  • Linda August 11, 2016, 9:17 pm

    Love this article, especially the story about the 15 year old girl. Thank you using the word “pussy” in your book. It’s so important that we re-claim these words as part of re-claiming our bodies and loving ourselves.

  • Christy August 11, 2016, 1:52 pm

    I love this post so much! My sex ed consisted of a boring packet in health class in the early 1990s taught by the same person who coached the football team. I only mention this because he told the class about getting a vasectomy and how he was “back on the field coaching the next day.” He told all the guys that it wasn’t such a big deal, that procedure. As if anyone would perform a vasectomy on a teen; as if everyone in the class were straight; as if preventing pregnancy was all there was to health, sex Ed, or relationships. At home, I learned that my heart was like a pie, and if I chose to have premarital sex I would give away a piece of my heart. If I gave away too much, I wouldn’t have enough left for my future husband. Clearly not helpful in any way, shape, or form. I did a lot of my “learning” in college, on my own, and in fear/shame.

    I ended up going into education, and eventually found myself tutoring teen patients in a mental and behavioral health unit at a hospital. I was surprised to see how many of the patients were female identified people, and to see that so many hardships and issues stemmed from incredibly unhealthy relationships – some they had a choice in, others they did not. I remember thinking, “it is a crime that these teens aren’t getting some sort of healthy relationship/sex ed while they are here.” In my mind, sex ed was a protective factor synonymous with self empowerment.

    I now work as a community educator with a non-profit largely because of that experience. I go to classrooms on the invite of the teacher and offer the most comprehensive sex ed the district will allow. (It does not allow for teaching about pleasure). I love that my lessons are designed to help students understand and stand in awe of their bodies, to learn that everybody is valuable and different and that’s fine. We talk about values and where they come from and how each person’s values are important and are what should inform their relationships. We educate to change behaviors, reduce stigma, and improve lives so that people can be happy, healthy, and safe, whatever their gender identity, orientation, experiences, etc. Kids deserve representative education.

    I still struggle with some of the stuff I had pounded into my head as a kid, but this job has been very healing. And reading posts like yours and knowing there are parents in the world who see the importance of/actively seek out the best sex ed for their kids is incredibly heartening. Thank you!!

  • lynn August 10, 2016, 7:35 pm

    I feel powerless but I do not want to

  • Erin Delaney August 10, 2016, 6:45 pm

    OMGoddess!!!! This IS my work in the world! This is exactly my work….with Mothers & Teen Daughters around sexual issues (www.MotherDaughterEmpowerment.com). And I am THRILLED to see you writing about it here. YES YES YES! It is sooooooo incredibly important! And as a part of my program, your book is at the top of the list for Mothers & Daughters.

    I have an incredible story around this between myself & my own teen daughter (who, by the way, started having sex with her boyfriend at age 12. It really is a great story, which I’ll share at some point, in some way. FYI: She gives me full permission to share it. It’s a part of my “Yoni Talk: Conversations Your Mother Never Had With You” work as well.)

    Anyway……to answer your questions:
    How, what and where did I get the info I needed to create a healthy sex life?
    – Books I found as a young girl in my mom-n-dad’s bedroom & the home of the parent’s whose kids I babysat (“The Joy of Sex” and other ones). Many of these adults, including my parents, were involved in something called “Marriage Encounter”. I was constantly observing couples – which ones were affectionate & kind & which ones were shut off & critical of the other. I also had a keen awareness to which women were sexy (I also looked at many Playboy & Penthouse magazines found in our garage.) I masturbated since I was about 5 so orgasm was a natural occurrence for me.
    – Interestingly, I somehow knew how to be with a boy since my first boyfriend as an early teen – how to kiss, how to touch, how to adore his penis (I really DID adore his penis, I remember kissing it so naturally, even at age 14). So I would say EXPERIENCE was the greatest teacher for me. And in my case it was always in the context of a committed relationship, which allowed me/us to go deep (no pun intended. I didn’t have actual intercourse until I was 18 in college). I loved wearing sexy & beautiful negligee’s, some of which I found in my mother’s drawers (mind you – my mother was actually NOT a sex-loving woman. In fact she spoke many times of NOT liking sex with my father, whom she is still married to after 58 years – even though she DID do some of the “right” things & she certainly studied it with him. So strange. My guess is that she never learned how to put her own PLEASURE first, but instead focused on what to do to please him….which, I suspect, is what her generation was taught. She more or less taught us that sex was more for men than it was for women. And he mother taught her that women didn’t like sex at all but it was something that they had to give to their husband’s. Holy shit! No wonder I thought there was something wrong with me because I LOVED sex & sexual images since I was young!)

