What Is a “Beacon of Permission”?

Photo credit: Carol Jones

Photo credit: Carol Jones

When you’re hanging out, do you and your friends, peers, sex partners, etc., talk about sex? Not just about who is a good or bad kisser, or what certain people are like in bed. Rather, do you have heartfelt conversations, do you ask personal questions that lead to more healthy, informed choices in your’s and other people’s lives?

Not many people have this opportunity with others. It is more common, instead, to avoid sex conversations altogether. When sex educator, Kate McCombs was asked during a panel discussion, “What can we do to make the world a more sex-positive place?” McCombs response was, “To become a beacon of permission.”

What she means by this is to become a sound board with whom others feel safe to talk about sex and ask questions they might not otherwise feel comfortable discussing.

It is about intentionally creating a safe, non-judgmental, shame-free space to talk about sex in a health-promoting way. As McCombs wrote elsewhere, “It’s someone who acts as a beacon to shine light on the shame shadows that traditionally surround conversations about sex.”

This does not mean to talk about sex in some radical, edging or pop-cultural fashion. Key to Kate McCombs’ concept is that the dialogue must be honest, educational and healing. When people are more informed about themselves and their bodies they are better equipped to take care of themselves and the people they care about. If we approached personal sex conversations with less shame and sensationalism, and more honesty and open-mindedness, we can explore concepts of sexuality in more healthy, positive ways. It makes the world a better place for us all.

This article was originally published here.

BY KATE MCCOMBS | KateMcCombs.com

As is glaringly obvious, I love talking about sex.

For me, being a sex educator isn’t just about teaching about sex in a vacuum – it’s also about talking about it with others in order to normalize discussions about sexuality.

Far too often, people feel uneasy talking about sex. And I don’t mean sensationalized, pop-culture sex. There’s a lot of that talk happening. I’m referring to genuine, sincere discussions about sex that lead to healthful, mindful choices and meaningful connection in people’s lives.

Some people might avoid sex conversations altogether, while others might make jokes to mask their discomfort. I’m all for finding the playful, humorous sides of sex, but I recognize that laughter can sometimes be an indicator of embarrassment or shame.

Many of us – not just professional sex educators and therapists – have the unique desire, knowledge, and skills to become what I call “beacons of permission” in the world. By “permission” I mean permission to have honest, educational, and even healing conversations about sex. Many people who describe themselves as “sex positive” or “sex geeky” fall under this category.

Does the following sound familiar? Many of the sex-positive folks I know describe themselves as always being “that friend” to whom others could turn when they had sexual questions. That sort of unofficial peer education is a manifestation of that permission-giving.

When I tell new acquaintances what I do for a living, I often become the sounding board for sex and relationship questions and (occasionally) whispered confessions. Nearly all of the sex educators I know describe having similar experiences.

This is what being a beacon of permission looks like: by communicating that you are a safe person with whom to talk about sex, you create spaces wherein people can explore ideas that have been marinating for days or decades.

Not all conversations about sex are equal. Most people notice that sex occupies a significant percentage of the airwaves. From “sexting” moral panic, to the recent sexual exploits of a B-list reality TV star, the media is full of sex, but it’s very rarely explored in a way that leads to better understanding of sexuality.

I suspect that some people may become so over-saturated with the sex alarmism and titillation that permeates the media that they may find it more difficult to hear messages that are actually educational, useful, or health-promoting.

Not all conversations have to be serious. I think it can be deeply cathartic to laugh about sex (see “Burritos and Ball Jokes”). But I think that bringing greater intention to the conversation – intentions like “shedding light on a taboo topic” or “reducing sex-negativity” – can go a long way in shaping our understanding of what it means to talk about sex.

So when an audience member at a panel I was on asked, “What can we as sex geeks do to make the world a more sex-positive place?” I lit up. I responded by describing this concept of being a beacon of permission and intentionally fostering meaningful dialogue.

I suspect that people are hungry for this kind of meaning, so when a safe-space creating, sex-positive person enters their lives, they’ll usually take the opportunity to engage. Whether you would consider yourself a “sex geek” or not, I encourage you to become a beacon of permission to others.

I argue that in order to reduce sex-negativity, the world needs to start by having more of these safe spaces. I’m grateful that it’s my job to help facilitate them.

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kate_mccombsKATE MCCOMBS is a NYC-based sex educator, writer, and maker of puns. Ultimately, all of Kate’s work is about helping people feel more comfortable talking about sex. She believes that meaningful conversations + accurate information can help us create a healthier and more pleasure-filled world. Kate writes articles and teaches workshops about sexual health, pleasure, and communication.
Follow Kate on Twitter @katecom

SEXLIBS: When Condoms Make You Uncomfortable

condom libsBY DR. KAREN RAYNE | KarenRayne.com

Lots of people don’t like using condoms – they don’t even like talking about condoms.

Talking about condoms is complicated, filled with societal judgment and dogma, and thus can feel hard to bring up.

So what to do when a lover or a student or anyone else rejects a condom conversation when you feel it is important – or maybe even required?

CONDOM SEXLIBS, that’s what!

Work through an entire Sexlibs about condoms (please see below!), and you’ll have started some of the more difficult condom related questions, as well as some of the sillier ones, and there’s nothing wrong with whimsy about sex, especially if it makes talking a little easier:

Condom Love

The first time I ever put on a condom I was _____________ years old, and I put it on a _____________.  Afterwards, I felt _____________. I told _____________. I was hoping they would react by _____________.

When I think about using a condom during sex, I think that sounds _____________. My favorite thing about using a condom is _____________, and my least favorite is _____________.

If I were designing my own condom, it would be _____________ and _____________, and secretly I think it would be even cooler if it could be _____________, although I know that’s not possible.

My favorite way to put on a condom is _____________. To make sex with a condom even sexier, it’s best if you _____________.

I think it would be hilarious if someone took _____________ and filled a condom with it. But it’d be even funnier to have a fight with condoms filled with _____________.

My favorite brand and style of condoms is _____________ and _____________.

(More Sexlibs, including a book, are forthcoming by Dr. Karen Rayne.)

condom ad condoms too loose

rayne2sm DR. KAREN RAYNE With a doctoral degree is in Educational Psychology, Karen provides advice and support to parents on how to educate their children and teenagers about sex and sexuality. Karen’s knowledge about adolescent development and education provides her with a solid background for guiding parents through these tricky conversations. And, as a college professor, helping young adults grapple with sexuality, she is known to change student’s lives. On twitter @KarenRayne

Should You Provide Sexuality Education to Your Patients?

