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The Sex Toy Shops That Switched On a Feminist Revolution

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The “White Cross Electric Vibrator Girl” as pictured in a 1911 Health and Beauty catalog.

BUZZ
The Stimulating History of the Sex Toy
By Hallie Lieberman
Illustrated. 359 pp. Pegasus Books. $26.95.

VIBRATOR NATION
How Feminist Sex-Toy Stores Changed the Business of Pleasure
By Lynn Comella
278 pp. Duke University Press. $25.95.

Think back, for a moment, to the year 1968. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. The Beatles released the “White Album.” North Vietnam launched the Tet offensive. And American women discovered the clitoris. O.K., that last one may be a bit of an overreach, but 1968 was when “The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm,” a short essay by Anne Koedt, went that era’s version of viral. Jumping off of the Masters and Johnson bombshell that women who didn’t climax during intercourse could have multiple orgasms with a vibrator, Koedt called for replacing Freud’s fantasy of “mature” orgasm with women’s lived truth: It was all about the clitoris. That assertion single-handedly, as it were, made female self-love a political act, and claimed orgasm as a serious step to women’s overall emancipation. It also threatened many men, who feared obsolescence, or at the very least, loss of primacy. Norman Mailer, that famed phallocentrist, raged in his book “The Prisoner of Sex” against the emasculating “plenitude of orgasms” created by “that laboratory dildo, that vibrator!” (yet another reason, beyond the whole stabbing incident, to pity the man’s poor wives).

To be fair, Mailer & Co. had cause to quake. The quest for sexual self-knowledge, as two new books on the history and politics of sex toys reveal, would become a driver of feminist social change, striking a blow against men’s overweening insecurity and the attempt (still with us today) to control women’s bodies. As Lynn Comella writes in “Vibrator Nation,” retailers like Good Vibrations in San Francisco created an erotic consumer landscape different from anything that previously existed for women, one that was safe, attractive, welcoming and ultimately subversive, presenting female sexual fulfillment as “unattached to reproduction, motherhood, monogamy — even heterosexuality.”

As you can imagine, both books (which contain a great deal of overlap) are chockablock with colorful characters, starting with Betty Dodson, the Pied Piper of female onanism, who would often personally demonstrate — in the nude — how to use a vibrator to orgasm during her early sexual consciousness-raising workshops in New York. I am woman, hear me roar indeed.

Back in the day, though, attaining a Vibrator of One’s Own was tricky. The leering male gaze of the typical “adult” store was, at best, off-putting to most women. Amazon, where sex toys, like fresh produce, are just a mouse click away, was still a glimmer in Jeff Bezos’ eye. Enter Dell Williams, who after being shamed by a Macy’s salesclerk while checking out a Hitachi Magic Wand, founded in 1974 the mail order company Eve’s Garden. That was quickly followed by Good Vibrations, the first feminist sex toy storefront; it’s great fun to read the back story of Good Vibes’ late founder, Joani Blank, along with radical “sexperts” like Susie Bright and Carol Queen.
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The authors of “Vibrator Nation” and “Buzz” each put in time observing how sex toys are sold, so have firsthand insight into the industry. Whose take will hold more appeal depends on the reader’s interests: In “Buzz,” Hallie Lieberman offers a broader view, taking us back some 30,000 years, when our ancestors carved penises out of siltstone; moving on to the ancient Greeks’ creative use of olive oil; the buzzy medical devices of the 19th century (disappointingly, doctors’ notorious in-office use of vibrators as treatment for female “hysteria” is urban legend); and the impact of early-20th-century obscenity laws — incredibly, sex toys remain illegal in Alabama — before digging deeply into more contemporary influences. In addition to feminist retailers, Lieberman braids in stories of men like Ted Marche, whose family business — employing his wife and teenage children — began by making prosthetic strap-ons for impotent men; Gosnell Duncan, who made sex aids for the disabled and was the first to expand dildo production beyond the Caucasian pink once called “flesh colored”; the Malorrus brothers, who were gag gift manufacturers (think penis pencil toppers); and the hard-core porn distribution mogul Reuben Sturman, who repeatedly, and eventually disastrously, ran afoul of the law. Although their X-rated wares would supposedly give women orgasms, unlike the feminist-championed toys they were sold primarily as devices that would benefit men. Much like the era’s sexual revolution, in other words, they maintained and even perpetuated a sexist status quo.

