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8 Books That Helped '80s Kids Fill In The Blanks On Sex Ed

Are you there, Judy Blume? It's us, trying to increase our bust.
Westend61 via Getty Images

If sex education were anything like the typical hormonal teenager learning about it in classrooms, it would probably be hunched over in its desk right now, hoping it hasn't sweated through the armpits of its shirt from all the attention it's getting.

First, there was the uproar from more socially-conservative folks and concerned parents over Ontario's revised curriculum in 2015, which included the concepts of gender identity, sexual orientation and masturbation. Then last week, there was outrage from the curriculum's supporters as new premier Doug Ford rolled back the curriculum to its 1998 version, which many have said puts LGBTQ children in danger.

As Ontario's education minister goes back and forth on what students will actually be taught in the classroom, we don't expect that sex education will be out of the spotlight anytime soon (cue sex education sinking even lower into its chair, wondering if its forehead is shiny).

And all of this attention got us thinking about how we learned about sex back when we were too humiliated to ask our parents or teacher about the hair down there or whether you could get pregnant in a hot tub. Books. Perhaps we read them by flashlight under the covers of our beds, or confidently out in the open, while munching on a fruit roll-up and waiting for the "Sun In" we'd sprayed in our hair to dry.

Either way, the 1970s and '80s were a veritable goldmine of books that gave us many of the answers we didn't even know we needed at the time (whether they were official sex ed books or not).

While the books of our childhood nostalgia don't address many of the important sexual issues faced by kids today such as gender identity, same-sex marriage and sexting, they were informative and awkward and certainly worthy of a delve into our past.

With that, here are some of our favourite sex ed books from our childhood, and what they taught us.

1. "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret."

Simon & Schuster

Author: Judy Blume

Published: 1970

What it's about: Blume's classic young adult novel tells the story of Margaret Simon, a sixth-grade girl without any specific religious affiliation due to her parents' interfaith marriage. After moving to a new town, she's anxious to fit in with her new friends as they form a secret club to discuss boys, bras, and periods.

What it taught us: Periods are normal, boobs happen (eventually), don't slut shame.

Memorable quote: "We must, we must, we must increase our bust."

Bonus: The cover was recently updated for a social media generation, which might help convince your kids to read it when "Trust me, it's cool" doesn't work.

Buy it: At Indigo

2. "Free To Be You And Me"


Author: Marlo Thomas and Friends

Published: 1972

What it's about: A compilation of inspirational stories, songs and poems to empower children to be who they want to be and empathize with those who are different.

What it taught us: Celebrate individuality, challenge stereotypes, and it's all right to cry.

Memorable quote: "It's all right to cry, little boy. I know some big boys that cry too."

Buy it:At Indigo

3. "Where Did I Come From?"

Author: Peter Mayle

Published: 1973

What it's about: A guide to the reproductive process from intercourse to birth, no holds barred, written with a sense of humour, and with, um, graphic cartoon illustrations.

What it taught us: It's all natural, baby.

Memorable quote: "These bumps have a lot of names. Some call them the bosom (which you say like bozum). Other people call them titties or boobs. (Don't ask us why)."

Buy it: At

4. "Changing Bodies, Changing Lives"

Author: Ruth Bell

Published: 1981

What it's about: A candid collection of the real experiences of hundreds of teens, as well as illustrations, checklists and resources — all to help teens make informed decisions about sex, love, friendship, and their bodies.

What it taught us: Teens are constantly hot and bothered.

Memorable quote: "It seems like everyone else has the script. Everyone else knows what's happening and I look around and say, Duh."

Buy it at:

5. "Deenie"


Author: Judy Blume

Published: 1973

What it's about: Yet another classic by Judy Blume, this novel tells the story of a seventh-grade pretty girl whose life is turned upside-down when she's diagnosed with scoliosis and must wear a back brace from her neck to her hips.

What it taught us: How to be comfortable in your own body,and thatmasturbation is A-OK.

Memorable quote: "I have this special place and when I rub it I get a very nice feeling. I don't know what it's called or if anyone else has it but when I have trouble falling asleep, touching my special place helps a lot."

Buy it at: Indigo

6. "Flowers in the Attic"


Author: V.C. Andrews

Published: 1979

What it's about: A Gothic novel about four children kept in their cruel grandmother's attic for years, and the forbidden love/lust that blossoms there between brother and sister as they go through puberty.

What it taught us: We learned a lot about desire and sex and sexy desire and why none of that should ever happen WITH YOUR FRIGGING SIBLING. OMG.

Memorable quote: "Love doesn't always come when you want it to. Sometimes it just happens, despite your will."

Bonus: It was made into a 2014 Lifetime movie.

Buy it at: Indigo.

7. "The Joy of Sex"


Author: Alex Comfort

Published: 1972

What it's about: This book is definitely meant for adults, but most kids at some point sneaked a peek at their parents' version of this guide to helping couples discover the pleasure of sex.

What it taught us: It will be good some day.

Memorable quote: "If you don't love your body, change your mind; if your partner doesn't love your body, change your partner."

Buy it at: Indigo

8. "Sweet Valley High" series

Author: Francine Pascal

Published: Debuted in 1983

What it's about: On the surface, the series follows the charmed lives of California twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield as they go to high school, pool parties, and dances. But the extremely popular franchise also delved into themes of love, lust, drug use, and sexual assault.

What it taught us: Never trust a college guy, drugs will kill you, victim-blaming is alive and well.

Memorable quote: "If letting my hair down means attracting guys like Scott, forget it. I'd rather be mousy."

Buy it at:

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