Want to Talk About Sex? Send a Text

sex ed

For some teens, cell phones aren't just for gossip with friends, checking in with their parents or texting with their crushes.

Now some are using the coveted devices to get answers to their most embarrassing, confusing and sometimes crude sex questions.

The Birds & Bees Text Line, organized by The Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina, will answer any and all sex questions submitted anonymously via text message by teens in the state.

"The phone has not stopped buzzing," said Sally Swanson, the campaign's community programs manager and one of the eight trained adults who answers teens' texts from their Durham, N.C., office.

But not all parents in the state are comfortable with their teens receiving sexual information over their cell phones from anonymous strangers.

Charlotte, N.C., mom Susan Vaughn says she's not in favor of her kids going to strangers for sex ed, online or off.

In fact, the thought of her kids' cell phone buzzing with a new a message about sex -- and not one from a friend -- horrifies her.

"I think they ought to go to their parents about sex," said Vaughn. "I don't agree with this text line at all."

More than 1,000 sex questions have been fielded by the text line since the program was launched in February, Swanson estimates.

While the service is currently only available in North Carolina, organizations in several states -- and even one in Germany -- have reached out to Swanson to inquire about expanding the service or developing their own similar programs.

Swanson said that eight staff members rotate being on duty to answer the text messages that come into the organization's cell phone. Those texts range from the serious to the silly to the overtly sexual.

"I think I may be pregnant but I don't think I have any signs," one girl texted, according to transcripts provided by the group. "I took a cheap pregnancy test like a couple days after we had sex. It said no. Is it possible that I'm pregnant?"

The response the teen got, and all responses are promised within 24 hours of the question being sent, was just as frank.

"Tests can be wrong, both with false positives or false negatives," an equally anonymous APPCNC staffer texted back. "Your best course of action is to visit your doctor as soon as possible for an exam."

Another teen wanted to know, quite simply, "Is sex good?"

"Like anything else in life it can be good or bad," the response from APPCNC read. "It all depends on your mood, who you're with and whether you're mature enough to deal with the consequences."

Swanson said the idea for the text line was born out of the desire to use technology -- especially the kind so coveted by teens -- in a "responsible way."

Advertising the service on social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook as well as on fliers throughout the state, Swanson said the program so far has been a success in reaching teens who otherwise might learn about sex from less reliable sources.

"A lot of what we do is validation that what they're going through is normal and a lot of it is correcting myths," said Swanson. "They'll ask if they can still get pregnant if they take a shower before having sex or if you get pregnant from anal sex."

But Vaughn, who said that she's talked to both her teenage children about sex and is promoting abstinence, hopes her kids don't use the service.

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