Photo credit: Eva Blue

Photo credit: Eva Blue

It is a rare thing these days to receive comprehensive sex education from a health care practitioner. When it is offered, it’s typically limited to the health of sex organs. However, as Melanie Davis explains in the following article, sex and sexuality go beyond the biological. Crucial aspects of sexuality that influence one’s individual choices are often overlooked by health care providers- such as one’s degree of autonomy as well as knowledge about safer sex tools.

The article speaks to health care providers and offers concrete examples of how sexual health envelops aspects about identity, relationships, and intimacy- all of which impact a person’s overall health.

This article was originally published here.

BY MELANIE DAVIS, PhD | MelanieDavisPhD.com

Physician involvement in sexuality education began in 1904, when dermatologist Prince Morrow, MD published Social Diseases and Marriage. His goal was to protect women whose husbands were bringing home sexually transmitted infections (then called venereal disease) from sex workers.

Sexuality education and medicine became more enmeshed when other physicians and the American Purity Alliance joined Morrow’s work to reduce STIs as a way to promote sexual morality. Today, healthcare providers don’t usually discuss sexual morality with patients, but you are an important source of information about sexuality.

Sexuality education is a lifelong process of acquiring information and forming attitudes, beliefs, and values about identity, relationships, and intimacy. Sexual health and decision making are critical aspects of sexuality education, and you may have more opportunities to educate patients than you may realize.

The Breadth of Patient Sexuality

If you limit your exam room consultation to discussions of the function and health of sexual organs only, you risk missing out on information that could have an impact on a patient’s sexual health and overall wellness. There are five categories of sexuality that comprise every person’s sexual being:

  • Sensuality = awareness, acceptance and enjoyment of our own or others’ bodies.
  • Intimacy = the degree to which we express and have a need for closeness with another person.
  • Sexual identity = how we perceive ourselves as sexual beings in terms of sex, gender, orientation, expression.
  • Sexual health and reproduction = attitudes and behaviors toward our health and the potential consequences of vaginal, oral, and anal intercourse.
  • Sexualization = using sex or sexuality to influence, manipulate, or control others.

The area of sexuality in which healthcare providers address most often is sexual health and reproduction for two reasons: 1) It is where most acute medical issues fall, and 2) There are fewer gray areas that can be time-consuming to discuss. However, the other areas of sexuality are less concrete but equally important to discuss, as these examples illustrate:

  • Patients may avoid sexual intercourse or masturbation because they believe genitals are ugly or shameful.
  • Patients may not experience sexual pleasure because they don’t understand their sexual anatomy or the sexual response cycle.
  • A partner’s turn-ons may hurt your patient emotionally or physically.
  • A patient may be struggling with gender identity or sexual sexual identity.
  • A patient may be too embarrassed to disclose sexual coercion/abuse.
  • Research shows that patients often fear being judged by their providers or being embarrassed, so they may not bring up their concerns. Be sure to open the door to conversations about sexuality — One quick way to begin is to ask, “If there were anything you would change about your sex life?”

Contact me if you’re interested in learning more about essential, yet easy educational conversations you can have with patients about sexuality.

melanie_davisMELANIE DAVIS, PHD, consults with individuals and couples to help them build sexual knowledge, comfort, and pleasure through the New Jersey Center for Sexual Wellness. Through her firm Honest Exchange LLC, she provides professional development in sexuality. She’s a popular speaker on self-esteem and body image, and the sexual impact of cancer, menopause and aging. She’s an AASECT-Certified Sexuality Educator. On Twitter @DrMelanieDavis

Before You Stop Using Condoms….

before you stop using condomsIt is very common for couples to start off the relationship using condoms and then, as the relationship lasts, their reliance on condoms decreases until perhaps they wish to stop using condoms altogether. But there are some steps to take in order to make this transition away from condoms a healthy one. In this article from Bedsider, Jessica Morse lists things to consider and explains how to follow through when taking condoms out of your sexperience. Prepare to take yourself to a health care provider.

In summary, here are important points to consider if you plan to stop using condoms:

  • Condoms and internal (or “female”) condoms are the only form of protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Many STIs do not show symptoms all the time. It’s worth taking a trip to the health clinic and getting a full-screen STI test. As well as making sure you or your partner’s Pap smear is up-to-date.
  • Depending on your test results, follow through with the appropriate waiting time until the next test and/or complete your treatment.
  • Have discussions with your partner. Is pregnancy a risk? Which birth control method should you use?  Are you quitting condoms in order to get pregnant?

This article was written by Jessice Morse, MD, MPH, and was originally published here

BY BEDSIDER | Bedsider.org

Condoms are great— they’re available in almost any drug store or clinic and they protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). More than half of U.S. couples use a condom when they have sex for the first time, and over 93% have used condoms at some point.

The number of couples relying on condoms tends to go down as relationships last longer, so it’s safe to say a lot of couples start off using them and then switch to another method of birth control when they become exclusive. Starting a new method of birth control (maybe one that’s more effective for preventing pregnancy than condoms) doesn’t have to mean forgoing condoms. Doubling up with condoms and another method is a great option for many couples. But if you and your partner have been using condoms and want to stop, here are a few things to square away beforehand.

Get your test (GYT)

Male and female condoms are the only methods that can protect against STIs. That includes the ones that can easily be treated—like gonorrhea and chlamydia—and the not-so-easily treated—like herpes and HIV.

Just because neither of you have bumps or rashes doesn’t mean you’re necessarily in the clear; STIs can be there without you even knowing it. So even if you’re pretty sure you don’t have an STI, you should both get tested for common infections like chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV. You may also want to ask about a herpes test; your healthcare provider will usually ask questions to figure out if it makes sense to test for that too. It’a also a great time to make sure your HPV vaccine series (3 shots!) is done and your Pap smears are up to date.

All of these tests can be done without a physical exam:

  • For chlamydia and gonorrhea, you just need to provide a urine sample. Yup, it’s a simple as peeing in a cup.
  • For HIV, syphilis and herpes, it’s a blood test. That means providing a small sample of blood at a lab or clinic.

Then just a few days of awkward waiting and you’ll have your results!

Drumroll, please

Once you get your test results, you may have a few more steps to take before it’s safe to stop using condoms.

Positive for chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis
These STIs can all be cured with antibiotics. You may take pills, get a shot, or both. The treatment depends on the type of infection. You may be done after one shot, one pill, or a week of pills. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you get tested again in the coming months to make sure the infection is cleared up. If you have any symptoms or concerns after you’ve finished the treatment, talk to your provider and decide what to do.

