7 Things Sex Education Should Have Taught Us But Didn’t

7 Things Sex Education Should Have Taught Us But Didn’t

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sex_edIt’s 2013 and two things are abundantly clear:

  1. Sex education matters, and
  2. Cultures that believe sex is shameful screw everything up.

The statistics are glaring. More pragmatic approaches to teenage sexuality (i.e., “Hey, you’re going to do what you’re going to do, but here’s how to be responsible about it”) outperform strict abstinence/religious forms of sex education (i.e., “Don’t have sex until you’re married, or else”) by almost every statistical measurement including teenage pregnancies, abortions and HIV infections.

By the way, the United States is the worst offender in all of those categories. And we all know how comfortable we are with our own sexualities. (Hint: We’re not at all.)

The recent government-funded “abstinence only” programs have been found to actually increase teen pregnancy and STI rates in states where they’re implemented, proving, yet again, that teenagers will always do exactly what you tell them not to and screw themselves up in the process.

Nope, purity rings don’t do a damn thing. Biology wants what biology wants. Yet, only 11 US states require sex education to be based on medical science and most other states require no sex education at all.

If I learned anything from being part of the dating advice industry for eight years, it’s that most young people are woefully unprepared, both socially and emotionally, to handle the stress and confusion that comes with navigating a healthy sex life.

Here are seven things we should have learned as teenagers, but didn’t:

1. There’s more to sex than biology

Sex education, as it stands today, is more or less diagram after diagram of the biological ins and outs (and back ins, oh baby!) of human reproductive behavior. It’s a bodily fluid road map, a glorified anatomy class, with an “Oh yeah, and use protection!” tacked on for good measure.

Don’t get me wrong, some of this information is useful. We do need to know how infections occur, how pregnancy works, and, of course, where to stick it in. But never in the heat of passion have I ever thought about my vas deferens or the quality of her uterine lining. It just never seems that relevant in the moment.

Humans are uniquely sexual creatures. We screw each other far more often and in far more elaborate ways than pretty much every other species on the planet.

That’s because for humans sexual activity is more than a mere biological urge, it has psychological significance and social meaning. We screw for pleasure. We screw for recreation. We screw for passion. We screw for revenge. We screw nice people and mean people, friends and enemies, sexy people and ugly people. We screw because we’re happy and because we’re sad. We screw because we’re bored. We screw because we feel alone. We screw because we’re in love.

And yes, we screw to make babies, too. Although in the developing world, that’s rarely the primary motivation these days. So why is it all sex education focuses on?

Sex ed should account for the recreational, social and emotional reasons for sex and their consequences. It should discuss the interpersonal meaning of intercourse, setting clear expectations and boundaries, communicating desires, dealing with feelings of shame and awkwardness, and of course, being responsible about protection and privacy.

Sex can be amazing. Some of the best moments of one’s life can happen engorged in someone else. So let’s talk about it.

This sounds so obvious when you say it. Yet no one seems to say it.

2. How to Respect personal boundaries

3288953At the beginning of the year, I wrote a lengthy description about the sexual shame that goes on in our culture and how it causes men and women to hide their intentions and desires from one another, which then leads to all sorts of communication breakdowns (or worse) later on in the interaction.

A huge component of this is consent. Consent in sexual situations is usually taught as, “If a woman says no, it means no.” That’s nice, but it completely glosses over the complexity of the issue. It continues to frame sex in a “Women get to decide, you have to convince them,” perspective. This reinforces the perception that men must somehow prove themselves to women and women must somehow be “won over” by a man to have sex with him.

This isn’t consent, it’s mutually reinforced manipulation.

(For deeper explanation, check out: How Disney Ruined Sex for Everybody)

Sexual intentions and desires should be stated clearly from the get-go by both parties. And I don’t just mean, “I want to have sex with you,” but every step of the way. “I’m attracted to you, I want to go out with you,” “I want to go home with you,” and so on. Kids should be taught that there’s nothing shameful about saying “yes” or “no” and that they should not be ashamed nor shame someone else for saying either. This is regardless of gender, orientation or reason.

All personal desires are valid just as all rejections of personal desires by another are valid. Both should be respected. It’s as simple as that.

3. Sex is not a reflection of your value as a person.

But to get to this place, sex must be removed from its pedestal as an badge of either honor or shame in our culture. As long as boys are shamed for not succeeding in getting laid and girls are shamed for succeeding in getting laid too often, then boys will continue to have an incentive to manipulate girls into situations where consent is ambiguous and girls will continue to have incentive to manipulative boys into situations where they feel unworthy or powerless.

