Few moments in life are weirder than when an adult finally decides it’s time to impart the birds-and-bees speech. Or less pointless it seems.
Plenty of research has found that kids rarely get the answers to important questions they have about sex and puberty. And the sex ed they do get from their schools is oftentimes outdated, patronizing, and ignorant of modern-day realities like sexting and same-sex relationships. A new YouTube series called AMAZE is hoping to change that.
Created via a collaboration by the educational organizations Advocates for Youth, Answer, and Youth Tech Health, the series has already debuted a series of videos aimed at the 10 to 14 crowd throughout September, with plenty more scheduled for the future.
“It’s perfectly normal for young people to have questions about sex and growing up, and the internet is a natural place for curious minds,” said Debra Hauser, President of Advocates for Youth, in a statement announcing AMAZE’s debut. “But with so much information at their fingertips, what they discover online may not be the most factual or age-appropriate. The AMAZE videos address a range of critical topics about puberty and relationships in a way that — to young people’s relief — is less awkward, less weird and can help start important conversations with their parents and teachers, helping young people form healthy attitudes about sex and relationships during this critical time in their lives.”
With its blend of animation, stop-motion, and even the occasional crass word, the AMAZE series certainly seems to be approaching sex-ed in a different way.
Take for instance, one of its segments on male puberty, “How The Boner Grows.” With a song that’s far catchier than it ought to be, the short 2 minute video features clever sight gags and puns alongside a breezy explanation of just why the penis seemingly has a mind of its own during puberty.
There’s also the honest, “Talking Sexual Orientation with Jane,” which runs down and explains the wide spectrum of sexuality without any judgement. It even reassures kids that there’s no perfect timetable to figuring out who or what you like, so long as it works for you.
Then there’s “Boobs and More,” which illustrates the changes that come with female puberty while taking an aside to remind viewers that girls do indeed fart.
For those of us with children or little brothers and sisters curious about their maturing bodies, it might be worth it to send them a link to these videos.
Sex and relationship education (SRE) in schools isn’t good enough – at least, that’s what a lot of you often say.
From not being taught early enough, to lacking information about LGBT relationships and issues of consent – SRE gets a lot of criticism.
But, looking back at the archives, experts say there have been improvements when it comes to telling young people about relationships.
We’ve looked at posters and films once used to explain the birds and the bees.
And we asked sex and relationships teacher Caroline Stringer, a specialist from the charity Brook, to talk us through them.
This video – which was shown in schools – was also aired as part of a televised discussion about whether this kind of material was suitable for children to see.
Caroline says the way the penis is described as going “hard and straight” so that it can go into the woman’s vagina could be a problem.
“How confusing to young men having involuntary erections through puberty – they may have thought they need to go and find a vagina,” she explains.
Nowadays, says Caroline, good sex and relationship education will include topics such as consent and same-sex relationships.
Elsewhere in the videos, a man and woman are shown modelling nude in an art class.
“I thought it actually started off quite well, saying: ‘These people aren’t embarrassed’,” says Caroline.
“But for me, it was all about reproduction and a man and a woman. That’s the bit that is easy to talk about. It’s fact.”
In modern educational materials however, real people would not be shown posing nude, says Caroline.
“We would show diagrams, rather than the real thing.”
This film, which depicts a naked man on a beach, is the other one to feature full nudity.
It depends on the context, Caroline says, but seeing real-life naked bodies can serve a really useful educational function.
“If we’re showing people what STIs, for example, look like. How do they know what private parts look like without those STIs, if we only ever show them ones with?”
Like other films, it focuses on committed relationships.
“It’s all about making love. That’s what we would want to promote but that’s not always the case for people,” says Caroline.
Caroline says in her classes she talks about all the different words which people use to describe sex and the body, including slang for the genitals.
“You can use those words,” she tells the students.
“But you need to know the proper words as well because if you’re going to talk to a doctor, you need to know what they’re saying back to you.”
Again, this video would not fit with “inclusive” modern sex education, Caroline explains.
