7 Things Sex Education Should Have Taught Us But Didn’t

ice kiss

Mark Manson explains how much better life can be when we embrace sexuality and understand ourselves better.

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It’s 2013 and two things are abundantly clear:

  1. Sex education matters, and
  2. Cultures that believe sex is shameful screw everything up.

The statistics are glaring. More pragmatic approaches to teenage sexuality (i.e., “Hey, you’re going to do what you’re going to do, but here’s how to be responsible about it”) outperform strict abstinence/religious forms of sex education (i.e., “Don’t have sex until you’re married, or else”) by almost every statistical measurement including teenage pregnancies, abortions and HIV infections.

By the way, the United States is the worst offender in all of those categories. And we all know how comfortable we are with our own sexualities. (Hint: We’re not at all.)

The recent government-funded “abstinence only” programs have been found to actually increase teen pregnancy and STI rates in states where they’re implemented, proving, yet again, that teenagers will always do exactly what you tell them not to and screw themselves up in the process.

Nope, purity rings don’t do a damn thing. Biology wants what biology wants. Yet, only 11 US states require sex education to be based on medical science and most other states require no sex education at all.

If I learned anything from being part of the dating advice industry for eight years, it’s that most young people are woefully unprepared, both socially and emotionally, to handle the stress and confusion that comes with navigating a healthy sex life.

Here are seven things we should have learned as teenagers, but didn’t:

1. There’s more to sex than biology

Sex education, as it stands today, is more or less diagram after diagram of the biological ins and outs (and back ins, oh baby!) of human reproductive behavior. It’s a bodily fluid road map, a glorified anatomy class, with an “Oh yeah, and use protection!” tacked on for good measure.

Don’t get me wrong, some of this information is useful. We do need to know how infections occur, how pregnancy works, and, of course, where to stick it in. But never in the heat of passion have I ever thought about my vas deferens or the quality of her uterine lining. It just never seems that relevant in the moment.

Humans are uniquely sexual creatures. We screw each other far more often and in far more elaborate ways than pretty much every other species on the planet.

That’s because for humans sexual activity is more than a mere biological urge, it has psychological significance and social meaning. We screw for pleasure. We screw for recreation. We screw for passion. We screw for revenge. We screw nice people and mean people, friends and enemies, sexy people and ugly people. We screw because we’re happy and because we’re sad. We screw because we’re bored. We screw because we feel alone. We screw because we’re in love.

And yes, we screw to make babies, too. Although in the developing world, that’s rarely the primary motivation these days. So why is it all sex education focuses on?

Sex ed should account for the recreational, social and emotional reasons for sex and their consequences. It should discuss the interpersonal meaning of intercourse, setting clear expectations and boundaries, communicating desires, dealing with feelings of shame and awkwardness, and of course, being responsible about protection and privacy.

Sex can be amazing. Some of the best moments of one’s life can happen engorged in someone else. So let’s talk about it.

This sounds so obvious when you say it. Yet no one seems to say it.

2. How to Respect personal boundaries

At the beginning of the year, I wrote a lengthy description about the sexual shame that goes on in our culture and how it causes men and women to hide their intentions and desires from one another, which then leads to all sorts of communication breakdowns (or worse) later on in the interaction.

A huge component of this is consent. Consent in sexual situations is usually taught as, “If a woman says no, it means no.” That’s nice, but it completely glosses over the complexity of the issue. It continues to frame sex in a “Women get to decide, you have to convince them,” perspective. This reinforces the perception that men must somehow prove themselves to women and women must somehow be “won over” by a man to have sex with him.

This isn’t consent, it’s mutually reinforced manipulation.

(For deeper explanation, check out: How Disney Ruined Sex for Everybody)

Sexual intentions and desires should be stated clearly from the get-go by both parties. And I don’t just mean, “I want to have sex with you,” but every step of the way. “I’m attracted to you, I want to go out with you,” “I want to go home with you,” and so on. Kids should be taught that there’s nothing shameful about saying “yes” or “no” and that they should not be ashamed nor shame someone else for saying either. This is regardless of gender, orientation or reason.

All personal desires are valid just as all rejections of personal desires by another are valid. Both should be respected. It’s as simple as that.

3. Sex is not a reflection of your value as a person.

But to get to this place, sex must be removed from its pedestal as an badge of either honor or shame in our culture. As long as boys are shamed for not succeeding in getting laid and girls are shamed for succeeding in getting laid too often, then boys will continue to have an incentive to manipulate girls into situations where consent is ambiguous and girls will continue to have incentive to manipulative boys into situations where they feel unworthy or powerless.

Nobody wins in this arrangement. Everybody gets frustrated. People lie. Some people get raped. And it’s no coincidence that sexual violence and divorce are highest in countries where this culture of sexual shame persists. When your value as a human being is being judged based on the sex you’re having or not having or the marriage that you have or don’t have, then it’s easy to feel justified in saying and doing some messed up stuff to people of the opposite gender to get your way.