“Vibrator Nation” focuses more narrowly on women-owned vendors, wrestling with how their activist mission bumped up against the demands and constraints of the marketplace. Those early entrepreneurs, Comella writes, believed nothing less than that “women who had orgasms could change the world.” As with other utopian feminist visions, however, this one quickly splintered. Controversy broke out over what constituted “sex positivity,” what constituted “woman-friendly,” what constituted “woman.” Was it politically correct to stock, or even produce, feminist porn? Were BDSM lesbians invited to the party? Would the stores serve transwomen? Did the “respectable” aesthetic of the white, middle-class founders translate across lines of class and race? If the goal was self-exploration through a kind of cliteracy, what about customers (of any gender or sexual orientation) who wanted toys for partnered play or who enjoyed penetrative sex? Could a sex store that sold nine-inch, veined dildos retain its feminist bona fides? Dell Williams solved that particular problem by commissioning nonrepresentational silicone devices with names like “Venus Rising” from Gosnell Duncan, the man who made prosthetics for the disabled. Others followed suit.

Even so, Comella writes, the retailers struggled to stay afloat: Feminist stores refused, as a matter of principle, to trade on customers’ anxiety — there were none of the “tightening creams,” “numbing creams,” penis enlargers or anal bleaches that boosted profits at typical sex stores. Employees were considered “educators,” and sales were secondary to providing information and support. What’s more, Good Vibrations in particular was noncompetitive; Blank freely shared her business model with any woman interested in spreading the love.

Consumer culture and feminism have always been strange bedfellows, with the former tending to overpower the latter. Just as Virginia Slims co-opted the message of ’70s liberation, as the Spice Girls cannibalized ’90s grrrl power, so feminist sex stores exerted their influence on the mainstream, yet were ultimately absorbed and diluted by it. In 2007, Good Vibrations was sold to GVA-TWN, the very type of sleazy mega-sex-store company it was founded to disrupt. Though no physical changes have been made in the store, Good Vibrations is no longer woman-owned. Although the aesthetics haven’t changed, Lieberman writes, the idea of feminist sex toys as a source of women’s liberation has faded, all but disappeared. An infamous episode of “Sex and the City” that made the Rabbit the hottest vibrator in the nation also portrayed female masturbation as addictive and isolating, potentially leading to permanent loneliness. The sex toys in “Fifty Shades of Grey” were wielded solely in service of traditional sex and gender roles: A man is in charge of Anastasia Steele’s sexual awakening, and climax is properly experienced through partnered intercourse. Meanwhile, the orgasm gap between genders has proved more stubborn than the pay gap. Women still experience one orgasm for every three experienced by men in partnered sex. And fewer than half of teenage girls between 14 and 17 have ever masturbated.

At the end of “Buzz,” Lieberman makes a provocative point: Viagra is covered by insurance but vibrators aren’t, presumably because while erections are seen as medically necessary for sexual functioning the same is not true of female orgasm. Like our feminist foremothers, she envisions a new utopia, one in which the F.D.A. regulates sex toys to ensure their safety, in which they are covered by insurance, where children are taught about them in sex education courses and they are seen and even subsidized worldwide as a way to promote women’s sexual health.

In other words: We’ve come a long way, baby, but as “Vibrator Nation” and “Buzz” make clear, we still may not be coming enough.

Complete Article HERE!

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Everything you need for a beginner’s kink-friendly Valentine’s Day

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If vanilla sex doesn’t really do it for you, imagine the bounty that Valentine’s Day could be if you decided to celebrate it the BDSM-friendly way – with all the necessary kink toys.

Whether you’ve always looked at handcuffs with a glint in your eye or got interested in kink thanks to Fifty Shades of Grey, it’s a fun playground to express your sexual personality and have fun with your partner. If you’re a beginner, start slow and enjoy the exploration. We have a few recommendations to help you begin your journey too.

1. Burn your copy of Fifty Shades and grab one of these instead.

Fifty Shades of Grey may be a popular book, but it’s a poor guide when it comes to properly honoring the rules of BDSM. For that, you’ll need to turn back to some of the classics in the genre.We have a handy list right here we highly recommend. In addition to the classics, a book like The Ultimate Guide To Kink is a great way to learn about the rules and concepts that BDSM is defined by.

Price on Amazon: $19.18 (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle)

2. Try out restraints.

The only way to find out if one or both of you like restraints is to give it a try. While you could start with a regular old pair of handcuffs, we suggest something with a little padding to ease you into the experience. If you really enjoy it, upgrade to a nicer pair (Ardour Crafts makes a solid set).