    How did you learn what you like, and what you don’t like?
    – Experience & exploration from some really wonderful men in my life (from age 12 to current) And I’m STILL exploring – at age 50 with my husband of 17 years, so the game sure aint over yet!
    – Reading about other possibilities (still reading!) Working expanding my understanding & refraining from judgement of other’s choices – even while I have my own preferences. AND being open to those preferences changing – who knows?

    How have you taught your children?
    – #1: Doing my own work about my own sexuality. This. Is. Everything!!! HUGE!!!
    – Being informed about what’s out there now that wasn’t there when I was young
    – Creating the safe space to have continual dialogue with her about this rich & delicious subject. “Continual” being the key word here. Not just a one-time talk. And “creating safety” is crucial.
    – And more!

    What scares you about teaching your kids about sex?
    – I used to be scared of pushing my daughter away. Or that I would Say something stupid or wrong. Or that, God forbid, I would consciously or unconsciously, teach her what my mother taught me. And guess what? I DID. I discovered that I was shaming her without even knowing it! And THANK GOD she told me this, because otherwise I may have continued the same destructive pattern. This SO woke me up, & I made a FULL COMMITMENT to doing whatever it takes to clear the shame out of my system so I could be an empowering force for her, vs a repressive one. And thus….my greatest work & mission in this lifetime. 🙂

    Is this an area which you feel powerful? Or powerless?
    – Now? POWERFUL!!!!

    Thank you for this subject. For those interested, you can reach me at erin@MotherDaughterEmpowerment.com. I work with both Mothers of Teen Daughters, AND women who HAVE mothers & are daughters themselves. 🙂

  • lynn August 10, 2016, 6:31 pm

    I never got information I needed to create a healthy sex life and I am 64 years old and never had one.

    • Erin Delaney August 10, 2016, 6:47 pm

      It’s never too late! Contact me if you’re interested in a Complimentary Consultation to discuss what I do in my “Yoni Talk Conversations Your Mother Never Had With You” work. erin@MotherDaughterEmpowerment.com

  • Kelly August 10, 2016, 4:50 pm

    Gena- what is the name of your book?

    • Erin Delaney August 10, 2016, 7:00 pm

      Her most eel-known book is: “Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts: Using the Power of Pleasure to Have Your Way with the World.”

      She’s also written, “Mama Gena’s Marriage Manual: Stop Being a Good Wife, Start Being a Sister Goddess!” as well as “Mama Gena’s Owner’s and Operator’s Guide to Men”

      Her upcoming book: “Pussy: A Reclamation” will be released in September I believe.

  • Jen Higley August 10, 2016, 1:14 pm

    Thank you for this article. My sex Ed was a couple of cartoon books (Where Did I Come From? and What’s Happening to Me?) and the usual message that I shouldn’t do it. As mom to two boys (now 16 & 18), I was thrilled to discover that my church offered a FANTASTIC sex/relationship ed course that I highly recommend. Progressive, inclusive, and encouraging, it’s called Our Whole Lives and is offered by both Unitarian Universalist and United Church of Christ. There are multiple curricula to cover all developmental ages, from kinder to young adult. My boys know how to appreciate themselves, the other person, respect boundaries, and hopefully will have healthier sex and relationships because of it.

  • Foxy August 10, 2016, 1:10 pm

    Love this, Regena. As you know, I have a four-year-old sister goddess and it all starts at this age and younger. After just one week at camp and she declared ‘blue is a boy’s color,’ and thought she could no longer use one of her bike bells (one was blue, one pink). And, so it will continue, her world being strongly influenced and shaped by the patriarchy. I am aware that the most powerful counter I have to this is to stay juicy and in my own feminine power, as well as her reading your books when she is older – just like the teenager you mentioned. I remember her and her mother speaking at Miami. Your work is truly invaluable. Thank you! <3

  • Susan August 10, 2016, 12:57 pm

    I learned about sex ed from my parents and in health class in middle school. As a scientist who studies infectious diseases and has worked in HIV/AIDS during the height of the crisis, I am passionate about straightforward STD education. I have spoken one-on-one with my nephews (middle school and high school) about STD, HIV/AIDS transmission and prevention. I impressed upon them that just because there are drugs to keep HIV under control that they are NOT a cure and have nasty side effects, and it has been proven that one cannot take a break from the meds.

