Sex and Love 100

Musings on the most basic life skill . . .

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sex Education

     What do you know and from whom do you know it?  Most new adults do not want to hear about sex from parents, religious figures or even experts, like me.  You prefer, at your own rate to discover the area, using the information that comes your way.  That, I might add is hardly reliable.  Do you know that about 90% of you learned about sex from someone other than your parent?  A sister, brother or friend told you the facts of life.  One of the most important areas of your life may have been learned from your Cousin Vinny.   If your parents did manage to reach you in time did you bolster that knowledge through scientific reading or inquiry.  Of course you didn’t. 
     Learning about sex from your parents is a difficult option when you actually believe them to not know much, incapable of feeling any of the emotions swirling in your own brain.  I will accept this who heartedly because I believe, as a scientist that discussing sex with members of your family can make you biologically uncomfortable.  One time we took a cruise with our 18 year old son and he had to sleep in our room because there was no other room available.  Before the ship left the dock David and I jumped on the bed and embraced for a quick kiss.  Matthew began to immediately complain because in his mind at that very moment were images he just did not want to deal with.  “if I caught you two guys it might damage my entire sexual world,”   he said.  We told him to knock first.  He ran out of the room disgusted.  But I know he is right.
     You see, we are part of a group of living beings that have incest taboos.  Plainly we do  not have sex with our own family members.  If you do this you are considered greatly abnormal- in every society and culture in existence. It has to do with genetics.  There is also a bias in the brain.  You have a center that excites sexual passion and another one that excites attachment, protection or love towards children.  They are completely different systems.  While this is too complex to get into now let me assure you that the two can meet, when you fall in love and not only want to have sex with a person, but protect and nurture them.  Generally the system operated to prevent the reverse.  So when your mother talks about sex you simply want to puke.  And believe me when she has to talk to you she feels the same way. 
     Parents are also reluctant to not only open the subject because the very thought that they might hear something that conflict with their perceptions creates a negative feeling.  Denial is a psychological term we use when a person does not want to realize, confront or deal with unpleasant facts. 
Throughout time there have been social institutions that taught us the rules.  In some societies there is a special person that socializes or teaches and discusses this with young people- other than the parent.  The Native Americans used a special uncle to teach the boys and an elder female to teach the young girls.  Today it may be in the context of religion or education.  Unfortunately you are bombarded consistently and constantly with information –about sex.  Anything we think we need to know about, that can help us achieve pleasure, avoid pain we are driven to absorb.  
     While I know that 90% of you learned about sex from someone other than your parents or religious teachings.  Since the advent of the computer age I have no doubt that young people find a lot of information on the computer, HBO or sexually charged TV sites and this I put in the  “bad training film” trash basket.  In fact many of us are on stimulus over load.  That means that our brains are being barraged with too many images, ideas and choices. If you don’t understand this just think about our early ancestors who had no computes, printed material and had to rely on their imagination for all their ideas.  Our brains developed or evolved in these times.  Unfortunately you see a lot of bad information.  Would you want to learn about driving a race car from Dale Earnhardt or form the circus clown that drives the mini around the 3 ring in the circus?  Think of me as a professional driver.
     So, maybe you don’t think I know a lot.  Wrong.  We were the products of the sexual revolution and the invention of birth control.  When I was your age Dr. Ruth Wertheimer flanked the television airwaves at 10 pm each night giving us all permission to have sex.  I remember thinking, when I saw this grandmotherly figure talking about sex “what could she know”?  Now a grandmother myself, and after so many years of education, research, study and practice- I understand!  So must have the rest of the world because it was Dr. Ruth who gave us that motherly and scientific permission to enjoy the subject matter at hand. Kinsey studies sex abut soon thereafter we put love and sex on the same map. 
     This sexual revolution was based on tremendous inquiry, discussion, and an openness that was not seen in our historical recollection.  For the first time we could, in tens of thousands of years control pregnancy.  Women found rights that some say we had not seen since our cave man times. The right to enjoy sex.  Research in the area began and for the first time in history the study of human sexuality became a science rather than a topic that might be discussed in secret at best and never discussed at all.  Many women, particularly your own grandmothers went to their honeymoon night knowing nothing.  Now, I am going to tell you many things you knew nothing about.  Every year when I begin this lecture series – and sex is woven throughout the course- I find many students actually believe they know it all.  I will challenge that! Let us begin. But before I begin I am going to stand firm on some realities. I’m telling you these upfront so you can see my scientific platform.   
1.     Humans were not biologically designed to have lots of sex with lots of different people.  In fact there is not a single society that does not try to harness our sexual passions and rightfully so.
2.     Males and females are not wired the same way when it comes to sex or love.  However they complement each other
3.     Love and sex or lust are not the same but can occur together or separate.
4.     Love is a necessary emotion that serves as the glue for many important relationships. Only humans are capable of love.  It appears that love provides the glue that keeps parents together for the purpose of rearing children. So necessary is this system, so important is this system that it is groomed at birth by caregivers.  ‘Attachment’ will form a style that either binds you in a healthy way or perhaps hampers you. 
5.     Both men and women experience love and lust.  The meaning of each is different for both.  However evidence suggests that men are more sexual but forge deeper love commitment (don’t laugh) and have a more difficult time dealing with this emotion (crimes of passion was almost always committed by males.).  Women may be more flexible in this area. That is, they can have sex for other reasons and can find new mates easier.   
6.     Last, if we have an understanding of the process we may be able to illuminate a path you can navigate towards eventual happiness. 