“I did like that they talked about pleasure. It’s the first time in these videos they talked about it, for both a man and a woman.”
She adds: “It’s really important that it’s taught with a positive attitude. We don’t want scare messages.”
The sexual health charity Caroline works for, Brook, goes to in one in 10 UK schools to teach SRE.
“Brook believes SRE should start early in childhood so that children and young people learn to talk about feelings and relationships from a young age and are prepared for puberty before it happens,” they said in a statement.
“As children get older, we advocate SRE focusing on the positive qualities of relationships, such as trust, consent, body-positivity, commitment and pleasure.
“We also discuss the different forms relationships and sexuality can take.
“In addition to this, we also believe in ensuring that SRE is relevant and appropriate to the lives of young people so that it relates to other issues such as mental health, sexting, porn and staying safe online.”
3D-printing technology is letting blind students experience comprehensive, accessible sex ed for the first time ever.
3D-printed sex organs help blind students learn about sexual health
By Katie Dupere
Advocates and researchers collaborated to create more than 18 3D figures that model sex organs during a various states of arousal. They range from a flaccid penis to a dilated vaginal opening, allowing students to “feel” their way though sexual health lessons.
While it may be a NSFW (let alone not-safe-for-school) endeavor, these models are game-changers for blind students who often need to learn about sexual health through verbal instruction alone.
Sex ed classes overall often rely on dull videos and static illustrations, and while that type of stale education is a disservice to all students, it presents a unique problem for blind students.
“That approach does a blind student no good whatsoever because they, of course, cannot see the pictures and videos.” Dr. Gaylen Kapperman, a professor at Northern Illinois University who was involved with the project, told Mashable via email.
Studies show that 61% of blind adults or those with low vision say their vision status had a negative impact on the way they were able to participate in sex education.
It’s a gap advocates and researchers at Benetech, a nonprofit organization specializing in tech for good, set out to solve by creating these models of various penises and vulvas.
“3D models are the only types of models that make any sense to blind people,” Kapperman said. “Many people believe that if you provide raised-lined 2D tactile pictures of sex organs that blind people will be able to generalize this information. [That approach] makes no sense whatsoever for blind persons.”
But these models don’t only break sex ed barriers for blind children. Researchers say the models could make the instruction more meaningful for sighted kids, too.
The project’s goal is to eventually provide open-source 3D printing files for teachers. This means school districts would only have to finance the materials and printers to make the models.
Many experts predict the technology will become a staple for schools anyway. Once a school district owns a printer, 3D printing is a low-cost way to create models for classroom instruction, making it ideal for schools on a budget.
A sizable 90% of blind students attend school with sighted children, relying on modified lessons to fully absorb material. But there are only about 61,700 blind students in the U.S. Buying commercial models of genitalia already on the market can cost up to $500 per model — something low-funded schools would likely be reluctant to do, especially when only a handful of blind students may ever pass through their district.
To develop prototypes, Benetech partnered with LightHouse for the Blind and Northern Illinois University, where the models were first tested on blind college students. The project was funded entirely by a private Benetech donor.
Now in the second phase of the pilot program this spring, the models will make their ways into the hands of middle school and high school students — the target demographic.
By the end of the 2017 school year, researchers hope to have feedback from students on the current prototypes. Then they’ll release files with detailed printing instructions for classroom use.
Benetech plans to offer pre-printed models to accommodate schools without 3D printers, for a fee much lower than commercial models.
“It is our hope that these models will be an effective teaching tool for teachers to communicate sex education in a way that works for students who are blind and visually impaired,” said Dr. Lisa Wadors Verne, program manager of education and partnerships at Benetech.
Most men have fantasized about it, and most women have been propositioned for it: a threesome. A ménage à trois has appeal for several reasons, including the allure of being the center of sexual pleasure, while pleasing others at the same time. The forbidden turns into a night of double the pleasure, double the fun. But should the fantasy of a threesome become a reality?
