Parents play a key role in shaping sexual decision-making among adolescents — especially for girls.
A 2016 review of more than three decades of research found that teenagers who communicated with their parents about sex used safer sexual practices. Likewise, new research from Dutch investigators who studied nearly 3,000 teenagers found that young adolescents who reported feeling close with a parent were unlikely to have had sex when surveyed again two years later.
Notably, both research teams found that daughters benefited more than sons, and that the effective conversations and relationships were typically had with mothers.
According to Laura Widman, lead author of the review study and an assistant professor of psychology at North Carolina State University, “parents tend to talk about sex more with daughters than with sons, and we can speculate that that’s what’s probably driving these findings. Boys may not get the messages as frequently or have the kind of in-depth conversations that parents are having with girls.”
Given the results of her research, Dr. Widman said that she “wouldn’t want parents to get the idea that they only need to talk to daughters. In fact, it may be the opposite. We need to find a way to help parents do a better job of communicating with both their sons and daughters so that all teens are making safer sexual decisions.”
That parents have more frequent conversations with their daughters about sex and sexual development may be prompted by biological realities. Menstruation, HPV vaccination (which remains more common in girls than boys), and the fact that birth control pills require a prescription might spur discussions that aren’t being had with sons.
Yet experts also agree that gender stereotypes play a powerful role in sidelining both fathers and sons when it comes to conversations about emotional and physical intimacy. Andrew Smiler, a psychologist who specializes in male sexual development, noted that women generally “have a better vocabulary for talking about feelings and relationships than boys and men do. Fathers may be a little more stoic, more reserved and more hands-off.” And, he added, “they may play to the stereotype of trusting boys to be independent and able to care for themselves.”
These same stereotypes can also tend to steer the conversation in one direction with daughters and another direction with sons. When parents do address sexual topics with their teenagers, they typically adopt a heterosexual frame with boys playing offense and girls playing defense.
“We usually view our girls as potential victims who need to be protected from pregnancy and rape,” says Sheryl Ziegler, a psychologist who provides mother-daughter seminars on puberty and sexual development, while boys are often cast as testosterone-fueled prowlers looking for nothing but sex. These assumptions often drive how parents approach the conversation. Dr. Mary Ott, an associate professor of pediatrics at Indiana University and the author of a research synopsis on sexual development in adolescent boys observed that, “when parents talk with boys, there’s an assumption that they’ll have sex and they are advised to use condoms. Whereas for girls, there’s more of a focus on abstinence and delaying sex.”
Parental concern about the negative consequences of adolescent sexual activity can reduce “the talk” to a laundry list of don’ts. Don’t get a sexually transmitted infection, don’t get pregnant or get a girl pregnant and don’t proceed without gaining consent. Critical as these topics are, Dr. Ziegler points out that they can “become the focus, so much more than having a quality conversation about why we are sexual beings, or talking about all of the ways we can express love.” And failing to acknowledge the pleasurable side of sex can, according to Dr. Smiler, hurt the credibility of adults. “When parents only acknowledge the scary side of the story,” he said, “teenagers can devalue everything else the parents have to say.”
So how might we do justice to conversations with both our daughters and sons about emotional and physical intimacy?
Over the years in my work as a clinician, I’ve come to a single tack that I take with adolescent girls and boys alike. First, I prompt teenagers to reflect on what they want out of the sexual side of their romantic life, whenever it begins. Why are they being physically intimate, what would they like to have happen, what would feel good?
Following that, I encourage each teenager to learn about what his or her partner wants. I urge them to secure not just consent, but enthusiastic agreement. Given that we also grant consent for root canals, gaining mere permission seems, to me, an awfully low bar for what should be the joys of physical sexuality. Dr. Smiler adds that any conversation about consent should avoid gender stereotypes and address the fact that boys experience sexual coercion and assault and “include the idea that boys can and do say no.”
Finally, if the parties are enthusiastically agreeing to sexual activity that comes with risks — pregnancy, infection, the potential for heartbreak, and so on — they need to work together to address those hazards.
Research suggests that this shouldn’t be a single sit-down. The more charged the topic, the better it is served, and digested, in small bites.