Price on Amazon: $9.99

3. Experiment with a blindfold.

If you’d like to see what sensory deprivation is like, a blindfold is a good place to start. We suggest you forego the super cheap ones and try out a wider style that completely blocks out light that can seep in around the nose or at the top of the forehead. Try pairing it with the handcuffs to see how it feels. There’s lots to choose from in the kink world when it comes to masks, but this is a classic start.

Price on Amazon: $6.99

4. Explore your sadomasochistic side.

If you think you might like spanking (or know you do), trying out a crop is the next best option. It’s not quite as intense as a full whip and creates a more concentrated sting. If you’re super into it, try out a horse whip next – you won’t regret it.

Price on Amazon: $16.99

5. Strap on a collar.

Submissives love the feeling of a leather collar around their necks. This one attaches a leash that’s perfect for that extra bit of roleplay you may be looking for. Put all these goodies together, and your Valentine’s Day is going to leave chocolates and flowers in the dust.

Price on Amazon: $25.99

6. Rope Bondage.

Beginner? Just getting started and not sure what you need or what to do?  The Twisted Monk crew answers the top five questions they get from folks trying rope for the first time to help you find your way picking out your rope kit. (For more in-depth product and ordering information, check out their FAQ.)

Complete Article HERE!

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‘Grace and Frankie’ raises an interesting question: Where are all the sex toys for seniors?

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The struggle is real.

It isn’t every day you see a sex toy on a billboard, and it’s even more rare you’ll see one in the hands of a person in their seventies.

But thanks to Grace and Frankie, the Netflix sitcom starring Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, that’s exactly what people saw when the show’s third season premiered last year. The series, which centers around two friends who face many challenges while trying to create a vibrator for seniors, has brought to light an interesting real-life question: Where are all the sex toys for older people?

Last season followed the unlikely roommates as they conceptualized, prototyped, and focus-grouped the “Ménage à Moi.” It’s a vibrator made for and — perhaps more importantly — marketed to older women, particularly those who have a hard time using traditional models because of their arthritis.

Their fictional creation has a soft grip gel sleeve, is lightweight, can be easily repositioned, and even features glow-in-the-dark control buttons. Sounds ideal — except no such thing exists in the real world.

There’s no question about it, Grace and Frankie (which returns to Netflix for a fourth season on Jan. 19) is in uncharted sex-positive territory. While sex toys have made a fleeting appearance in other popular TV shows, basing a major series storyline around them is on another level. And having the sex toy be the brainchild of postmenopausal women who talk openly about their experiences developing and using it? Well, that’s pretty subversive.

A missed opportunity

Senior sexuality is often used as an ageist punchline — even in some of the most “progressive” of shows. The most recent season of Broad City, for example, featured an older woman named Garol shopping for a comically large dildo.

But beyond jokes, there’s a persistent lack of representation of older adults in sexual scenarios. It’s almost enough to make you think that older people have lost their interest in sex, which is a generalization that’s simply not true.

​According to a 2017 survey conducted by the sex toy company TENGA, the​ average baby boomer reported masturbating an average of 3.3 times a week (compared to 6.3 for millennials and 4.6 times for Gen X-ers.) ​A​ 2010 study conducted by AARP found that 28 percent of older adults had sexual intercourse at least once a week, and 85 percent of these men and 61 percent of the women agreed sex is important to their overall quality of life.

“In our society and culture, we see sexuality displayed by a lot of very young people. But sexuality most certainly doesn’t turn off,”  said Lisa Lawless, a psychotherapist and owner of a boutique sex toy business and online resource center. “We have customers well into their eighties, and even their nineties.”

But often, she notes, they don’t know quite where to start.

This is why advocates of a less ageist, more sex-positive culture say they’re hopeful Grace and Frankie can serve as a pivotal moment for making senior sexuality a more mainstream topic.

Grace and Frankie inspect their creation.

Emily Ferry is the prop master on Grace and Frankie, and she scoured both the web and brick-and-mortar stores to find inspirations for the Ménage à Moi vibrator that would eventually appear on the show.

“There was nothing that I could find that was aimed at older women,” said Ferry, estimating that her team charged 40 vibrators to the production studio as part of their research. “There were some items that [would make] someone say, ‘This would be good for older women,’ but there was nothing that had been manufactured with the older woman in mind.”

A baby boomer herself, Ferry says that many women she’s spoken with in her peer group have expressed an interest in buying a real-life version of the product. “I want one of those, how do I get one of those?” they ask her.