There’s a lot of mystery surrounding the seductive triad because they’re sexy and alluring, yet dangerous and forbidden. We can imagine what they’ll be like, but we won’t truly know until we go there.
April Masini, relationship expert and author, believes society feels “regular intercourse” is tradition, and a threesome is a “lesser tradition that is not part of a healthy, long-term relationship” she told Medical Daily. These core beliefs will inform a person’s decision to either pursue the fantasy, or leave well enough alone.
Not all fantasies should be shared; if we’re in a relationship, and haven’t talked about the idea with a partner, it could be uncomfortable, awkward, and upsetting to add a “plus one” to our sexual rendezvous. There are risks and benefits for singles, as well.
1. Sex And The Media: Threesomes
The media has become an outlet of information for sex, dating, and sexual health, especially during our teen years, and it influences our sexual behavior and attitudes of what we’re expected to do and like. The media can display casual sex and sexuality with no consequences, which may change the way we think about them, including threesomes.
In a 2003 study published in the Journal of Undergraduate Research, researchers examined the relationship between TV viewing and sexual attitudes and perceptions. Students from a public Midwestern university completed three primary measures: television viewing habits, sexual attitudes, and responses to sexual scenarios. Half of the participants completed the measures after waiting in a room while viewing sexually explicit music videos, and half waited with no TV present. Those exposed to sexually explicit videos before responding to the sexual scenarios rated these scenarios as less sexual than those not exposed to the videos. In other words, being exposed to sexually explicit content had a priming effect.
Daytime and nighttime television can also act in a similar way. Soap operas tend to have more sexual content than prime time programs, but they portray the types of intimacies differently. They tend to show more intimate moments, whereas prime time programs generally imply the sexual content, like threesomes.
For example, in the episode “Third Wheel” on How I Met Your Mother, Ted Mosby calls on his womanizing friend Barney Stinson to explain that he is about to “go for the (threesome) belt” after two women insinuate their plans for a threesome, or as Ted says, “tricycle”. The women attempt to escalate things when Ted comes down with a case of nerves, and tries to end things abruptly. He enters his bedroom where Barney is, and gets sympathy from him. Barney explains Ted’s problem is not uncommon, and it’s what ended his “tricycle” efforts last year.
The episode ends as Ted gets a second chance after Barney “coaches” him how to start. By the time he leaves the bedroom, the girls appear to be gone, until he hears giggling coming from the other room. Ted peers in and enters with a smile on his face. It’s left ambiguous whether or not he had a threesome.
On the show, the prospect of a threesome was portrayed as the Holy Grail every man should strive to conquer. “The belt” was seen as a reward for a man achieving a ménage à trois with two women.
“A man desiring a threesome is almost expected,” Noni Ayana, a sexuality educator at Exploring Relationships, Intimacy, and Sexuality (E.R.I.S.) told Medical Daily.
She believes society encourages men to explore their sexuality; of course within socially accepted boundaries.
“The Golden Rule”: Two Men, One Woman
One of three straight men’s sexual fantasies is having multiple partners, specifically the male, female, female (MFF) grouping. A hetereosexual man feels less sexually fluid to have a trio with another man and another women, because it’s commonly perceived as homosexual.
In 2011, Saturday Night Live (SNL) did a singing skit that delved into the experience of a threesome among two guys and one girl with celebrities Justin Timberlake, Andy Samburg, and Lady Gaga. The song “3-Way (The Golden Rule)” emphasized if two men are in a threesome, “it’s not gay.”
“When engaging in a threesome that involves two guys and one girl, the golden rule states that it’s not gay.”
Typically, when men fantasize about threesomes, they think about the MFF dynamic because it’s viewed as sexual behavior that aligns with traditional masculinity.
Moreover, Ayana expressed that heteronormative men are less likely to participate in a threesome that involves two men and one women since the idea may be perceived as homosexual ideation, or sexual behavior.
Straight men would need to overcome their discomfort with other naked men and strains of disgust in our culture that remain over homosexuality.
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.