Further, returning to the topic over time allows parents to account for the rapidly shifting landscape of adolescent sexual activity. We should probably be having one conversation with a 12-year-old, an age when intercourse is rare, and a different one with a 17-year-old, half of whose peers have had sex.
Is it better for mom or dad to handle these discussions? Teenagers “want to have the conversation with someone they trust and respect and who will show respect back to the teen,” Dr. Smiler said. “Those issues are more important than the sex of the person having the conversation.”
How families talk with teenagers about their developing sexuality will reflect the parents’ values and experiences but, Dr. Ott notes, we’re all in the business of raising sexually healthy adults.
“We want our teenagers to develop meaningful relationships and we want them to experience intimacy,” she said, “so we need to move our conversations about sex away from sex as a risk factor category and toward sex as part of healthy development.” And we need to do so with our sons as well as our daughters.
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If you don’t, let me tell you who will…
Many parents find it difficult to talk about sex and intimacy with their children. No one ever taught them how, and it’s understandably uncomfortable. But like anything else, as a parent you need to figure out how and when to discuss sex and intimacy with your child before society does.
Today’s children are at greater risk of developing a warped view of sex and intimacy than ever before. They desperately need you to explain to them your view of what healthy sex and intimacy look like.
When I use the phrase ”warped view” I’m not referring to kinky sex practices or alternative sexuality. I’m far more concerned about the average views regarding sex and sexuality and how they are communicated.
Research shows that young people receive most of their modeling around sexual behavior from the media — in particular, pornography.
Don’t misunderstand me. This is not an anti-pornography stance. My concerns here revolve around the fact young people are getting the majority of their information from such an impersonal source.
While attending the recent TED Women Conference, what I heard from speaker Peggy Orenstein chilled me to the bone.
Orenstein conducted research focused on girls and sex. She performed an in-depth interview with a group of 70 racially and ethnically diverse girls between the ages of 15 and 20 who identified as either college bound or already in college. Among the group, 10 percent placed themselves on the sexuality spectrum as being either lesbian or bisexual.
Research shows a high prevalence of sexual assault occurs on college campuses. Even in our modern culture we still have difficulty navigating discussions of consent without the inevitable spiral into talk of “false allegations.”
As the mother of a 14 ½-year-old son who has been raised in a complicated family, I strive to give him the tools necessary for negotiating the minefield of sexual and intimate relationships.
- He has a variety of people he can talk to about these decisions who I know will always have his back.
- He knows that he needs to discover his own desires, likes, and dislikes.
- He knows that his body belongs to him.
- He knows about consent.
- He knows to treat his partners with respect and not to be judgmental.
- He also knows that talking about these things, though potentially embarrassing, is essential to having healthy and satisfying long-term sexual relationships.
As an intimacy coach and a psychologist, I remain concerned for those kids raised in homes in which their parents never even mention sex, the children whose parents are never physically affectionate in front of them, and those in homes in which too much adult sexual behavior is seen.
Paul Bryant, a professor of telecommunications at Indiana University Bloomington, highlights the trouble faced by children learning about sex through pornography in his “sexual script theory” regarding the sexual socialization of teens.
For today’s teen, pornography lays down internal scripts for a variety of sexual behaviors and scenarios.
If parents do not present an alternative view, the only model for how to behave in sexual relationships will come from media — not just pornography, but from music and music videos as well. Without the safeguard of knowing they have a non-judgmental parent to discuss with what they see and learn, they have no meaningful way to understand and consider the positives and negatives among the variety of sexual scripts they see in order to weigh their feeling about the perceived possibilities.
There is no easy fix to this discussion.
As adults, we need to examine the way we relate to sex and how we talk about it with each other. As we become more comfortable talking about sex with our own partners and peers, we will become more confident about discussing it as a parent as well.
To get you on your way, here are 4 steps you can take to begin addressing the problem and have conversations with your child about sex — starting right now.
1. Take a look at your own experiences of sex and sexuality.
If you have experienced sexual trauma, this is the time to resolve any issues that remain charged or live for you. You may need help to do this or you may already get help through your social support network.