It’s easy to understand why Ferry’s peers are having a hard time: There really aren’t many sex toys specifically marketed to older users. Until now, this is something that demographic has been forced to navigate for themselves.

Senior sex ed

Watching Joan Price give a webinar on sex toys for seniors, it’s easy to imagine that she was equally adept in two of her earlier careers: a high school English teacher and physical fitness instructor. She speaks breezily about the sex toys she recommends for seniors, talking for over an hour straight. It’s clear she’s perfectly comfortable holding a rabbit vibrator up to her face to demonstrate size. Her curly grey hair bobs as she earnestly impersonates different styles of buzzing vibration pattern. In one taped presentation, she wears a silver clitoris ring and t-shirt emblazoned with a Magic Wand design under the words “Knowledge is power” that she shows off proudly.

“Sex toys are a gift to seniors,” the 74-year-old award-winning author tells Mashable.

“So many things change as we age, or our medical conditions can get in the way. There are so many things going on, but for every problem there is a solution.”

Joan Price teaching one of her webinars

Price has been blogging about sex from a senior’s perspective for the past 13 years. It’s a job she kind of fell into after meeting her “great love” Robert, an artist and teacher, at age 57. Their sexual relationship inspired her to publish her first book, “Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty.” Touring the country and checking her inbox, she found she was among the lucky ones.

While she was having great partnered sex, many of her peers were not. She decided she was going to help. She has since written two more books about sexual pleasure for older adults and has reviewed over 100 sex toys from the senior perspective. She also travels to sex-positive feminist stores like the Pleasure Chest, Tool Shed, and Smitten Kitten to hold workshops and help educate retail staff on this topic.

The criteria Price uses to determine whether or not a sex toy might be especially appealing to those in her age group are wide-ranging. She asks herself: Does it give off vibrations strong enough for those who are finding they now need extra sensation? Is it ergonomic? Lightweight? Can it go for long periods of time without overheating or running out of charge, seeing as arousal now takes longer? Can the controls be easily identified without having to reach for reading glasses? If it’s insertable, will it be an appropriate size for those who are now more likely to experience vaginal soreness and decreased elasticity?

Lawless also acknowledges that the seniors who call her customer service line with trepidation about buying these products — often for the first time — have distinct preferences and inquiries. Take USB chargers, for instance, which can be confusing to those who are less tech-savvy. And if a USB charger seems intimidating, forget the whole new world of WiFi-enabled teledildonic toys.

Designing with older people in mind

Despite the specific needs of older adults, both Lawless and Price are hesitant to say a hypothetical sex toy specifically built for and marketed to older adults (like the Ménage à Moi) is wholly necessary. After all, they tell Mashable, there are already ergonomically-designed vibrators on the market that do meet many of the physical needs of, say, an arthritic older person.

Are glow-in-the-dark control buttons really a make-or-break feature? What about instruction manuals printed in a larger font size? It’s hard to say for sure. But regardless, this Grace and Frankie plot point does reflect how older adults are notably underrepresented in the booming adult product market. Online, where most people shop for their pleasure products, it’s rare you’ll stumble across photos of older models or language in product descriptions that address their particular concerns.

Among the companies that are consciously working to address and court this demographic is Tantus, which has been actively creating sex toys with disabled users in mind for years. There’s also the Fiera pre-intimacy vibrator for generating arousal, whose creators told Mic it’s made with seniors in mind.

And then there’s Hot Octopuss’ “guybrator” products like the PULSE III, which does not require the penis to be erect for use. This can be of significant benefit to older people who may have issues with erectile function. In an email to Mashable, Hot Octopuss founder Adam Lewis said the technological basis for this product came from “a medical device that was used in hospitals to allow men with spinal cord injuries and severe erectile dysfunction to ejaculate.”

“As a company we feel strongly that the industry needs to change its approach to aging and sex (and disability and sex, which is a different but associated debate),” he adds.

Complete Article HERE!

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We Need Bodice-Ripper Sex Ed

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Where did you learn about sex?

In my personal pie chart, 10 percent of the credit goes to Mom and Dad, who taught me that sex was for marriage, or at the very least, for a committed, loving, monogamous relationship that would, God willing, occur once I was out of the house.

I’ll credit another 10 percent to sex ed, the junior-high health classes that taught me the names of the body parts and explained what went where in the straight-people intercourse it was assumed we’d all be having. Sex, I learned, was bad news, every act risking pregnancy or disease. Think Coach Carr’s speech in the 2004 movie “Mean Girls” — “Don’t have sex, because you will get pregnant, and die.”