    A public service announcement – Zika virus is now also considered an STD, as there are proven cases of transmission from male to female and female to male during sexual intercourse. Stay safe out there – use condoms!

  • Gwen August 10, 2016, 12:28 pm

    When my kids (blended marriage) starting asking the questions it was time to talk to everyone. Interesting the topic came up while driving home from a movie, from the youngest who was 7. Who asked what is fucking? I asked if his mom or dad had talk to him about sex, he said yes, but what is fucking? So as I drove, because I knew the topic could not wait, I proceeded to give a basic outline to set up discussions later. “Fucking can refer to sex and many other things. Sex is intercourse, but can occur for 3 different reasons: 1) the obvious for procreation (little people production), 2) sharing and expressing how you feel about a person, but MOSTLY it is about 3) having fun and understanding our sense of pleasure within our bodies and someone else’s body (sharing a great experience). Society teaches 1 and 2, but really 3 is IT. Of course everyone (15, 13, 12, 10, and 7 years of age) wanted to talk more when we got home. So I asked them to define fucking, list other names for vagina and penis. The discussion was interesting, but the end result was they learned that it is important to understand who you are, love your self, love your body (just as it is) and own the responsibilities that come with it. Lots more with the discussion, but they are all adults now having their own kids! They are all grateful that it opened the doors to lots of questions as they grew up. We still laugh about the 7 year olds question!

  • Jennifer Wiessner, LCSW, CST August 10, 2016, 12:28 pm

    Gena,

    Thank you for addressing this critical and overlooked aspect of paretning in your blog. It is something that has been a passion for me for years.
    As a mother to two pre-teen boys, a Sex Therapist and Raising Sexually Healthy Children (RSHC) workshop creator for parents, educators and providers, I see how challenging it is to raise sexually healthy and sex-positive children. As a Sex Therapist I saw so many clients with histories of shame around sex and the early messages they received about sexuality that stuck to them like a residue; impacting their ability to engage in healthy, vibrant sexual and intimate relationships.
    This caused me to create the RSHC workshops series to intervene at the most potent time of sexual development-childhood! I help parents see that they can be the provider of the critical information children need from birth-teenage years. Research abounds of how early sexuality education can delay first sexual behavior, that dads can influence a daughter’s level of personal confidence, her body comfort and pride, and can set her expectations for the way she should be treated by boys. I could go on and on.
    Parents need to be the source; not school (should only be used as a safety net)-it’s too late by then and it may not support a parent’s values and culture.
    Take courage parents! You can do this with developmentally appropriate informatin and support and the research supports that the earlier you start, the easier it will be long-term and more connecting it is for you and your kids.
    Check out my article on how to be an “askable” parent at Tigress Magazine for young women. http://www.tigressmagforgirls.com/love-sex/2015/2/a-primer-on-sex-positive-parenting
    If I can help in any way in person, on phone or via Skype, don’t hesitate to contact me. hopecounselingservicesmaine.com -Jennifer Wiessner, LCSW, AASECT-certified Sex Therapist

