Tag Archives: Sexuality

Let’s (Not) Talk About Sex

Photo by Alberto Alonso G.

Photo by Alberto Alonso G.

The topic of sex came up at lunch last week.

Well, technically I lead the conversation in that direction when someone else sitting at the table made a comment that could either be taken innocuously or….otherwise.

Of course I chose the second option.

I might be quiet most of the time in real life, but there’s always been a deep-seated ornery streak in my personality. 😉

I’d spent the last few hours of that meal tamping down everything that might have ruffled feathers at that table: my (lack of) religion; my sexual orientation; my political views; my cheerful childlessness.

(Whether or not doing this is a smart idea in the longterm might be fodder for another post someday, but I digress).

The funny thing about doing this kind of exercise is how easy it is for the mask to slip off, especially when you’re not used to wearing it.

So back to the sex talk. You’d be surprised by how much communication can be accomplished with a raised eyebrow and a few carefully-selected words. Anyone who didn’t know what we were talking about would have had to strain to hear what I was saying. Even then I had plausible deniability thanks to all of the wonderful double entendres in the English language.

Oh, the blushing. The faintest rumbles of it might have even been felt in Thunder Bay. It wasn’t the reaction I was expecting. The people I was sitting closest to at that table aren’t exactly known for being easily embarrassed.

Mission accomplished, I grinned and changed the subject. There’s a different between teasing someone and making them actively uncomfortable.

Although it did make me wonder why it is that (some parts of) western culture are comfortable dancing around the topic of sex but get flustered if you wander too close to it?

What do you think?

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A Response to Should Schools Teach About Relationships

If I had the time and resources to take up a cause, I can think of none better for me than to lobby the school boards to include relationship courses in their curriculums.  And I would want such courses to not only teach kids a variety of relationship skills — such as how to negotiate with others and reach a fair compromise — but perhaps most importantly, how to recognize, avoid, or escape from an abusive partner.

From Should Schools Teach About Relationships?

Click on the link to read the rest of Paul’s post. I actually agree with almost everything he said but I  have some concerns about this idea that I’d like to discuss today.

First, who would create this curriculum? The public high school I attended taught abstinence-based sex education. Because our community was so religiously fundamentalist and politically conservative the curriculum rigidly reinforced 1950s gender roles and assumed every student was heterosexual. Academically it was a fantastic school but I shudder to think what they would have taught us about relationships in general had health class been expanded to include this.

Second, how would you avoid controversy? Some families believe in strict hierarchies, others are egalitarian. Others say that their god intended men and women, adults and children to assume certain roles in the family depending on their age and gender, others don’t believe in god or don’t think god wants these things. One culture’s expectations of privacy, what love looks like or how to tell if your relationship is a good one may be quite different from another culture’s opinion. This is not to say that we can’t find common ground, only that I think creating one definition of healthy relationships that every culture and religion agrees upon can be tricky.

Third, can this help teens who have already been abused? Statistically speaking about 25% of  the students will have been sexually abused, 11% physically abused, and 9% neglected by age 18 and none of these statistics include verbal or emotional abuse. [source]. For a significant percentage of the class this is something they’ve personally experienced. It’s not an abstract discussion. I do wonder if learning what a healthy relationship looks like will help them not to continue the cycleas a victim or a perpetrator. Many abused children grow up to be great parents…but some recreate what happened to them with their own kids. But I also wonder if bringing up painful memories in a non-clinical setting is a good idea…


What do you think? Does Paul have a good idea? How would you structure a class about healthy relationships?

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A Response to Picking Up the Best Bits

Photo by Joe Ravi, license CC-BY-SA 3.0.

Olivia at Reading in the Bath recently had something interesting to say about her experiences with online childfree groups:

So one of the things I’ve enjoyed about sticking around in a few different groups for a while and getting past all the (to me) slightly awkward ‘I like children…with sauce’ jokes, is that I’ve found there are many other people who don’t come from a place of hatred or hostility either.

To be honest my sexual orientation and non-theism tend to surprise others much more often than my decision not to have children.

But there are certain similarities between being childfree and being part of other minority groups or subcultures.  Answering the same questions over and over again grows repetitive and there are times when I wonder, “why is s/he so focused on this one issue instead of everything else we have in common?”

This is where it really helps to have relationships with other people who are also members of group X and grok why I’m so frustrated (or confused, thrilled, or irritated!)

Just like Olivia says, though, sometimes you have to filter the wheat from the chaff. I’m not an angry person and I don’t dwell on the offensive stuff other people say or do.  These things happen.

Angry people aren’t the majority, though. From what I’ve seen for every person looking for a reason to be offended there are two or three who just want to live in peace. The problem is that when the media or the rest of society notices group X they tend to seek out the most controversial, outspoken member they can find. It’s good for ratings and page views and, to be honest, the rest of us are often not as interested in outside attention.

And so the rest of the world continues to assume the worst about group X while those of us who are actually living it roll our eyes and continue on with our daily lives.

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Why is Violence More Acceptable than Sex?

