Category Archives: Kids And Sex

When Did Porn Become Sex Ed?

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Conversations between adults and teenagers about what happens after “yes” remain rare.

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THE other day, I got an email from a 21-year-old college senior about sex — or perhaps more correctly, about how ill equipped she was to talk about sex. The abstinence-only curriculum in her middle and high schools had taught her little more than “don’t,” and she’d told me that although her otherwise liberal parents would have been willing to answer any questions, it was pretty clear the topic made them even more uncomfortable than it made her.

So she had turned to pornography. “There’s a lot of problems with porn,” she wrote. “But it is kind of nice to be able to use it to gain some knowledge of sex.”

I wish I could say her sentiments were unusual, but I heard them repeatedly during the three years I spent interviewing young women in high school and college for a book on girls and sex. In fact, according to a survey of college students in Britain, 60 percent consult pornography, at least in part, as though it were an instruction manual, even as nearly three-quarters say that they know it is as realistic as pro wrestling. (Its depictions of women, meanwhile, are about as accurate as those of the “The Real Housewives” franchise.)

The statistics on sexual assault may have forced a national dialogue on consent, but honest conversations between adults and teenagers about what happens after yes — discussions about ethics, respect, decision making, sensuality, reciprocity, relationship building, the ability to assert desires and set limits — remain rare. And while we are more often telling children that both parties must agree unequivocally to a sexual encounter, we still tend to avoid the biggest taboo of all: women’s capacity for and entitlement to sexual pleasure.

It starts, whether intentionally or not, with parents. When my daughter was a baby, I remember reading somewhere that while labeling infants’ body parts (“here’s your nose,” “here are your toes”), parents often include a boy’s genitals but not a girl’s. Leaving something unnamed, of course, makes it quite literally unspeakable.

Nor does that silence change much as girls get older. President Obama is trying — finally — in his 2017 budget to remove all federal funding for abstinence education (research has shown repeatedly that the nearly $2 billion spent on it over the past quarter-century may as well have been set on fire). Yet according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer than half of high schools and only a fifth of middle schools teach all 16 components the agency recommends as essential to sex education. Only 23 states mandate sex ed at all; 13 require it to be medically accurate.

Even the most comprehensive classes generally stick with a woman’s internal parts: uteruses, fallopian tubes, ovaries. Those classic diagrams of a woman’s reproductive system, the ones shaped like the head of a steer, blur into a gray Y between the legs, as if the vulva and the labia, let alone the clitoris, don’t exist. And whereas males’ puberty is often characterized in terms of erections, ejaculation and the emergence of a near-unstoppable sex drive, females’ is defined by periods. And the possibility of unwanted pregnancy. When do we explain the miraculous nuances of their anatomy? When do we address exploration, self-knowledge?

No wonder that according to the largest survey on American sexual behavior conducted in decades, published in 2010 in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, researchers at Indiana University found only about a third of girls between 14 and 17 reported masturbating regularly and fewer than half have even tried once. When I asked about the subject, girls would tell me, “I have a boyfriend to do that,” though, in addition to placing their pleasure in someone else’s hands, few had ever climaxed with a partner.

Boys, meanwhile, used masturbating on their own as a reason girls should perform oral sex, which was typically not reciprocated. As one of a group of college sophomores informed me, “Guys will say, ‘A hand job is a man job, a blow job is yo’ job.’ ” The other women nodded their heads in agreement.

Frustrated by such stories, I asked a high school senior how she would feel if guys expected girls to, say, fetch a glass of water from the kitchen whenever they were together yet never (or only grudgingly) offered to do so in return? She burst out laughing. “Well, I guess when you put it that way,” she said.

The rise of oral sex, as well as its demotion to an act less intimate than intercourse, was among the most significant transformations in American sexual behavior during the 20th century. In the 21st, the biggest change appears to be an increase in anal sex. In 1992, 16 percent of women aged 18 to 24 said they had tried anal sex. Today, according to the Indiana University study, 20 percent of women 18 to 19 have, and by ages 20 to 24 it’s up to 40 percent.

A 2014 study of 16- to 18-year-old heterosexuals — and can we just pause a moment to consider just how young that is? — published in a British medical journal found that it was mainly boys who pushed for “fifth base,” approaching it less as a form of intimacy with a partner (who they assumed would both need to be and could be coerced into it) than a competition with other boys. They expected girls to endure the act, which young women in the study consistently reported as painful. Both sexes blamed the girls themselves for the discomfort, calling them “naïve or flawed,” unable to “relax.”

