I’ve been thinking a lot about what we, as a society, should be teaching teens about sex. I have two teen-age daughters so my interest is more than academic. I’ve watched their friends explore sex and mature, often without any support or guidance from teachers or parents. I think I’ve seen a side of young adults that most people don’t see. And I was that teen statistic that parents are afraid of. I was pregnant at 17 (due to date rape) and a single mother until I was 22 and got married. I have worked hard to make my sex life something I am happy with. I want high school students to get the information they need to develop a healthy and positive sexuality.
I was really inspired by some pamphlets Harold and I found in a bakery in a small town in France a couple of years ago. They were produced by France’s department of heath and spoke to teens in very straightforward language about a wide range of topics. There were even free condoms. In the bakery. It was so different from the culture in the United States where there are tons of high sexualized images surrounding teens, but not enough honest and forthright information. So what do I think is important? What would I tell kids? The same things I want to tell you…
Your body is beautiful and normal. Human bodies come in many different shapes, colors, and sizes. So do breasts, vaginas, and penises. It’s normal to be worried that your body or genitals are unattractive or abnormal. Being seen naked can feel very scary. If you look around, you’ll see that society’s idealized perfect body is actually very rare. All of the variations in nature come together to create a world full of people who are each unique and differently amazing beings. Accepting yourself the way that you are and loving yourself will encourage other people to treat you with the respect you deserve. Letting go of fear will open you up to enjoying sex.
You own your body and your sexuality. No matter which gender you are attracted to, no matter how you define yourself, no matter what kinds of things turn you on – it’s okay as long as everyone is consenting and the activity is legal. Your body is yours to enjoy. You get to say no whenever you want. You can say yes whenever you want, then change your mind. And change your mind again. Deciding not to have sex is also your choice. You have the power and the control.
Now is the time to experiment. High school and college years are a great time to explore your sexuality. Try things out. See what kinds of things turn you on. Take everything slow. There will be time, so don’t do anything until you’re ready and it feels right. Even if you’re older, this applies to you. Seize the moment and try out those things you’ve only fantasized about. Learning more about yourself can be rewarding in the arena of sex. You are entitled to know about your interests and desires.
You need real information. Make sure that you have good sources while exploring your sexuality. The most amazing thing I have seen for teens in the U.S. is Scarleteen, a website that helps kids figure everything out in a very honest, sex positive way. There are more good options for adults on the internet, but also a lot of crap so look for something clear, concise, and not selling anything. If possible, attend classes and workshops. Talk to people with experience, but listen to your instincts – some “experts” are themselves pretty lost in the sexual wilderness. Especially, get good information about contraceptives. Talk to a medical professional about your options. Practice any barrier method before you have to depend on it. It may make a difference.
For women: It often takes women much longer to figure out how to orgasm with a partner. Give yourself some time to be alone and experiment with what feels good for your body. Practice masturbating. It’s okay! See what your body reacts to. Try a vibrator if you can get one, the shower spray, humping your pillow, or using your fingers. An orgasm may feel different from what you expect, but if you know what feels good, you can communicate that to a partner – assuming you decide to have sex with a partner.
To men or women who want to have sex with women: Pay attention to your partner. Let her set the pace and show you how to please her. Bring her to orgasm if at all possible. You will have your chance to get what you need, but start off with making her happy. In the end it makes for a more satisfying experience for everyone. And she will think that you are the best lover ever!
Have fun! Sex doesn’t have to be all serious. Go ahead and laugh. Be silly. Sex is about finding joy in your body, often with someone you love. So, enjoy yourself!