4. Different sexual orientations are natural

No-brainer here, but worth repeating for anybody still living in 1957. Homosexuality is natural and there’s nothing immoral about it (or experimenting with it for that matter).

We now know that homosexuality is likely related to pre-natal hormones and may possibly even have some sort of genetic basis. It’s natural. It’s seen all over the animal kingdom. It’s been cataloged throughout all of human history cross-culturally.

The concept of sexual orientation itself is a relatively recent invention of Western culture. And whoever came up with the idea deserves to be punched. Sexual orientation is a spectrum and people can oscillate across that spectrum over the course of their lives.

And as they often do, recent psychological studies have shown what’s been blindingly obvious to the rest of us forever: that homophobic men repress their own arousal to homoerotic stimuli. I mean, didn’t Freud cover this already? What we hate in others is what we’re ashamed of in ourselves.

Bi-curiosity and gender experimentation are common urges in both genders. It doesn’t make anyone weird or socially unacceptable. Get over it.

5. Where the damn clitoris is and what it’s for

Seriously. Do you know how old I was when I finally figured this out? Come on! Women like orgasms too.

6. How men and women experience sex differently

OK, this is the part of the article where I piss off a bunch of feminists. But there are three things which are true about male/female sexualities:

  1. Men and women have innate differences in how they experience their sexualities.
  2. This should be obvious to anyone who’s ever looked at naked people.
  3. These differences, despite existing, don’t really mean anything.

The truth is that trying to cram an ideology that men and women are exactly the same in all ways down people’s throats is just as fascist and shitty as forcing the ideology of conventional gender roles and stereotypes on everyone as well.

People are different. Men and women are also different. These things are not mutually exclusive.

We know men and women are different. We know this from a wide range of neurological and psychological studies. We know from studying how gays and lesbians interact with one another. We know from primatology and the obvious dimorphism of our species. And we know from the subjective accounts of transsexuals who take hormones to change their endocrinology.

Sorry to belabor this point, but I always get flamed by a dozen angry people every time I mention this. So this is for them. Men and women differ in some ways and both genders should be treated with equal respect for those differences. (Why do people make this so complicated?)

That in and of itself should be taught in sex ed. But what should also be taught is how men and women’s sex drives differ, how women are more sexually fluid in their desires, how men are more physical and visually oriented in arousal, and how, on average (across populations, across cultures, and in female-to-male transsexuals), they usually want to have sex more often and with a wider variety of partners.

There’s nothing inherently right or wrong with these differences. These differences are not a moral justification for unethical behavior. If I’m born with big arms, that doesn’t give me the right to go punch people. If a man is born with a high sex drive, that doesn’t give him a right to force himself on women. But it also doesn’t make him a pervert, horndog, womanizer, monster, or rapist in waiting. Seriously, why is this so complicated?

7. Great Relationships Mean Great Sex

The thing many sex ed classes say about the dynamics of sexual relationships is, “Wait until you’re married,” — as if putting a ring on your finger will magically resolve all insecurities you may have around your sexuality.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t. It’s almost like a broken record how many people you hear lament that they wish they had dated around more before they got married (see: my parents).

But the point is that if sex ed classes can dry out teenage ears for months on end going on about fallopian tubes, zygotes and X and Y chromosomes, why can’t they push the scientific knowledge of romantic relationships on everyone as well? One could argue that’s even more important.

What about attachment theoryemotional needs and the differences between love, lust and commitment? What about the Neo-Freudian explanation for romance? What about dealing with the anxiety of meeting someone attractive?

Yeah, that would have been helpful. Oh well…

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Originally appeared at MarkManson.net
Photo: Flickr/Nolan Williamson

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About Mark Manson

Mark Manson is a dating coach, writer and world traveler. He writes on how people can improve their emotional and dating lives, as well as social commentary and various life experiences at MarkManson.net.

Comments

  1. FlyingKal says:

    Hi Mark,
    One question: 3. Sex is not a reflection of your value as a person.
    / ..cut.. /
    Nobody wins in this arrangement. Everybody gets frustrated. People lie. Some people get raped. And it’s no coincidence that sexual violence and divorce are highest in countries where this culture of sexual shame persists.

    Are you really sure that sexual violence and divorce are correlated this way?
    I mean, I would assume that sexual violence, if at all correlated, were higher in countries where divorce were more or less impossible to obtain, prevented by law and/or social pressure.

    Good writing otherwise. Thanks.

    • Glad you are thinking and writing about these things

      #6 is wrong. Recent scientific studies illustrate the women are aroused the same if not more than men by visual stimuli. Also more areas of the brain light up than in females than males when they are exposed to visual and physical sexual stimuli. We are finding that not only do women possibly have what would be classified as a higher sex drive it lasts longer througout their lives than men. Women have just gotten better at hiding their sex drives in cultures that condemn women for these thoughts and feelings.