If you haven’t experienced sexual trauma, this is the time to look at any issues, stuck places, and/or negative thought patterns you have in relation to sex and sexual relationships. You can work through this on your own, with your partner, or with your social support network as well.
2. Learn about what is normal for your children at each stage of development.
Try to do this without judgment. Have a look at what your children are being exposed to in your wider culture. Each of us has our own moral code, and moral codes are constructed whereas sexual development is built as part of a biological process.
You may believe that masturbation is a sin, but this is a moral belief. Biologically, ALL children discover that when they touch their genitals, it feels good. This is the way human beings are constructed. Healthy and comprehensive personal development depends on the combination of biological, psychological, spiritual, and moral development, as well as development that is culture specific.
3. Create a safe space to have intimate conversations with your children.
This may seem like a given, but many homes offer no safe space for a child to bring up issues around sex and sexuality. In many families, these topics are dealt with by simply handing children reading materials. There are some excellent books out there to help children with all manner of topics relating to sex and sexuality, but books are not a substitute for a home environment that fosters safe conversation.
Your children need a place where they can get questions answered. Start creating that safe space to talk about emotions first (if you haven’t already). Once your children are used to talking about more difficult topics and you are used to dealing with these without judgment, with acceptance, and in a way that fosters growth, then you can begin to have the talks about sex.
4. Find out what is age appropriate for your child and pitch your conversation to that level.
Talking to a five-year-old who asks where babies come from is very different from answering a question about how you get pregnant from a 10-year-old. Keep the conversations short and sweet. Do use videos, audio recordings, and books as aids, and encourage your children to come back to you with questions.
Set up a consistent routine so your child knows there will always be a time and a place to bring up these topics. If you’re not comfortable having these sorts of conversations with your child OR your child is too embarrassed to talk to you, make sure you have an alternate trusted adult (or a few) the child knows they can feel free to approach. Children thrive when they have more than one viewpoint to consider about this amazing, yet complicated part of life.
Remember that this is a process that will continue to take shape throughout your child’s development.
If you do so, then your young adult will also come to you with questions and your adult child will be much more likely to create satisfying intimate relationships for himself or herself.
Children who have self-knowledge and an understanding of the joy and dangers of sex are at lower the risk of becoming victims of sexual assaults.
The more knowledge you possess, the more quickly you are apt to take a firm stance, and therefore the more likely you are to be seen by a perpetrator as a difficult target. Perpetrators go for the softest targets they can find, so the harder a target you make yourself, the more you lower your risks.
So go have that talk!
Complete Article HERE!
From threesomes to dreaming of sleeping with someone else, your raunchy dreams unravelled
By Tracey Cox
Good news if you enjoy having erotic daydreams. Research done by an Israeli psychologist has just found having sexual fantasies about people other than your partner doesn’t significantly harm your relationship.
So let’s skip to the second most popular question people ask about their fantasies: what do they mean?
Why does an image of your next door neighbor naked suddenly pop up in your head when you have zero attraction in real life?
Why do we fantasise about things we have no desire to do in reality?
Analysing fantasies is a bit like dream analysis: it’s more about individual interpretation than general concepts. Dreaming of performing on stage is a positive dream for some; for others it would qualify as an anxiety dream.
So let your instincts guide you on what rings true and what doesn’t but here are some common female fantasy themes and what therapists conclude from them.
It’s a universal need to want people to find you attractive.
But what if you were so attractive, people really couldn’t help themselves and were literally falling at your feet, begging you to let them kiss you, touch you, have sex with you?
Being adored rather handily removes responsibility for what follows: you’re being seduced by people who are desperate to possess you, how could you possibly resist? Because society frowns on women who instigate sexual encounters, our subconscious tries to find ways to make it ‘acceptable’ and this is one of them.
Sometimes, recurring fantasies of being irresistible mean there’s an unconscious fear that in reality the opposite is true.
In this case, it can reflect low self-esteem and fears of sexual inadequacy.
In most, it’s simply a healthy outlet for the recurring dream of going to bed as ourselves and waking up as a supermodel.
No prizes for guessing this one is about power.
One person has it, the other doesn’t and we’re attracted to both for different reasons.
Stripped of it, we are completely at the mercy of someone else, absolving us of responsibility. This means we’re ‘forced’ to enjoy whatever the other person does to us.
