At some point in your childhood, you most likely asked your parents where babies come from. And they most likely responded with, "You'll find out when you're older." You do, in fact, find out when you're older. The topic of sex is portrayed everywhere in our everyday lives and is shown almost everywhere.
"You'll find out when you're older."
If we are exposed to sexualized content as part of our daily life, why is it hard to talk about? According to Sheryl Kingsberg, Ph.D., from Cleveland Medical Center (5), the discomfort of talking about sex is not something that is uncommon. She says the way sex is portrayed to us at a young age can "have tremendous power to shape us for the rest of our lives."(1) There might be a lack of education. Most schools do attempt to teach young adults about sex. But is it enough? A 2012 survey conducted by Planned Parenthood asked 1,046 adolescents aged 15-18 and parents how comfortable they were discussing sexual topics with each other. Half, approximately 50% of the teens surveyed, answered that they felt uncomfortable talking to their parents about sex, and 19% of the parents said they felt uncomfortable talking with their teens.
Our bodies are different, and knowing how they work is essential.
There is more research being conducted on sex education. Brooklyn Waller, A Youth Advisory Council Member, speaks out about the lack of education on this topic. "How often can you recall STI/STD’s being discussed in your high school health classes? I remember it being talked about once and then quickly being dismissed. The teacher did not want to or lacked direction from the state on how to talk about safe sex or how to prevent infections, diseases, and teen pregnancy from happening. For example, Arkansas does not mandate sexual education programs in schools, similar to 17 other states in the United States." (4) Not having much knowledge about sex can make anyone feel inadequate or even embarrassed to talk about it with anyone, let alone a sexual partner.
My Personal Experience:
I used to be one of those people who avoided the topic of sex. Why? Because the education I received in Middle School just wasn't enough. I was only taught the basics. The rest I had to learn on my own. I didn't have as much knowledge as I would have liked for a developing teen, and I felt awkward talking about the topic. No information was given to us about how bodies work or that everyone is different in their body type. What about pleasure? That wasn’t discussed at all. Using protection was the only thing that was conveyed to me. It's important to know how to use protection, of course, but I wanted to know so much more than that. Additionally, the nurse in middle school only mentioned the use of condoms. No further detail was provided about the different contraceptives available to me or other ways to protect myself from getting pregnant. This left me feeling scared I would get pregnant the first time I had vagina/penis intercourse and that the condom would break from sheer use. I had to find out all of this information from my mother when she decided to sit down and have "the talk" with me.
She also taught me about my period, and how to use a tampon or, alternatively, a pad. Even talking about the use of pads vs. tampons is uncomfortable and has a stigma tied to it.
As I got older, I acknowledged that sex is a normal part of life. Currently being a Junior in college, educating myself about sex health has become more important than ever. College is when you slowly start to grow into a young adult and become more exposed to the topic of being sexually active. I've learned that having hormones is nothing to be ashamed of, and it's all a part of normal human biology. Asking more questions about the topic should be encouraged in our society. Luckily, my parents have been open about "the talk."
Being curious about sex is by no means a mal act. Exploring what pleases you in bed and what excites you is completely normal. Learning what also doesn't work for you is just as important. Bodies are always changing and developing as you get older. Hair will grow in places you didn't have hair before, and that's completely normal. It's all about growing into a mature adult.
We need to learn about protection and about maintaining a lifestyle that includes sexual health. Not knowing or being educated about sexual health can make life challenging. All of our bodies are different, and knowing how they work is essential. Pleasure is something that needs to be talked about and explored. The stigma around sexual health conversations needs to end in order for the conversation about sexual health to be normalized.
If you're interested in learning more about Sexual Health and current research, visit the SASH Sexual Health Researchers page.
"Has tremendous power to shape us for the rest of our lives."
Hello, my name is Giana, but I prefer to be called Gigi. I intern for SASH and am currently studying Professional Writing in college. I enjoy writing and picking up a good book to read. I am a young adult who believes in sexual health education. I wasn't taught much when I was a teen, so I want to be able to teach others about sexual health. Spreading awareness and helping others is important to me. I hope through my blogs and writing; I will be able to help someone.
1: Kingsberg, Sheryl. “Uncomfortable Talking about Sex.” HealthyWomen, 18 July 2022, https://www.healthywomen.org/ask-expert/uncomfortable-talking-about-sex.
2: Parenthood, Planned. “Half of All Teens Feel Uncomfortable Talking to Their Parents about Sex While Only 19 Percent of Parents Feel the Same, New Survey Shows.” Planned Parenthood, https://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/newsroom/press-releases/half-all-teens-feel-uncomfortable-talking-their-parents-about-sex-while-only-19-percent-parents.
3: “The Lack of Sex Education and Why It Needs to Change.” SchoolBased Health Alliance, https://www.sbh4all.org/2021/03/the-lack-of-sex-education-and-why-it-needs-to-change/.
4: “Sex and HIV Education.” Guttmacher Institute, 3 Jan. 2023, https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/sex-and-hiv-education?gclid=Cj0KCQiA1pyCBhCtARIsAHaY_5e6mJeyvg6fXFEzNi3vwUKFih6D28YEQ6n7OXUS9syAj8TBzTbxRxEaAvbnEALw_wcB.
5: “Sheryl Kingsberg, Phd.” Sheryl Kingsberg PhD Doctor Profile & Reviews | University Hospitals, https://www.uhhospitals.org/doctors/kingsberg-sheryl-1861418675.
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