Truth or consequences

What they do is secret.

Anyone who can remember being a teenager, or who recently has spent time around teens, knows what adolescence is not: quiet, peaceful or easy. Indeed, the earlier, most turbulent part of it, when hormonal activity gamely sprints ahead of cognitive development, is a time when some of us can recall hearing some pretty weird urban legends about sex and reproduction.

Some people still believe that if teens would just stop thinking about sex, problems caused by youthful sexual activity would just go away—unwanted pregnancies, STDs, having to face serious adult problems with a mental and emotional makeup that hasn’t evolved much beyond childhood. That line of reasoning imagines that if access to reliable information is removed, kids will choose to abstain from having sex because they won’t know what they’re doing.

But nature abhors a vacuum, and when sex-ed classes are pulled, something takes their place. Some teens are lucky, because their parents are up to the task. Others aren’t, because their parents are too busy, or disinterested, or they lack the knowledge and sensitivity required to address the topic effectively. In those cases, street corners, locker rooms and such tabloid television programs as The Jerry Springer Show become alternative sources of information.

So what do teenagers really know about sex? In “The Secret Sex Lives of Teens” (see page 16), staff writer Chrisanne Becker listens in. What they tell her should give pause to anyone who still believes that ignorance is bliss.

And, speaking of tabloid TV, what happens when an improv theater group takes on the trashy medium? SN&R calendar editor Becca Costello finds out in “Talk to the Hand.”