Positive for HIV, herpes, or hepatitis
These STIs can’t be cured, but they can be managed with medicines that reduce the viral load (the amount of the virus in your body) and a partner’s chance of getting the same infection. Although the medicines reduce the chance of giving the virus to a partner, they don’t guarantee it. That means that you’d need to talk to your partner about how you both feel taking this chance without condoms. (If you decide to keep using condoms, you’re in good company. About 10% of U.S. couples of all ages rely on condoms.)

All clear

If you’re both in the clear, you can have the “let’s stop using condoms” conversation.

If you’re not ready for kids yet: This is a good time to talk about what other method you want to use for pregnancy prevention. Obviously whoever is using the method should have final say, but it might be nice to have both partners involved in the decision. You can also talk to your healthcare provider to help you figure out which method is best for you.

If you’re quitting condoms in order to start trying for a baby: It’s a good idea to check in with your healthcare provider a few months ahead of time. Even for women without health problems, there are some basic things you can do to have a healthier pregnancy. For example, taking prenatal vitamins prevents certain types of birth defects. Your provider can also give you good tips for how to increase your chances of getting pregnant. Good luck!

bedsiderBEDSIDER is an online birth control support network for women operated by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy. Bedsider is totally independent (no pharmaceutical or government involvement). Honest and unbiased, Bedsider’s goal is to help women find the method of birth control that’s right for them and learn how to use it consistently and effectively, and that’s it.
Find Bedsider on twitter @Bedsider

What Does Sexual Consent Look Like?

Image from Bedsider

Image from Bedsider

When it comes to sex, consent is essential. As JoEllen Notte of the RedHeadBedhead.com writes, consent is to sexual play as a doorbell is to a home. We do not question the validity of houses having doorbells. And yet, the topic of sexual consent generates heated debate.

What does consent actually mean? What does sexual consent look like? Do I have to sign a contract with my partner about everything we do together before we take our clothes off?

This confusion is not surprising. Movies typically portray sizzling sex scenes without any talking. The characters are so in sync with each other that communication seems unnecessary. In the article below, JoEllen points to ways in which “enthusiastic consent” is the brunt of media jokes that poke fun at anti-harassment activists as out-of-touch, over-the-top PC mood killers.

How did we get to this political climate around consent?

According to JoEllen, it all begins from a faulty model taught from a young age: The “no means no” model.

In this clever piece, “I Got Your Consentlandia Right Here“, JoEllen runs through the flaws and harmful effects that longstanding approaches to consent have had in our media, our legal system and our personal well being. Then she demonstrates practical ways that consent takes place and how it looks in different contexts. When you’re done reading, you’ll never think of consent as a drag again.

Here are key points to take away:

  • “No means no” perpetuates the stance, “They never said no”, as a valid response to sexual harassment and rape charges.
  • The new model, “Yes means yes”, implies collaboration. Real consent happens only once there is an active, voluntary “yes” or “F*ck Yeah!”.
  • Consent is an on-going process that requires constant communication.
  •  “Yes means yes” allows for no confusion, no mind reading, and much better sex!

This article was originally published at theRedheadBedhead.com

BY JOELLEN NOTTE | theRedheadBedhead.com

The topic of consent has been weighing heavy on my mind this last week. I’ve watched people wrestle with it, spring into action around it, snark about it, debate it, discuss it and even mock it, dismiss it and reduce it to a meme. A conclusion that I’ve come to (a conclusion that I’ve come to many times before) is that most people— even the ones who want desperately to help— don’t really get consent. The fact that the topic breeds debate and frequently causes people to get angry (“What, do I have to fill out a form before I touch someone now?!”) is actually absurd because when it comes down to it, consent is just about not violating boundaries. That shouldn’t piss us off. We’re not outraged that houses have doorbells rather than coming with the assumption that we can all just walk on in, right? Right. But somehow when you suggest to people that they may want to ask before stomping all up into another person’s space, there is backlash. So how did this happen?

Think back to how you were taught about consent. Odds are you weren’t really. You were more likely taught about “no”. If you were born with a vagina, you were probably taught to be careful because people might rape you and you should say “no” or, if you were born with a penis, you were told that “no means no” and if you hear “no” then you should not proceed because, rape¹. What has happened here is that you learned a couple of things:

  1. One partner should charge ahead until they get the red light from the other.
  2. Listen for a cue to stop, rather than a cue to start.
  3. If you don’t hear a “no”, you’re good to go.

This model has proven disastrous in myriad ways. From lawyers who argue that unconscious victims weren’t raped because they didn’t say the all-important “no”, to people who have no idea how to communicate sexual needs because everything we’ve been taught is based in negatives (i.e. what DON’T we want), to the general pattern of blaming victims not rapists because, obviously, they didn’t “no” hard enough, to the fact that no one knows what the hell “yes” looks like, to this bizarre idea that if we ask people if we can touch them before we touch them we will never touch each other again/it will be super-awkward and not fun.

Folks, it’s a steaming pile of horse shit. All of it.

Seriously.

As you may have noticed, I’m a bit consent obsessed and, while consent is not always about sex (in fact, a lot of what we’re talking about applies to most non-sexual situations and, ahem, communities), I’m happy to report that my own life got way easier, more comfortable, more fun and, frankly, sexier once I figured this consent business out….

Continue reading at The Readhead Bedhead.

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JoEllen-NotteJOELLEN NOTTE is helping to share the gospel of better living through better sex ed (amen!) – serving as both the Education Coordinator & Lead Sex Educator for the Portland Academy of Sex Education and a co-Emissary of Sex Geekdom Portland. Working as an adult retail consultant, she is working to help promote better sex through better adult retail. JoEllen first began fighting sexual mediocrity on her site theRedheadBedhead.com. Follow JoEllen on twitter: @bedheadtweeting

The Blind Leading the Blind: Is Abstinence-only Education to Blame for Parents Who Can’t Say “Penis”?

From Mean Girls (2004)

From “Mean Girls” (2004)

Abstinence-only education does not exist in a vacuum. There is an important history in the United States in which certain laws and federal funding began supporting fear-based curricula. This stems from the belief that if you tell students the biological consequences (i.e, STIs, unwanted pregnancy, death) and social consequences of sex (i.e., specifically for girls, loss of purity and respect) it will encourage student to delay sexual activity. But studies show this is not the case. Despite all abstinence-only efforts, teens are not engaging in less sex, and the prevalence of STIs among 15-24 year olds remains high.

As sex educator, JoEllen Notte points out in this article, avoiding fact-based approaches to sex and sexual relationship education only leaves students ill-equipped to make safer choices.

In this article, she makes a strong argument that abstinence-only sex ed has produced a generation of parents today who are not only incapable (or unwilling) to discuss sex in a healthy, positive manner with their own children, but who also have not established a positive relationship to sex for themselves. Hence the need for more adult sex education to undo the damage and shame instilled by the abstinence-only model.

