Acceptance of our sexual selves and feelings
We are sexual beings; there is no escaping it. Infant boys get
erections. Little boys and girls like to rub themselves "down there."
One of the great mysteries for most of us as a small child is, "How are
babies made?" Another is "What do girls/boys look like?" There are
good books to read to little folks and books for maturing teenagers
(Madaras, 1988a, 1988b).
If you ask a college class to anonymously write down a secret,
something they are ashamed of, the response is frequently about sex.
Things like, "I had an abortion," "I masturbate," "I went out with a
married man/woman," "I had sex with someone I didn't love," "I had
oral sex with my boyfriend," "I'm attracted to my own sex," "I've had
sex with a black," "I'm attracted to large penises/breasts" and so on.
For a culture that thinks of itself as sexually liberal, we have a lot of
hang-ups, a lot of guilt.
On the other hand, since 1960 there has been an explosion of
sexual activity, some of it foolishly impulsive and inconsiderate of
one's partner. Many teenagers get pregnant (see later discussion). In
fact, some studies find that 60% to 90% do not use a contraceptive
during intercourse the first time. Other reports say 2/3's of teens use
contraceptives the first time but only 17% use condoms all the time.
Many college women forget to take their pill 3 or 4 times a month. In
any case, more than one-third of all sexually active teenaged women
become pregnant before they are nineteen (Maier, 1984). In the late
1980's, college students were becoming more sexually active but using
contraceptives less. This helps explain the large number of abortions in
this country. It seems as though guilt and personal shame about sex
doesn't prevent intercourse but does prevent the advanced planning
necessary for the prevention of pregnancy. Also, our general emotional
discomfort with sex may reduce the use of condoms and increase AIDS
and other sexually transmitted diseases.
The sex taboo is the notion that sex and love are so important that we must pretend that
they are unimportant and so emotionally loaded that they are dangerous to think about.
-James Weinrich (1987)
Teaching that sex is taboo
In our society, sex is taboo from birth to the mid-teens--don't play
with yourself, don't use "dirty" (sexual) words, don't read "filthy"
(sexual) books or see R-rated movies, don't have sex until you are
older and in love. But when you decide to have sex, you are supposed
to immediately function perfectly, i.e. the virginal male is supposed to