Nobody wins in this arrangement. Everybody gets frustrated. People lie. Some people get raped. And it’s no coincidence that sexual violence and divorce are highest in countries where this culture of sexual shame persists. When your value as a human being is being judged based on the sex you’re having or not having or the marriage that you have or don’t have, then it’s easy to feel justified in saying and doing some messed up stuff to people of the opposite gender to get your way.

4. Different sexual orientations are natural

No-brainer here, but worth repeating for anybody still living in 1957. Homosexuality is natural and there’s nothing immoral about it (or experimenting with it for that matter).

We now know that homosexuality is likely related to pre-natal hormones and may possibly even have some sort of genetic basis. It’s natural. It’s seen all over the animal kingdom. It’s been cataloged throughout all of human history cross-culturally.

The concept of sexual orientation itself is a relatively recent invention of Western culture. And whoever came up with the idea deserves to be punched. Sexual orientation is a spectrum and people can oscillate across that spectrum over the course of their lives.

And as they often do, recent psychological studies have shown what’s been blindingly obvious to the rest of us forever: that homophobic men repress their own arousal to homoerotic stimuli. I mean, didn’t Freud cover this already? What we hate in others is what we’re ashamed of in ourselves.

Bi-curiosity and gender experimentation are common urges in both genders. It doesn’t make anyone weird or socially unacceptable. Get over it.

5. Where the damn clitoris is and what it’s for

Seriously. Do you know how old I was when I finally figured this out? Come on! Women like orgasms too.

6. How men and women experience sex differently

Gender_Scale_main-400x300OK, this is the part of the article where I piss off a bunch of feminists. But there are three things which are true about male/female sexualities:

  1. Men and women have innate differences in how they experience their sexualities.
  2. This should be obvious to anyone who’s ever looked at naked people.
  3. These differences, despite existing, don’t really mean anything.

The truth is that trying to cram an ideology that men and women are exactly the same in all ways down people’s throats is just as fascist and shitty as forcing the ideology of conventional gender roles and stereotypes on everyone as well.

People are different. Men and women are also different. These things are not mutually exclusive.

We know men and women are different. We know this from a wide range of neurological and psychological studies. We know from studying how gays and lesbians interact with one another. We know from primatology and the obvious dimorphism of our species. And we know from the subjective accounts of transsexuals who take hormones to change their endocrinology.

Sorry to belabor this point, but I always get flamed by a dozen angry people every time I mention this. So this is for them. Men and women differ in some ways and both genders should be treated with equal respect for those differences. (Why do people make this so complicated?)

That in and of itself should be taught in sex ed. But what should also be taught is how men and women’s sex drives differ, how women are more sexually fluid in their desires, how men are more physical and visually oriented in arousal, and how, on average (across populations, across cultures, and in female-to-male transsexuals), they usually want to have sex more often and with a wider variety of partners.

There’s nothing inherently right or wrong with these differences. These differences are not a moral justification for unethical behavior. If I’m born with big arms, that doesn’t give me the right to go punch people. If a man is born with a high sex drive, that doesn’t give him a right to force himself on women. But it also doesn’t make him a pervert, horndog, womanizer, monster, or rapist in waiting. Seriously, why is this so complicated?

7. Great Relationships Mean Great Sex

The thing many sex ed classes say about the dynamics of sexual relationships is, “Wait until you’re married,” — as if putting a ring on your finger will magically resolve all insecurities you may have around your sexuality.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t. It’s almost like a broken record how many people you hear lament that they wish they had dated around more before they got married (see: my parents).

The obligatory "Happy Couple" picture.

The obligatory “Happy Couple” picture. Every blog post about relationships needs one.

But the point is that if sex ed classes can dry out teenage ears for months on end going on about fallopian tubes, zygotes and X and Y chromosomes, why can’t they push the scientific knowledge of romantic relationships on everyone as well? One could argue that’s even more important.

What about attachment theory, emotional needs and the differences between love, lust and commitment? What about the Neo-Freudian explanation for romance? What about dealing with the anxiety of meeting someone attractive?

Yeah, that would have been helpful. Oh well…

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161 Comments

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  • Reply

    Claire

    27 weeks ago

    Personally, experiencing life as a female with a high sex drive and having many female friends with high sex drives, I am not entirely convinced with your comment/research stating that men on average have a higher sex drive than women. Men are taught that it is ok to express their sexuality, while women are taught to hide it.
    “If a man is born with a high sex drive, that doesn’t give him a right to force himself on women. But it also doesn’t make him a pervert, horndog, womanizer, monster, or rapist in waiting.”
    If a WOMAN is born with a high sex drive, it also doesn’t give her the right to force herself on men, and it also doesn’t make her a slut, whore, pervert, monster or rapist in waiting either.
    I completely agree that men and women experience sex differently, and maybe on average it is shown through research men experience a higher sex drive than woman. But experiencing life as a woman with a higher sex drive than any man I have ever been with, and knowing that I was shamed into hiding in for the most part of my life. It makes me think how valid the research really is. If a women shows even a small sign of a heightened sexuality, she will almost immediately be slut shamed, especially in younger years where it is very difficult to deal with. From that point on she is likely to hide it (even from researchers).