      #7 I will use my own case study to explain to you why there are problems with your thinking on #7. Due to societal pressure and religious contraints the best thing many young people can do with their sexuality is get married. I was married at 18 to a very hot young muscular beautiful man who was/is my best friend. Because sex was encouraged after marriage we had the safety of monogamy and marriage to experiment with our sexuality. It made the marriage and our sexuality blossom. I did not see the same with my peers who were just hooking up. We were lucky we put having children off until our 30s not only did it allow us to both get higher degrees in science, we were able to have sex pretty much everywhere.

      One time we were having a garden party a few years ago. I came in the house to grab something and overheard my husband talking with two buddies ( okay I was evesdropping). One asked if it was weird
      ( I think he meant ” sexually constraining” ) being married for so long. My husband said “What did I miss? STD’s. unwanted pregnancy, a loss of money, or lots of crazy hanging around—no thank you— I like what i got going on here!” We are now 38 so we’ve been married 20 years and I can honestly say the sex gets better with age.

      ARe there times when there are dry spells in marriage? ABSOLUTELY! But my guess is its much less than being single. When my husband was in grad school and working full time, he was exhausted and there was very little sexual activity. When I was on bed rest due to our pregnancies there was a long dry spell. Somehow it makes your regular sex even better though. It allows one to appreciate when there are really good years in a marriage.

      NO ONE I know who got married young like we did , is mentally stable ,and has a healthy sexual relationship wishes to have had dated more before they got married. That is fantasy thinking and probably something your parents should take a hard look at. Its not based in reality. For example my husband loves Beyonce–he’s a middle aged white Swedish dude, even if he and Beyonce were single there is no chance he is getting Beyonce. He knows this ( I still dress up as Beyonce and do a little song and dance though) . There is probably little chance your parents would have had much action in their pre-marriage lives. They need to learn to be grateful for the action they’re getting now and have no regrets. Regrets are childish things.

      I am glad that a young man is thinking and writing about sexuality. It is very important. Just do a little more hard research next time.

      • “NO ONE I know who got married young like we did , is mentally stable”

        You said it ;-)

      • Hey, I am happy for you & your husband. And a little envious, actually! But please have a little compassion for those of us still single in what you refer to as “middle age”…. I myself am 35 & struggled with major depression during the years you & your husband were getting together – say, ages 16-21. By the time I started coming out of it, I was a late-bloomer on the dating scene…. There was no high school sweetheart for me, & no real college sweetheart either. I fell in love at age 19 & that lasted for 5 weeks…. I left town for the summer (out of state student) & by the time I got back to town he was back together with an ex-girlfriend. I had so much confusion in my life (major family dramas) which propelled me to travel… try to get away, live different places, find my path, find myself….. And fine, maybe I didn’t have the absolute most solid role models for relationships either. My parents separated when I was around 25, divorced when I was 29. (in their 50’s) A year later my best friends’ parents (who I considered my second set of parents) were rocked by disclosure of a long-term affair & divorced….. He was 55, she was 18 years younger. That kind of thing. The point is — you were lucky & blessed, in a lot of ways, that not all of us are. You also can’t have 100% certainty with how life is going to go even for yourself, over the next 20 years. So again, good for you so far, but a little compassion & understanding for the rest of us please. And any blessings you want to send my way are appreciated as I’ve educated myself as much as possible on healthy relationship dynamics & now intend to drawn-in my life partner….. Sending blessings to you too — please continue to be a role-model for healthy loving long-term relationships!

    • Megan Sailsbury says:

      I don’t believe he was positing a correlation between divorce and violence at all, only listing two effects of a single cause.

  2. I think you can avoid a lot of the drama on #6 largely by staying away from the “it’s natural” claims that you don’t really provide any evidence for.

    If a man is born with a high sex drive, that doesn’t give him a right to force himself on women. But it also doesn’t make him a pervert, horndog, womanizer, monster, or rapist in waiting. Seriously, why is this so complicated?

    Your last point stands INDEPENDENT of what is “natural” or not. Male sexuality honestly and respectfully expressed simply should not be demonised in the ways you listed. There is no justification for it.

    • Alan Siebuhr says:

      I don’t understand what you’re trying to say. It goes along with a stereotype that GMP contradicts daily: men cannot control their sexual urges. Since this is not true (and it blows my mind that people believe it is), a man with a higher sex drive, though easily “turned on.” can control himself.

      In fact, I think that statement isn’t demonizing male sexuality since he states that a higher sex drive, though not permitting a man to force himself onto another man or woman, doesn’t mean that man is a horrible human being. He just has a high libido.

      • I didn’t say he was demonising them. I said he was listing ways in which male sexuality is demonised.

        The point is you do not need to build that conclusion on a shaky naturalistic fallacy (which the author posted not a shred of evidence for) in order to reach that conclusion. It is simply not a crime to have a high libido and to express it in those ways.

        I’m saying dispense with the naturalistic fallacy crap. It’s a bit like how because so many gay-bashers said being gay isn’t natural, we got drawn into the argument of whether it was or not. Whereas really, the proper response is “…..So what?” We’re the human race. We’ve been doing “unnatural” things ever since we baked a loaf of bread. To complain about doing “unnatural” things in the 21st century is doing so extremely too late, and is all too often the hallmark of an agenda. The natural end of most human beings, but for our actions, is dying young of predation, exposure, and tooth infections.

