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Vampires and sex: ‘Twilight’ teachable moments | Column

I am around teenagers on a fairly regular basis.

I adore my sons and their friends, welcoming them frequently into our home, our van and our lives. I also admire the fantastic young people in youth group at my church. Many of these relationships overlap, creating a steady flow of teen input and perspective in my life.

Before I proceed, I need to tell you that I’m three-quarters of the way through reading the “Twilight” series.

This best-selling series about a teen and vampire who fall in love — set in Forks, Wash. — has been very popular with local teens and some grown-ups. When an adult friend asked if I’d like to borrow hers, I agreed.

The conversation in question happened appropriately on Halloween. (Spoiler alert: Do not read ahead if you don’t want to know what happens between Bella and Edward).

“Are you reading the Twilight books?” one teen asked me. They were waiting to watch a dark and creepy movie in our family room while munching on their Halloween spoils.

“Yes,” I replied.

“Just to let you know,” he continued, “‘Breaking Dawn’ was such a disappointment. It’s all about sex. They seem to have sex at every opportunity just because they can now that she’s a vampire too.”

My reaction was mixed. I mean, I figured she’d turn so they could be together forever, but I wasn’t 100 percent sure.

That was overshadowed by confirmation that a comprehensive sexuality education class does not make youth run out to have sex. This teen, a graduate of our class and a huge proponent of our efforts, confirmed by his attitude (and the agreement by others in the room) that there is more to teens’ lives and relationships than sex — even if they are educated about its many facets.

But back to Bella and Edward. My biggest concern about this series is the romanticizing of co-dependence. (I haven’t read “Breaking Dawn” yet, so I reserve the right for subsequent concerns like: Do vampires wear protection?)

The two main characters become suicidal when they attempt to end their relationship. Even with the unreal and magical element of vampires and werewolves in the series, I am concerned that young people might glamorize and idealize the relationship between the two main characters. So, what’s a parent to do?

First, you might read the books — especially if your teen has — or go see the movie. One friend mentioned her 14-year-old daughter warned her she might be concerned about the sex in “Breaking Dawn.” I said that might be a great opportunity for some “girl time” and a discussion about why humans need to use safe sex practices even if vampires don’t.

In addition, it would be a great chance to discuss real relationships, what is healthy and what is not, as well as how to decide where boundaries are physically in a relationship where one is in love.

Instead of becoming critical of a story or rolling our eyes at it, I believe we need to pick out the pieces that will help us have meaningful conversations about relationships and sexuality with teens.

Whether it is “Twilight,” music videos on TV, a questionable Internet site or a real life situation, we can use teachable moments to build our relationships rather than drive a wedge into them.

Now, where was I? Ah, yes, page 428…

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