    *forgive me I haven’t done much research, I am speaking from personal experience but I will be doing more research into this topic in the future because it is extremely interesting to me given my personal experience.

    • Reply

      Emerald

      27 weeks ago

      In my not-professionally-literate-just-accidentally-sorta-versed-in-stuff-kinda opinion, you’re entirely right that the social climate surrounding women’s sex drives leads to skewed reporting; however, I do think it’s generally medically true that men tend to have a higher sex drive than women. Not necessarily by a lot, but to an extent. Research somewhere-or-other-credible-I-read-recently suggests that sperm that wait a week or longer in a man’s testicles develop minor abnormalities that hinder their effectiveness, and suggests also that men evolved to masturbate or mate frequently to prevent this — conversely, as far as I’ve heard, there aren’t really equivalent physiological reasons for women to have a similarly paced drive for sex or orgasm. Women’s risks of breast and ovarian and some other cancers are reduced by spending some time pregnant, but that’s a stretch.

    • Reply

      clearstrike

      27 weeks ago

      Shouldn’t sex ed also cover the variations in gender identity as well? This reinforces a gender binary into which many people do not fit. Continuing to teach that one must be either male or female and that this distinction also determines key elements of one’s sexuality is not considerate of such people.

      • Reply

        Mark Manson

        27 weeks ago

        Sure… although I think there should be a semester of gender studies in high school as well.

        • Reply

          Kathleen

          26 weeks ago

          How about teaching tolerance in sex ed classes…

    • Reply

      Hannah Ransom

      27 weeks ago

      I agree!

    • Reply

      Marykate

      27 weeks ago

      This is completely me. See in my current relationship I am the one with the ridiculously high sex drive and before me my boyfriend had essentially no sex drive at all. We are polar opposites with this and we find it rather amusing that the typical gender roles are flipped in this aspect, and many other aspects, of our relationship. Not only that but my friend base is a good mixture of both men and women and as it turns out the women I am friends with have a way higher sex drive and the men have low sex drives. I have one male friend who can’t even look at someone sexually. His sex drive just doesn’t kick into effect unless he has an emotional bond with someone. I honestly do believe that the social stigma against women with higher sex drives and men with lower sex drives skews the research that has been done on such things. The men lie to make it seem like they have a higher sex drive and the women lie to make it seem like they have a lower sex drive it seems.

    • Reply

      AntonioFD

      27 weeks ago

      Hey Claire,

      Here’s a neat graph for you:

      Hopefully that image came out in the comments. If not check this link: http://www.thedirtynormal.com/2013/01/25/do-most-men-really-have-a-strong-sex-drive-than-most-women/

      Quote: “At the population level, men, on average, have a higher interest in sex than women. At the same time, women, as a population are more variable than men are. “

      • Reply

        Cassandra

        24 weeks ago

        That is just a bunch of graphs, and says nothing about the actual studies or data concerning those graphs. There are studies that attest to men having a higher sex drive, but it isn’t until social expectations are controlled for does that difference disappear entirely. In 2003 a study by Michele G. Alexander and Terri D. Fisher found that when asked about number of sexual partners, men reported far more sexual partners than women. But when participants were hooked up to fake lie detector, this difference vanished. In fact, women reported an average of 4.4 sexual partners compared to men’s average of 4.0.

        I don’t get the jab at feminists at the end. There are clearly differences between men and women, but the more you look at gender differences and gender identity, it’s obvious gender to a large degree is a social construct. I’m a buzzfeed junkie, and this article is great at rounding up some studies that show the social aspects of gender differences: http://www.buzzfeed.com/kevintang/8-studies-that-debunk-male-stereotypes

        • Reply

          Mark Manson

          24 weeks ago

          While I agree with you that large swaths of gender identity are constructed, the study you cited shows self-report of sexual partners, not sex drive itself. There’s tons of data on the differing sex drives of men and women.

          Jab at feminists was taken because I’ve been attacked by dozens of rabid feminists for promoting patriarchy for making simple statements regarding sexuality and sexual functioning. It’s gotten tiring, so I decided to push back.

    • Reply

      Engjell

      27 weeks ago

      That’s my disagreement with Mark as well. Many indicators show that biologically women not only are equals in terms of sex drive to men, but even superior to them. If it wasn’t the case we wouldn’t have this overwhelming effort from society to suppress female sexuality with methods ranging from punishment by death or great bodily injury in case of sexual transgression up to stigmatisation and ostracism for said transgressions, for most of civilized human history in most societies.