  • Jennifer Wiessner, LCSW, CST August 10, 2016, 12:25 pm

    Gena,

    Thank you for addressing this critical and overlooked aspect of paretning in your blog. It is something that has been a passion for me for years.
    As a mother to two pre-teen boys, a Sex Therapist and Raising Sexually Healthy Children (RSHC) workshop creator for parents, educators and providers, I see how challenging it is to raise sexually healthy and sex-positive children. As a Sex Therapist I saw so many clients with histories of shame around sex and the early messages they received about sexuality that stuck to them like a residue; impacting their ability to engage in healthy, vibrant sexual and intimate relationships.
    This caused me to create the RSHC workshops series to intervene at the most potent time of sexual development-childhood! I help parents see that they can be the provider of the critical information children need from birth-teenage years. Research abounds of how early sexuality education can delay first sexual behavior, that dads can influence a daughter’s level of personal confidence, her body comfort and pride, and can set her expectations for the way she should be treated by boys. I could go on and on.
    Parents need to be the source; not school (should only be used as a safety net)-it’s too late by then and it may not support a parent’s values and culture.
    Take courage parents! You can do this with developmentally appropriate informatin and support and the research supports that the earlier you start, the easier it will be long-term and more connecting it is for you and your kids.
    If I can help in any way in person, on phone or via Skype, don’t hesitate to contact me. hopecounselingservicesmaine.com -Jennifer Wiessner, LCSW, AASECT-certified Sex Therapist

  • Jenna August 10, 2016, 12:08 pm

    My mom was a nurse, so I got plenty of medical terms and knowledge. That said, I had next to no understanding of what healthy relationships looked like, and although she was fine talking about the mechanics she was clearly not comfortable with the idea of sex for pleasure. The messaging was always “Sex can be a beautiful thing, but don’t do it”, which seemed like it was at cross-purposes.

    One of the things I’ve tried to teach to my own kids is the need for consent, for sex-positivity, and how to have healthy relationships. I don’t know that it’s perfect, but the great thing is there’s plenty of wonderful resources thanks to the internet. Sex-Positive Parent is a good one, Planned Parenthood offers teen classes, and I cannot say enough good things about Scarleteen – which offers medically accurate sex ed advice for teens.

  • Angela August 10, 2016, 12:03 pm

    Thank you so much for this article! I am a 25 year veteran teacher of health and wellness and I am proud to say that I also have been teaching sex Ed to teen girls and guys for many years! You are correct in saying how young people appreciate honest sex Ed taught with integrity and respect for their well being. To all the people out there, as a sex Ed teacher, I am listening and I will continue with my work, one young person at a time!

    • Erin Delaney August 10, 2016, 7:06 pm

      How wonderful to read this! The kids need SO much more than what most Sex Ed classes teach (and don’t teach in schools). It’s a breath of fresh air to know that others are expanding the knowledge given to them. I’d love to hear more about what you do & what you teach. I work with mothers of teen girl around sexuality issues. It’s my most rewarding work EVER! (erin@MotherDaughterEmpowerment.com)

      • JenMG August 11, 2016, 11:15 am

        I love your FB page!! Thank you for your work!

  • Lisa Brown August 10, 2016, 11:53 am

    Learned about sex from sex play as a child and a teen and somewhere in there Mom read me a dry book. I’m still learning about sex and I e always read and read and explored through my body/direct experience. A new book I recently enjoyed: Come As You Are by Emily Naguski.

  • Pagona Xenos August 10, 2016, 11:44 am

    How refreshing to read this article.
    A little over a year ago I did a presentation on sex trafficking and the data on this is terrifying. What is most important to know, however, is that if we could teach our girls (and our boys) to be confident and love themselves and our boys to understand that a girl is not a sexual object nor are they themselves the chances of them being mishandled are reduced greatly.
    Thanks to my mom I knew everything about sex before I had sex. Mama’s can make a world of difference in their children’s perception of themselves.
    Such a great article to read! Thank you.

    • Erin Delaney August 10, 2016, 7:08 pm

      A ho! This is exactly what I teach, and I LOVE hearing that your mama taught you well, long before you have sex. It gives me happy hope! 🙂

  • gaynell udoh August 10, 2016, 11:34 am

    My first experience was when I was a teen. Around 14. During the summer I worked. Every Friday we, attended a education conference. Planned parenthood, explained the impotence of birth control. However, never told us about how,what sexual feelings played. Only if you’re not using protection,results could lead to unplanned pregnancy or a form of sexual transmitted disease. However, when i got married my husband was the one whom,taught me,to love myself. He was one of the best romantic person I ever met. If you don’t tell your partner, what makes.you feel good,in areas that makes.you appreciate the art of love making it doesn’t matter if he is good pleasure himself instead of pleasing you.

