Tag Archive: consent

I Feel Good!

I’ve talked a lot in this blog about a pleasure-centered and consent-centered approach to sex: that whatever feels good and is done with the consent of all parties is a good thing for us sexually.  But that becomes a trickier message to convey when we start talking about sex to our kids, our nieces and nephews, and other young adults that “we” are not comfortable thinking about as sexual beings.  And that ends up being unfortunate for everyone, in my opinion.

On one end, I totally sympathize.  It’s awkward and uncomfortable to have a 10 year old kid ask you about sex.  Sex is a complicated topic that a 10 year old is not ready to handle in its entirety.  Even if you’re an open-minded adult who been prepping “The Talk” for your child, you’ll still get thrown off-guard when those questions comes up from someone younger, older, gayer, more emotionally distant, or just different than you were expecting.  How much is too much information?

I think this article from “The Good Men Project” does an amazing job tackling the issue:

So many adults are fearful that telling kids that sex is pleasurable will simply encourage young people to have it before they are physically and emotionally ready for the consequences. Better, they imagine, to emphasize that it’s important to wait and to stress the risks. But as it turns out, centering pleasure is a great way to minimize the chances that a teen will be pressured into doing something that they don’t want to do.

BINGO!  A five year old that asks you about sex is not going to run out an boink the next prepubescent he/she/ze sees if you tell them that sex is about feeling good.  They are just looking for a straight-forward answer, and will probably leave the conversation at that.  But long-term, the messages you send to children about sexuality will stay with them, and help them develop a sexual sense of self thatpostsecret: virginity is centered in what they want and feel, rather than the fear, guilt, and self-sacrifice that can be instilled by other messages.

So let’s break it down.

WHEN YOU SAY…. The implicit messages are…
Wait until marriage. There’s something wrong with sex.  Something about the covenant of marriage makes it ok, but in general, it’s a dirty thing.
You have sex when you love each other. Sex for pleasure is wrong.  It is something you do to show commitment to your partner, and you do it on behalf of them, not for your own enjoyment.
Getting sex will get you pregnant, so you shouldn’t do it. Having sex is irresponsible.
Save yourself for your husband/wife If you “give up” your virginity, you’re worthless to your partner.  Your only value is in your chastity.
You’re not old enough to make that decision; you’re not ready for it.


Having sex is only for adults
Boys won’t respect you if they know you’re easy Sex is inherently shameful; a girl who has sex is worth less than one who is a virgin
There’s only one step between having sex and selling your body. Prostitution is bad.  Sex is bad.  If you enjoy sex, you’re on your way to become a prostitute, and filling the world with moral decay.
Your first time should be special Pressure to save the experience for the “right person,” sex will only be good and ok if you do it with the person you’re going to stay with.


Now let’s try this with a pleasure and consent-focused approach

WHEN YOU SAY…. The implicit messages are…
Sex is something you do because it feels good Sex is generally a good thing; it has the power to make you feel good.  It’s not shameful- we can talk about it.
He (she/ze) doesn’t have to love you, but he should respect you. You may not be with this person forever, but the experience of sex with them should still be positive.  You should be in charge of the decision to have sex.
You’ll know when you’re ready. You know your body better than anyone else.  Your sexual desire is relevant and important.
It’s never perfect the first time. Having good sex take practice.  It’s ok to keep having sex, to ask for different things, to work towards sex that is enjoyable.


See how different that is?

Come on lurkers, I want to hear from you.  How would your adolescence have been different if you had heard some of the latter messages, rather than the former?  Do you have any messages that you would add to either list?

Experiments of Welcome Week

Welcome Week logoCollege welcome week has just come and gone, replaced with the responsibilities of classes and club sports, papers and calling home.  To many, the past week has become synonymous with debauchery: wild frat parties with copious amounts of alcohol, random hookups with freshman whose names you’ll never remember the next morning, and LOTS of free food.

I think welcome week was also part of the genesis of the “Lesbian Until Graduation” myth, and similar cultural tropes about sexual exploration in college.  I feel like this storyline has crossed most people’s minds:  in your sleep-deprived, overly-intoxicated freshman haze, you somehow find yourself in bed with an equally drunk senior Women’s studies major who opens you up to the incredible, life-altering world of lesbian sex, so that, the next morning, you declare to all of your friends that you are firmly and absolutely a lesbian.  You follow this Women’s studies major for half the year, when she finally confronts you about stalking her and sends you packing.  In despair, you sleep with every available woman on campus, until you finally realize, upon graduation, that you never really liked women that much to begin with, settle down with the hunky star of the swim team (with his incredibly built shoulders and pecs) and start cranking out babies like a normal heterosexual.

((Ok, maybe I’m the only who thinks about that…))  

Either way, this trope makes about as much sense as Charlie Sheen, and yet the idea of college promoting sexual experimentation persists.  (I don’t like it to begin with, because it involves alcohol, which makes consent impossible, and this is not a point I can stress enough!)

Moreover, I’m not one to use personal experience for or against this argument- I’ve never been to a frat party, never “hooked up” with anyone in college, and all the girls I know on the women’s rugby team are straight.  However, this article from the New York Times breaks down the sexual experimentation myth into both statistical reality and conjectures about the origin of the sexual experimentation myth.

“The popular stereotype of college campuses as a hive of same-sex experimentation for young women may be all wrong...according to the new study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based on 13,500 responses, almost 10 percent of women ages 22 to 44 with a bachelor’s degree said they had had a same-sex experience, compared with 15 percent of those with no high school diploma. “

The most interesting question raised by their initial finding is the difference between this data (collected between 2006-2008), and the data of 2002, which showed almost no correlation between education level and same-sex sexual activity.  The article doesn’t really address why this is, but I suspect it has to do with the growth and accessibility of lesbian-friendly dating sites and the greater prominence of display in lesbian sexual identity online (think about how easily you can check someone’s facebook to see who they’re “interested in”), which makes it easier for working-class (sometimes socially isolated) lesbians to find others.  But that is just a shot in the dark on my end.

Book: Adventures of a Lesbian College School GirlThe rest of the article is a little scatter-brained, dabbling in questions of sexual fluidity, white middle-class stereotypes, and the gender gap in homosexuality, but it’s essence boils down to this: far from being exclusively a phenomenon of the crazed experimentation of college students finally liberated from their parents’ watchful eye, lesbian sex happens in the real world, where working class people, ethnic minorities, professionals, day laborers, and everyone in between coexist.

And as for welcome week?  I guess there aren’t that many hot girls hooking up with each other after all.  You should probably go fix that.  But keep it safe, keep it sober, and keep it consensual.

Welcome back to college everyone.

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