      • Reply

        Teru

        12 weeks ago

        I agree, the only reason that studies show this kind of disparity is because women are encouraged and pressured to constrain and hide their sexualities. Many girls have a lower sex drive because of the guilt that comes with owning their sexuality: that’s something only “sluts” do. You’re not supposed to acknowledge that sex could be fun.

        I have three different female friends who never masturbated in their lives until after they had sex in their late teens or twenties. One of these girls has discovered that she has a very high sex drive and is full of guilt about it. Another of these girls never tried to experiment because of her extremely religious upbringing. Her family told her that it was sinful, made her feel that it was a terrible thing to do.

        There’s such a total lack of self-exploration and it’s all due to social pressures. And the ambiguous education that we receive doesn’t help much. I’ve never met a female friend who could tell me with any sort of certainty where the clitoris was or what it was for. I’ve met girls who think they pee out of their vagina!

        Meanwhile, guys are aware of exactly what they have, what it’s for, and how to use it. It’s in the public consciousness. I remember there being both girls and boys in high school, even after they completed their health classes, who believed that an orgasm is the same thing as ejaculation and that it only really happens to guys.

        This is our problem. All the biological differences people like to quote really don’t make such a significant difference. It’s just how our culture has dealt with the differences that changes things so drastically.

        • Reply

          Mark Manson

          12 weeks ago

          This is just not the case. Yes, cultural influence definitely has a downward effect on female sexual expression but it doesn’t affect the biological drive itself. Anecdotes are nice, but massive meta-analyses of hundreds of studies have been done in this area and male and female sexualities are, on average, different. You and your friends (and other female commenters here) may be outliers, just as millions of men will be outliers. But the fact remains, on average, they are different.

    • Reply

      Aud

      6 weeks ago

      I must agree with Claire. (Btw Claire I have not hear your name since Molly Ringwald in Breakfast Club, love that name) I am not in a committed relationship. I am/was until last night, oops, psychologically sexualy committed, but women have needs. Seriously most men I know have lower sex drives than I do. I Know A couple with higher sex drives, both younger than I am. I’m in my mid 30s and I will say women’s sex drives tend to heighten in their 30s for obvious chemical factors. They also heighten with certain monthly cycle times for obvious reasons. But fact is I can’t say men’s sex drives are higher. I have always had a high sex drive. Lost my virginity at 17, but had sexual desires I can recall back to age 6. Stereotypes cause men to portray a higher sex drive, I have witnessed this. I think sex drive depends on the person themselves, not the gender. I was a Philosophy BA and History BS major, Therefore I’m Answering From The Thought process As such. (My phone keeps messing with caps, sorry) Any man I’ve been in a relationship with says I am like dating a man with woman parts, because I more often than not, “think like a man”, as it’s called. What ever that is. But many people, man or woman do not understand the psychological swings in a woman. The monthly cycle is a rotation of different hormones, at times giving high quantities Of hormones like a bodybuilder raging from the mass quantity of testosterone from steroids. Women get the way women get from ups and downs of hormones. The hormonal desires coming as a factor of reproduction. Anyways, long babble short, I agree with Claire.

    • Reply

      Dominik

      3 weeks ago

      High sex drive is not a “sin” itself. Important matter is how you control and manage it. Similarly like in case of people, who love sugar. Eating 10 donuts daily is not healthy. So, sugar is not bad itself, but uncontrolled eating could be fatal…

  • Reply

    Tim

    27 weeks ago

    Good article. Clit awareness needs its own month like breast cancer.

    • Reply

      Sony

      27 weeks ago

      Here here. I was left saying why did this only get two sentences?!?

  • Reply

    Katie

    27 weeks ago

    Really loved the article :) One thing I wanted to point out though was that though the clitoris an amazing spot for most women it can be a very uncomfotable or painful spot to touch on others and theres really nothing wrong with that. You just need to find other routes to help the lady orgasm if this is the case :)

  • Reply

    Tim K.

    27 weeks ago

    ”’[...] that teenagers will always do exactly what you tell them not to and screw themselves up in the process.”’

    Just a mild correction, in this area teenagers will always do exactly what they’re going to do regardless of what you say. Please trust me when I tell you that encouraging teenagers to have sex will not result in abstinence.

    • Reply

      Sam

      27 weeks ago

      While that may be true Tim, the aim of the game isn’t abstinence; its a healthier sexual environment (both physically and emotionally) and a deeper understanding of all aspects of sex.

