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Photograph by Felipe Buitrago
ROCK OF LOVE: Mike Duell, 19,  at a Los Gatos taping of the MTV reality show 'Sex ... With Mom and Dad.'

Talking Teen Sex

MTV tapes local segment of reality show designed to get parents and kids talking 

By Colleen Watson

AS THE band got ready to start their set the crowd became more and more animated. Something big was going on and there was something in the air. Then Mike Duell stepped up and started to play his guitar. The audience cheered, cameras flashed and the big video cameras moved closer.

The Venue packs in the teenagers on any ordinary Friday, but this night was different. There was an opportunity to be part of something bigger. MTV was filming for its newest reality show, and everyone wanted to be part of it.

The camera panned around the crowd, momentarily focused on a pack of girls singing along with the band, and moved on to a group of guys bobbing their heads before swinging back to the band.

Earlier, everyone at the show had been asked to sign a waiver. Those who declined, wearing their a purple wrist-bands, were shuffled to the side and off-camera. Those who signed the waiver received a green wristband that meant they could be filmed for a new MTV show with a name positively designed to induce a cringe reflex: Sex ... With Mom and Dad.

Duell is 19 and part of the band Undergone, along with Pat Hopkins on lead vocals, Evan Carr on guitar, Greg Hopkins on bass and Paul Carr on drums. Though the band has been around for six years, Duell is a recent addition. He is a good-looking teenager with black hair brushed forward, tight black jeans and Converse sneakers. It's pretty obvious why the cameras focus on him again and again.

And he isn't getting attention from just the cameras. The females in the audience scream a little louder when he's introduced. Of course guys in bands are always popular with the young ladies. It could very well be that guys join bands as much for the chicks as for the love of music. Even Paul McCartney was quoted as saying, "The whole thing about getting into a band was to get girls, basically."

Duell doesn't seem to be all about the groupies. But he's no monk. He says he had a long-term girlfriend—and things took a natural course.

His parents, not being totally blind, realized where this was going and that even if they wanted to there was nothing they could do about it.

Instead they chose to talk with their son about sex and all it entails.

Duell concedes that those conversations occurred, "but it's not like a big thing on my list to talk to my parents about.

"They know that I've been active but it's kind of awkward."

Kind of awkward? That's an understatement. There are a plethora of websites devoted to just the topic of how to approach your kids about sex, and absolutely none of them have testimonials about how it was the best moment in either the teenagers' or the parents' lives.

Tom Duell, Mike's father, is a youthful 60-year-old, and a producer for a couple of local bands. Apparently, he is very easy to talk to.

As it happens, everyone in the family is a musician, even Mike's 14-year-old brother plays the drums. Mary Ellen, Mike's mother, explains: "We've been in a band called the Garage Band for 20-plus years. Tom and I even got to sing on a PlayStation game."

Tom says he and his wife have tried to be open with their son about sex.

"It happens like this: One day they're a kid and the next day they're having sex. And it happens overnight."

Tom has an open-minded attitude about teenage sexuality.

"When you're ready to have sex nobody is going to prevent you from doing what you're going to do," he says. "We talked about protection, and about how it changes you emotionally."

Mary Ellen and Tom both report that when they were teenagers, neither talked to their own parents about sex. "In my day you always went to the liquor store and got a magazine," said Tom. "I was raised in the '50s. In those days people never talked to you about that stuff. It was never talked about."

That was one reason that Mary Ellen wanted her son to be comfortable talking to them about sex.

"I never wanted to be close-minded," she says, "but at the same time you don't want to promote promiscuity. I never wanted him to think that sex was something that was a bad thing. You just have to be old enough and responsible enough. You should wait until you're really in love with somebody."

Love Is on the Air

Though the MTV show's name might make you want to throw up a little, it has an uplifting message. According to MTV's website, the show is about getting teens and their parents to talk about sex, relationships and dating. (Representatives of the network declined to talk about the show on the record.)

Hosting the show is Dr. Drew Pinsky, popular host of the sex-talk radio show Loveline. He counsels parents and teens through their sex or relationship problems, and give them tasks to complete to help with their communication skills and open up about their issues.

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control found that nearly half of all teenagers have had sex. Of these about 60 percent reported using condoms and less then 20 percent used birth control pills. Other studies have shown that children who feel they can talk to their parents about sex are less likely to participate in risky sexual behavior and wait longer to have sex.

MTV's website claims that Sex ... With Mom and Dad is "Shockingly frank, upbeat, and funny."

"Sex ... With Mom and Dad proves that if families can talk about sex, they can talk about anything—ultimately breaking down barriers and improving relationships in the process."

Some families find it hard to talk about sex, others talk about it openly. And still a select few are getting ready to talk about it on national television.

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