Who or what were your early influences when it came to learning about bodies and sex?
For me, being a preteen in the ’90s, sexuality education came by way of late-night viewings of the cable television show HBO Real Sex. With the volume down low, sneaking episodes in my bedroom, the series was my pathway to satisfying my natural curiosities about bodies and sex. I watched with wide eyes as episodes featured the lives of dominatrixes, showed naked bodies at retreats, and street interviews with everyday people sharing their wildest sexual desires and fetishes. None of it was educational or truly relevant to me at the time. It was my generation’s PornHub.
Unfortunately, I had no other outlet for learning about sexual health, growing up in Texas where sex education was nonexistent and within a Catholic-influenced household where anything related to sexuality was left unspoken or shamed. So it was no wonder that such circumstances contributed to a completely unprepared and insecure understanding of sex, relationships, and my body, which I’d spend decades trying to sort out.
Fast-forward to the present, where I’m a sexuality educator who teaches youth all about puberty, bodies, and sex.
Can you relate?
Fast-forward to the present, where I’m a sexuality educator who teaches youth all about puberty, bodies, and sex. I’ve raised my own children (one of which is now an adult) using open talks about sexual health, and I get to use my lived experience and acquired knowledge to educate parents on how to raise sexually healthy, body aware, and informed kids.
Through my work, I continue to find that there are many parents today who want to foster sex positivity in their young people but, like me, didn’t have that approach modeled for them growing up. Often parents worry that they may say the “wrong” thing or take the talks in directions that aren’t “age-appropriate.” It becomes harder to duplicate something you never experienced yourself.
For this reason, I love to share resources that help take the guesswork and awkwardness out of the talks, so conversations with kids about sexual health stay engaging and fun. Books are some of the best, most accessible tools to support learning at every age.
Sex ed resources have come a long way since we were kids. No longer limited to the gendered puberty books using birds and bees euphemisms, but a new school of reads crafted with attention to inclusivity, consent, and pleasure. Books that take a comprehensive, sex positive approach to sex ed.
To help you along the sex positive parenting path, here are ten of the best books for raising sex positive, body aware kids at every stage:
1. These Are My Eyes, This is My Nose, This is My Vulva, These Are My Toes by Dr. Lexx Brown-James
This book, best for the early years, gives children a supportive foundation for normalizing body parts, gender diversity, and pronoun usage, all presented with fun imagery that incorporates characters of diverse identities and abilities. This book provides a simple introduction to creating a shared language that supports sexual health and safety.
Thanks to this great read, parents don’t have to dread the question, “Where do babies come from?”
2. What Makes a Baby by Cory Silverberg
Thanks to this great read, parents don’t have to dread the question, “Where do babies come from?” It offers a truly inclusive, non-gendered way of learning about conception, gestation, and birth, for all kinds of humans and all kinds of families. The colorful, whimsical illustrations set a welcoming stage for the early talks that create a foundation for later, deeper conversations about sex.
3. The Every Body Book: The LGBTQ+ Inclusive Guide for Kids about Sex, Gender, Bodies, and Families by Rachel E. Simon, LCSW
If you’re looking for a modern-day version of the classic “It’s Not the Stork,” this one will help you level-up the talks to ensure your tween learns sexual health basics, with all identities in mind, and without being limited to gender stereotypes. Topics like puberty, relationships, hormones, consent, sex, pregnancy, and safety are all presented in a casual, inviting way.
4. Vaginas and Periods 101: A Pop-Up Book by Christian Hoeger and Kristen Lilla
Hands down the best book for teaching children of all genders about menstruation. Authored by two sexuality educators who noticed a gap in inclusive books about periods, this resource comes complete with a popup vulva, representation by diverse characters, imagery of vaginal discharge, an overview of menstrual health products, and even has an embedded mirror to encourage young people to get to know their genitals. This book gives young people an engaging way to take the taboo out of talks about periods.
