Category Archives: Sex Education

The Root of Our Discomfort

Name: Maya
Gender:
Age: 28
Location: UK
Hi there! I recently found out that my brother in law is gay. I wanted to know what makes people gay? Is it choice, genes, hormones, etc? Please clarify because his condition and opposition to his choice of sexuality has made him depressed and he’s on antidepressants and not very healthy. Please answer.

Back in 2007 Solon.com featured a little piece called: Don’t Ask the Sexperts in their annual sex issue: State of the Sexual Union. Slate asked seven people who earn their livings thinking and writing about sex, what they’ve never been able to figure out about sex or sexuality.

One of the contributors was Dr. Ruth Westheimer. She’s the author of 31 books about sex and relationships. This what she said still remained a mystery to her.

“I’m sure there are many, but one nagging one is what causes homosexuality. I admit, I am curious—but the real importance in getting to the bottom of this question is that the answer would be helpful to the homosexual community. I suspect that the cause is genetic, which would mean all those people who say that gays and lesbians can change to become heterosexual would have to sing another tune. Instead of trying to “fix” a situation that doesn’t require fixing, they would have to learn to accept homosexuals. But I am not a scientist, so I can’t set about finding out the etiology, the cause of homosexuality. All I can do is act as a cheerleader to encourage scientists to come up with the answer.”

I was astounded when I read Dr Ruth’s comment. Here is one of the most popular names in the field of human sexuality saying such a startling thing. It’s not that she misrepresented the state of scientific inquiry into the issue of sexual orientation. What she said is true. We don’t precisely know what “causes” homosexuality, but more importantly…and this is what she leaves out…we haven’t a clue what “causes” any sexual orientation — straight, gay, bi, what have you.

What troubled me so about Dr Ruth’s comment is that, perhaps inadvertently, she perpetuates the myth that homosexuality (as opposed to say heterosexuality) has a cause. And when she uses the word “cause”, she denotes to her audience that there’s a cure. All I want to say is that if there’s a “cause” for homosexuality, there is certainly a “cause” for heterosexuality. If there would ever be a “cure” for homosexuality, there would certainly then be a “cure” for heterosexuality.

Do you see how obvious and pervasive the prejudices of the dominant culture are? I absolutely expected better from old Dr Ruth, don’t cha know. It’s true that she goes on to say that she thinks the “cause” of homosexuality is genetic, therefore us homos can’t change or be “fixed”. She then suggests, if this IS the case, the dominant culture would then simply have to learn how to accept homosexuals for how they are. I went, HUH???

Dr Ruth, darling, do you honestly believe that if, or more properly, when we discover the determining factors of sexual orientation — and I do believe there are more than one — the sexual bigots among us won’t militate to have the deviant orientations “fixed”? All I can say is to think otherwise shows an alarming naivety about human nature.

When Dr Ruth, or anyone else for that matter, separates out one sexual proclivity from all the others and suggests that it has a cause, whatever it might be, the rest of us run for cover and wait for the other shoe to drop. Imagine if instead of sexual orientation we were speaking about racial or ethnic characteristics. What causes black people? What causes Asian eyes to slant? What causes flat noses? What causes nappy hair? What causes short people?

Well you see where I’m going with this, right Maya? Questions like these presuppose that there is a norm — tall white people with round eyes, perky noses and straight hair. And you know what? There are a multitude industries out there poised to prey upon all the short, non-white people with almond eyes flat noses and nappy hair who feel they must conform to any and all arbitrary and culturally induced norms in order to be happy. It’s shocking.

So on to your brother’s case. If sexual orientation is chosen, why would he have embraced a lifestyle that makes him sick and depressed? It simply doesn’t add up. The self-hatred and internalized homophobia that is at the root of your brother’s discomfort is culturally induced, but it is also self-inflicted. We don’t know what “cause” homosexuality, but I can tell you for certain what causes homophobia. And that, my dear, is bigotry.

It’s up to your bother to fight this first within himself and then in the popular culture with every ounce of his strength. Because that’s what all us well adjusted, comfortable in our own skin queers do if we want to live happy healthy integrated lives. None of us is waiting around for someone to tell us what caused us to be the way we are, because we know that whatever “caused” us caused all the other differences and variations that appear in human kind.

