Myth-busting Monday: Adults don’t need sex education (false)
One of the most pernicious and pervasive sex myths is that adults don’t need sex education. You should just know these things, right? I mean, we all had sex ed in middle school and/or high school, so we’re good……
Wrong. I don’t know what your sex ed classes were like. Mine we awkward and taught by the football coach or a math teacher (ie not a trained sexuality educator). The genders were separated (and no one mentioned the gender fluid or nonbinary) so we received even more limited information about the “other”. I remember that we briefly discussed periods (from what I gather, male peers that I have talked to did not get any period info), pregnancy, and STIs (then termed STDs). Sex wasn’t about pleasure, but it could get you pregnant or sick (with pictures to prove it), so it was best to avoid it.
Sexuality education isn’t much better now, 20 years later, as only 38 states are required to teach sex ed and even fewer (22) are required to teach accurate information (seriously. Yikes! State Policies on Sex Education in Schools (ncsl.org) ). And certified specialists, such as AASECT sexuality educators, are not required. Which begs the question, for me at least, what are they even teaching kids in school? And what did they teach you in school?
Sexuality educator and author of Guide to Getting It On (fabulous book), Paul Joannides mentions that pornography has become our primary sex educator (https://youtu.be/rXfmEMl5inM ), in part, because of the lack of information that schools are providing. I am all for ethical pornography, so this is not an anti-pornography statement, but an acknowledgement that folks are utilizing what is meant to be entertainment (fantasy, fictionalized, photoshopped/visually-enhanced) as education. No wonder why people struggle with things like body acceptance, sexual communication, sexual intelligence, and sexual ethics.
And yet, how many people seek out accurate information on sexuality? (Not many according to author Amy Jo Goddard, Woman on Fire) And, if they want to, where do they go? Not their healthcare provider. Research indicates that patients/clients in healthcare are often embarrassed to bring up sexuality to their providers and assume providers will bring it up; providers assume patients will bring it up. (To avoid this awkward silence, I put sexuality out there directly with my group offerings and on my client evals).
There are quality educational opportunities out there – find and follow (or better yet, pay) sexuality educators, counselors, and therapists; attend workshops (bonus points 1)if the content is in relation to learning about your own body rather than how to pleasure a partner; you need to know your body to be able to ask for what you need and want and 2) from a feminist and/or women-owned or minority-owned sex shop); read books (my favorite!!! – there are some amazing books on sex out there); attend conferences (these are expensive and are often only attended by professionals in the sexuality industry but they are open to the public).
What formats of sexuality education have worked for you?
Sexuality is complicated, which is what makes it endlessly fascinating to me. I am not sure if it is possible to know everything about sex, which might feel overwhelming to some and exciting to others. The point is that there is not destination or end point; learning about sexuality is a lifelong endeavor that will pay dividends.
I’m in good company too. When researchers asked people who described themselves as having extraordinary sex about lifelong learning, this is what they found:
“Most emphasized that the pursuit of optimal sexual experiences could be an ongoing, lifelong journey and they were excited about the possibilities ahead of them. To put it another way, no one said that they had arrived at their destination, had accomplished everything on their list and had nothing more to learn about sex. In fact, some individuals described coming to new realizations and insights at every stage of their lives. Most said that they were still in the process of learning new things about themselves, their partners and sex itself even in their 60s and 70s……..Extraordinary lovers acted as philosophers and scientists, questioning and studying their own lives.” (Kleinplatz and Menard, Magnificent Sex: Lessons from Extraordinary Lovers) – I am a big fan of the idea of everyone being sex philosophers, scientists, even artists – love this #MoreLoveLessHate.
Think you know all there is to know about sex? Here are just a few topics to get you thinking, and hopefully learning:
- How do you define sex?
- Why do you have sex? And what meaning do you give to sex?
- How have your definitions for sex and the meaning you give to sex changed over time?
- What is spectatoring? (And if you know what it is, how does it impact your experiences)
- Evaluating your experiences by your joy, your values, and your partner/s’ experience? (vs what it should look like and feel like based on media depicitions)
- Do you understand responsive vs spontaneous desire?
- And how we are socialized to value or expect one over the other?
- What is arousal nonconcordance?
- Hint: I’ve written about this before, and my favorite sexuality researcher, Emily Nagoski, speaks of it often
- What gives you pleasure and why? Or do you focus more on your partners?
- Do you recognize when you fantasize? And what role fantasy might play in your sexuality?
- What does arousal feel like in your body? And what makes you aroused?
- Do you know how to have safer sex? And eroticize these practices and barriers? What are your favorite protective measures?
- What is sex positivity? Sexual intelligence?
- How do you navigate consent with partners?
- How do you negotiate sexual experiences?
- What makes a sexual encounter successful and meaningful to you? (and are these measures of success in alignment with what you want?)
- What is sex positive parenting?
- How comfortable are you with body and gender and sexual and partnership diversity? (Nature loves diversity; people seem to have a harder time with it)
- How do sexual scripts impact your experiences?
- Do you know what sexual scripts are?
- How might unrealistic expectations (about bodies, performance, etc) impact you and partners?
- If you have an illness or disability, how has that impacted your sexuality?
- All of us will face this at some point as all of us age in our skin suits – how might changes in your body’s function or relationship to your body impact your sexuality? If you expect it to be a negative experience, that might be internalized –isms (ageism, ableism); what can you do now to address those?
And the questions keep going from there – these took maybe 5-10 min to think of; imagine the endless possibilities of questions and curiosity and learning – first for yourself, across your lifetime, and well as for partner/s. And notice none are about how to’s or specific acts, which runs counter to the attention-grabbing, superficial education in most women’s magazines for example.
Interested in continuing your education in sexuality? Check out some of my offerings (see the events tab and sexual well-being link on my website: www.ignitewell-being.com), including Let’s Talk About Sex Book Club, one on one or small group sexuality counseling, and my blog pieces about sexuality under Myth-busting Monday. Other favorite resources of mine are The Kinder Foundation and She Bop . And two excellent TED talks to check out are here: https://www.ted.com/talks/al_vernacchio_sex_needs_a_new_metaphor_here_s_one and https://youtu.be/ckqQn7eG9es
Happy myth-busting and lifelong learning, loves.
The above content is written by Dr. Allison Mitch, PT (DPT); copyright protected, please cite accordingly. The picture is from Pexels. To work with me or for more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org Please consider supporting me and my work on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/ignitewellbeing
*Please note that none of the above information is specific medical advice, but is meant as an educational resource. If you have concerns about your health, please contact a trusted healthcare professional*