5. Positive Sexuality: A Kids’ Inclusive Guide to Being Body Aware by Sara Perry
This beautifully illustrated and thoughtfully crafted book helps tweens and teens understand bodies and sexuality through a shame-free, body positive, and open lens. Topics like reproduction, anatomy, menstruation, relationships, sex, masturbation, and consent are all covered without judgment, creating an inviting landscape for a sex positive foundation.
6. Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg
I recommend this book as a required resource in every home with young people. Its comic book style makes it fun and less intimidating as it takes a comprehensive and totally inclusive approach to the nuances of bodies, identities, relationships, consent, sex, and more. My favorite parts are the chapter showing illustrations of diverse genitals, including representation of bodies with intersex traits, and the section on masturbation. This book helps families set the stage for shame-free sexual health talks ahead of the teen years.
Reading this book is like being in a really badass comprehensive sex ed class where every young person’s questions are welcome and answered in an honest, fun, humorous, and inclusive way.
7. In Case You’re Curious: Questions About Sex From Young People With Answers From the Experts by Planned Parenthood
Reading this book is like being in a really badass comprehensive sex ed class where every young person’s questions are welcome and answered in an honest, fun, humorous, and inclusive way. This read is over 200 pages of medically accurate sex ed questions and answers that are great to keep around if you have teens at home, so they can reference it at any time as curiosities come up about bodies and sexual health.
8. Wait, What?: A Comic Book Guide to Relationships, Bodies, and Growing Up by Heather Corinna
Written by the founder of Scarleteen, this graphic novel for tweens and teens of all gender and sexual identities offers an engaging way to learn about topics like puberty, body image, gender, relationships, sexual feelings, sexual orientation, consent, and media literacy. It follows a group of gender diverse young characters and includes puzzles and activities that invite young readers to explore sexual health without internalizing awkwardness or shame.
9. Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagoski, PhD
Along the sex positive parenting path, it’s so vital that caregivers tend to their own sexual health as well. This includes catching up on the sex ed and body literacy that many of us missed out on in our upbringings, so we can develop and model a deeper understanding. This book, no matter a parent’s gender or genitals, is essential for understanding sexuality, pleasure, and the body science for sexual wellness.
10. Sex Positive Talks to Have With Kids: A guide to raising sexually healthy, informed, empowered young people by Melissa Pintor Carnagey, LBSW
An easy-to-follow guide to parenting in a sex positive way, offering parents and caregivers the tools needed to tackle talks about sexual health at every age and stage. It includes over 150 conversation starters, activities, and reflective exercises on topics like bodies, masturbation, feelings, consent, gender, puberty, relationships, sex, porn, and more. It’s the book I wrote to help parents become the caring adult they needed growing up.
If we want to raise a new generation of informed, safer, empowered young people who know consent, understand their rights to pleasure, and are equipped to take charge of their sexual health journeys, we have to keep the talks open and ongoing.
These books are just ten of many amazing sex positive reads for young people and parents. The good news is, the field of sex ed for youth and families is rapidly growing, and more resources are being crafted by innovative, passionate sexuality educators each day. The learning doesn’t have to be limited to what can be enjoyed in a book. There are sex positive, inclusive, and medically accurate videos for all ages by AMAZE, podcast episodes by Six Minute Sex Ed Podcast, and activities like The Period Game to engage the whole family. For a robust index of sex positive, inclusive resources at every stage, check out the Sex Positive Families website. There you can search by topic, age, and resource type to find just the right options to support your next talk.
I often wonder what my sexual health journey would have been like if I’d had comprehensive sex ed, a trusted adult, or more than just HBO Real Sex. Breaking the cycles of silence, taboo, and shame around sexual health begins with each of us. If we want to raise a new generation of informed, safer, empowered young people who know consent, understand their rights to pleasure, and are equipped to take charge of their sexual health journeys, we have to keep the talks open and ongoing. That work starts early, and it starts at home.