Here are important points to take away. Be sure to read through the entire article as there are some juicy links within:

  • Abstinence-only teaches girls that their value is based on their “virginity”.
  • Abstinence-only promotes the myth that condoms don’t work and that “sex” is limited to penis-vaginal intercourse.
  • People, parents and children alike, are unclear about terms of consent. We need to teach it!
  • Sex education does not stop after high school. Parents need it too. They need guidance about how to talk to their children about sex in a way that does not shame or reinforce misinformation.

This article was originally published on theRedheadBedhead.com

BY JOELLEN NOTTE | theRedheadBedhead.com

A couple weeks back there was a rash of stories about a baby doll that had some parents all up in arms. Why, you ask? Was it unsafe? No. Racist? No. Prohibitively expensive? Not that I’ve heard. The big problem? It has a penis. You know, like a human. People were PISSED. The ire was vented in the now-common manner- facebook posts- where folks are declaring that the “company makes me sick” because little girls “don’t need to know about anatomy” etc, etc.

Barely a week later a petition started circulating demanding that the Fremont Board of Education remove a book called “Your Health Today” from schools. Parents were outraged (outraged!) that the book: “exposes youth to sexual games, sexual fantasies, sexual bondage with handcuffs, ropes, and blindfolds, sexual toys and vibrator devices, and additional instruction that is extremely inappropriate for 13 and 14 year-old youth.”

All accounts indicate that while the book did, in fact, indicate that sex can be enjoyable , none of the information was prevented in a salacious or provocative manner. In fact, Slate describes it as “the most boring prose imaginable” including lessons explaining that students should only ever do what “they are comfortable doing”. But that wasn’t enough to keep parents from freaking out. My favorite complaint is the one that is about one of my favorite parts of the book: Parent Asfia Ahmed, fretted to the San Jose Mercury-News, “There’s a section that tells you how to talk to your prospective partners about your sexual history, how does that relate to a 14-year-old kid? I don’t see it at all.” *

I wish this August was some kind of sex-negative anomaly but it’s not. Earlier this year, there was a similar wave of discussion in reference to teaching children the proper anatomical terms for their body parts. That’s right. People have been getting upset because their children were given factually correct information about their bodies- they were, for example, exposed to words like “vagina”.

So, what gives? How did people become convinced that accurate education was heinously inappropriate and something to shield their children from lest their innocence be destroyed.

I have a theory.

I blame abstinence-only education.

But not the education of this generation. I think this generation of parents who thinks they can shield their children from their own genitals and that they shouldn’t talk to their teenagers about sex, lest they get ideas is the result of the previous generation- the first one that was highly likely to be presented with abstinence-only education in their schools.

Let’s take a quick history break: Abstinence-only education started receiving limited federal funding in 1982 through the Adolescent Family Life Act. After the passing of the Welfare Reform Act in 1996, which included a mandate that 50 million dollars yearly be allocated to abstinence-only education, it spread rapidly as cash-strapped schools decided that receiving the funds was more valuable than, you know, teaching kids anything about sex.**

exposed to similar nonsense in schools. We need to be the antidote to abstinence only education. Right now, there is a generation of parents who, when it comes to teaching their kids about sex, are basically like the blind leading the blind and, as educators, let’s be their guide.

Continue reading at The Redhead Bedhead.

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JoEllen-NotteJOELLEN NOTTE is helping to share the gospel of better living through better sex ed (amen!) – serving as both the Education Coordinator & Lead Sex Educator for the Portland Academy of Sex Education and a co-Emissary of Sex Geekdom Portland. Working as an adult retail consultant, she is working to help promote better sex through better adult retail. JoEllen first began fighting sexual mediocrity on her site theRedheadBedhead.com. Follow JoEllen on twitter: @bedheadtweeting

How To Start Providing Sex Education in Your Home

Photo credit: Rob Allen

Photo credit: Rob Allen

Sex education involves more than just penetrative intercourse. It involves how we feel about ourselves, our gender/sexual identity, and the relationships we engage in with others.  It is a central part of being human.

In this article, Dr. Melanie Davis offers practical tips for providing sex education in your home. This is an especially useful read if you have never discussed sex with your child or teen, or you are a new parent seeking advise for your child’s future.

Here are some key points by Melanie.

  • Sexuality education begins before you know it. Children are socialized around gendered norms from the moment they are born.
  • Communicate honestly and consistently with your child about sex and sexuality. It’s not a once-in-a-life-time talk. By starting the conversation from a young age, you cultivate an environment in which they are comfortable talking to you about sex/gender and sexual relationships.
  • Parents really do make a difference in sexual health. Research shows that parents are the greatest influence in a teen’s decisions about sex.
  • Review Melanie’s list below for questions to ask yourself (and your co-parent) as you engage in this important role in your child’s life.

This article was originally publish on Melanie’s column, Sex Ed in Small Doses at Psychology Today.

BY MELANIE DAVIS, PhD | MelanieDavisPhD.com

Upon hearing that I teach sexual education courses, a new father commented, “That conversation is so far off, I can’t even think about it.” He was quite surprised when I suggested that the conversation about sexuality began the moment he and his partner became parents.

The minute parents hear, in the delivery room, “It’s a boy,” “It’s a girl,” or “Your child may be intersex,” they begin communicating ideas about sexuality to their children. Consider how many parents bring newborns home in a pink or blue outfit or use the phrases, “He’s all boy” or “She’s such a Daddy’s girl.” These gendered messages are part of your child’s sexuality education.

The “birds and bees” story of old—a confusing analogy that uses flower pollination to describe human reproduction—alludes to only a small fragment of human sexuality. In reality, sexuality includes, but isn’t limited to, gender identity, sexual orientation, eroticism, the ability to love and feel loveable, self-image, interpersonal relationships, sexual physiology and health, sexual manipulation, and, yes, sexual behavior and reproduction.

You may wonder why you would need to introduce all these concepts to your child. It’s not a matter of introducing the information—that often happens without parental intervention—rather, it’s a matter of helping children put the information into perspective. Without your guidance, your children may have a hard time understanding their bodies, their feelings, the images they see, or the words they hear.

You can help your children become sexually healthy individuals who value and respect themselves and others by communicating honestly, consistently and intentionally about sexuality. I use the word “intentionally” because you’ve already been communicating about sexuality even if you haven’t meant to. You have done it if you have:

  • selected your child’s clothing and toys according to “girl colors” or “boy colors,” “girl toys” or “boy toys”;
  • assumed you know your children’s sexual orientation;
  • created rules about nudity or privacy in your home;
  • discouraged or encouraged your children’s exploration of their own bodies:
  • displayed, or avoided displaying, physical affection for your partner;
  • responded to questions about sex comfortably or by changing the topic.