According to Debby Herbenick, director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and one of the researchers on its sexual behavior survey, when anal sex is included, 70 percent of women report pain in their sexual encounters. Even when it’s not, about a third of young women experience pain, as opposed to about 5 percent of men. What’s more, according to Sara McClelland, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, college women are more likely than men to use their partner’s physical pleasure as the yardstick for their satisfaction, saying things like “If he’s sexually satisfied, then I’m sexually satisfied.” Men are more likely to measure satisfaction by their own orgasm.

Professor McClelland writes about sexuality as a matter of “intimate justice.” It touches on fundamental issues of gender inequality, economic disparity, violence, bodily integrity, physical and mental health, self-efficacy and power dynamics in our most personal relationships, whether they last two hours or 20 years. She asks us to consider: Who has the right to engage in sexual behavior? Who has the right to enjoy it? Who is the primary beneficiary of the experience? Who feels deserving? How does each partner define “good enough”? Those are thorny questions when looking at female sexuality at any age, but particularly when considering girls’ formative experiences.

We are learning to support girls as they “lean in” educationally and professionally, yet in this most personal of realms, we allow them to topple. It is almost as if parents believe that if they don’t tell their daughters that sex should feel good, they won’t find out. And perhaps that’s correct: They don’t, not easily anyway. But the outcome is hardly what adults could have hoped.

What if we went the other way? What if we spoke to kids about sex more instead of less, what if we could normalize it, integrate it into everyday life and shift our thinking in the ways that we (mostly) have about women’s public roles? Because the truth is, the more frankly and fully teachers, parents and doctors talk to young people about sexuality, the more likely kids are both to delay sexual activity and to behave responsibly and ethically when they do engage in it.

Consider a 2010 study published in The International Journal of Sexual Health comparing the early experiences of nearly 300 randomly chosen American and Dutch women at two similar colleges — mostly white, middle class, with similar religious backgrounds. So, apples to apples. The Americans had become sexually active at a younger age than the Dutch, had had more encounters with more partners and were less likely to use birth control. They were also more likely to say that they’d first had intercourse because of pressure from friends or partners.

In subsequent interviews with some of the participants, the Americans, much like the ones I met, described interactions that were “driven by hormones,” in which the guys determined relationships, both sexes prioritized male pleasure, and reciprocity was rare. As for the Dutch? Their early sexual activity took place in caring, respectful relationships in which they communicated openly with their partners (whom they said they knew “very well”) about what felt good and what didn’t, about how far they wanted to go, and about what kind of protection they would need along the way. They reported more comfort with their bodies and their desires than the Americans and were more in touch with their own pleasure.

What’s their secret? The Dutch said that teachers and doctors had talked candidly to them about sex, pleasure and the importance of a mutual trust, even love. More than that, though, there was a stark difference in how their parents approached those topics.

While the survey did not reveal a significant difference in how comfortable parents were talking about sex, the subsequent interviews showed that the American moms had focused on the potential risks and dangers, while their dads, if they said anything at all, stuck to lame jokes.

Dutch parents, by contrast, had talked to their daughters from an early age about both joy and responsibility. As a result, one Dutch woman said she told her mother immediately after she first had intercourse, and that “my friend’s mother also asked me how it was, if I had an orgasm and if he had one.”

MEANWHILE, according to Amy T. Schalet, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the author of “Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens, and the Culture of Sex, ” young Dutch men expect to combine sex and love. In interviews, they generally credited their fathers with teaching them that their partners must be equally up for any sexual activity, that the women could (and should) enjoy themselves as much as men, and that, as one respondent said, he would be stupid to have sex “with a drunken head.” Although she found that young Dutch and American men both often yearned for love, only the Americans considered that a personal quirk.

I thought about all of that that recently when, driving home with my daughter, who is now in middle school, we passed a billboard whose giant letters on a neon-orange background read, “Porn kills love.” I asked her if she knew what pornography was. She rolled her eyes and said in that jaded tone that parents of preteenagers know so well, “Yes, Mom, but I’ve never seen it.”

I could’ve let the matter drop, felt relieved that she might yet make it to her first kiss unencumbered by those images.

Goodness knows, that would’ve been easier. Instead I took a deep breath and started the conversation: “I know, Honey, but you will, and there are a few things you need to know.”

Complete Article HERE!