  • Reply

    Oli

    27 weeks ago

    Lol…

  • Reply

    Raphael

    27 weeks ago

    Personally I liked your old articles (around the rebranding-phase) far more. Those were a lot deeper. A new masculinity, or emotional needs in dating or a dust over india each introduced an original and meaningful perspective on dating and emotional development. They got me to think and rethink again. The life guides were also very interesting ideas, but of a totally different kind: packed with practical advice directly implementable in the personal life.

    But where is the intersting perspective in this article? That sexual education doesn’t cover emotional aspects of sex? You tell me…^^ To me here is far to much effect-longing with far to less content. Moreover, the content isn’t really related to the real concept of this site (well, maybe more accurately: it is, it’s actually not related to what I come for here). As far as I understood it, the site is about emotional development in various areas (sex, dating, travelling, career, and to some degree masculinity) – there is nothing beneficial in this terms here. Don’t get me wrong I’m also up for any intersting argument with a broader scope (like a dust over india, or the feminism posts), I don’t need a DIY-Article every other day. But I also fail to see your point here. You once wrote an article about Ken Wilber and how the fascinating roots went down to a system of mere self-praise in how integral one feels on workshops you could experience in any self help context. I see you go the same road, This article does for me liitle other than creating some complacency how mature we all are to come here and see through the ‘system’. It has been some time since I read something here I truly considered awesome.

    I hope to be constructive in this, so please don’t get offended – I still value you as an interesting and smart guy ;-)

  • Reply

    Moe

    27 weeks ago

    As a feminist, this in no way pissed me off. I don’t think feminism means what it did in the 80′s. To deny differences in gender is to deny nature.To deny equal treatment in whatever gender fluidity one identifies with no matter if it differs from the norm or not is just bad.

    Don’t do it.

    Btw, you’re totally a feminist. All that means now is men and women deserve the same respect as it is urned by them, everyone, no matter their identified gender or sexuality (or color or creed or religion) deserves to start at the same level and then either fall or rise based on who they are and how they treat the world around them. Men, women, and in-between can be feminists. All it means now is that women are people.

    • Reply

      Mark Manson

      27 weeks ago

      I’m really glad to hear so many feminists replying with this. You wouldn’t believe some of the comments I’ve gotten over the years.

  • Reply

    Keneth

    27 weeks ago

    In #4, pushing teenagers to same sex experimentation doesn´t make any sense because there is little chance ( 2-3%) for them being gay. Then the argument “animals do it, then it´s natural.” is weak, since you won´t find exclusive same sex orientation in the animal kingdom. What they show is a strong sex drive, that leads them to hump trees, teddy bears and even human legs!

    • Reply

      Mark Manson

      27 weeks ago

      It’s natural for humans to become curious about their sexualities and try out some new experiences while they sort out their sexual identity. Yes, only 2-3% end up completely homosexual, but it’s not always a cut-and-dry process to discover that for people.

      In other words: college.

      • Reply

        Ballymena

        17 weeks ago

        “it’s natural for humans to be curious about their sexualities” : exactly. So better let sleeping dogs lie. It’s not the role of school or of the state or of teachers of morals to tell young people wich kind of sexuality is better… even the fashionable homosexuality (3% of the population) that you seem to hold in such a high esteem.

  • Reply

    Keneth

    27 weeks ago

    But for most of us, sexual orientation is not something we need to sort out. Even most gays recall being that way since childhood.

    • Reply

      Benjamin

      26 weeks ago

      This may be true, but the process of actually discovering one’s own sexuality is often complicated by many factors. That they were able to look back and see it as obvious to themselves in retrospect doesn’t make the mental (or social) transition an easy one.

  • Reply

    Michael

    27 weeks ago

    To those who are interested in human sexuality with an easy to read, but thoroughly researched hypothesis; check out: “Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality” by Christopher Ryan, Ph.D and his wife Cacilda Jethá, MD. It reaffirmed my belief that the idea that there is a “one” person for everyone is asinine. You can be in a committed loving relationship and still have extra-relationship sex. Believe me, It has made mine and my significant other’s lives together even more fulfilling, and the trust and companionship level is through the roof. As we have admitted to ourselves that sex is for the most part just sex, but our lives together are more important that who makes who cum.

  • Reply

    Melodi

    26 weeks ago

    So, asexuals don’t have great relationships?

  • Reply

    warner hyde

    26 weeks ago

    I have the best idea… Invite all the groups that want to have a say in sex education to one school and have the debate from hell… Tape it and have it shown at every school we have..

