Sex is a natural, important, and intimate component of human interaction. But let’s face it, talking about sex is hard. Whether the conversation is between a parent and child or between romantic partners, most people find it difficult to have open and honest conversations about sex and sexuality. When these conversations do happen, most of them revolve around the risks or potential consequences of sex; a series of “DOs and DONTs” and cautionary narratives about the dangers of sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, sexual assault, the importance of consent. There is no denying that all of those aspects are extremely important when it comes to understanding sex but they are not representative of the full picture of sex.
Precautions about sex is not the whole story
Rarely do we address the pleasures of sex, individual desires, setting personal boundaries, sensuality, and self-exploration. Not talking about sex does not stop people from having it. Rather, it limits knowledge and perpetuates the misconceptions and myths about what sex should look and feel like. So, if conversations about sex are limited, where and how do people fill in these gaps?
Pornography = Sex Ed 101?
A March 2016 New York Times Article “When Did Porn Become Sex Ed?” addresses the trends and consequences when adults and teens don’t have honest conversations about what happens after consent. Author Peggy Orenstein discusses how in the absence of information, young people have turned to porn as an instruction manual for sex. As Americans we are often in pursuit to avoid uncomfortable or awkward conversations or deter people from having sex before they are emotionally capable. It is then that we turn sex into a taboo topic that is riddled with mystery, forcing young people to blindly engage and hope they figure it out as the go along. The intentions are, for the most part, in the right place: making sure people are being responsible and knowledgeable before they have sex. Yet, ironically, the avoidance and shaming has worked against those intentions, often sending young people into the world ill-prepared and unaware.
How do we talk about sex
Yes, normalizing sex is hard because being honest about such intimate things can be awkward. But the risk of feeling awkward is worth the reward of self-awareness in sex. If you find it hard to talk about sex or find yourself lost in how to have these important conversations you’re not alone. Our therapists can help you explore these feelings in a safe, comfortable, and non-judgmental environment.
By Hillary Geffner