Which left 80 percent to be filled in by my friends and pop culture: what I heard on the school bus and at sleepover parties, what I saw in movies and heard on the radio, the glimpses I got of dirty magazines, kept behind brown paper wrappers on the high shelves.

But I was a reader, and most of what I knew came from books, starting with the copy of Judy Blume’s “Forever …” that made the rounds of the cafeteria in seventh grade to the dozens of Harlequin romances I devoured to the best sellers by Judith Krantz, Shirley Conran, Jean Auel, Susan Isaacs and Erica Jong that I snagged from my mom’s shelves.

I’ve been thinking about sex education in light of what must, by now, be the most-discussed bad date in history.

By now, you’ve most likely heard about the encounter between an anonymous 23-year-old photographer and the comedian and actor Aziz Ansari. They met at a party, which led to a dinner date, which led to a sexual encounter that she came to deeply regret, she told a reporter, believing Mr. Ansari ignored verbal and nonverbal cues that she wasn’t into what was happening. Now that she has gone public with her account, everyone seems to have an opinion about what she did, what he did and whether talking about gray-zone sex, where the man believes that everything that happened was consensual and the woman feels otherwise, spells the end of the #MeToo movement.

Reading about it all, I realize how lucky I am that so much of my sex ed came from Harlequins.

The literary establishment doesn’t have much love for women’s fiction, whether it’s romance or erotica or popular novels about love and marriage. Romance novels come in for an extra helping of scorn. Critics sneer that they’re all heaving bosoms and throbbing manhoods, unrealistic, poorly written and politically incorrect.

But those books, for all their soft-core covers and happily-ever-afters, were quietly and not-so-quietly subversive. They taught readers that sexual pleasure was something women could not just hope for but insist upon. They shaped my interactions with boys and men. They helped make me a feminist.

Because these books were written for and consumed by women, female pleasure was an essential part of every story. Villains were easy to spot: They were the ones who left a woman “burning and unsatisfied.” Shirley Conran’s “Lace” features a heroine telling her feckless husband that she’d used an egg timer to determine how long it took her to achieve orgasm on her own and that she’d be happy to teach him what to do.

At 14, I never looked at hard-boiled eggs the same way again.

The books not only covered blissful sex but also described a whole range of intimate moments, from the awkward to the funny to the very bad, including rape of both the stranger and intimate-partner variety. Beyond the dirty bits, the books I read described the moments before and after the main event, the stuff you don’t see in mainstream movies, where zippers don’t get stuck and teeth don’t bump when you’re kissing; the stuff you don’t see in porn, where almost no time elapses between the repair guy’s arrival and the start of activities that do not involve the clogged kitchen sink.

Objectification doesn’t exist just in porn, of course. “So many men cannot get their heads around the idea that women are not first and foremost sexual objects,” the novelist Jenny Crusie told me. “You don’t get that from porn; you get that from a persistent worldview modeled by the men around you that you’ve been taught to admire.”

I have no idea how much, if any, X-rated material Mr. Ansari or his date consumes. Statistically, we know that modern men and women have access to every kind of explicit material, literally in their pockets. And they’re watching: One recent study found that 79 percent of men and 76 percent of women between 18 and 30 look at pornographic websites at least once each month, while another showed that three out of 10 men in that age group were daily viewers.

Sex might be easy, but relationships are hard. And a 400-page novel can teach you more about them than any X-rated clip. Fiction has time to draw a deeper picture, covering the getting-to-know-you stuff, the starts and stops and circling back that take boy and girl from first date to first kiss to the moment where they’re both naked and hopefully into what’s going to happen next.

“Romance novels teach readers that all partners are equal participants in a sexual relationship,” said Bea Koch, the 28-year-old co-owner (with her 25-year-old sister, Leah) of the Ripped Bodice, a bookstore in Culver City, Calif., that exclusively sells romance titles. “They highlight conversations about consent, birth control and myriad other topics that people generally find difficult to talk about. In some instances, it can be a literal script for how to bring up difficult topics with a partner. They give a road map to people wanting to experiment with their sexuality, or even just get in touch with what they want and need in a sexual relationship.”

Porn, necessarily, cuts to the chase: a little less conversation, a little more action.

Talking’s not sexy, people complain.