And one final tip for you, Maya — despite your good intentions, the more you indulge your brother’s pathologies and commiserate with him, or wonder aloud with him why he is queer then you are part of the problem, as opposed to being part of the solution. I encourage you to challenge him to buck up and get right with himself. Help him throw off the yoke of his shame and guilt, to own and embrace his uniqueness and celebrate his sexuality, which is his norm.

Good luck

SEX WISDOM With Christopher Ryan — Podcast #257 — 01/19/11

Hey, hey sex fans! Welcome back.

I’m all a flutter, sex fans. I feel like the most popular boy in school just asked me to the prom. So ok, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. It’s more like the most popular boy in school just told me he wants to bugger me senseless. No, wait a minute; this isn’t coming out precisely as I hoped. Let’s just say that I’m thrilled to overflowing to have today’s guest join me for this SEX WISDOM podcast.

As you know, this series is all about talking with people who are changing the way we look at our sexual selves. And no one in this series so far has exceeded the impact of today’s guest on that discourse. I have the honor of welcoming psychologist, Christopher Ryan, coauthor of Sex At Dawn; The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality.

I confess; this book simply blew me away. And that’s pretty hard to do considering I’m such a jaded old queen. But honestly, I can’t remember being so impacted by anything I’ve read on the topic of human sexuality in like…evah! Sex At Dawn is nothing short of revolutionary. Despite this being a scholarly work, Christopher and his wife, Cacilda Jethá, have gone out of their way to make their presentation completely accessible even to a layman. There is nothing pretentious about it; the book is full of humor and fascinating antidotes. But I can assure you that it will reshape how you look at your own sexuality.

Christopher and I discuss:

  • The book tour and the media’s response;
  • The absence of a prescriptive element in the book;
  • Humans, extremely libidinous apes;
  • Our failure to question the default human sexual premise — long-term and sexually exclusive;
  • Ingrained behavior not the same as human nature;
  • Agriculture not the advance it’s cracked up to be;
  • Prehistory is 95% of the human experience;
  • The remnant hunter and gatherer societies;
  • Classical evolutionary theory is contaminated with Victorian assumptions;
  • The role of sex in hunter and gatherer societies;
  • Historical reports of first contact with indigenous peoples.

Christopher invites you learn more about Sex At Dawn by visiting their site HERE!  Look for him on Facebook HERE! And enjoy his twitter feed HERE!

(For a little icing on this already marvelous cake, enjoy the slideshow below.)

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

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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.

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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

Dr Dick’s Sex Positive Doctrine

No podcast today; instead there’s this…

Have you ever wondered about the term, sex positive? If you’re like me you see it all over the place, especially on sex-related sites. I confess I use it way more often than I should. It’s become one of those industry buzzwords that has, over time, become so fuzzy around the edges that it’s now virtually meaningless. In fact, if the truth be known, I believe the term sex positive has been taken over by the sex Taliban who have made it a cover for their strict code of political correctness. Oddly enough, this is the very antithesis of its original meaning.

If you want to shame someone in the sex field—be it a sex worker, blogger or adult product manufacturer—you label that person as sex-negative. You may not know anything about that person other than you were offended by something they did, said or made. But still, you hurl the epithet as if you were exorcising a heretic. This is a very powerful tool for keeping people in my industry in line. But I’ve begun to wonder, who is setting themselves up as the arbiter of what is and what is not sex positive? I have to ask: What is the agenda? I mean, could compulsory ideological purity of some artificial standards of thought or behavior be “positive” anything? I say, no!

Like all good ideas that have gone bad due to overuse—or worse, sloppy use—the sex positive concept once had meaning that was life-affirming and enriching. Sex positive has been in the lexicon at least since the mid-1950s. It frequently appears in journals and research papers to describe a movement that examines and advocates for all the other beneficial aspects of sex beyond reproduction.