Who do you want to teach your child about sex?

It’s important to talk with your children about sexuality because if they aren’t hearing from you, they are absorbing someone else’s messages. And whose messages are those? Siblings and friends, grandparents, babysitters, teachers and doctors as well as video games, toys, television, magazines, movies and newspapers.

Messages about sexuality may be healthy or innocuous, confusing or disturbing. You can’t control every message your children receive, but you can help them put the information into the context of your values. Research has shown that children want to learn from their parents early on; as they age, they tend to look to their peers for information. By starting the conversations at an early age, you can encourage your children to keep talking with you as they mature.

Many years ago, my daughter, then age 10, attended a birthday party during which the girls watched an R-rated film. She told me later that the film included a scene in which a boy tries to rape a girl at a teen party. Her father and I had talked to her about sexual boundaries and consent, so she knew the male character’s behavior was unacceptable. I can’t say the same for all the other pre-teens at the party, whose parents may never have provided sexuality education at home.

What had we done right? We had talked with our daughter about sexual relationships and the importance of mutual consent, respect, maturity, and protection. What had we done wrong? We hadn’t gotten to know the girl’s parents or their values; in addition, we hadn’t asked what the party entertainment would include.

Monitoring children’s media access is harder today, since many children and young teens have near-constant access to cable TV and online content. It’s all the more important for you to serve as your children’s primary sexuality educator, ready to share your values and wisdom gained through life experience.

Getting Started

Use the topics below to spur discussion between you and your co-parent or teens and other adults who play a significant role in your children’s upbringing. Jot down responses and ideas that will improve communication with your child.

  • What messages did you receive about sexuality when you were a child?
  • Did you have an adult to discuss sexuality with, and if so, what helped create that trusting relationship?
  • What were some of the biggest questions you had about sexuality, and by what age did you want answers?
  • If you would have preferred to learn about sexuality differently, and if so, how?
  • What kinds of messages would you like your child to receive about sexuality, e.g., no-holds-barred access to information, or a more moderate or conservative approach, and why?

Next, make a list of the some of the sexuality information sources in your childrens’s lives, including caregivers, friends, relatives, television, magazines, internet, etc. Consider ways you can support or counterbalance those outside sources so your values and sexuality education play a primary role.

Learning More

For more tips about parent-child communication, see my eManual, “Sexuality Talking Points: A guide to thoughtful conversations between parents and children.”

melanie_davisMELANIE DAVIS, PHD, consults with individuals and couples to help them build sexual knowledge, comfort, and pleasure through the New Jersey Center for Sexual Wellness. Through her firm Honest Exchange LLC, she provides professional development in sexuality. She’s a popular speaker on self-esteem and body image, and the sexual impact of cancer, menopause and aging. She’s an AASECT-Certified Sexuality Educator. On Twitter @DrMelanieDavis

Should I Let My Teen’s Boyfriend Sleep Over?

Photo credit: Laura Smith

Photo credit: Laura Smith

This is one of the most frequently asked questions sex educator, Dr. Karen Rayne receives from parents. Most American parents are squeamish and concerned about their teens having sex. The thought of teen sex “under the parent’s roof” is even more unappealing. But Dr. Rayne argues that allowing teen “sleep overs” may actually open the way for more responsible sex education and healthy parent-child relations. Because if a teen feels safe telling a parent what they are doing and feeling, then they are more likely to ask parents for advise and help. This allows parents to have more positive influence.

If you are grappling with this issue as a parent, Dr. Rayne suggest by starting with a few basic, yet personal question for your teen.

Here are some ways to prepare for and approach the dreaded sleepover question:

  • Talk with your teen about their gender identity, their sexual orientation, and that of their friends.
  • Asked them who they are romantically interested in and discuss the differences between romantic and friendship-based relationships.
  • Discuss the benefits of sleepovers. What makes sleepovers fun? How can you help them achieve those benefits?

This article was originally published on UnHushed.net 

BY DR. KAREN RAYNE | KarenRayne.com

In a world with flexible gender and sexual identities, what’s a parent to do?

I’ve been asked about sleepovers through two channels in the last few days, so it seemed the right time to finally write a post about it.

This question comes up all the time – first in the wake of the sudden awareness in the US that in other countries parents actually allow their teenagers to have sleepovers with boyfriends and girlfriends (see Dr. Amy Schalet’s 2011 book, Not Under My Roof, her NYTimes piece on the topic, and the millions of blog posts/articles/insanity that followed) – and as more and more youth come out to their parents as gay, queer, bisexual, trans, etc.

“WHAT DO WE DO??” is the stressed-out question from so many parents, and I wish I had an easy answer.

This question really speaks to a feeling of unsettlement that comes with relinquishing clearly defined gender norms and the associated assumptions about sexuality that parents have been so accustomed to falling back on throughout their adolescents and even now in their adult lives.

Our cultural assumption is that girls and boys have sleepovers in single-sex groups. With children, this is because children are primarily friends with kids of the same sex, and so is driven by the children themselves. As children grow into teenagers there is another cultural assumption that they will continue to be friends with same-sex peers and date opposite-sex peers, thus making the sleepover decision easy.

Young people, however, are re-making the meaning of so many of the words in that last, italicized sentence as to make it sound old fashioned, to say the least. The line between friendship and girlfriend/boyfriend/boifriend/partner is getting thinner. Opposite-sex becomes a misleading term, at best, when you’ve acknowledged the wider range of gender identities. Many teenagers spend at least a short amount of time pondering their attraction to others across a range of gender identities rather than assuming from the start that they are heterosexual.

So what’s a parent to do in a world that, from the outside, appears to have gone crazy?

The goal of single-sex sleepovers among teenagers was generally to provide a sense of safety to parents of both young people that the teenagers wouldn’t be having sex. That sense of sexual safety is no longer there regardless of the sex or gender of the young people – but it wasn’t really there before either. Ask many adult gay men and lesbians whether they had sex with their same-sex friends as teenagers. While not all of them took advantage of this, enough did to make a notable sample!

So now, parents, you are aware that your teenager could, in theory, be sexually attracted to someone they’re asking for a sleepover with. Or that person could be attracted to your teenager. The answers are no longer cut and dry.

It is time to face that musical ambiguity and embrace it. Talk with your teenager about their gender identity, their sexual orientation, and that of their friends. Ask them who they’re interested in romantically and how that’s different from being interested in friendship with someone. Acknowledge that these are not one-time questions because the answers are likely to be evolving. Understand that your teenager is likely to have sex – that most people have sex – and that having sex for the first time in the context of a sleepover in your parents’ home is generally better than first time sex in a car.