If you’re a people-pleaser and usually the ‘giver’, this makes it impossible to reciprocate.
If we’re the ones in control, we’re given permission to be completely selfish.
This is particularly popular with women who are shy and undemanding in real life.
The desire to be the boss and be in control isn’t exclusive to men but being sexually aggressive is seen as male trait.
Lots of women are worried they won’t be seen as feminine if they act dominant during sex but our imagination (thank God) isn’t bound by the same rules which dictate society. We might choose to ‘behave’ during waking hours but in our dreams and our fantasies, our forceful, domineering sides are given freedom.
We don’t wait to be given ‘permission’ but take what we want, when we want it, without apology.
The goal isn’t to humiliate our lover, it’s to give us a total sense of control.
Sometimes it’s a replay of what actually happened with a particularly desirable ex (we tend to marry for love not sex); if it’s someone new, the grass-is-greener philosophy is at play.
The more forbidden the person (our partner’s best friend, someone’s father, the boss), the more powerful the fantasy.
The ‘we want what we can’t have’ syndrome is especially potent in sex.
Him watching you have sex with another man
You’re insatiable – he alone can’t satisfy you
The person who craves sex more is seen as more sexually powerful, so this is a power fantasy as well.
It also hints at the urge to show off: we can only see so much when we’re having sex with someone because you’re necessarily physically close.
Watching from a distance, he gets to see how good you really look.
No real surprises with this one: these fantasies are had by women who are more motivated by love than sex and tend to be sexually conservative.
Even if we can’t do it in reality, most of us can separate sex and love in our imaginations
Women who only have romantic fantasies tend not to be able to.
Seducing a virgin
If someone’s never done something before, we not only get to teach them everything we know – putting us in a superior sexual position – they probably won’t criticise our technique
So it may mean you secretly feel sexually inadequate
Corrupting innocence is also a strong theme here: it’s forbidden, so highly appealing.
Sex in public or semi-public
This one’s about people admiring us – usually, onlookers are so impressed by our sexual skills, they’d cut off a limb to swap places with the person we’re having sex with.
It’s also illegal so can mean you’re quite rebellious.
Sex with a stranger
If you don’t know them and never will, you can let loose without fear of being judged. If they don’t know you, you can become someone else.
It’s sex stripped of all emotion, purely physical.
Often the stranger will be faceless.
Eye contact means intimacy, avoiding it is another way to ensure it satisfies the raw, primitive side of us we may mask in real life.
Sex with someone much younger or older
Having sex with someone much younger than us is an ego-boost: we’ve still ‘got it’ to be able to attract them.
Sex with someone older works on the same principle.
We see older people as wiser, richer, more intelligent, worldly and sophisticated.
Then there are Daddy issues.
Women who consistently fantasise about older men or date them in real life, can sometimes be working through issues with their own father.
We try to fix what’s happened in the past by recreating it, with a different ending, in the present.
But it also has biological undertones.
Aggression is common in the animal world: some female animals only ovulate if the male bites them and humans have also long linked pain and pleasure.
Wanting to be spanked can also originate from guilt: we need to be punished for liking something we shouldn’t (sex).
This is all about ‘the looking glass effect’: seeing ourselves reflected in other people’s eyes. The more adoring they look at us, the more adorable we feel.
Strippers involve the audience in their own narcissism – they want to be looked at.
Most of the men who frequent strip clubs are voyeurs: all they want to do is look rather than touch.
Flaunting gives us a sense of power – and power is always sexy.
Exposing our naked body to cheers and applause in our fantasies also helps calm our fear of our body not being good enough in real life.
Threesomes, swinging, group sex
When women fantasise about group sex they tend to be the undisputed star of the session – and are nearly always on the receiving end.
For men, it’s more about being able to satisfy more than one woman.
These fantasies are a heady blend of exhibitionism, voyeurism, bi-curiosity (if there’s the same sex involved) and a human longing for excess (if one person feels good, more must feel better).
Countless surveys have shown women are as turned on by erotic images as men are so it makes sense that we’re also just as voyeuristic.
Watching people have sex in real life is even more fascinating than porn because it makes for more realistic comparisons.
