It’s hard enough to talk about the birds and the bees in your own language. Imagine trying to give “the talk” in a language that doesn’t even have a word for some anatomy because such things aren’t even discussed.
“You have to get real creative,” says Trish Hutchison ’88, a campus physician in Student Health Services and cofounder of the Girlology and Guyology sex-ed programs, who in February traveled to the LAMB Institute in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to help fellow alum Suzy McCall ’79 set up educational programs for local girls, including those receiving assistance or housing from the LAMB Institute.
Read the spring 2013 College of Charleston Magazine article about Suzy McCall ’79 and the LAMB Institute in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Not to worry, though: Hutchison always finds a way to get the message across, even if it means breaking out the vulva puppet and the uterus pillow.
“Whatever it takes to open up the conversation,” shrugs Hutchison, who has been known to launch bras out into the crowd (“There! Mom, she has her first bra – getting her the second one will be easy!”) and shove her entire arm into a condom (“Sorry, guys, you are not too ‘big’ to wear a condom!”). “I really do wish I had a Go-Pro to record some of the faces I get sometimes – it’s priceless.”
Just as priceless, though, is what young people are taking away from the experience: medical facts about their emerging sexuality, confidence in their changing bodies and in their decision-making skills, and a renewed trust in their relationships with their families.
When Girlology started 14 years ago, it was a simple program meant to initiate discussions about puberty between young girls and their mothers.
“We just help them start that conversation by delivering it in a cringe-free way – it isn’t over when they leave the room,” says Hutchison, explaining that mothers have been required to attend the puberty talks with their daughters from the beginning. “What we noticed was that they always start out kind of awkward and stiff, and then you’d see them gradually leaning into each other. And we realized it was a bonding experience for them. We learned so much from that first group.”
And, as those girls grew up, so did the Girlology programming, which was broadened into a sex-ed curriculum taught in hospitals, schools, churches and community centers. And then there were the books: a total of five of them, some printed in five different languages, including Russian, Romanian and Hungarian. And if the message wasn’t out there then – it certainly is now. With the addition of the Guyology programs for boys, curricula that’s in practice nationwide, a speakers bureau of 20 physicians, and partnerships with Proctor & Gamble, Fruit of the Loom and about 20 other corporate, hospital, community and educational organizations, Girlology is recognized as the go-to expert on how to talk about sex.
“We’ve just kept evolving. There’s always a better way to do things, and so we learn it,” says Hutchison. “It’s been an interesting journey. ”
And now that that journey is going global, it won’t be long before everybody’s talking.
Check out the Girlology blog, searchable by age group or topic, for more information, including advice for parents and information for kids.