One of the most puzzling aspects of US culture is the difference between how people react to violence and how they react to sex in the media.

Violence pops up regularly in almost every genre, even in material written specifically for children. Sex may be hinted at but unless a movie or television show is rated for mature audiences it is much less common for characters to be featured in a graphic sexual scene.

Apparently it’s ok to air story lines about people being:

  • tortured
  • raped
  • decapitated
  • skinned alive
  • dismembered
  • kidnapped
  • blown up
  • shot
  • stabbed
  • mutilated

Yet it is equally unacceptable to show a nipple at the same time slots.


Why is sexuality so much more frightening than violence? How can murder be less offensive than two characters having consensual sex? These aren’t rhetorical questions. The longer I live outside of the US the less I understand certain aspects of their culture.

Possible explanations:

Desensitization. Violent art and other creative works have been around for so long and have become more graphic so gradually that the average person does not necessarily think about what it is their minds are absorbing.

(some) Violence is Cartoonish. That is, it doesn’t accurately represent how an action plays out in the real world. Certain guns, for example, do far more damage to a body than what is typically portrayed on tv or the movies.

Easier Conversations. Do some parents find it easier to bring up something in conversation that most people do not personally experience than something that the vast majority of people are going to do eventually?

Moral Qualms. Religious beliefs influence so much of how and what we think about sex and sexuality. It does make sense that people would think it was wrong to see graphic representations of sex if their religious backgrounds taught them not to seek out such subject matter or that certain acts were a sin. What I don’t understand, though, is why there aren’t more religious objections to violence in the media. If it’s sinful to watch someone having what your religion considers to be illicit sex shouldn’t it be just as (if not more) wicked to see a character being raped or murdered?

Internal Conflict. Western society (especially, but not only, in the US) is deeply conflicted about sexuality and how it is expressed. What we say isn’t necessarily what we  believe and what we believe often has little to do with what we actually do.

What do you think?


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Pet Your Dog, Not Your Date

There were many things that the school that I attended from the mid 90s to early 00s did well. Sex education was not one of them.  The midwestern community that I lived in was rural, religious and conservative and the powers that be had determined that the best thing they could teach teenagers about sex is how dangerous it was so we wouldn’t have anything to do with it. Even if the curriculum they chose for us had to lie to convince us to remain or to become abstinent.

A few highlights from my adventures in abstinence-only sex education as a young teen:

Pet Your Dog, Not Your Date

This is the workbook page that stands out the most in my memory. The point being, sublimate your erotic energy into strengthening your emotional bonds, not substitute your pet for your significant other. (er, I hope.)

I’ve never actually figured out why this phrase ever saw the light of day. It’s ripe for mis-interpretation and doesn’t address any practical methods for understanding or coming to accept one’s emerging sexuality.

Hole-y Condoms

Holes too tiny to see with the naked eye, they argued, but large enough for the AIDS virus and sperm to sneak through could be found in every condom available for sale. There was a drawing in our textbook of sperm swimming through holes in a condom. Other forms of birth control were mentioned briefly as well, but only to point out their failure rates and the potential side effects of each type of contraception. Even sterilization, we were warned, could fail to prevent a pregnancy. And no form of birth control could protect our hearts.

Men Want Sex, Women Want Romance

(un)Remarkably, at least for that time and place,  the exercises we were to consider virtually always involved the myriad of ways in which a teenage girl could say no to sex with her would-be (male) suitor. Rarely a teenage male protagonist would ponder how to preserve his manliness without having sex with his lady-friend. In either scenario, though, it was assumed that one member of the (always heterosexual) couple yearned for sex from the depths of their loins, the other member of the couple wasn’t ready and that each of them would always assume the same role in that aspect of their relationship.

Here’s the thing: I felt something was wrong from the very beginning of this class and the condom hole mythlead me to assume that everything they said about sex was a lie.Other than the basic physiology of the reproductive organs and a few other simple biological facts, I’ve rejected everything they taught us. Women are not responsible for the sexual urges of other people. Sex is not the only thing men think about. Not everyone grows up to be heterosexual. Having sex has nothing at all to do with whether you’re a decent human being.

I shudder whenever I hear about current middle or high school student being taught about abstinence even though I tend to agree that the majority of teenagers are not emotionally or socially prepared to handle the possibility of pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection. (Of course, I’ve also known people who were 30, 40, 50 years old and still nowhere near being ready to accept the consequences of their actions, sexual or otherwise.)

To be fair, there are some valuable lessons I learned from my abstinence-only sex education.

  1. Don’t lie. It erodes the trust of others.
  2. Exaggerating, manipulating or massaging the truth is worse than lying because it is so easily passed down to the next generation. This is how urban legends and myths are created.
  3. Stereotypes are as destructive to the people who fit into them as they are to the people who do not.
  4. Prepare for the worst but never assume that it’s the only possible (or most likely) outcome.
  5. Ultimately, each one of us can only be held responsible for what we do or say as individuals. I’m not responsible for your actions or thoughts, you’re equally not responsible for mine.

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