by Sarah Marcantonio
1. The Movies
Most sex scenes in mainstream movies ain’t exactly cinéma vérité: the male lead sweeps the girl off her feet and whisks her away to bed, clothes fall away, abs are sculpted, sweat glistens, birth control is abandoned, discussions about sexual health histories are never had, and simultaneous orgasms apparently grow on trees. There is rarely anything awkward, weird, gross, or uncomfortable about sex on screen, the way it often is in real life. Even when the sex is supposed to be “awkward,” like in many romantic comedies, it often really isn’t. For example, in the quintessential rom com 27 Dresses, the couple runs out of a bar into the rain, finds shelter in a car, and proceeds to have wet, steamy, back-seat intercourse. Think about all the potential hiccups: wet sticky clothes that are hard to remove, lack of sufficient room to get into comfortable positions and avoid leg cramps, no readily accessible birth control, ogling passersby. But in 27 Dresses, it’s perfect. Imagine how many teens are left confused, disappointed and resentful when their first sexual encounters don’t recreate that movie magic! All that being said, movies now are getting more and more graphic when it comes to sex, maybe to reduce amount of “taboo” associated with it. Some movie streaming sites now also include “av subthai” as a category. Perhaps that’s to subtly indicate that adults keep the children away for this one, and go on to enjoy the overly graphic sex scenes that follow.
2. Typical Porn
Many teenagers think porn is THE place to really learn the nitty gritty about sex – it depicts all the things that you won’t see in mainstream movies. But most of the time, you won’t see those things in real life either. Does anyone really scream like that? Does anyone really look like that? Male and female “equipment” is incredibly exaggerated in porn, often times surgically — using it as a measuring stick can deliver crippling blows to your self-esteem. And the fact that porn depicts a fantasy, often an extreme male-centered one, means you won’t necessarily learn about the effective techniques that are mutually satisfying. Remember, what looks good to guys on screen isn’t always what feels best for all parties in real life.
3. Conservative Parents
Most kids grow up trusting their parents as fairly reliable sources of info on the ways of the world or relying on sites like HMHB. Why would Mom and Dad lie? So when conservative parents teach their children that sex is only good and natural within the confines of heterosexual marriage (or worse, that sex is only good and natural within the confines of heterosexual marriage when its purpose is to make a baby rather than simply pleasure) — and that’s the extent of it — they do their kids an incredible disservice that leaves them ill-equipped to deal with inevitable hormonal urges safely and respectfully. A lack of basic understanding about sexuality combined with inbred, often religious guilt and shame around the topic leads to more STDs, sexual assault, unwanted pregnancies, and abortions — not less. Thanks, Mom and Dad!
4. Sex Ed in America
As most people know, sex education in the United States is a problem. It often is not comprehensive, doesn’t teach kids about pleasure, and usually dwells on two things: diseases and pregnancy. While it’s true that sex can lead to both of these things, there’s a little bit more to sex that just the potentially scary outcomes. Girls in school don’t learn about pleasure or even their clitoris; masturbation is not discussed; and often-times abstinence-only sex ed means no information on birth control. The lack of comprehensive sex education in the US leads kids to look other places and those places aren’t always accurate.
5. Peers and Friends
After the infamous sex talk between mom and daughter, father and son, and the outdated video that’s shown in school, kids around the cafeteria tables discuss what they believe are the “details” of sex. Dramatic rumors, misinformation and stereotypes spread quickly and easily in school (not unlike STDs). Girls grow up thinking it’s normal to soak their sheets in blood during first intercourse; boys think girls will be more amenable to anal than intercourse to protect their virginity; teens will believe old wives tales about avoiding pregnancy; many of them think oral isn’t sex. And kids can be convincing. If they’ll believe in Slender Man, think of what they’ll believe about sexuality!
1. Decent How-To Guides
The Internet is a big, scary place. There are millions of websites, videos, and articles to go to with every question you might have. But you can’t believe everything that you read online. In terms of reliably accurate information, you’re better off buying or borrowing a well-reviewed book on sexuality. The Guardian selected the 10 best sex guides of all time and guess what? Em & Lo’s “SEX: How to Do Everything” made the cut! Also worth mentioning are the how-to guides by the folks over at HMHB.
2. Women-Made Porn
Women-made porn or feminist porn is beneficial for the whole world – women, men, girls, and boys. It tends to be more realistic, which is why it’s a good place to learn. It can be empowering and relatable, and (as if we needed another benefit!), it often promotes positive, realistic body image for both sexes! If you’re willing to take the time to do your research and find feminist porn, you’ll probably find something you like (and your ideas of sexuality won’t become warped in the process). Here are some good places to start:
- Sssh.com is a porn site for women by women. Their bio reads: “We are women filming the movies, telling the stories, writing the articles, taking the photos, and exploring the depth of female sexuality”. They also invite you to “come in and enjoy being a woman. We all do!” They offer a free preview and several membership options.
- Crashpad specializes in queer female sexuality and is empowering for LGBTQ+ identifying people and women. They also offer membership at 1 month, 3 months, and 1 year options.
- Lust Cinema prides itself in handpicking adult films for specific users. The website offers membership and collects several adult movies from different creators. The company offers a large variety of porn and was founded and is owned by a erotic filmmaker Erika Lust. Speaking of…
- Erika Lust is one of the biggest names feminist porn. Based in Barcelona, Lust has won many awards. She recently created a VR feminist porn and is working to change the porn industry for good- not just in her work but across the board.
- Bright Desire is feminist porn for women and men that tries to celebrate “all that’s good about sex – intimacy, pleasure, laughter, connection, fantasy and fun.” It features a variety of adult content that includes all orientations, though the focus is on hetero sex. They offer 2 membership options.
3. Enlightened Parents
While conservative parents often skim the truth when they have the sex talk with their kids (if they have it at all), not all parents are bad at those talks. Enlightened parents talk to their children early and often about sex- they teach them to be honest and open with their partners, give them realistic expectations, and, hopefully, guide them to positive resources to learn more on their own.
4. Sex Ed in the Netherlands
Many countries in Europe, specifically the Netherlands, offer a different form of sex ed. It’s comprehensive, well-rounded, and starts a very early age. Kids are taught early and have open conversations with their parents, they discuss sexuality and gender roles, and all of this leads to lower pregnancy and STD rates.
5. Peers and Friends
Our peers and friends are both a positive and negative source of information. There are definitely rumors that get started but once a few enlightened parents teach their kids about sex, those kids are the ones who pass good info onto others (the problem is, it often doesn’t reach the ones who need it most). When I first learned the details of how sex worked and where everything went, it was from my elementary school best friend. I don’t know where she learned it from but for an 8 year old, it was about as accurate as it can get. Peers and friends have the power to teach each other and learn from each other – and that’s why it’s so important that young kids get as much accurate information from reliable sources as possible.