I have very mixed feelings about the sheer volume of sexual content youth have access to these days. Someday I’ll write out those thoughts in more detail, but for now, my ambiguity can be summarized thusly:
Lots of sexual content yay: I believe sex is a normal part of most people's lives. It happens a lot in real life, so I like the part where that’s kind of reflected in our media.
Lots of sexual content nay: A lot of the sexual content that is widely available both in mainstream and in pornography portrays a relatively narrow set of behaviours that does not represent reality for a lot of folks.
Granted, a lot of that sexual content is produced as part of entertainment media. It’s not intended to be instructional. But when youth lack information about what real life sex is like, they may be lacking the context they need to truly perceive the sex they read about and see onscreen for what it is—a fantasy.
One prevalent characteristic of our culture’s sexual fantasy is the idea that all you need for a great sexual experience is the “right” person and the “right” moment. Which is a lovely, beautiful comforting notion. Sex would certainly be a heck of lot less nerve-wracking if all it took to create fireworks was feeling ready and willing.
Growing up, I totally bought into the myth of “the first time” and what an epic, special moment that was going to be. When I finally did “lose my virginity” (post about why I don’t love the idea of virginity also coming soon), it was by choice, with someone that I loved, and at an age that most people would have considered acceptable. But the sex wasn’t great. And I was really disappointed. And worse, I was resigned to having less than awesome sex from there on out, because no one had taught me something we often forget to teach kids about sex.
Sex is a skill.
The desire for sex is a natural instinct. But that doesn’t mean that we instinctively know how to make sex fabulous. Each of us has an individual body that responds to specific stimulation in specific ways. Furthermore, those responses change depending on our age, our hormones, our mental state, our physical state, our age, our situation, etc. Depending on how committed we are to masturbation, it can take years to master sex with ourselves, let alone sex with someone else.
There may be a few sexual prodigies who get it on and get it right, right out of the gate. But for a lot of us, early sexual experiences—particularly with partners—are not the best ones in terms of physical pleasure.
I think of it a bit like cooking. I may have an intense craving for filet mignon and roasted garlic potatoes. And as luck may have it, I might have all the ingredients sitting in my kitchen and a recipe that tells me how to make it. But if I have never cooked before, it’s unlikely that I’m going to make fabulous mignon right out of the gate. That doesn’t mean that first attempt will be bad. But if I keep trying, if I keep learning, tweaking and finessing my recipe with each attempt, my filet mignons are going to become juicier, more tender, and more flavourful every time.
(Author’s aside: I’m either really horny or really hungry right now.)
At any rate, the false assumption that sex will just be awesome is based on a fantasy. And when that fantasy gets confused with reality, it can set youth up to feel like they’ve failed if they aren’t ecstatic with orgasms right out of the gate. I’m not saying that early sexual experiences can’t be good. For many people they are. But they can also be awkward, uncomfortable, stressful, frustrating, weird, funny, boring, silly, or anything else. We need to teach youth that that’s okay. Sex is a skill, one they have their whole lives to develop.
Check out part one of the this series: Things We Forget To Teach Our Kids About Sex. And learn how a simple list can get you more of the sex you want!