I could go on and on about the things you should talk with your teenager about. But they all come down to this: What are your fears? STIs? Pregnancy? Heartbreak? Being sexual in ways they aren’t ready for? Assault? Pin them down, those fears, and then address them specifically with your teenager.

You can also talk about the benefits of sleepovers with your teenager. What’s fun about them? How can you help them achieve that goal of fun? (The answer might be to stay out of the way and have fun on your own. This is not an insult.)

Both of you will be better off for the conversation.

condom ad condoms too loose

rayne2sm DR. KAREN RAYNE With a doctoral degree is in Educational Psychology, Karen provides advice and support to parents on how to educate their children and teenagers about sex and sexuality. Karen’s knowledge about adolescent development and education provides her with a solid background for guiding parents through these tricky conversations. And, as a college professor, helping young adults grapple with sexuality, she is known to change student’s lives. On twitter @KarenRayne

Why Changing the Meaning of Consent Is Good

Image by Condom Monologues

Image by Condom Monologues

BY LARA WORCESTER | Condom Monologues

**trigger warning: This post references sexual assault and abuse.

Condom negotiation is often framed in a very particular way: a lady convincing a guy to wear the condom despite all his excuses not to. This very limited view overlooks (or simply reduces) the meaning of consent to an action that only happens at a certain point during sex. A contributor on Condom Monologues shared how her permission and safety was derailed while her sexual partner assumed absolute consent.

“I know fundamentally I cannot give consent without feeling safe. One time during sex (however safe I felt) the guy took the condom off without telling me. He figured, once we got this hot and heated there were no cues that I was saying “no”. I feel guilt sharing this story because I know people will judge me for having sex with this guy even after his display of Jerk-Assness; even after he breached my consent.” – a Condom Monologuer

Experiences like this are rarely represented in daily media. And yet, her story explicitly illustrates a fundamental component of consent that activists have been pushing for years: consent is an ongoing process.

This storyteller’s candor is a bold response to a “consent culture” that has made significant gains in recent years to legally redefining the term, particularly on US college campuses. Just this May 2014, the White House launched a website to inform students of their rights and guide schools on how to prevent and deal with sexual assault cases. The initiative also redefined consent as a “voluntary agreement” in which “silence, or absence of resistance does not imply consent.” This means that the government has finally dropped the problematic “no means no” model- an approach which implies that sex can happen as long as no one says “no”.

What is replaced with this new definition is “yes means yes.” In other words, real sexual consent happens only once there is an obvious and enthusiastic “yes”.

This is a big win for activists who are cultivating a “consent culture” that push hashtags like #ConsentIsSexy or market condom packages that read sobering messages like “My Dress Does Not Mean Yes.”

Catchy slogans are useful and have made great waves. However, the nuances of sexual relationships can get lost in their wake. Consent becomes reduced to an absolute end, with no discussion of the process or means, not dissimilar to how condom negotiation is taught in sex education as I mentioned earlier. In reality, however, consent is not isolated or all-encompassing. It is an on-going, never-ending process in which all parties must engage.

What the “enthusiastic yes” model does is shift the perspective to emphasize consent as a collaborative navigation. When consent is understood as fluid, experiences like the one shared at Condom Monologues, can be acknowledge without victim-blaming or shaming. Promoting consent in this way abandons the myth that we have to be mind-readers and just know what pleases the other. It reinforces the requirement for considerate communication. After all, isn’t that what human intimacy is all about?

For great sex tips on how to navigate consent and talk with your partner, read more from Elena Kate of Rad Sex.

LARA WORCESTER is co-founder & editor at Condom Monologues, and a Lucky Bloke contributor. She’s a published social researcher with a Master’s in Gender & Sexuality studies and has worked with various HIV/AIDS organizations including Stella and the HIV Disclosure Project.

Why, What, How to Talk to Your Sex Partner

Photographer Jaded One

Photo credit: Jaded One

No matter how much you study up on sex, without communication your relationship is sunk! Sexual communication isn’t easy and what we see in the media is rarely useful in terms of real-life scenarios. Scarleteen is here with comprehensive pointers on communication as a whole, and specifics on what to look for in productive sexual communication.

This article is meant to help you navigate the challenges of talking about sex with sex partners— from how to talk and to what to look for in the talking. Here are some main points to take away:

  • Clear sexual communication keeps both partners physically and emotionally safe.
  • Before engaging sexually with a new partner, look at how you communicate with them about other things.
  • Pick emotionally safe and neutral spaces to talk about sex.
  • There are several keys to productive dialogue- don’t miss the list below!
  • If you feel like you don’t feel comfortable communicating with someone, consider holding off on partnered sex with them until you do.
  • If you start with open communication and keep talking, it will get easier and more comfortable.

Read the original article at Scarleteen.

BY HEATHER CORINNA | Scarleteen

You can read everything from the Kama Sutra to The Joy of Sex, watch porn vids until your eyeballs fall out, have a ton of sexual experience or psychically channel Mata Hari or Casanova, but if you don’t know how to openly communicate with your partners, with your words, chances are neither you nor your partner are going to have really healthy, beneficial and satisfying sexual experiences, especially in the long-term.

Communicating clearly and well about sex and relationship issues, before and after you become sexually active with someone — the whole works, not just when whispering sweet or saucy nothings into a lover’s ear — not only puts you in a place where you can have satisfying sex and sexual relationships, short and long-term, and feel good about them, it helps keep everyone safe and sound both physically and emotionally.

If you have a car, you know that you’ve got to keep a pretty good eye on the oil in the engine: if you run out, no matter how great of shape your car is in, it’s not going to keep working, and may well explode in your face. Solid communication is the oil that keeps the engine of your sexual relationships running smoothly.

How to Talk About Sex

Talking with your partner about sex isn’t just about asking what one person has or hasn’t done before, wants to do, or about what gets everyone hot under the collar. Talking about sex with a partner also involves discussing what pace you’re comfortable with, your sexual health and your partner’s health, what you want or need to be comfortable engaging in a given sexual activity, how you masturbate, how you feel about your body, what feels good and what really doesn’t, safer sex and birth control, your sexual ethics and beliefs, relationship model negotiation, the works. Good sexual communication means you are creating and maintaining an environment in which you and your partner(s) can really talk openly about sex — in and out of bed — even when what you have to say isn’t very sexy or isn’t what the other might want to hear. It means being able to say no and having no be accepted and easily respected without pressure to say yes: it means being able to say yes knowing it doesn’t mean you or they have to say yes every time.