        • still can't log in says:

          I agree with OirishM. I just want to add, I didn’t leave sex ed for my kids to “society.” As parents we took on the responsibility ourselves. My wife and I didn’t need anyone to “educate” us other then our parents and tomorrow we celebrate our 39th year of marriage and our love life is grrrrrreat.

  3. cicatricella says:

    I was with you until point 6. I am sure that men and women do experience sex differently – we must do. But the way you phrased that paragraph implied that we experience it qualitatively differently, which I do believe to be false.

    • Same here, cicatricella. I was going to share this brilliant article until I reached point 6 BS and hoped that nobody would ever read this article. These are outdated stereotypes and not the quality that I am used to from GMP. :(

    • Seems to me you’re reading this through a very specific, decidedly contrarian lens. I really think the author goes out of his way here to repeatedly reinforce that the difference is NOT qualitative…

    • Also, the assumption that feminism asserts that men and women are the same. A lot of new wave feminists believe and celebrate that no, men and women are not the same, but that doesn’t mean we still shouldn’t have the same basic human rights.

      • I’m so glad someone said it! Feminism is absolutely not trying to enforce the opinion that men and women are the same. Of course there are many different types of feminist and some may believe this. But feminism in its original form without any media skew put on it is simply the believe that women and men should have equal rights. Not that they are the same.

  4. “that teenagers will always do exactly what you tell them not to and screw themselves up in the process.”

    Except for the fact that for most of human history, they didn’t. Since you’re making such sweeping generalizations, I’ll make one in exchange. Teenagers didn’t do exactly the opposite of what adults told them to do, there was this odd thing called respect. I know, how antiquated.

    This entire notion that kids are just going to do anything and everything their little hearts can desire is itself an immature idea more rooted in a validation of the adult then a commentary on the child.

    • Sarah Sutherland says:

      What you mean is Scott, we didn’t KNOW what teenagers got up to in most of human history as the concept of teenagers didn’t exist until relatively recently. We all know rape, unmarried pregnancy, abortion homosexuality etc were swept under the carpet and not talked about, or actively suppressed for hundreds of years. To say they didn’t happen at all because children always did what their parents told them is naive.

  5. Yeah, as a hetero practiced woman I can certainly sign on that sex is very differently for different people. Almost all the guys, if actually not all. Yes all they guys, I\ve had sex with have a good time during intercourse. And good time meaning get ejaculation before we stop. If sex was equal I wouldn`t have been writing this. Sex is far from equal, for most of women having sex with men. For most men it`s quick, you just touch them and they`re ready. I don`t know about the majority of women, but I know I`m certainly not ready after just a touch, and intercourse is definitley not super fun if that`s the only thing we do. It can actually be painful, just because of how low the womb is at different points in the woman cycle. So yeah, if sex was the same for everybody, would it really be that debated?

    • Hi Lover

      An old women friend shared with me what her lover said.
      He said:” I never leave a woman in bed,unsatisfied”.
      Is the sex over when the woman is unsatisfied? No of course not.

      • Theorema Egregium says:

        Hi! I know we had that discussion before, but why can’t we say that the sex is not over until BOTH parties are satisfied? Why can it only ever be one of them, either
        “Don’t look like she enjoyed, neither did I, to be honest, but who cares, I got it inside, now my score’s up and I’m a HERO”
        or
        “I am such a perfect lover, I give my girl scores of orgasms, and maybe have a little bit of fun myself once in a while too, but not too much because that’d mean I’m a patriarchal egotist, and I am modern and know my pleasure is supposed to come from EMPATHY.”

        I mean, why can’t it be “I have your back, you have mine, this way we both win”. Why is it so difficult to get such words out?

        • Hi Theorema

          You are right of course .

          Honest truth . I have never left a man in bed unsatisfied, in my whole life.
          (If he ejaculated without an orgasm I don’t know. It can be hard to tell).
          For me sex was never over until he was happy. Happy all through the whole happening not just the last seconds. :)

      • FlyingKal says:

        Hi Iben,
        You know, when I said the same thing, you replied that my GF probably had been faking it all along, and that most guys were too self-obsessed (and/or cluless) to tell the difference…
        :D :D

        • Hi FlyingKal

          Please show me that comment where I said your girlfriend faked all her orgasms.
          I can not remember I said that.
          The fact that she wanted lots of oral from you,indicates that she liked it.

          Please come up with the thread where I wrote she faked her orgasms while you gave her oral sex 20:1 times more than she gave you orgasms.

          Maybe you remember correctly, but I think not .