  • Jane August 10, 2016, 11:30 am

    This is a terrific resource: Make Love Not Porn http://makelovenotporn.com/

  • Catherine August 10, 2016, 11:24 am

    I received my sex education from the magazine Cosmopolitan which I read from age 17 or so. Thank God for Cosmo! It was a brilliant introduction to the female view of sex. I think it has changed since then but in those days (the 1980s) it was fab. However, the emotional side of sex wasn’t covered so well, nor was contraception, so that was rather a gap.
    Now I have a pre teen daughter, I try and answer her questions honestly, and so does her father and the sex and relationships education at her school began when she was about 6.
    Another thing I got into was Energy Profiling by Carol Tuttle which teaches women that although we are all different, none of us is better or worse than another. We are all beautiful in our own way and have our own strengths which we can celebrate.

  • JenMG August 10, 2016, 11:11 am

    I received zero sex ed, other than “Don’t have it!” and STD- scare tactics. After spending years healing from this, my husband and I approach sex-ed with our 12 yob and 10 yog exactly the opposite. From the youngest ages we talk about all body parts, making sure “vulva” and “scrotum” were as common and comfortable as “arm” and “neck.” We continue to have open conversations with our son and younger daughter about sexuality, consent, and the importance of intimately knowing yourself.

    A friend and I have been discussing this at length as our tween boys continue to develop and explore. We have combed the internet to find safe images and sites to give to our interested tweens. (This I will note, has been very time-consuming and frustrating.) We are trying to approach their curiosity as boys might have in years past, you know, the good old days of Playboy and Hustler under their beds. We have found a few sites, mostly artistic pages, where they can view the beauty that is the naked female body without advertisements for hard-core, misogynistic porn. I ALMOST want to go about currating an add-free site where teens can explore images and videos that don’t cater to the “dark side” of the porn industry.

    Trying to exert control over this seems overwhelming, but I think the alternatives of blocking all sites or blocking no sites are both harmful.

    Thank you for your work and your inspiration.

    • mama gena August 10, 2016, 5:00 pm

      wow, jen. i applaud all of your great efforts to educate your kids, and i share your frustration on a lack of good information. i think you will just love my new book!
      (coming out next month)
      xo
      mg

    • Pam August 11, 2016, 7:04 am

      Can you share any of these sites that you found that are good? I also want to give my 3 boys some good places to go because I KNOW they want to have some sources. Thank you!

      • JenMG August 11, 2016, 1:38 pm

        Tastefullynudefemmes.tumblr.com
        Bodyinmind.com
        Farrellgallery.com
        Spunfish.com

  • Ann August 10, 2016, 10:43 am

    I love your work and I really enjoyed this blog. I had zero sex Ed and as a result spent years confused about so so much. I was probably in my later twenties when I began lots of self study. Women like you have been such goddesses for me, because I was so clueless. I am about 34 weeks pregnant and will make sure my little one has lots of education and does not feel the shame/confusion I did. Thanks so much for all you do.

    • mama gena August 10, 2016, 4:58 pm

      congratulations on your pregnancy!
      your baby is lucky to have an open minded mom, like you.
      xo
      mg

  • Sarah August 10, 2016, 10:35 am

    As a women in her early 30’s who is just now going through the uncomfortable, emotional and challenging process of cultivating a more enriching sex life with my husband, as a women who has simultaneously been curious and fascinated with sex since early teens and yet received the catholic guilt imprint, I have said numerous times over the years how valuable it would be to have openly discussed courses in embracing your sexuality. As you point out in your blog it is quite ludicrous that we don’t, how else are we to learn? Up until the past few months I spent the majority of my sexual years acting in a way I thought the man wanted more concerned about him and his pleasure than my own, which is what we receive from porn. So thank you, thank you for a beautifully written piece, thank you for courageously speaking on this topic, and thank you to all of the women who are exploring these conversations with their children. – Sarah –

    • mama gena August 10, 2016, 4:57 pm

      you are so welcome, sarah.
      i admire the courage you have in insisting on a great sex life, with your husband, despite the challenges, when you were growing up.
      xo
      mg

  • Marinell August 10, 2016, 10:33 am

    I learned a lot about my own body from the book Our Bodies, Ourselves, in the late 60s. I think it may still be in print. It was very straightforward and informative.

    • mama gena August 10, 2016, 4:54 pm

      that is still such a great resource.
      thank you so much, marinell!
      xo
      mg