It’s no big shocker that talking about sex openly and intimately isn’t very easy. Most of the media around us doesn’t portray sexual discussion realistically or wholly: we’re shown either only the super-fantastic earthshaking stuff or Very Big Problems, not all of the shades in between that make up most of our sexual experiences. Most of the talking about sex we see in the movies only happens when people are having sex, and tends to consist of little but monosyllables or the standard “That was great,” after sex is done. And it isn’t just teens who have a tough time with sexual communication. Many adults in long-term sexual partnerships don’t have the hang of it, and plenty still prefer to avoid sexual discussions rather than practice them. A rare few of us grew up in households where sex was discussed healthily and openly. Good sexual communication generally requires more than a single word response. For a lot of people of all ages, honest and open sexual communication is brand new terrain.

Before you become sexually active with someone, take a look at how you communicate with them about other things. Are you able to talk openly and freely about your feelings for each other, about relationship models, time management, previous romantic/sexual relationships and peer and family relationships, and deal with crises? Are you friends: do you talk like friends? If not, it’s wise to take a pause and evaluate if that partner is a smart sex partner for you yet: after all, if you don’t feel comfortable talking about needing a little more time together (or a little more space) or what’s going on with your family, it’s going to be a serious challenge to talk about wanting to be touched more here or there, to need to change how the two of you are practicing safer sex or birth control, or about having a yeast infection. If daily communication, especially about things which are very close to your heart, doesn’t feel pretty easy just yet, work on that first, or consider that that person may not be an ideal partner for you.

Look at your own existing sexual communication in other parts of your life. Are you able to discuss sexual issues with your friends or your physician with a decent level of comfort and honesty (even if things sometimes feel a bit awkward)? Can you use language for sexuality – like the correct words for your sexual parts, or real terms for sexual activities – comfortably?

If you’re already at those points, then you’ve got a great foundation for sexual communication. You can lay it down from the onset – before you have any kind of sex at all — just by saying something like, “Before we have sex together, I want us to aim to always talk about sex honestly and freely, even when it seems weird. I feel like that’s important for both our physical and emotional safety as well as so that we can have really great sex.” Just making your intentions clear like that opens the door, allowing both you and your partner permission to talk about sex with maturity and be honest when you do.

Want to try on a few basic conversations one might have with a partner or potential partner that are pretty common, just to get an idea of how we can have them, and how hard it really ISN’T? CLICK HERE, and have a look at how some varied talks about sex with a partner can go.

Those sample conversations don’t have to be literal scripts for you, and my vernacular may not sound like the way you and your partners talk: I’m 37, and you’re probably not. “Gag me with a spoon,” and “Like, totally, that’s grody to the max,” were part of my teenage lingo: thank christ, they’re probably not part of yours. But the basics remain the basics: sound sexual communication is all about being honest (even when it feels awkward or embarrassing — but, if you’re going to be naked and/or sexual with someone things are going to be awkward and embarrassing sometimes, no matter what), being forthright and open (which anyone can do while still being kind to the other person), owning your own stuff (and the other person being able to do the same), and accepting that sometimes, because we need to communicate important things, sex might not seem so sexy for a bit, and we may even shelve sex we were going to have in exchange for talking about it. Even if that seems like a bummer at the time, I can guarantee you that it’ll mean the next times you DO have any kind of sex, it’s far more likely to be emotionally, interpersonally and physically better.

Where to have a talk? Pick emotionally safe, neutral spaces to talk about sex in. Often, it’s best to talk about sex in-depth when you’re not in the middle of having sex, when no one is naked (since most people feel more vulnerable that way), and when you’re not in an environment which can make it feel like having sex is more important than talking about it. Obviously, too, talking about sex between two people very personally isn’t a conversation for when you’re in a big group, hanging out with friends, or in the busy halls at school, where even the walls tend to have ears.

Suffice it to say, there will be times that it either feels just fine to talk about sex while in bed, and times when it’s also unavoidable. For instance, if you’re setting a limit on what you want to do in the midst of your partner starting to do that activity without asking, you need to set that limit right there and then. Or, if you two are laying around after sex and strike up a conversation about your sex life and it feels safe and comfortable for you to have it then, then no problem.

Check out some general themes we usually see in productive and communicative sexual conversations:

