The Sex Talk: How to Do it Right

The Sex Talk: How to Do it Right

If you are worried about having the sex talk with your child, have no idea how or when to begin, or how to properly address the depth of relevant sex & dating topics (e.g., porn, sexual abuse, sexting), you're going to appreciate this free Sex Talk Summit for the month of June....

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237 Reasons for Sex are 237 reasons why people have sex, according to a 2007 research study about college students in Austin, TX. That is a lot of reasons for sex, and way beyond the “typical” reasons related to stress reduction, experiencing pleasure, expressing affection, obligation, or to have a baby. This shows us that sex and sexuality are more complicated than we may think (e.g., some unexpected reasons for sex were revenge, being dared, to feel powerful, to keep warm, to get a promotion, to be nice, to get gifts, and to burn calories).

Last week I was in Sweden and presented an interactive lecture called “What is Sexuality?” at Lund University. Lund University was founded in 1666 and through its academic reputation attracts not just Swedish students, but an international student body. Projekt Sex, a sexual health peer education student group, known for their “condom raids” at college parties, arranged my visit to the university.

Of all places to speak about sex and sexuality, the Swedes really seem to have their shit together. They have one of the most open, educational approaches to sex that I’ve seen, and are quite egalitarian regarding gender roles (although racial topics may be a different story). Casual sex is largely an accepted norm. Virginity is not a big deal, nor is marriage. I am generalizing, but compared to the United States, these differences really stood out. Additionally, they have much lower rates of teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

The audience for my lecture included individuals representing 10 different countries, including Germany, Turkey, the UK, and the Netherlands, as well as Sweden and the United States. I presented the concept of sexuality as a journey, and whether we grew up in a sexually permissive or a sexually restrictive society, we all have our unique journey around sexuality. In this journey, I included developing knowledge and comfort around a variety of topics, such as sexual anatomy, vulnerability, masturbation, liking your body, self-expression, birth control, presence, healing sexual trauma, orgasm, and creativity. There is no end goal for this journey, just continuing personal growth on the path of satisfaction and joy.

This approach to sexuality, as a personal journey located within a cultural context, seemed to resonate with the audience. A man from Iran realized that he had learned a lot about preventing sexually transmitted infections, but not about the emotional components of sex. A woman from the UK shared that sexual expression for her was about asking for what she wanted, and also asking for what she did not want. A Swedish man and a Chinese man recognized how vastly different their cultural upbringings were regarding sexual topics.

Sex and sexuality are sensitive topics in most, if not all, cultures. The meaning they have is shaped by our cultural upbringing, but being exposed to other cultures, and therefore other viewpoints, can help us expand our knowledge and comfort around sexual topics. This sexual journey helps us know ourselves better and also provides a window into better understanding the meaning of sex for our partners. This can help make sex a little less complicated, which means better sex for all.

(This was originally posted as part of the Sex & Love Blog for Pacific San Diego Magazine.)

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sex Therapist, Marriage Counselor, Sexologist, College Sexual Health Speaker

Scared of Sex Ed

Cartoon borrowed from: people agree that teenagers are greatly helped in Driver’s Ed, by gaining skills to become safer drivers and more conscientious citizens on the road. Yet offering comprehensive Sex Ed to teenagers to gain skills about being sexually safer and more conscientious citizens while dating is highly controversial. Marty Klein, PhD, a leading social commentator in the United States on sexuality, describes the absurdity of our national values around sex education:

Although our country makes cars safer in case of accidents, has school athletes wear helmets in case they fall awkwardly, and establishes poison centers in case toddlers get into cleaning supplies, [those who are sex-negative] don’t want to reduce the consequences of unauthorized, unprotected, or unlucky sex. They say that doing so encourages bad sexual choices. That’s like saying seat belts encourage dangerous driving and poison centers encourage sloppy parenting.*

We are an over-protective society except when it comes to sex. Clearly there is something about the topic of sex that breeds irrationality. The U.S. is founded on Puritan values, and we seem to cling to these values regarding sex despite a variety of science and logic to the contrary. It seems that amidst a cultural and religious upbringing of shame, fear, silence, and disconnect regarding sexuality and pleasure, we develop a fundamental discomfort with our own sexuality. What else can explain the many politicians and religious leaders who publicly condemn anything outside of mainstream, heterosexual, married intercourse, yet whose own sexual desires reveal a penchant for sex outside marriage, texting penis photos, or spending intimate time with gay masseuses? If we could examine the shame around sexuality, and recognize the broad range of sexual activity that is natural and normal, I don’t think we’d see such hypocrisy.

In a few weeks I will visit Sweden, a country that teaches comprehensive sexuality education to all students, by law. The philosophy in many European countries is that sexual activity is a normal and natural part of being human, and therefore children and teens are best suited to be sexually responsible through education. Sweden’s statistics on teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections don’t lie – this approach works.** Knowledge gained through education is a resource for power and choice regarding both driving AND sexual health. Yet, as Marty Klein writes, “The welfare of our children is being sacrificed so that adults can sleep better at night.” I think it’s time for a wake up call.

*Quoted from America’s War on Sex – The Attack on Law, Lust and Liberty.

**The birthrate for teens in Sweden is 7 per 1,000 births, compared with 49 in the U.S., and in the 15 to 19 year old age range, reported cases of gonorrhea in the U.S. are almost 600 times as great per capita.

(This was originally posted as part of the Sex & Love Blogger Series for Pacific San Diego Magazine.)

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sex Therapist, Marriage Counselor, Sexologist, College Sexual Health Speaker

Why Sex Education Matters

I read a question today posed to sex ed practitioners: Why does sex education matter to you?

My initial response is a petulant, "Because it does!"

My delayed responses are a bit more thoughtful :)

We are sexual creatures. We were created this way, born this way, experience pleasure this way, and connect with others this way. However, enjoying a fulfilling sex life doesn't necessarily come naturally. There's a lot of learn, understand, consider, and reflect on, that is, if you want to know how to please others and maintain sexual happiness.

Sex is a powerful life source of vitality and joy. However, because of its power, it's also wraught with complications, exploitations, shame, and hurt. Not talking about sex education does not make these negative aspects go away. It actually makes them worse. I'm reminded of the public service announcement that ends with a jingle and the phrase, "The more you know." Yes, it is the same with sex. The more we know the more empowered (not corrupted) we become.

When I approach sex education, mostly with adults, but occasionally with teens, I employ a holistic approach. Sex education is not just about condoms, the reproductive system, and avoiding STIs. Sex is a big picture topic, and warrants a complex approach including physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual components. When we can feel safe enough to know ourselves sexually, be creative in exploring it, and share our sexual stories, we are all better for it.

(Fun image is from:

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sex Therapy, Marriage Counseling, College Sexual Health Speaker