    • Theorema Egregium says:

      Sorry to burst your bubble here, but to think that for men sex is automatically great if they manage to ejaculate is plain WRONG. Sometimes you have to work hard to come at all, doing it just so it will be over, although that orgasm will be so flat that you wonder “was that it? I almost didn’t feel a thing” and anyway the tension of trying not to lose your erection destroys any fun there might have been. It’s pretty close to completely faking it (and I am told men DO sometimes fake it too, don’t forget that). In short, you can have really bad sex ending with an orgasm that is really bad too.

      I am afraid you are buying into the patriarchal narrative there, assuming that what counts for men is the feeling of achievement of putting your thing in her thing, and that anything beyond that is bonus, or even irrelevant. You are wrong if you think men have a good time just because you open your legs and if they think so too, they are wrong too and deluding themselves because they don’t know better.

      • Agree here. Just because I ejaculate and orgasm doesn’t mean the sex is good. I can ejaculate with my own hands, what makes it different when it with women?

        If I tell you lover, my most pleasurable and memorable sex is not when I’m having biggest orgasm, is in this instance with a woman, who keep telling me that my bodies look so hot and arousing to her. The feeling of being desired by a woman who I desire too, and intimacy, for me is million times better than orgasm in sex. The worst sex that can happen to me in my imagination is if the woman I sleep with doesn’t found me sexy and fake her entire pleasure.

        Again, I can have orgasm alone with my own hands.

  6. Hi Mark,

    Great article, thanks for writing. My only comment would be on the part about them having different sex drives. I think this is a myth. There is in fact relatively little known about sex drives – what we assume causes it (testosterone) doesn’t http://www.livescience.com/21114-testosterone-sex-drive-masturbation.html

    I would argue that the reason that women appear to want sex less, is not because they are biologically inclined not to, as there is very little evidence for this, but that women’s sexuality and sexual freedom has been systematically oppressed (and continues to be). You mention it yourself in the way that sex is framed from school onwards as something that girls are expected to say no to, and boys are expected to push for.

    • Thanks ever so much for your comment. I couldn’t believe that I was reading such nonsense on the GMP. Thanks also for sharing this study. I have always found the explanation that you have given far more plausible. It also explains the sharp dive in female ‘sex drive’ that one observes in cultures where a lot of shame is attached to female sexuality. If this was a hormone related issue then hormones of women would differ widely across different societies and that seriously be the most racist theory ever.

  7. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    2. The boundary issue. That’s a little too Ayn Rand for me. I like to keep things tacit, and most women I’ve met do too. For one thing, it allows for one party or another to back away, if they get the urge, saving face. Or for the sex to stop short of intercourse, cunnilingus, or fellatio. I know that everyone’s become more legalistic with the way people want to expand the definition of rape to include (unfairly, I think) ex post facto determinations that “rape” has occurred, but all this contracting doesn’t suit my sense of romance.

  8. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    PS 5. You CAN be too clitoris-focused.

    • Hi Hank
      You write:

      ✺”PS 5. You CAN be too clitoris-focused.”✺

      I agree and add you can be too focused on oral sex as well.

      • One would think. However, my girlfriend is an exception. I have been around the block, know a thing or two…and one I’ve learned is that too much clitoral stimulation can be painful and uncomfortable for a woman. Enter, stage right, my current girlfriend (and god, willing my future wife). She can’t get enough oral sex. She also loves direct and constant clitoral stimulation. I’ve stopped at times to ask “Are you sure this isn’t hurting?”. The point, I know what she likes because I asked. I wouldn’t just go in there and hammer her clit with my tongue like a boxer on a punching bag (sorry for the over-indulgent word play), without finding out if that’s what she enjoyed. The key to sexuality and redefining roles, is and always has been, open communication. Talk. Listen. Don’t judge. If there’s something you are uncomfortable doing, tell your mate. If there’s something you’ve always wanted to try, tell them as well. If things go “stale”, as someone put it, talk about that too. If you genuinely love someone, it should never get to the point where you are willing to risk their health or happiness. Not communicating does just that. You get to the point where you become adversarial instead of loving. Then the floodgates open, and all manner of bad things can happen. Talk. Listen. Don’t Judge…broken record, I know, but it’s critical.

    • wellokaythen says:

      Not only that, but it’s only in the past 10-20 years that anatomy textbooks reflect the recently established truth that the clitoris is much, much more than the little glans sticking out. 90% of it is inside the body. Even anatomy experts didn’t entirely get it right until recently….

  9. I’m a little surprised at some of the reactions here. I didn’t read this as a statement that ALL men have higher sex drives but rather IF a man has a higher sex drive. My perception of societal judgement is that women with high sex drives are sluts and men with higher sex drives are the things mentioned in the article.

    In regards to boundaries, my experience as a therapist says that keeping thing tacit is often the foundation of problems. When people articulate their boundaries there is a lot less room for confusion and error. I see too many people who rely on “mind reading”…feeling that the other person “should just know” or “I just assumed”.

    I would change #7 to say Great Relationships SHOULD Mean Great Sex. Unfortunately the social stigma and taboos about sex and sexuality prevent people from taking really strong relationship skills in other areas into their sex life. They feel free to talk about so many difficult subjects but quiver at the thought of actually discussing sex. Add to that #1, sex is more than biology. I continually see couples that are so focused on the physical part of sex that they have never entertained the idea of incorporating mental or emotional aspects of their relationships into their sex life.

