Sex is normal - so why do we shield our teens from it?
Recently I tried to join an online writers group. I have been a member of online writers groups before, but for one reason or other they didn't work out and I was looking for a more supportive community. I read the rules and guidelines of this particular online writing group and it seemed to fit in well with my goals. I signed up and in my introductory post I told everyone a bit about myself. Who I was, why I wanted to join and what genre I wrote in.
"Romance, erotic romance and erotica" my post said.
"Sorry, we don't critique erotica," came the reply. "Any other genre is fine, but not erotica. We have teens among our members, I am sure you understand." (Note: none of this was in their guidelines.)
Sex is bad, violence is fine
Sadly, this reaction to sex is not uncommon. Society still has a very strange attitude to anything related to sex. This writers group experience of mine was just to highlight an issue that is prevailing in all of society. Anything sex related is called "adult content". But why is it only sex that is reserved for adults? We seem to be fine with our teens reading horror stories, crime novels, thrillers, where violence is rife. These themes seem to be fit for teen consumption, but a story about two people finding ways to make each other feel good are out of the question.
You can see evidence of this in the rating of movies. Any movies with (partial) nudity or a more than vague reference to sex automatically receives a higher age rating. Flash some boobs and you find yourself in 18+ or R territory. But by the same token, having people shoot each other up is fine. My children have watched 12 rated movies with more violence than I think is good for them. But I can at least rest assured that they won't see any scenes of two people loving each other. Same with games: a game where you can have sex with a prostitute was shot down as too mature for children, but no one objected to the killing of said prostitute.
Sex is to be celebrated
I am not suggesting that our children and teens should be able to watch porn indiscriminately. Explicitly violent and gory movies are still given a higher rating as well. But I am talking about a sex scene where you may see a little flesh, maybe a boob or a bum. A sex scene in a book where the characters talk openly about what they want, what makes them feel good. What are we afraid of? Why is it okay with us that our teens learn about the best way to shoot someone, but not about the best way to pleasure someone?
Sex is to be celebrated. Sex is a wonderful, joyous act between two people which has as ultimate goal that both people feel better after doing it. And I also think that if more young people were allowed to watch "good" sex on the screen, or read about it in books - sex scenes which feature consent and communication - they will grow up to have better sex lives. We need to educate our young people about sex, bring it out into the open so they don't feel awkward asking questions. We need to be able to communicate to them the best ways of having a sexual relationship (one that goes further than just saying "use a condom").
Sex education matters
Sex education is important. People who receive good sex education when they are young grow up to have healthy sexual relationships. And when sex becomes a normal part of life - what am I saying? Sex is a normal part of life - when sex is presented in society as a normal part of life, young people will feel more empowered to explore, to ask questions and to become better lovers. How can that be a bad thing?
I recently had a discussion with my 25 year old sister. We were talking about sex, about her struggles in her marriage in that department and she said, "I love that you talk about sex as if it's something completely normal." She had never been able to talk to anyone about her unsatisfactory sex life. And seeing as sex is such a big part of a healthy relationship, that was a real shame, nay, a travesty. I really felt for her that she didn't have any resources to her disposal to teach her how to get better sex.
We need to do better. We need to normalise sex in our lives, in our media, in our conversation. We need to stop being hypocritical and hiding behind "these are adult themes", especially if we only apply this to sex and not violence.
I am all about celebrating (female) sexuality and advocating better sexual education. Please follow me if you agree with the need for better sexual education.