But when you don’t know how to ask, when you can’t bring yourself to tell, when you don’t possess the language with which to talk about desire, that’s when you can end up with crossed wires, missed signals, mixed messages, a guy who goes to sleep thinking, “That was fun!” and a girl who goes home crying in an Uber.

If we want men and women equally empowered to form real connections, to talk, honestly and openly about who they are and what they want, there are worse places to start than curling up with a good book.

Complete Article HERE!

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Puberty is starting earlier for many children

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– sex education must catch up with this new reality

Some girls as young as six and seven are showing the early signs of puberty.

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The British government is consulting on a new curriculum for sex and relationship education in English schools. This change provides a timely opportunity to update how, when and what children are taught about puberty.

Astonishingly, the Department for Education (DfE) guidance on sex education has not changed for nearly two decades. But after concerted lobbying, research, and the recommendations of multiple committees of MPs, in 2017, the Children and Social Work Act finally acknowledged the need to provide “sex education for the 21st century”.

New statutory guidance for schools will be published following the public consultation, which closes in mid February. From 2019, secondary schools will be obliged to offer relationships and sex education, and primary schools to offer relationships education. Parents will retain the right to remove their children from sex education – other than that which is covered in the science curriculum – but will not be allowed to remove them from relationships education.

These changes are underpinned by widespread concern about the negative effects of digital technologies on young people’s sexual lives, particularly sexting, child sexual abuse and exploitation, and “strangers online”. The new curriculum will, it seems, teach children and young people what healthy relationships look like in the fraught context of smart phones, online porn and Instagram.

The new puberty

But the new curriculum should also take account of what is happening to the bodies of young people in the 21st century. Not only do kids seem to be growing up much faster today, many of them are actually starting to develop physically earlier than ever before.

According to many scientists and clinicians, we are living in the era of “the new puberty” in which increasing numbers of girls start to develop sexually at age seven or eight. In the 1960s, only 1% of girls would enter puberty before their ninth birthday. Today, up to 40% of some populations in both rich and poor countries are doing so.

Sexual development is also being stretched out for longer, with many girls starting to grow breasts and pubic hair two to three years before they have their first period. While there is less evidence that boys’ development is changing so rapidly, some studies also indicate that earlier entry into puberty’s initial stages is becoming more common.

The causes of these changes remain unclear. Many scientists point to the simultaneous increase in childhood obesity, while others study the effects of environmental chemicals, such as Bisphenol A or BPA (which is found in some plastics), on the body. Other research has explored the effects of social factors, including family structures, experiences of early life trauma and socioeconomic disadvantage. This range of explanations points to how complex a phenomenon puberty is.

The current DfE guidance states that:

All children, including those who develop earlier than the average, need to know about puberty before they experience the onset of physical changes.

But it leaves schools to decide, in consultation with parents, “the appropriate age” to teach children about puberty. In 2017, the Personal, Social and Health Education Association argued that this should be when they’re age seven. But talking to seven-year-olds about breasts, pubic hair, body odour and genital changes may not be easy for many teachers, or for many parents. Being seven is supposed to be a time of freedom, play and innocence.

Getting ready for puberty.

Updating sex education

Children who develop early, present a challenge both to cultural thinking about sex and to sex education policy. While many parents and young people want updated sex education, this usually comes with the proviso that such education be “age appropriate”. Although very important, this phrase is painfully vague – and it’s unclear whether it refers to chronological age, emotional age or stage of physical development.

Today, some seven-year-olds may be emotionally young but also starting to grow breasts and pubic hair. Other early developers who have experienced early life stress – such as abandonment or abuse – may feel more mature than their peers and be ready earlier to learn about puberty and sexuality. The widening gap in the timing of boys’ and girls’ sexual development also poses a challenge. Teaching girls separately, or earlier than boys – the strategy in my own child’s primary school – risks reinforcing harmful gender norms and notions of secrecy around issues such as menstruation.

Instead, perhaps we could try to disentangle puberty from teenage sexuality and to develop accounts of puberty that do not frame it as the dawn of adolescence. A seven-year-old with breasts is not “becoming a woman”, and a menstruating nine-year-old is probably not going to want to have intercourse anytime soon.

Ultimately, this means moving beyond traditional portrayals of female bodies that focus on reproductive capacity in order to explore wider meanings and experiences of being a girl. Growing up is also about new horizons, such as strength, health, even pleasure. Sex and relationships education might even then include puberty as something to be anticipated, noticed, even celebrated – rather than as yet another risk.

Complete Article HERE!

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