  10. I like to think that your overall intent in this article is commendable, though as always there will plenty points of contention no matter what one says on the topic. Hence the comments.

    For all our human knowledge, it remains perplexing, sad at times, and amusing at times, how we struggle with sexuality and love. From my perspective, you a have a bit of bias in favor of the scientific method as way of knowing more about sexuality. Sure, I suppose there are some benefits, but frankly when it comes to all the wonderful intangibles, science simply will not find “solutions” for lack of a better word.

    I’m glad you mention the importance of romance, but I hope science never formalizes that…more can be learned from a wonderful exploration of cross-cultural literature on all aspects of romance/ sexuality, such as the writing of Anais Nin, to name only one.

  11. Mark Manson: Seriously, why is this so complicated?

    It’s so complicated because the data is actually way more ambiguous about the differences between men and women than you make it out to be.

    We’re having a very hard time separating how much of the difference is INNATE (nature) versus LEARNED (nurture – or the matrix of cultural expectations).

    As our culture’s attitude towards women has shifted over the past 150 years or so, so has the experience of women’s sexuality, which now looks a LOT more like men’s sexuality than it ever did before. And as we make further inroads here – both in research and in practical application (eg Nicole Daedone’s ONE TASTE workshops), the liberation of women’s sexuality is making them look even more like men than ever.

    That’s not to say women and men are identical. But just how dissimilar they are is really a very open question, and the apparent gap is narrowing all the time.

  12. Kat Dornian says:

    How do you think asexuality should be taught in all this? I’ve identified as an asexual for 6 solid years and was questioning before that for another 5 or so. I think you touch on some good points, especially 3 and 4, that are good messages for people who don’t have a sex drive or don’t feel sexual attraction.

    I think one challenge I faced in recognizing my “sexual orientation” was that I’d hear things about how much everyone thinks about sex, about how great sex makes you feel, about how hard it will be to resist after you go through puberty. It leaves someone like me feeling broken and weird (as if I wasn’t weird enough already in high school).

    Not that any of what you’ve said was talked about in sex ed class, but my mom was very open and honest about her own experiences and, of course, the glut of hyperbolized teenage gossip about sex… Even here though, you fail to mention asexuality and that it’s normal not to feel sexual attraction to other people, and sometimes not to feel any sexual drive at all. Like you said in point 4, it doesn’t make anyone weird or socially unacceptable. But even reading through this, I felt that same thing that I felt when those 15+ years ago: weird and broken. Admittedly, I’m still wondering how I ended up the way I am and do feel uncomfortable even though I have a loving partner who accepts me just for me and am surrounded by good friends who are really respectful and sensitive. I have no idea what others feel and I read articles that my friends post on Facebook, like this, to try to figure it all out. What can we do for others like me in sex ed class, to make them feel just as normal as their friends who, just like them, feel awkward about what’s happening to them?

  13. Draconian says:

    “We now know that homosexuality is likely related to pre-natal hormones and may possibly even have some sort of genetic basis.”

    Perhaps, but sexuality can also be fluid. Take prison inmates for example. Male inmates will frequently form same-sex romantic relationships while in prison, and then resume hetero relationships after leaving prison.

    •  “Sexual orientation is a spectrum and people can oscillate across that spectrum over the course of their lives.”

  14. Great article. But please, just saying, the clitoris is not the place where the big O happens, it’s the G spot. (for every woman I know in person at least)

    • not me – a blanket statement like “is not the place where the big O happens” is not helpful in this discussion. from what I’ve read, it seems that many women don’t even have a g-spot.

    • Most women I know and myself have the clitoris as the (only) place to reach the O.
      And most women only develop their g-spot enough to reach an orgasm after their 30s.

  15. mystic_eye_cda says:

    With respect, you’d get flamed less if you learned the difference between sex and gender. You can’t take hormones to change your gender, gender is a social construct which is independent from your physical sex. Gender, like sexual orientation, is also spectrum and fluid, many cultures have always had more than two genders. Physical sex is also not binary.

    Your male privilege, and that of the medical society at large, shows through in your reasoning for why homosexuality is ‘natural’. Prenatal hormones and genes have been shown to influence male sexuality only, not female – they may eventually find such a link, but at this point they have not unless there’s new evidence that I’ve missed (Footnotes would be helpful)

    Also, point 5 would be taken care of if people would just communicate and learn what they like. You don’t need to know what an area is called to know you/your partner likes to be touched there. Not to mention the fact that the clitoris wasn’t even properly mapped until 1998, it isn’t just its glans and hood.

  16. Christina says:

    “Having the conversation no one else is having” … except on every page of the internet. Everyone in society believes the lie that sex is just like hugs and should have no restrictions on it beyond consent. It’s understandable that the 60’s rebelled against the puritanism they came from – but isn’t it about time we grew up?