    W

  • Reply

    Blaise

    25 weeks ago

    Good article. I wish you did footnoting sometimes though, for example this sentence: “And it’s no coincidence that sexual violence and divorce are highest in countries where this culture of sexual shame persists.” When I hear this, my first reaction is wondering whether in these countries without “cultures of sexual shame,” 1) do these others cultures have accurate methods of collecting information about sexual violence; how mobile are women within the community investigated, 2) are there mechanisms for “divorce” (or whatever separation from person designated as long-term monogamous partner); how available are these mechanisms (legally, socially, financially, etc.). My main qualm with your article is that I don’t think this sentence sounds particularly scientific or true and, because of that, whether or not it really adds anything to what you’re saying.

    • Reply

      Mark Manson

      25 weeks ago

      I’ve actually been thinking about this. It’d be a very big project, but I may go through the archive and footnote all of my posts. It’d be a massive undertaking, but perhaps worth it.

  • Reply

    Ed

    25 weeks ago

    Really good article, thank you! I really wish I had known #1. Not only because I was hurt, but because my ignorance and insensitivity hurt someone who was important to me.

    /and girls are shamed for succeeding in getting laid too often

    Do you think this will stop until birth control for men has hit the market (I understand it’s already in trials)? It seems the societal need for “purity” in women came from the ensuring that men raised their own children and though now there’s paternal testing, because many states require men to pay for children born to their wives whether or not the children are the man’s, that incentive still exists. (Definitely don’t want to say this is the only factor in “slut shaming” but it does seem an important one.)

    • Reply

      Ballymena

      17 weeks ago

      Women don’t want men to have access to birth control because once everything is said and done, it’s ultimately a question of POWER.
      Women who are honest about it admit that they balk as having men getting the same power they have enjoyed since the beginning of times.
      It would be an anthropological revolution. No chance today when puritanism and conservatism are again on the rise.

      • Reply

        Nissa

        10 weeks ago

        You would think that men would be flocking to fund the current effort to get Vaselgel (cheap, fast, highly effective reversible permanent male sterilization) past the FDA process, but I haven’t seen it happen. I’d personally prefer the man take care of this – women’s sterilization has a host of side effects I could do without. If you’d like to change this, feel free to donate now…

        • Reply

          Mark Manson

          10 weeks ago

          I’ve never even heard of this. That’s probably why men haven’t done anything.

  • Reply

    madclassix

    25 weeks ago

    What a load of bollocks. You’ll be writing for Jezebel in no time.

  • Reply

    Brian

    25 weeks ago

    This is a good article, but I think sex ed doesn’t teach romance, relationships and all the nuances of sexuality because everyone experiences it differently, whereas biology is pretty standard across every body. I guess teachers could go over a myriad of possible experiences everyone could have, turning it into “go try it out for yourself,” and people are scared that this will promote more sexual activity. Would that be a good or a bad thing? I’m not sure.

    • Reply

      Mark Manson

      25 weeks ago

      Yes, but there are specific principles that underlie everyone’s experiences (i.e., boundaries, consent, respect, communication, etc.)

  • Reply

    pradeep nathani

    24 weeks ago

    Mark

    Great Article….Have you ever read “from Sex to superconsciousness ” by Osho ? Highly recommended…. He talked about similar things on an adult level, and ended up being vilified as the “sex Guru”, when in fact he was pointing out all the fear , superstition , & hypocrisy that goes around the whole issue of sex, particularly in Asian cultures, how having normal sexual relations was a prime need for human beings, both male and female, and that modern social constructs like Marriage and religion messed everything up for people

    keep up the good fight man !

  • Reply

    LucyLu

    24 weeks ago

    Excellent article. And I have to agree with the other women here – myself and all my friends have always had higher sex drives than the men we were with… and I think there may be something environmental / societal possibly causing it. But also, my guess is that no one is really looking into it as a possibility because of all the attitudes and shaming you discuss here. What man or woman wants to admit that they’re crossing these paradigms in a way that’s not ‘acceptable’?

    Second thought – - why do we have to have schools teach this at all? They are not good at it because they’re always tiptoeing around every single politically correct issue. If it was taken out of schools and offered as after school programs, or through some other source, it could cover all of these excellent points you raise here. Leaving it in school means it’s always going to be a half-measure, rather than the robust program you so rightly say we should have.

  • Reply

    Elizabeth

    23 weeks ago

    Every point is so true I just laughed for joy, Mark. Thank you for shining daylight on this topic! So much hurt and confusion could be avoided if kids were taught this way–I will definitely pass this on to my two daughters. (I’d love to see your posts compiled into a book.)

  • Reply

    Nicola

    22 weeks ago

    Hello Mark

    your blog is really helpful to me, as it helps me thinking about really emotional and personal topics such as dating, gender issues and self development.
    Usually I’m quite aligned with what you think, and I’m glad there’s someone who expresses it so well and takes care of addressing other points of view.
    So thank you for your work.

    Here’s a question for you: do you believe that there are circumstances where shame is appropriate or healthy?