I’ve been using the term since 1981 when I opened my practice in Clinical Sexology and Sexual Health Care. The opening words of my mission statement read: “I affirm the fundamental goodness of sexuality in human life, both as a personal need and as an interpersonal bond.” Way back then, I was flush with my quixotic pursuit to stand steadfast against all the cultural pressures to negate or denigrate sexuality and pleasure. I dedicated myself to spreading the gospel that healthy attitudes toward sex not only affect a person’s sex life, but his/her ability to relate well with others.

This came relatively easy for me, because I’d learned something very important about evangelization in my life as a Catholic priest. (Another quixotic pursuit, but we’ll have to save the details of that misadventure for another time.) One of the first things one learns in seminary is how to proselytize, to sow the seeds of a creed, and then nurture them taking root by endless repetition of the articles of faith. Of course there is a downside to this, too. Repetition fosters mindlessness, stifles creative thought, and worse makes things boring.

But the creed statements of the world’s three great monotheistic religions are masterful works of theological art.

Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha’olam!
Allaahu Akbar!
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and the of the Holy Spirit!

Each contains the most profound kernel of religious truth the believer needs to know, but all are easy enough for a child to learn. And like I said, the secret is in the repetition. For the true devotee, these creedal statements are uttered dozens of times a day and to great effect.

Early on in my career as a sexologist, I decided to put the principles I learned in the Church into disseminating my new belief system. First, keep the message simple! I settled on: “Sex is Good—and Good Sex is Even Better.” This has been my mantra for decades. It contains everything you need to know about being sex positive, but it’s easy enough for a child to learn. Even now, I close each of my podcasts with this same article of faith. To this day it soothes me to hear myself say these words. And it comforts me in the same way blessing myself did in my priestly days.

Despite my apprehensions, I continue to be an apostle of the sex positive doctrine. I know that even though my industry has corrupted the concept, others have yet to hear the good news. And there’s something almost spiritual about seeing someone grasp the idea for the first time. Let me tell you about one such instance. Some while ago I was asked to offer a workshop for a group of doctors on the topic: Health Care Concerns Of Sexually Diverse Populations. Unfortunately, just a handful of doctors attended the workshop—which was pretty disconcerting, considering all the work I’d put into the presentation. I guess that’s why kinksters and pervs, as well as your run-of-the-mill queer folk, are often frustrated in their search for sensitive and lifestyle-attuned healing and helping professionals.

Since the group of doctors attending was so small, I decided to ask them to pull their chairs in a circle so that our time together could be a bit more informal and intimate. Frankly, I’ve never found it easy talking to doctors about sex; and discussing kinky sex was surely going to be very tricky. So, I decided to start off as gently as I could. My opening remarks included the phrases “sex positive” and “kink positive.”

Sitting as close to my audience as I was, I could see at once that these fundamental concepts weren’t registering with them. I was astonished. Here was a group of physicians, each with a large urban practice. Could they really be this out of touch? I quickly checked in with them to see if my perception was correct. I was right! None of them had heard the term, sex positive. The two who hazarded a guess at its meaning thought it had something to do with being HIV+. I had my work cut out for me.

I decided to share my creed with them. “Sex is Good—and Good Sex is Even Better.” I asked them repeat it with me as if I were teaching a catechism to children. Surprisingly, they did so without resistance. After we repeated the mantra a couple more times, I exposed them to the sex positive doctrine unencumbered by political correctness.

  • Sex Is Good! Sex is a positive force in human development; the pursuit of pleasure, including sexual pleasure, is at the very foundation of a harmonious society.
  • And Good Sex Is Even Better! The individual makes that determination. For example, what I decide is good sex for me, may be boring sex to someone else. And their good sex may be hair-raising to me. In other words, consensual sexual expression is a basic human right regardless of the form that expression takes. And it’s not appropriate for me, or anyone else, to call into question someone else’s consensual affectional choices.
  • Sex Is Good! Everyone has a right to clear, unambiguous sexual health information. It must be presented in a nonjudgmental way, particularly from his or her health care providers. And sexual health encompasses a lot more then just disease prevention, and contraception.
  • And Good Sex Is Even Better! The focus is on the affirmative aspects of sexuality, like sexual pleasure. Sexual wellbeing is more than simply being able to perform. It also means taking responsibility for one’s eroticism as an integral part of one’s personality and involvement with others.
  • Sex Is Good! Each person is unique and that must be respected. Our aim as healing and helping professionals is to provide information and guidance that will help the individual approach his/her unique sexuality in a realistic and responsible manner. This will foster his/her independent growth, personal integrity, as well as provide a more joyful experience of living.
  • And Good Sex Is Even Better! Between the extremes of total sexual repression and relentless sexual pursuit, a person can find that unique place, where he/she is free to live a life of self-respect, enjoyment and love.