We all love to think we’re great in bed and watching other people means we can see how we rate on the ‘best lover’ chart.
It also hints at sexual confidence: you could teach people a thing or two!
Women with women
It’s as common for women to have sexual fantasies about other women as it is rare for men to have fantasies about other men,’ says Nancy Friday, author of The Secret Garden, the infamous book about female fantasies.
Women are far less haunted by the social taboo of being gay, probably because society is far less homophobic about gay women than it is gay men
Most women who fantasise about other women, aren’t gay or bi-sexual: simply thinking about something does not mean you’re gay.
Be careful about sharing this one though: watching you with another woman happens to be one of the top male fantasies.
Especially if he’s been racking his brains about what special surprise he can organize for that upcoming birthday…
Complete Article HERE!
From fully customizable vibrators to bioelectronic headsets, smart sex toys are on the way up. But does personal pleasure necessarily make for better health?
Pleasure is personal, mostly because it has to be, and not least because female scientists continue to face grinding discrimination regardless of their area of research. And when it comes to sexual health, breakthroughs are few and far between: in spite of increasing documentation of associated health risks, birth control hasn’t really been reformulated since the 60s, and last year’s much-anticipated release of Addyi, a pill meant to fix female sexual dysfunction, only worked for ten percent of the women who tried it.
It’s clear that sexual emancipation has not yet been freed from the bedroom. In spite of its roots in scientific misogyny—the vibrator was developed in the 19th century to cure women of hysteria, after all—a swathe of new devices have people looking hopefully to sex tech (or sextech, as it is also known) as the answer to systemic gaps in sexual health. History, it seems, is coming full circle; where the 1960s saw the vibrator de-medicalized and uncoupled from science, today’s consumer market is beginning to see pleasure and health unified in the pursuit of wellness. Yet what we call “sex tech” is tied more to the lucrative sex toy industry—worth $15 billion this year—than it is to scientific institutions, with much of its promise linked to idea that personal pleasure makes for better health.
These days, more people than ever understand that a woman’s ability to understand what turns her on and why is a crucial step in developing a healthy perspective on her sexual life. So it makes sense that we’re seeking out masturbatory experiences that are more tailored than your average stand-in phallus. It’s the driving force behind the popularity of devices like Crescendo, the first-ever fully customizable vibrator, which raised £1.6 million in funding to date and shipped out over 1,000 pre-orders after a successful crowdfunding round.
Designed to cater to the inherent complexities of female arousal, the vibrator can be finely customized, equipped with six motors and the ability to be bent into any favorable shape. An accompanying app allows users to control each motor individually; it remembers favorite behaviors, provides pre-set vibration patterns, and responds to mood-setting music.
“We were inspired by the concept of tech designed for the human, rather than the human having to adapt their behaviour to tech,” says Stephanie Alys, the co-founder of Crescendo creators Mysteryvibe. “Human beings aren’t just unique in terms of our size and how we’re put together genetically, but also in terms of what we like. What turns us on can be different from what turns another person on.”
But in spite of the life-improving promises of consumer sex tech, the reality is that official, peer-reviewed studies remain crucial to reforming policy and education. Founded by Dr. Nicole Prause, Liberos Center is one of the few sex-centric research institutions in the United States. Much of its work investigates the relationship between psychology, physiology, and sex, with an emphasis on the hard data that is often lacking in sex tech.
Liberos presses on in a particularly antagonistic climate; the American government is famously skittish about sexual content. Sexual material is banned from government-funded computers, says Prause, making it difficult for researchers to, say, screen porn to test subjects as part of a study on arousal. She adds that congressional bodies actively seek to pull funding from research that addresses the topic head-on—four recent studies that had already been awarded funding were re-opened for assessment because of their sexual content.
“People report having certain types of experiences all the time,” says Prause. “But they’re often poor observers of their own behaviour, and don’t see anyone’s behaviour but their own. They don’t really have that external perspective, which is why I think it’s important to take both a psychological and laboratory approach. For example, in science, people haven’t been verifying that orgasm actually occurs. So we’ve been developing an objective way of measuring that, and of measuring the effects of clitoral stimulation—on how to best capture the contractions that occur through the orgasm.”
