Teens and young adults don’t want to have sex …because apparently there’re bad at it?

According to Gabby Bess at Broadly, a UK-based survey of over 15,000 people found that, among sexually active 16- to 21-year-old participants, 6.3% of women had difficulty reaching orgasm. Further, some reported actively avoiding sex all together. To wit, among young women, the most common reasons for avoidance were lack of interest (reported by 45.5% of the women who had reported avoidance), followed by lack of enjoyment, anxiety, and pain (reported by 21.2%, 25.3%, and 23.7%, respectively, of women who had avoided sex). The researchers classified these problems as “sexual dysfunction,” which they said is normally associated with older people — not teenagers and young adults.

Gabby then asked me the specific questions: Should sex education for adolescents, especially for young women, prioritize pleasure? Is it troubling that a sizable amount of young people associate sex with pain or dysfunction?

I thought these questions were interesting, but even more interesting was the article’s framework around ability. Like, sex ability and lovemaking skillz. Teens are afraid of sex because it’s something that — reportedly — they perceive they’re not good at. The fact that young people would rather opt-out of something they don’t believe they’re already super great at is pretty distressing. Like giving up before even allowing one to learn the game. This smacked very much of common “critiques” of millennials in general… Hmmm.

Anyway, you can read Gabby’s full article here — “Teens Don’t Want to Have Sex Because They’re Bad at It” (August 4, 2016) — and you can read my full commentary below.

What do you think?

DrCT: The question of whether or not sex education for adolescents, especially for young women, should prioritize pleasure is complex and double — even triple — edged.

First off, there is the idea of sex education — in its current state, it’s at best incomplete and generally/at worst inaccurate and/or inaccessible. Our first priority should be scientifically accurate, accessible information that is age-appropriate and judgement free. Put simply, people should know how their bodies work. We should prioritize this.

A close second is the idea of pleasure — because humans are not just tabs and holes interacting with one another. Human culture has overlaid biology with endless variable values and meanings related to sex. Teaching young people (and adults) about pleasure is a key element of understanding how sex operates in society, interpersonally, and psychologically.

But we also need to prioritize “non-pleasure” — or the idea that not all sex is either traumatic (in a bad way) or mind blowing (in a good way). We don’t seem to have the language or even an awareness of sex that is just “whatever” — and that in turn contributes to this cycle of miscommunication, inaccuracy, confusion, etc.

We need to find a way to educate, discuss pleasure, and also discuss sex as an everyday ordinary activity. Only this way will be get to a point where we can destigmatize sex — or simply understand sex as a key-but-also-ordinary part of human existence, which is what it is.


(pictured: image via Broadly)

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