Finally I told them they ought to think creatively how they could adapt this concept to their own practice. It was up to each of them to make this creed their own. As it turned out, this primer was just the thing to open my planned discussion of health of kinksters.

In a way this experience was a bit of a spiritual reawakening for me, too. Despite my misgivings about the contamination of the sex positive doctrine by malicious people bent on using it as a weapon against those they disagree with. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to watch these sex positive novices hear, and then embrace, the message for the first time. It was nothing short of a religious experience.

Sex EDGE-U-cation with Charlie Glickman — Podcast #116 — 04/22/09

Hey sex fans,

Today, I have yet another installment in my series of interviews called Sex EDGE-U-cation.   As you know, this series takes a look at the world of fetish sex, kink and cglickmansmalternative lifestyles. We are chatting with prominent educators, practitioners and advocates of unconventional sexual expressions and lifestyles from all over the world.

And speaking of educators, today my guest is the renowned sex instructor, Dr. Charlie Glickman.

Charlie is the Education Program Manager at Good Vibrations.  He runs their in-store After Hours Workshop Program, their Off-Site Sex Education Program and trains their Sex Educator-Sales Associates.  He also has his very own Blog, don’t cha know.  Be sure to check out all the above links; I know you’ll be impressed.

Charlie and I discuss:

  • The contextual pieces of sex education.
  • Alternative sexuality v. what is “normal”.
  • The learning edge.
  • Kink coming out of the cultural closet.
  • How to own, integrate and then share your kink with others.

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. 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 Stockroom.

drdicksstockroom.jpg

“Abstinence Only” …think again!

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee not only opposes a woman’s right to choose, nixes comprehensive sex education in favor of “Abstinence Only”, but now we discover that she cut funding for teen moms.

“Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee who revealed Monday that her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant, earlier this year used her line-item veto to slash funding for a state program benefiting teen mothers in need of a place to live.”  —Washington Post

What if other parents don’t buy this shit.  What if they think preparing their kids for the eventual responsibilities of adulthood, which includes sexuality, is not a bad thing.

Sarah Palin’s unwed daughter will no doubt receive all the benefits a well-positioned family can provide.  Not so the daughters of everyone else.

What pisses me off the most is the double standard.  For everyone else’s kids — no choice, no clear unambitious information about human sexuality in school…and if you get in trouble, because you don’t have a choice or you are uninformed…no help from your government.

I don’t generally do this, but the timing couldn’t be better on this.  Monday’s podcast, #78, included my response to a message I recieved from a mother of three in Toronto.  The timely nature of Lynn’s question compels me to print it in full here.

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Name: Lynn
Gender: Female
Age: 36
Location: Toronto
I’m a mother of three great kids.  My oldest, who is in middle school, went to camp for the first time this summer. A local church group sponsors the camp every year.  When my husband and I asked him about his time away from home, he said rather noncommittally; “It was ok.”  He seemed to like it well enough, but you know how uncommunicative kids can be at that stage.
Anyhow, yesterday I was going through some laundry from his camp outing and discovered a pamphlet in the pocket of his pants.  It was for an “Abstinence Only” program.  It was full of the most sex-negative fear and shame.  It was awful.  We are not raising our kids like that; my husband and I were appalled.
Now we’re wondering if this is why our son was so unenthusiastic about his camp experience.  Do you think we should quiz him on this?
What gives with this kind of indoctrination anyway?  I thought that those “Abstinence Only” programs had been discredited.