First Week of Autumn 2012 Q&A Show — Podcast #347 — 09/24/12


Hey sex fans,

It’s time for another Q&A show. This time around, I have a really great bunch of correspondents who share their sex and relationship concerns with us. And I go out of my way to make my responses informative, enriching and maybe even a little entertaining.

  • Joy is unhappy because her BF is into the meth and now their sex life is in the toilet.
  • AH said something really terrible to his GF while he was drunk, now he’s paying the price.
  • Then I riff on a handful of effective communication techniques.
  • Reba says her 6-year-old son is a nancy-boy. I put her straight and tell her to visit this site.
  • Jackson got himself a dose of the clap, and now he has to tell all his lady friends.
  • Tammy wants some help with greening her sex life.

Today’s podcast is bought to you by: Dr Dick’s Sex Advice and Dr Dick’s Sex Toy Review.

BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!

Check out The Lick-A-Dee-Split Connection. That’s Dr Dick’s toll free podcast voicemail HOTLINE. Don’t worry people; no one will personally answer the phone. Your message goes directly to voicemail.

Got a question or a comment? Wanna rant or rave? Or maybe you’d just like to talk dirty for a minute or two. Why not get it off your chest! Give Dr Dick a call at (866) 422-5680.

DON’T BE SHY, LET IT FLY!

Look for my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously, or just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode.

Dazed and Confused

Name: Confused
Gender: Male
Age: 16
Location: NJ
Dr., I’ve been having sex with a friend who is 19 and he expressed that he had feelings for me at a time when I didn’t have feelings for him. We got into an argument and didn’t talk for a few weeks and I noticed that I missed him and now we’re talking sort of, but I feel that now its more physical than anything, on his part. I think I do have feelings for him, but the only time he attempts to talk to me is when he is horny. The biggest issue is that I haven’t come out and I don’t feel it’s the right time for me to, but I think if I did, it would help things between me and him. Could you give me any advice?

Yep, pup, you sound pretty confused all right. But then you can hardly be faulted for your bewilderment, being as young as you are.

But if the truth be known, your youth has very little to do with it. The first thing you oughta know is that people grapple with these weighty concerns all their lives. I don’t know anyone who has all this emotional stuff pinned down. Because just as soon as ya think ya have it all figured out, life throws you a curve ball.

You will find if you haven’t done so already, that there is often a very fine line between love and desire, passion and intimacy and lust and affection. You should also know that sometimes, maybe even most of the time, we are out of sync with the person we are involved with. In the immortal words of Stephen Sondheim — either we are at last on the ground, while they’re in mid air. Or they keep tearing around while we can’t move. Since the beginning of time, most songs, epic love stories and romantic poetry have wrestled with the shifting fortunes of matters of the heart…and the groin.

So if you ever do make sense of all of this in your life, just wait a minute. The whole kit and caboodle will surely collapse like a house of cards around your head. That’s what I’ve found in my life anyhow. I still struggle with all of this and I’m fuckin’ old, don’t cha know.

Actually, I believe that the tension between love and lust is the very thing that gives life its spice. The only thing I’ve been able to discover after all this time is that there isn’t a code to break, just a toboggan ride to be had.

Which bring me to the second comment I want to make. I know that a lot of young people…your age and even younger…are experimenting with sex, and that’s not a bad thing necessarily. I do, however, advise discretion. Keep in mind that most people in our culture freak out when they discover that young people actually have a sex live. To that I would add that you probably know that your 19year old playmate is technically breaking the law by cavorting with you, a minor, right? He could get in a shit-load of trouble for bumping an underage lad like you.

And while there’s just a 3-year difference between you, I’d be willing to guess that your friend is considerably more advanced than you in terms of emotional development. If he isn’t, then there’s something very wrong with him. Just be aware that sometimes a disparity in life experience can be used by the more seasoned partner as a means of manipulating the other. And that’s never a good thing.

In terms of coming out, well that’s best done when you are at ease and comfortable in claiming and owning your sexual identity whatever it might be. Since sexuality is often a very fluid thing, there’s no pressing need to self-identify as one thing or another until ya have enough life experience under your belt to be able to say for sure. And even then you may find that your heart…or your dick will lead you elsewhere. Remember what I said about life throwing you a curve ball just as soon as ya think ya have it all figured out? Well it’s true in this regard too.