    You have it right – sex is beautiful, fun, and can be done for many, many reasons. But the puritans were right too – sex is powerful and sacred and shouldn’t be engaged with just about anyone. To forget one or the other is wrong, and we’ve forgotten the power in sex by making it into an amusement activity like skiing – thrilling and only life-changing if you hit a tree or get an STD.

    Sex is MORE than this – and because it is more it CANNOT be truly enjoyed in this cavalier fashion. It MATTERS who you have sex with, biologically, emotionally, socially and spiritually. THAT is what should be taught in sex ed classes. That to say “no” to sex outside of a life-long committed relationship is to say “yes” to a greater, deeper and far more beautiful reality. It is saying “yes” to yourself – refusing to lie to yourself as is done in a non-committed relationship (body says “I want you to be the other parent to my child” and your mind says “what’s your name again?”)

    For when you truly looks sight of the sacredness and beauty of sex and only focus on the pleasure – you are soon left without even that. How many in our generation would rather watch TV than have sex? Why? because in focusing on the pleasure apart from it’s true purpose we have forgotten what it really is.

  17. Ironic thing is, this advice is still good even for people who DO choose to wait until marriage. Respect for one’s partner, understanding of your respective sexualities and control over fertility and disease transmission are just as important for the married couple (in some cases more) as for the one-night swinger.

  18. The final boss was an excruciatingly long affair but after
    all was said and done, it was satisfying and worth every cuss word that came out of me.
    Ms Santia’s actions came to light after these materials began appearing on the internet towards the end of March 2011.
    Also, monsters eat stamina to release abilities and each once
    in a bit require endurance to charge before they may be able inflict
    more damage.

  19. FrugalCat says:

    I wish my mid 80’s, suburban middle-class American sex ed included how to put a condom on an uncircumsised penis. Did not see one until age 19, most of my friends were also in the dark. One semester overseas was a challenge at first.

  20. I think this post is fantastic, and well written. The whole #6 disclaimer and follow up commentary is so dead on. Why do people seem to have such a hard time with the differences of libido and expression between men and women? I’ve always been a proponent of gender equality, believing that so much of our gender differences are culturally created and magnified; I think these unnatural polarities result in a lot of unnecessary pain. I’ve also been aware throughout my adult life that my sex drive is lower than the average man; because of that, I haven’t stood much of a chance against all the ramped-up Romeos ready to do what it takes to ‘tang-O. If I wanted to justify my loserhood, I might insist that I was just above the cultural influence that turns most young men into dogs, but I know better. I would love nothing more than for women to have the same drive as men. But no, I’m in agreement with the author when he says “this should be obvious to anyone who’s ever looked at naked people.” I think people want to ignore this fact of nature because it doesn’t fit into their arguments. Concerning the feminists the author mentions, I think they don’t want to believe that men are under greater pressure of their libido because it might lend credence to the validity of some of the things they find offensive, and consider to be sexist. In a primordial Freudian sense, I think this may be the very thing that these feminists encounter when they get pushback from otherwise equal-minded men. It’s as if by assuming that their sex drive is equal to men, they can claim that they are just under better control of their own desires than men, and that men just need to back down. It’s another “men=bad/women=good” message that’s just wrong. I wish it weren’t. I really do.

  21. John Yohalem says:

    On the whole an excellent article. I’m delighted you want to punch out whoever said sex only comes in two flavors and you are just one of them ALWAYS or something is wrong with you. BUT:

    “Sexual intentions and desires should be stated clearly from the get-go by both parties. And I don’t just mean, “I want to have sex with you,” but every step of the way. “I’m attracted to you, I want to go out with you,” “I want to go home with you,” and so on. Kids should be taught that there’s nothing shameful about saying “yes” or “no” and that they should not be ashamed nor shame someone else for saying either. This is regardless of gender, orientation or reason. All personal desires are valid just as all rejections of personal desires by another are valid. Both should be respected. It’s as simple as that.”

    No it’s not.
    For one thing, when we start out, we have no idea what sex we want and are desperately on guard about it. We have social imperatives and expectations around us and we aren’t sure (unless we’re raised by Hasidim or something similar) what those are. We are flailing wildly and then suddenly our hormones explode and all our friends and relatives are telling us different things about it (and they have their own agendas) and you want to top it off with something out of “Brave New World.” Come here, little girl, I want to perform a social experiment.
    We don’t know what we want when we feel attracted to another person. Do we want to be pushed to the next level? Lured to the next level? Remain on the level we’re on? Enjoy a physical sensation but not, you know, go all the way, oh ooops I guess we did but I really prefer my own gender, oh ooops.

    It is all far more confusing and classes in school will not lessen this, especially since such classes assume we are all at one chronological development level AND WE’RE NOT.

    So I don’t think what you said in this instance is very helpful or to the point. I think you should meditate on this and rewrite it.

