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The V-Spot: Real Sex-ed for Students

Hi Yana,

I recently moved into my aunt’s house, and I now live with my 16-year-old female cousin. Being in her life now makes me realize that I can give her advice on her first relationships and her first love … possibly. When I was 16, I wish I could have had someone in my life to give me advice on the mistakes I was making.

I also realize that 16-year-old me wouldn’t have listened to anything anyone said to me. My cousin is currently interested in a boy that I am not fond of. I don’t think he’s a good guy for her.

How do I warn my cousin of this inevitable heartbreak? How do I tell her to watch her back without ruining our close relationship? I’m pretty lost, but would love to give her some input on her current situation,

— Careful Cousin

Dear Careful,

I made a lot of relational mistakes when I was a teenager. To think about them now as an adult — and as an adult sex educator no less — is downright cringeworthy.

And yet every one of those cringeworthy moments has been a stepping stone on my path to where I am now, having (most of the time, at least) satisfying, healthy, and balanced adult romantic and sexual relationships.

This isn’t to say that I didn’t have valuable guides along the way, as I most certainly did. But rarely were those guides the adults in my life who attempted to control, micromanage, or protect me from ALL mistakes. More often, they were the adults or peers who empowered me to make my own decisions with confidence, self-care, information, and clarity.

They were the people who introduced me to Tapestry Health and how to maintain my sexual well-being without shame; they were the folks who taught me about consent; and sometimes they were completely temporary connections like my high school dean who once sheepishly handed me a “Healthy Relationships Checklist” on the sidewalk and subsequently changed my entire perspective on my budding sex life.

You can’t and shouldn’t try to protect your cousin from every heartbreak and mistake. But you can be an invaluable guide in her sex and relationship education. How? Keep the avenues of communication between you and your particular teen open, authentic, information-accurate, appropriate, and reliable. Here’s some tips everyone could use:

Open: Steer away from shame and towards talking to youth about whatever comes up for them. Keep the caveat that if they’re intending serious harm towards self or others, you will prioritize safety. It’s okay to draw hard ethical lines around issues important to the health and safety of all involved about topics such as abuse, safer-sex, and physical and mental well-being.

Authentic:….continue reading…

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The V-Spot: Seeking Sex-Positive Ed for My Niece

Hey Yana,

Over Thanksgiving I spent some time with my awesome 18-year-old niece. I’m in need of your wisdom about a situation I’m trying to wrap my 30-year-old, feminist, protective brain around.

My niece lives in a small town, far from her friends, and has been dealing with some depression. She told me that she’s been driving to meet up and have sex with dudes from Tinder. There have been at least two. I think they’re in their 20s, maybe older. She’s been kind of reticent about details, so I’m thinking there might be some more that would make me more concerned.

When she first told me, I was like “Cool! Sex-positive! Get it girl! Always tell your friends where you’ll be! Condomscondomscondoms! Get tested! Call me any time!” But the more I think about it, the more concerned I am about her emotional health, and the way that she might be using sex less-than-safely.

I’m certain that she hasn’t had pleasure-positive or consent-focused sex-ed and I worry that all the terrible messages about sex that accompany female socialization are setting up this amazing young woman to get hurt.

Are there ways I can encourage her to take care of herself without shaming her?

— Sex-Posi Auntie

Dear Sex-Posi Auntie,

Use your cool, younger-aunt status to your advantage and find a way to talk to your niece about the difference between sex for sex’s sake and sex that feels good, affirming, and consensual. This conversation could be sparked by a sex scene in a movie, a lyric in a song, or you could get real intentional and hold a little viewing of my TEDx talk, which talks about just this — how young people learn about sex in a way that dangerously divorces it from sexual pleasure and consent.

The sex-positivity movement has done wonders in the ways it’s prioritized pleasure over disease, choice over shame, and health over stigma. However, sex-positivity can be wrongly conflated with “all sex is good sex, and the more sex, the better!” “Sex positive” doesn’t mean that all sexual experiences are inherently positive or that we should ignore the things that can be negative about sex.