So wait, wait, wait; are you thinking that just because a social engineering strategy, like abstinence-only, has been debunked that it wouldn’t still be employed by certain factions of our culture?  Oh hun, I think you oughta rethink that supposition right away, don’t cha know.

I mean, come on!  There are loads of outdated and discredited philosophies being promulgated in an effort to ensnare the  uninformed and gullible.  I don’t know about ya’ll there in Canadaville, but here in Amercanski land we have a whole segment of our population who believes in creationism as a viable explanation for the universe.  In fact, one was just nominated to be Vice President for the Republican party.  D’oh!

So, as you can see, there is no necessary connection between what has been discredited and what is still wildly popular in some segments of the population.

Back in the spring of 2007, a long-awaited congressionally funded national study concluded that abstinence-only sex education does not keep teenagers from having sex. Nor does it increase or decrease the likelihood that if they do have sex, they will use a condom.  (Attention:  Governor Palin!)

Authorized by Congress in 1997, the study followed 2000 children from elementary and middle school into high school. The children lived in four communities — two urban, two rural. All of the children received the family life services available in their community; in addition, slightly more than half of them also received abstinence-only education.

By the end of the study, when the average child was just shy of 17, half of both groups had remained abstinent. The sexually active teenagers had sex the first time at about age 15. Less than a quarter of them, in both groups, reported using a condom every time they had sex. More than a third of both groups had two or more partners.

So if abstinence-only programs don’t work, at least the way they are supposed to; why do we still have them?  Ahhh, good question.  We still have them because for a large segment of the population, especially those who are makin all these babies, it’s easier to just say “NO” than to step up to the plate and educate their kids about sex in a wholesome and holistic way.

Another problem is that the word abstinence often means something quite different to kids than it does to adults. That’s one reason why abstinence-only programs do not have strong effects in preventing teenage sexual activity.  At least that’s what a recent University of Washington study found.

The researchers found that interventions that encourage abstinence treat abstinence and sexual activity as opposites.  Teenagers, on the other hand, don’t consider them to be mutually exclusive concepts. Like in the congressionally sponsored study, the UW researchers found abstinence-only programs are less likely to work than more comprehensive sex-education programs because they are not speaking the same language as adolescents.

The study showed that attitudes and intentions about sex were more powerful than attitudes and intentions about being abstinent.  No surprise there, I suppose.

Again, I don’t know how things are there in Canada, but down here there is no federal funding for comprehensive sex-education.  But there’s a shit-load of funding for abstinence-only programs.  Funding has mushroomed from $9 million in1997 to $176 million in 2007.  Leave it to the current administration to dump loads of money into a program that doesn’t work.  But such is the power of the conservative religious lobby.  They are the people who back these programs.

This wouldn’t be such a big issue if it didn’t hold such dire consequences. For example, the United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate among all first-world nations.  The rates of sexually transmitted diseases in this country are also astronomical.  If we want to keep our young people safe from the negative aspects of casual sex, abstinence-only programs are not the way to go.

However, more comprehensive programs that include abstinence as one choice are much more likely to have a more productive outcome.  Besides, is it ever a good idea to try and motivate behaviors out of fear and shame?  I don’t think so.

Since abstinence-only programs often only look at the negatives of sex, it doesn’t really empower a young person to take responsibility for his/her behaviors.  This is particularly thorny for young women who often bear the brunt the peer pressures to be sexual.  And they have way more at stake in terms of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

When kids aren’t expected to take responsibility for their behaviors, especially in terms of sexuality, it cripples their ability to make good life-affirming choices.  Abstinence-only programs disqualify all sexual options, even the relatively innocuous behaviors like mutual masturbation and oral sex.  So if all sexual options are equally out of bounds, there’s no way for the average kid to distinguish between harmless and risky behaviors.  And this is what leads to the high rate of sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies.

If we want our kids to grow up with healthy and integrated attitudes about sex, ones that will lead to loving and fulfilling sexual relationship later in life, we ought teach from a more sex-positive theory.

Back to the other question you raise; the one about quizzing your son about his camp experience.  I think that would be great.  It would let him know that you care, that you don’t support this fear and shame-based approach to human sexuality and that he doesn’t have to embrace it either.

Good Luck

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