  • Reply

    Kat

    21 weeks ago

    How do you think asexuality should be taught in all this? I’ve identified as an asexual for 6 solid years and was questioning before that for another 5 or so. I think you touch on some good points, especially 3 and 4, that are good messages for people who don’t have a sex drive or don’t feel sexual attraction.

    I think one challenge I faced in recognizing my “sexual orientation” was that I’d hear things about how much everyone thinks about sex, about how great sex makes you feel, about how hard it will be to resist after you go through puberty. It leaves someone like me feeling broken and weird (as if I wasn’t weird enough already in high school).

    Not that any of what you’ve said was talked about in sex ed class, but my mom was very open and honest about her own experiences and, of course, the glut of hyperbolized teenage gossip about sex… Even here though, you fail to mention asexuality and that it’s normal not to feel sexual attraction to other people, and sometimes not to feel any sexual drive at all. Like you said in point 4, it doesn’t make anyone weird or socially unacceptable. But even reading through this, I felt that same thing that I felt when those 15+ years ago: weird and broken. Admittedly, I’m still wondering how I ended up the way I am and do feel uncomfortable even though I have a loving partner who accepts me just for me and am surrounded by good friends who are really respectful and sensitive. I have no idea what others feel and I read articles that my friends post on Facebook, like this, to try to figure it all out. What can we do for others like me in sex ed class, to make them feel just as normal as their friends who, just like them, feel awkward about what’s happening to them?

  • Reply

    Sally

    20 weeks ago

    I have enjoyed your other articles and have felt your viewpoint was right on, but I believe you really missed the mark on this one. Kids in school do not need to be taught how to have sex before they are emotionally ready and financially ready to deal with the possible consequences. Teach them about commitment, respectful conflict resolution, how to have a successful open, loving relationship, how to communicate yes. Lets not put the cart before the horse, they will only get half of the fulfillment of a satisfying sexual experience, because sex outside of a commitment is usually someone using someone else.

    • Reply

      Ballymena

      17 weeks ago

      BINGO! you hit it on the nail!

  • Reply

    Pissed Off

    20 weeks ago

    Sexual hangups can lead to very, very painful consequences . . . I wish I had learned more about these things rather than growing up with the messages that even masturbation was something only bad people did.

    Like everyone else, I suffer from sexual anxiety and a feeling of lack of acceptance and fear of abandonment, but maybe just a tad more (or so it seems to me). So the most painful experience I could have was when my now ex-fiance decided to punish me in two ways for my online behavior that never involved an actual other person, and which I stopped immediately upon being confronted.

    First, she began a secret email campaign with an ex, married (then and now) boyfriend. I discovered this fact a YEAR AND HALF after she started it — she had been misleading (if not outright lying to me) all that time while criticizing me a few times to him and even writing to him while I was in the same room. I concluded she had not actually seen him, so I could forgive this (or try), but then I discovered a PRESENT, ONGOING course of emails between her and another man in which she obviously intended to be in a real affair. She claims they never did anything but kiss, but the doubt is deep and trust is gone. Nevertheless, it does not matter because she broke up with me when I found out. That was the icing on the cake after I almost had a heart attack when discovering what she was doing.

    Second, far before i discovered this, she decided to punish me by turning cold and stopping any sexual interaction of any sort. Apparently the triggering even was that I unknowingly offended her mother. Go figure. But the worst part is that she never told me I had done anything for her to start treating me differently. It’s not as if she did not know . . . she made it very clear when we were breaking up.

    So how is this related to this article? Here’s what I learned from this (still) amazingly painful experience: people, especially ones hurt in relationships in the past, tend to hide both their desires and their fears AND the problem is MUCH worse when it involves sex — because most of us never have been taught how to deal with the issue or have been taught it’s “bad.” I never realized the depth to which I would hurt her with my behavior and my secret turn ons, and I never thought she would reject me so hard, especially considering I never did anything with anyone else (which she says she believes).

    She did not seem the unforgiving/judgmental type. I was wrong; she was wearing a mask of someone open minded and accepting. I know I triggered her own bad behavior (which does not in any way condone it), but I think if she had better understanding of the range of desires and turn ons we each have, if she had better knowledge of the differences between men and women (subtle or not), and if she had not been taught that certain behaviors/turn ons are “bad” (although she ever let me in on that), then what was originally a truly small issue shouldn’t have been the cause of the eventual failure of a 6 3/4 year relationship.

    For anyone wondering — I feel differently about her every day, and I struggle with how to deal with it. On the one hand, I love this woman more than I can express, but she wants me gone, and the other hand, I want as far away as I can get so that I can have the opportunity to find a woman who loves me back as much as I love her. I wish someone would have told me what and to look for to determine if someone is prone to punishing you by withholding the thing most dear to a loving romantic relationship — touch. And I wish that someone would have taught my ex that people make mistakes, you have to learn to forgive, and relationships are not a fairly tail of being “in love” like at the beginning.