Rather than throw a sex-posi blanket over your niece’s experiences, lead her through an exploration of the nuances of healthy sex that honors her sexual agency. The World Health Organization’s great definition of “sexual health” prioritizes pleasure and consent:

“A state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being related to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction, or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination. and violence. For sexual health to be maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected, and fulfilled.”

Examine both sides of the sexual coin with your niece — both what feels rewarding, safe, and empowering and what feels scary, unhealthy, or unsafe…continue reading…

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New Pornographer Interested in Sex Ed

Hi Yana!

I saw your TEDx talk in Vienna and was copiously taking notes. The content was an eye-opener for me. I had never thought that both of our basic information sources about sex [school-sanctioned sex education and online pornography] are running their very own twisted agenda.

I started working in the porn industry six weeks ago — hey, the money is fantastic! — and my consumption of porn has gone way up as a side effect. I’m an animator on 3D animated porn shorts, so any porn clip is not only watched, but dissected frame by frame for all the details in body mechanics. (Yeah, it’s a tough life.)

What I wanted to ask you ever since that talk is: What resources can you suggest for filling that gap that both sex ed and porn leave?

I guess before your talk I would have let Google answer that question, but after your talk I’m somewhat weary of online sex education. Any books, videos, or online resources you recommend?

— Pornographer Across the Pond

Hello, PAP!

Thanks for such a great question and for your kind words. As someone actually working on porn sets,

Read this week's Intern Investigation!

Read this week’s Intern Investigation!

I’m so glad that you in particular attended the talk and are thinking about these things.

For readers who haven’t viewed my TEDxTalk yet, here’s the CliffsNotes version: Sex education is failing us hard. So, very naturally people — especially teens — are turning to Google and therefore often mainstream online porn to learn about what’s really going on with this whole sex thing beyond STDs and pregnancy risk.

But then mainstream porn paints a picture of sex that is limited to heterosexuality, penis-in-vagina penetration, and flawless and predictable mutual orgasm without any conversation about how this happens. If you’re a loyal reader, you already know that conversations about sex are crucial for practicing consent and having great sex.

Online porn, our new sex educator, teaches us what roles we should fit into during sex, what kinds of sex are “normal” and “abnormal,” and that sex needs to be wordless in order to be hot, sexy, and pleasurable.

So, PAP, what can you do to manage this deficit? The first is to work for and support pornography companies with ethical missions…continue reading…

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Oh! Oh! Oh? Where’s My Orgasm?

Hi Yana!

I started having sex with males this past summer. It’s fun and exciting, but I’ve yet to reach an earth-shattering orgasm. That may be too high of an expectation for myself, but it feels like I’ve never had an orgasm at all.

I feel the build up, but there’s no release. I think this may be contributing to my extremely low sex drive, because sex isn’t really beneficial for me. I really do want to be having more sex, and more fulfilling healthy sex with my long-term partner.

How do I have an orgasm? How do I go about figuring out what I like, what gets me off? Am I getting in my own way somehow?

Usually when I have sex it’s vaginal penetration with short bursts of clitoral stimulation. I guess my main problem is starting the dialogue, “Hey, can you try this?” because I don’t know what to ask for. Should I watch more porn, go on kinky websites for ideas? Or, considering how sex in mainstream media is depicted in a way that is largely unbeneficial to women, is that more hurt than help?

— Still Searching

Dear SS,

Your questions echo the many, many questions I get from people trying to overcome this sexual hurdle — or just come at all. An orgasm is typically characterized by a pleasurable build-up which ends in a climactic release.

It sounds like you’re on your way, but haven’t quite reached Orgasm Town — a common experience.

You’re on the right track in your thinking about this — your search for an orgasm is going to take a lot more than basic P-in-V penetration. Logistically speaking, direct and consistent clitoral stimulation is a requirement for most. More importantly, orgasms take personal work both in between our legs and in between our ears. What I mean to say, is the brain is our largest sex organ; so let’s start there…continue reading…