    And boys (and men) have this THING that STICKS OUT and makes us uncomfortable until we think of ways to assuage that. Can’t be helped. Happens all the time. That must be addressed. Don’t overwhelm them with guilt for it, don’t giggle and shift around in your seat. This is going to be ON THEIR MINDS for a couple of years till they figure it out. It’s not something women think about because they don’t have to. But they (even more insidiously) are capable of having major consequences if they “experiment,” consequences boys do not have to worry about (although they should). This is a matter I never see addressed. Every primitive society addresses it, but not our advanced one. Why not?

  22. It would be fantastic to see something on this blog about the research that has shown how circumcision impacts sex.

    http://www.circumcision.org/studies.htm

  23. Minor correction: States do not require sex education is different than States require no sex education. The 2nd one is much scarier.

  24. Brilliantly written. As a 17 year old I’ve always wished teachers would say more to us then blatantly tell the class what goes where and boom that’s sex. Then what not to do i.e. not use protection or do it before marriage.
    Wish I could anonymously send this to teachers.

  25. Jennifer G. says:

    That was NOT our Sex Education in high school. We were taught about conception, and how to prevent pregnancy, that it is all right to not want sex, that it is also okay to want to get physical, and we were shown different positions, and anything of which we were curious, we were free to ask. And did. There was no moralizing, none of that silly “Wait until you are married.” In fact, there was no presumption that any of us would: Choose to have sexual intercourse (male or female), and there was no presumption that any of us would want to be married.

    Guess our teachers were a bit more advanced and open minded that those in some high schools.

  26. Melinda says:

    Hi.

    You need to stop making assumptions that abstinence or strict religion doesn’t keep children from having sex. I did NOT have sex as a teen and I am glad I didn’t. I had sex when I was married well into adulthood. And yes, I was taught to WAIT until I got married and that is JUST what I wanted to do. I was not thinking about sex as a teen. I was thinking about what I wanted to do with my life. I know organizations where teenage girls have banded together to stand for God and keep themselves pure. You cannot speak for everyone. There is nothing wrong with preaching abstinence, keeping our young girls from a lifetime of problems such as HIV and unwanted children, single parenthood, etc. Self control IS possible. Abstinence should continue to be taught because some teenagers will be smart enough to listen and stick to their moral standards.

  27. Megan Sailsbury says:

    The fuck? Three times now, the page has reset while I was typing and deleted my comment, so I’m typing this on Notepad. Not cool, please fix it.

    For the third time, then:

    This is made of win, and 5 made me laugh hard enough to scare the dog, because damn. How do people even pretend a class that never even mentions the clit is “sexual education?” Dumbass prudes.

    Point 6 is a huge storm of ambivalence for me, though. For starters, there was the instinctive “that’s not something that would piss off feminists,” about half a heartbeat before I remembered that I recently renounced The Movement ™ because of rampant, ludicrously pc thought policing and the enthusiastic propagation of various forms of gender war bullshit. SO maybe I’m not the best judge of what pisses off the banner wavers.

    Less tangentially, I don’t think there are so many‌herent differences, as opposed to those imposed by post-patriarchal social conditioning. The only one I can think of with a noteable gender gap is the human male’s astonishing response to purely visual stimulation. It baffles me, and most of the women I know, as well. But whatever, it’s fun to play with!

    The other things, though, are kinda hard to see as biological differences for someone with my familiarity with the queer community. I’m bi, and I’ve always perceived the whole “women are more sexually fluid” as a polite way of reinforcing monosexist myths about how bi chicks are just putting on a show for men and bi guys are just homosexuals who can’t admit it. And ftr, no group enforces that crap quite so vigilantly as lesbians.

  28. Anonymous says:

    This is the first time I have heard it presented like this:

    “As long as boys are shamed for not succeeding in getting laid and girls are shamed for succeeding in getting laid too often, then boys will continue to have an incentive to manipulate girls into situations where consent is ambiguous and girls will continue to have incentive to manipulative boys into situations where they feel unworthy or powerless.” especially ” girls will continue to have incentive to manipulative boys into situations where they feel unworthy or powerless.f”

Trackbacks

  1. […] it’s also the same things that we hear over, and over, and over again when we ask adults what they want their children to […]

  2. […] On that note, I’d like to present the article that inspired me to post: 7 Things Sex Education Should Have Taught Us But Didn’t — The Good Men Project. […]

  3. […] “7 Things Sex Education Should Have Taught Us But Didn’t” […]

  4. […] 7 Things Sex Education Should Have Taught Us But Didn't… All my married life I wished that I received a more thorough sex education than, "Once you get your period you can become pregnant, so avoid boys because they can get you pregnant. Also, all boys care about is getting into your pants so keep your legs closed and avoid them. Did I mention to avoid boys?" Anyway, I stayed a virgin until marriage and trying to deprogram myself to love sex with my husband was a battle, still is. I found this article and I hope that we change our ways as a society in educating our young ones about something that will mean so much to them in their love lives. 7 Things Sex Education Should Have Taught Us But Didn’t — The Good Men Project […]

  5. […] “7 things sex education should have taught us but didn’t” – The Good Men Project […]

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