From female students
1. Questions about being pressured
Many young women want to know how to stop their boyfriends from pressuring them into things they don't want to do (such as performing oral sex, swallowing semen or having a three-way). I tell them someone who truly loves them would never risk giving them an experience that imperiled their health or left them feeling guilty or regretful. (We study relationships a lot.)
2. Questions about how to know if they've had an orgasm
These break my heart because if they need to ask, they probably haven't had one. Many of these women are tormented by the notion that "I'm the only girl I know who hasn't had an orgasm." After I talk about why that's statistically dubious, we talk about what gives a woman an orgasm, and how it's a mental as well as a physical experience. It's a relief for them to learn that most young women do not have orgasms with just intercourse and no other touching. That often leads to a discussion of asking for what you want in bed — and giving feedback when you get it.
3. Questions about pregnancy
I've been asked whether it's possible to get pregnant from intercourse without ejaculation, or from anal intercourse where semen gets near the vagina. These clearly unprotected scenarios make it easy for me to drive home the urgency of practicing safe sex. I then refer students to three websites known for providing reliable information on this topic: Planned Parenthood, SIECUS (the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States) and Go Ask Alice! (from Columbia University).
4. Questions about "boyfriend management"
I have to admit that some of these scare me; they point to abusive or pre-abusive relationships involving jealous, controlling or unhinged boyfriends. So we talk about why that isn't love; it's a boyfriend with a weak ego — and possibly some serious anger-management issues.
The questions above are just a sampling of the millennial mind-set, of course, but here's what I've concluded from 40 years of answering them in class:
- There's more sex than intimacy going on.
- Astonishingly for our age of "info glut," a sizable number of students lack solid information about the mechanics of sex and reproduction.
- Many are struggling with issues of identity and sexual self-worth, and worries about dating and love.
- About 20 percent are virgins (both men and women), and only a few of them feel good about that — or at least entitled to wait without being subjected to undue pressure or doubting their desirability.
These impressionable young souls come under my tutelage for only a short while, whereas they'll be a treasured part of your life — I hope — forever. So perhaps reading the exchanges above will get you thinking about ways to approach these issues with the young adults in your family, whether they act interested or not. (Hint: They're interested!) If you can hurdle the "discomfort barrier," your ability to listen and help find answers could be pivotal to a young person in need of guidance.
Dr. Pepper Schwartz answers your sex, relationships and dating questions in her blog.
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