Finally, and this is the only absolute I have for you today. If you’re old enough to fuck, you’re old enough to know all about safe sex. And not just know about it, but practice it too. If you’re not using condoms, then you’re just a dumb kid with rocks in his head. And I really want to believe that’s not the case with you. Simply put, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections won’t make an exception for you because of your age. Also, you’ll never come to grips with grown-up emotions and all they entail if you’re just a dumb kid with rocks in his head, if ya catch my drift.

Good luck

More SEX WISDOM With Jo Langford — Podcast #284 — 06/08/11

Hello sex fans! Welcome back.

I have the pleasure of welcoming back my friend, the marvelous Jo Langford. He is a therapist, educator, author and parent and he’s here for another helping of his spot-on teen and parental oriented SEX WISDOM.

I got so much positive feedback about last week’s show from ya’ll. And I totally agree with everything you said. Creating a healthier, more informed and sex-positive culture for young people, which is Jo’s mission, should also be our highest priority.

But wait, you didn’t miss Part 1 of this show, did you? Well not to worry if ya did, because you can find it and all my podcasts in the Podcast Archive right here on my site. All ya gotta do is use the search function in the header; type in Podcast #282 and PRESTO! But don’t forget the #sign when you do your search.

Jo and I discuss:

  • The parents’ role in sex education;
  • Tips for the sex-squeamish parent;
  • The sex-positive online resources for teens and their parents;
  • A parents need to keep themselves educated;
  • Kids and the meaning of sex;
  • Making parent/kid sex education non-seductive;
  • Contraception and safer sex;
  • Helping young people deal with the internet porn they are likely to see;
  • The legal and social aspects of sexting;
  • His inspirations.

Jo invites you to visit him on his site HERE! And be sure to follow him on Twitter HERE!

BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!

Check out The Lick-A-Dee-Split Connection. That’s Dr Dick’s toll free podcast voicemail HOTLINE. Don’t worry people; no one will personally answer the phone. Your message goes directly to voicemail.

Got a question or a comment? Wanna rant or rave? Or maybe you’d just like to talk dirty for a minute or two. Why not get it off your chest! Give Dr Dick a call at (866) 422-5680.

DON’T BE SHY, LET IT FLY!

Look for all my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously. Just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode.

Today’s Podcast is bought to you by: DR DICK’S — HOW TO VIDEO LIBRARY.

drdickvod.jpg

SEX WISDOM With Jo Langford — Podcast #282 — 06/01/11

Hello sex fans! Welcome back.

I have some more fantastic SEX WISDOM for you today. This is, of course, the series where I chat with researchers, educators, clinicians, pundits and philosophers who are helping us take a fresh look at our sexual selves. And this week I have a very special show in store for you.

What if I told you that there is an entire population of people in this country and abroad who are woefully underserved with regard to access to clear and unambiguous information about human sexuality? You’d be outraged, huh? But would you even know what demographic I’m talking about?

Well, in case ya don’t, my guest today is here to help wake you up, so to speak, about this very pressing need. I am proud to welcome a fellow Seattlite and a new friend, the exceptional Jo Langford.

He is a top-notch therapist, educator and author and his primary outreach is to teens and young adults. He is the first of my guests in this series who works primarily with kids and the information he is about to share is both revealing and startling. Listen; if you are a teenager or know someone who is, then you’ll not want to miss this show, sex fans.

Jo and I discuss:

  • His style of presenting to teens and their parents;
  • “The Talk”;
  • His background in forensic sexology;
  • Sexually precocious kids;
  • The sexual double standard for girls and boys;
  • The dearth of sex resources for young people;
  • Why parents avoid their role as primary sex educator;
  • His soon to be published book;
  • Kids getting their sex ed from porn;
  • What kind of information do kids really need;
  • Abstinence only programs;
  • No one’s addressing the sexual needs and concerns of gay and lesbian kids;
  • What young people think constitutes “sex”.

Jo invites you to visit him on his site HERE!  And be sure to follow him on Twitter HERE!

BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!

Check out The Lick-A-Dee-Split Connection. That’s Dr Dick’s toll free podcast voicemail HOTLINE. Don’t worry people; no one will personally answer the phone. Your message goes directly to voicemail.

Got a question or a comment? Wanna rant or rave? Or maybe you’d just like to talk dirty for a minute or two. Why not get it off your chest! Give Dr Dick a call at (866) 422-5680.

DON’T BE SHY, LET IT FLY!

Look for my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously, or just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode.

Today’s Podcast is bought to you by: Adam & Eve.com.