Liberos is also investigating the effect of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and direct current stimulation (tDCS) on sexual responsiveness. Both are non-invasive treatments, meaning anyone seeking a cure for low libido may not require anything more than the use of a headset. TMS holds potential for long-term changes to a person’s sex drive; the technique, which uses a magnetic field generator to produce small electrical currents in the brain, has already been used to treat neuropathic pain and otherwise stubborn cases of major depressive disorder. DCS, on the other hand, uses a headset to deliver a low-intensity electrical charge, stimulating the brain areas where activity spikes at the sight, or touch, of a turn-on.
If using the brain’s electrical signals to control the rest of the body sounds like a dystopian fantasy, the reality is that these medical treatments aren’t far off. Bioelectronic firms are now backed by the likes of Glaxosmithkline and Alphabet, Google’s parent company, and similar applications have already been established for hypertension and sleep apnea, while chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, and arthritis are targeted for future development.
According to Dr. Karen E. Adams, clinical professor of OBGYN at Oregon Health and Science University, anywhere from 40 to 50 percent of women experience varying degrees of sexual dysfunction. Medication that targets neurotransmitters, like the SSRIs used to treat depression and anxiety, can fluctuate in efficacy depending on the unique makeup of the person using it.
Combined with the trickiness of locking down the nebulousness of desire (and lack thereof), it’s no wonder that Addyi, a failed antidepressant pursued because of its unexpected effect on serotonin levels in female mice, was a flop. Non-sex-specific studies have shown that electrical stimulation can be more adaptive to the brain’s constantly-shifting landscape than medication that interacts with its chemistry. For the 90 percent of women who found Addyi to be a sore disappointment, bioelectronic treatments could soon offer an alternative solution to low sexual responsivity.
“By giving women information about their bodies that they can decide what to do with, we’re enabling more female empowerment,” says Prause. “And by allowing women to decide which aspects of sex they want to be more responsive to, we’re giving people more control, and not with charlatan claims. We actually have good scientific reasons that we think are going to work, that are going to make a difference.”
Yet the field’s burgeoning successes are only as good as the social environment they take hold in. Sociopolitical hurdles notwithstanding, money remains a significant roadblock for developers, as the controversial nature of sex research has many investors shying away from backing new projects in spite of consumer interest. Whether they’re seeking government funding or VC investments, sex start-ups and labs alike are often forced to turn to crowdfunding to raise money for development.
“It’s pretty unsurprising that heavily female-oriented tech products do so well on crowdfunding sites; these are solutions to problems faced by half of the population, that are overlooked by a male-dominated industry where male entrepreneurs are 86 percent more likely to be VC funded than women,” says Katy Young, behavioral analyst at research firm Canvas8. “But the audience is clearly there—Livia, a device which targets nerves in order to stop period pains, raised over $1 million on Indiegogo.”
Outdated sex ed programs, which emphasize procreation and normalize straight male sexuality without addressing female sexual development, are ground zero for unhealthy social perspectives on sex. Acknowledging that change can’t just come from devices alone, New York’s Unbound, a luxury sex toy subscription service, is teaming up with “campus sexpert” app Tabù to bring both sex education and affordable masturbation tools to colleges across the country.
“There’s a national discussion right now surrounding consent, which is 100 percent needed and super important,” says Polly Rodriguez, CEO and co-founder of Unbound. “But for women to be able to engage in sex and address consent as equals, they need to learn about female pleasure—they should understand their own bodies so that when they are engaging in sexual activities with someone else, they know what feels good to them, they know how to communicate that, and they don’t feel uncomfortable about it.”
It’s tempting to buy into the idea of tech as freeing: that the increased presence of smart devices in our lives will help us form healthier habits and a better understanding of our ourselves, or that the availability of medically-approved tech will be a panacea in the intricately fraught landscape of female sexual dysfunction—which is as socially determined as it is biological, and as cultural as it is psychological.
But sex tech is still far from being paradigm-shifting. Its success will be dependent not only on consumer dollars but on government policies and public attitudes; at a level of engagement this intimate, tech is only any good if people feel free to use it.
Complete Article HERE!