  • “I” statements. In other words, “I feel that…” rather than “You make me feel like…” Or, “When you do X, I experience Y,” instead of “You do Y to me.” “I feel ready for sex,” not “My friend Joe is having sex with HIS girlfriend.” When you’re speaking for yourself and about yourself, frame it that way. Even if you are calling out a partner on their behavior or actions, people tend to stop listening when an expression sounds more like an accusation.
  • Acknowledge the awkwardness. In so many ways, anything sexual between people IS awkward, and talking about it often is, too, especially when those conversations are being had for the first time. You can let a lot of the air out of the balloon just by saying that you feel awkward, and by being okay with that: it helps make it okay for your partner to feel awkward, too.
  • Same goes double for accepting that sex talk can be loaded. As a longtime sexuality educator – completely outside of my personal life – I’m acutely aware that people can fly off the handle pretty easily when talking about their sex lives, and that most people are pretty hypersensitive about sex. That’s unsurprising: sexuality is very personal, it makes us feel very vulnerable and exposed, and there’s an awful lot of pressure in the world to be sexually perfect, no matter how unrealistic that is. Prime the pump (as it were) and make sure your partner is in the right headspace to have a discussion about sex at a given time, just by asking if they are, and if they’re not, just make clear you need to soon, and would like them to let you know when it is a better time for them. Reinforce care for them by letting them know that you love and care for them and that you like being with them: you just want things to be as good between you as possible. Be aware of their personal sensitivities and insecurities and speak with kindness. “I think maybe your penis is too small,” for instance, is not a sensitive thing to say (and probably not even the real issue). “I’m feeling like this would feel even better with something fuller, maybe your hands?” is a serious improvement. “I’m having a hard time working out the difference between our reality and what I see in porn,” is far more accurate, sensitive and productive than “Why can’t you do what everyone in porn does?”
  • Watch your language.Part of communicating well (whether you’re talking about sex or something else) involves using terms which both people know the meaning of and are comfortable with. You may hit roadblocks to productive sexual communication if, say, you’re talking about “tea bagging” or “fingering” and your partner has no idea what you’re referring to (hint: when you say tea-bagging and they ask if you prefer herbal or black tea, they don’t understand you), or if your partner calls your genitals a “pussy” or a “prick” and those terms seriously turn you off or are gross to you. Be sure that when you are talking about sex, that you do so without making too many assumptions, and with care to what language you are using to express yourself; be open to making changes or clarifying in order to better that communication. Ask about what words work for your partner; tell them what words and language feel best to you. Everyone also has different levels of comfort when it comes to pillow talk — talking about sex during sex. Some people may like a partner to “talk dirty” during sex who either isn’t comfortable with that in general, or who is comfortable with that, but not yet. Plenty of people have a hard time — or just don’t like — talking about sex during sex, for the effect of heightening arousal, in general. Again, these tend to be matters of compatibility, and by discussing them — even in advance of sexual activity — even partners with some divergence of opinion can often find middle ground that works for both of them.
  • Make sexual communication an ongoing process. In other words, don’t expect one talk about one thing to be the only talk you’ll have or to net instant results. Most people tend to need time on their own to mull talks about sex over, since partnered sex can be so complex and sometimes tough to sort through, and a lot of the time you won’t have “The” talk, you’ll have a series of evolving talks about any given issue. As well, folks may not want to have a six hour gab-a-thon about a sensitive or emotionally loaded issue. It might be better to talk a bit about something one day, then suggest you go do something mellow and unloaded and talk about it more in a few days.
  • Expect the Best. If you walk into a sexual conversation anticipating that it will go poorly, it’s much more likely to. You’ll probably be more timid than you would otherwise, won’t do the best job of really stating your case, and may be less likely to be honest. If, instead, you walk in with the expectation that what you have to say is productive and important, and your partner can absolutely handle talking about sex (and if they’re having sex, they’d better be able to talk about it, too!) and listening to you, you’re more likely to communicate well and most honestly, and your partner is going to hear your confidence and trust in them in your voice.
  • By all means, accentuate the positive. Unless you’re talking with someone who is being abusive or is not minding your boundaries, when you have an otherwise positive sex life with someone, you can make them feel at ease and secure by being sure that even in areas you may be being critical, you’re also acknowledging the good stuff. For example, let’s say that you really enjoy sex with your partner, but their utter lack of communication makes you feel clueless as to what to do to be sure they’re enjoying it too. To keep positives in there, you might say something like, “I love being with you, and I love how you give me clues about what you like with your body. I think things could be even better, though, if you could also tell me, with words sometimes, what you like or want.”
  • Don’t ditch your sense of humor. Obviously, there are some conversations in which humor just isn’t appropriate – like when a partner is seriously stomping over your boundaries, or a partner needs to talk about previous sexual abuse with you. But in a lot of conversations about sex, it’s fine to have moments of lightness, and it’s helpful to inject a little laughter to help everyone feel more comfortable.

There are some people who strongly feel that any kind of talking during or about sex kills their buzz. Trouble is, we just HAVE to talk about sex at least sometimes, and if we’re really fully present with sex, then talking about it shouldn’t be a huge bummer. Someone who feels that way may also not be in the healthiest headspace: maybe talking kills things for them because they’re trying to pretend something is fine when it really isn’t. Maybe they’re trying really hard to avoid being vulnerable or close (in which case it’s mighty silly for them to be having sex, which is all about that), or want the sex they’re having to be more about a fantasy than the reality. Maybe they don’t want you to talk because they don’t want to leave you real room to say no or have a say. Maybe they’re really just not ready for sex with someone else, because being able to communicate is a big part of being ready.

If it feels to you that sexual issues cannot be discussed by you or your partner — either because you don’t feel ready, or because you think talking about them will spur on anger, upset, jealousy or massive insecurity — then you might want to wait for partnered sex with that person until you both do feel able to talk more comfortably, and have more practice doing it outside of bed, where any conversation tends to be a lot more loaded. Suffice it to say, if it feels patently unsafe to ever talk to your partner honestly about anything to do with sexuality, that’s just not a safe person to be with sexually at all.

Often, it also takes a few tries — and sometimes more than that — before we meet someone whose needs and wants are compatible with ours, or can work with a partner to find middle ground that works for both people. Because of that, it can be tempting to try and let things go unsaid we really need to be talking about, like limits and boundaries that aren’t being respected or communicated, wants or needs that aren’t being met, relationship models we know we can’t deal with, or sexual velocity that is just going too fast. Resist that temptation if it happens: you don’t want to set patterns or precedents for things that aren’t okay with you or aren’t working for you, because that makes it even harder to work them out in the long run. Put your limits and boundaries onto the table as soon as they come up. Even if it’s difficult, awkward, or feels risky to do, it’ll be a lot easier to set limits earlier rather than later, and taking risks to better understand each other is always a healthy risk to take with a good chance of delivering something positive and healthy.

Once you have some basic solid communication practices and dynamics down, it’s just a matter of basic care and feeding: if and when you do start having partnered sex, you’ll keep talking to one another, all the time, and it should become second-nature to always be communicating, sharing ideas, feelings and experiences without trying too hard. It’s not unusual, when you first start having partnered sex to go without heavy verbal communication for a while, because it’s new (and that newness can make things so exciting that even sex that isn’t physically so great is made better by the rush of something new), because you’re both caught up in all the things that feel good, and because things that aren’t yet as you like them, will just take more time. But over time, not only are you likely to need to talk more, you’ll both probably want to talk more, too.

Partnered sex is one of those things that tends to get better the longer you do it with someone, but part of why is communication that increases over that time. So, communication is important, but the sex you’re having also doesn’t need to feel like a lecture series to be healthy. You’ll probably find – as most people do — that when you start from a place of open communication, and keep communicating regularly and as needed – just opening that door not only makes communication become easier and easier over time – and when you get good at it with one partner, it tends to get easier with other partners over time — those regular habits will allow you to have more times when body language and monosyllables do you both just fine, and all the better than they would have if you didn’t have great verbal communication, too.

(Adapted and expanded from S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College)

heatherHEATHER CORINNA is an activist, artist, author and the director of Scarleteen, the inclusive online resource for teen and young adult sex education and information. She is also the author of S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College and was a contributor to the 2011 edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves. She’s received the The Champions of Sexual Literacy Award for Grassroots Activism (2007), The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, Western Region’s, Public Service Award (2009), the Our Bodies, Ourselves’ Women’s Health Heroes Award (2009), The Joan Helmich Educator of the Year Award (2012), and The Woodhull Foundation’s Vicki Award(2013).

 

scarleteenSCARLETEEN is an independent, grassroots sexuality education and support organization and website. Founded in 1998, Scarleteen.com is visited by around three-quarters of a million diverse people each month worldwide, most between the ages of 15 and 25. It is the highest-ranked website for sex education and sexuality advice online and has held that rank through the majority of its tenure.
Find Scarleteen on twitter @Scarleteen