To Guide Today’s Youth “We Need Bodice-Ripper Sex Ed”

“Where did you learn about sex? In my personal pie chart, 10 percent of the credit goes to Mom and Dad, who taught me that sex was for marriage, or at the very least, for a monogamous relationship that would, God willing, occur once I was out of the house. I’ll credit another 10 percent to sex ed…  Sex, I learned, was bad news, every act risking pregnancy or disease…Which left 80 percent to be filled in by my friends and pop culture: what I heard on the school bus and at sleepover parties, what I saw in movies and heard on the radio, the glimpses I got of dirty magazines, kept behind brown paper wrappers on the high shelves.” J. Weiner, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Credit Tina Fineberg for The New York Times

Excerpt: We Need Bodice-Ripper Sex Ed, J. Weiner, The New York Times

“But I was a reader, and most of what I knew came from books, starting with the copy of Judy Blume’s “Forever …” that made the rounds of the cafeteria in seventh grade to the dozens of Harlequin romances I devoured to the best sellers by Judith Krantz, Shirley Conran, Jean Auel, Susan Isaacs and Erica Jong that I snagged from my mom’s shelves.

Cover: Goodreads

I’ve been thinking about sex education in light of what must, by now, be the most-discussed bad date in history. By now, you’ve most likely heard about the encounter between an anonymous 23-year-old photographer and the comedian and actor Aziz Ansari. They met at a party, which led to a dinner date, which led to a sexual encounter that she came to deeply regret, she told a reporter, believing Mr. Ansari ignored verbal and nonverbal cues that she wasn’t into what was happening.

Cover: Goodreads

Now that she has gone public with her account, everyone seems to have an opinion about what she did, what he did and whether talking about gray-zone sex, where the man believes that everything that happened was consensual and the woman feels otherwise, spells the end of the #MeToo movement.

Cover: Goodreads

Reading about it all, I realize how lucky I am that so much of my sex ed came from Harlequins. The literary establishment doesn’t have much love for women’s fiction, whether it’s romance or erotica or popular novels about love and marriage. Romance novels come in for an extra helping of scorn. Critics sneer that they’re all heaving bosoms and throbbing manhoods, unrealistic, poorly written and politically incorrect.


But those books, for all their soft-core covers and happily-ever-afters, were quietly and not-so-quietly subversive. They taught readers that sexual pleasure was something women could not just hope for but insist upon. They shaped my interactions with boys and men. They helped make me a feminist.

Cover: Goodreads

The books not only covered blissful sex but also described a whole range of intimate moments, from the awkward to the funny to the very bad…Objectification doesn’t exist just in porn, of course. ‘So many men cannot get their heads around the idea that women are not first and foremost sexual objects,” the novelist Jenny Crusie told me. ‘You don’t get that from porn; you get that from a persistent worldview modeled by the men around you that you’ve been taught to admire.’

Cover- Goodreads

Sex might be easy, but relationships are hard.  And a 400-page novel can teach you more about them than any X-rated clip…’Romance novels teach readers that all partners are equal participants in a sexual relationship…In some instances, it can be a literal script for how to bring up difficult topics with a partner. They give a road map to people wanting to experiment with their sexuality, or even just get in touch with what they want and need in a sexual relationship.’ Porn, necessarily, cuts to the chase: a little less conversation, a little more action.


But when you don’t know how to ask, when you can’t bring yourself to tell, when you don’t possess the language with which to talk about desire, that’s when you can end up with crossed wires, missed signals…If we want men and women equally empowered to form real connections, to talk, honestly and openly about who they are and what they want, there are worse places to start than curling up with a good book.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. More people should have monogamous relationships.
  2. Most of my friends and pop culture taught me what I needed to know.
  3. Sometimes I got glimpses sexy magazines.
  4. Many times women give nonverbal cues.
  5. When sex is consensual both parties feel better.
  6. Romance novels come in for an extra helping of scorn.
  7. Those books, for all their soft-core covers were quietly subversive.
  8. They helped make me a feminist.
  9. The books  covered blissful relationships.
  10. Objectification doesn’t exist just in porn.

Vocabulary Cluster By


Reading Comprehension


Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences  taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

Because these ___were written for and___by women, female pleasure was an ___part of every story. Villains were easy to spot: They were the ones who left a___ burning and unsatisfied. Beyond the___ bits, the books I read ___the moments before and after the ___event, the ___you don’t see in___ movies,  where___ don’t get stuck and teeth don’t bump when you’re kissing

WORD LIST: zippers, mainstream, main, described, dirty, woman, essential, consumed, books, stuff,

Grammar Focus: Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word in the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

I have/half no ideal/idea how much, if any, X-rated material/mineral Mr. Ansari or his date/dial consumes. Statistically, we know that modern/moderate men and women have excess/access to every kind of explicit material, literally/literal in their pockets.

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Group Questions

Directions: Place students in groups Have each group list 3  questions they would like to ask any person mentioned in the article. Groups share questions as a class.


Category: Literature