  • Reply

    new guy

    18 weeks ago

    i read your article as i have many others since i found this link just days ago. though i felt it fell flat compared to others i have read from you, when i read the other comments i was surprised to see the respondents engaged you in debate based on their position and missed the point. i see your articles as food for thought and i think you are a very smart guy thats good at it.. somehow i think we as the reader are getting so much more from the things you write, when the article doesnt provide the same result or provides a position they dont completely agree with it causes some to lose faith in their guru.(lmao) im sure doing this you’ve developed a thick skin. keep doing what you do I look forward to reading the rest of what you write.

    • Reply

      Mark Manson

      18 weeks ago

      Thanks for recognizing this. And yeah, over the years you just get used to it. There’s something about the internet that makes people think that either you or them has to be right about everything, when the fact is, most of us just don’t know. It’s all part of a never-ending conversation.

  • Reply

    Ballymena

    17 weeks ago

    I disagree with many of the points highlighted by Mark.
    1) sex education : it’s all fine and well, but when some schools start sex education with 4 years old and are
    teaching the controversial gender theory, there is “something rotten in the kingdom of Denmark”.
    2) most females simply don’t have the sex drive of males . Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but it’s a rule, verified in all civilizations.
    No use denying that.

  • Reply

    Drew

    9 weeks ago

    Hi Mark,

    This post really resonated with me, and the tone of many of the comments was so reminiscent of what I encounter in conversations around this subject that I had to chime in. Like you, I’m a scientifically literate guy with an active interest in gender, psychology and the attraction literature. I identify as a feminist (it’s equivalent to being a humanist, as far as I’m concerned) and yet I constantly find myself accused of some kind of misogyny when I suggest that there are biological differences between men and women (as well as the obvious, socialised ones). People often don’t like my suggestion that these are ok, do not at all threaten gender equality and are to be celebrated. I simply don’t understand what about this suggestion, which has loads of scientific support (I enjoy http://psychologyofattractivenesspodcast.blogspot.com for a light-hearted, monthly update), that so offends people. Well, that’s not entirely true. I can absolutely appreciate that after centuries of fallacious dogma around the supposedly natural inferiority of women, any suggestion even of natural *differences* between the genders evokes a knee jerk. But can’t we move beyond that? The people – women and sometimes also men – who try to convince me that men and women are not only equal (I agree) but *identical* aside from socialised differences (I disagree), are smart and educated folks. Yet they are so dogmatic in their unwillingness to engage with the idea – and evidence – that embracing difference might be healthy.

    Also like you, I feel strongly that the sex education I received (though mine was in 1990s Australia) was lacking due to its total neglect of sexual psychology. It seems clear to me that the sexual challenges faced by our generation are (thanks to the hard-won victories of our forebears) more often psychological than physiological. If I could design a sex ed curriculum, there would be just as much time devoted to teaching sexual and relationship psychology, attraction, attachment, etc, as to anatomy and physiology.

    Thanks for a great post. You’ve got a new subscriber here.

  • Reply

    Ryan

    5 weeks ago

    Hey Mark, I was kind of hoping you’d weigh in on the issue of forced male circumcision with this post. It’s not something ever discussed in sex education programs. We never talked about the foreskin and what role it has to play in the sexual experience, and I feel that unfortunately this continues the myth that the foreskin is useless skin. The inner foreskin is rich with nerves and is the most sensitive part of the penis, which means of course that cutting it off is a big deal.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23374102

  • Reply

    Diana

    5 days ago

    If sex ed was meant to teach the objective comprehensive non-bias information, which went in accordance with humanistic values rather than subject which parents don’t want to teach their kids and governmental propaganda pushed onto the society, people would be having sex very differently.
    This could shake the entire society into a new frame of thinking, which would be lethal for the current establishment and therefore it will take awhile before kids are taught to think in schools.

    I agree with the girl who questioned the validity of research where women are thought to be less sexual. Perhaps in some stages of their lives (and so are men).
    I believe the research should be done in an environment where females are brought up 100% free to express sexuality, educated on birth control and disease issues as well as given opportunity to be independent financially. The problem is, there is not too many places in the world where such conditions exist (I personally know 0). So I see that part of the article lacking scientific ground. Otherwise great blog.

  • Reply

    Diana

    5 days ago

    Great point. More research is needed to support claims about female sexuality (as well as providing females with correct conditions for such research).
    We still don’t know why women have multiple orgasms and can stay aroused for long periods of time. Perhaps nature knows something scientists haven’t discovered yet (and society has been oppressing).

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