  1. I love this post simply because I can relate. I remember avoiding "The Talk" at all costs. I was so interested in what my friends, around the same age as I was, had to teach me about sex/love (or lust). Watching TV shows together to try to figure out what we were supposed to do, act like and enjoy. Very distored views on and some confusion on our part as we started to have sex and as relatonships unfolded...

  2. I've got to admit, when I first started reading this I was a little bit skeptical as to what it was going to be about, but as soon as I got a few lines in I realized that I've never actually had a traditional 'Talk' with either of my parents regarding sex. In fact, a lot of the stuff I did end up learning about it came either from friends who had never had it before [but acted like they knew everything about it], or friends who had way too much of it way too early on and quickly spiraled out of control.

    A lot of the stuff I found out was done on my own time, but none of it was very specific. Now that I think about it, it's actually becoming clearer and clearer that a lot of the things I thought I had 'learned' early on were actually irrational, illogical, and outright wrong.

  3. I never had the "talk" with my parents. I did try to talk to my boys but they were not interested.

    I couldn't tell you where I learned about sex, and in fact I still wonder if I have really "learned" about sex at all. I know the basics, enough to keep a husband happy and have children. But to be honest sex is over rated if you ask me. I could take it or leave it and most of the time it's "LEAVE IT".

    My friends tell me I need to have sex with someone else, that I have to experience this in a different way, I am missing out on something spectacular.

    I have been married to the same man since I was 17. I endure sex, I oblige in sex, but I really don't enjoy it much. It's a wifely duty to me and nothing more.

    Being that I was married so young obviously I have not had many "different" opportunities to have sex. Maybe I am missing something.

    So Dr Hopper what should I do? You don't really have to answer that but...

  4. While I was reading this post, I started to remember when I was a teenager in my country. It was a shame for a girl to talk about sex or to ask questions. The only thing that she knows is that she can’t have sex till she gets married. So, the only way to find information was from books or another girl at her age or older. But, today everyone knows about sex from school, books, internet and friends. A girl can ask to find answers but not from her parents because it is weird to ask them or even to think about asking them, but until today, when my grandmother hear us talk about sex, she starts yelling it is shaaaaaame!

  5. After reading this, I was shocked by the statistics. My first ever conversation was with my mother and she laid it all out flat on what is what and when its acceptable and told me she wanted us to have an open and honest relationship and if there was ever a time I had any questions, concerns or even guidance on the subject that she would be there, no judgement, no prejudices. Parents are constantly concerned about school, work and health, how is sex any different? I know that it is always going to be an awkward conversation but wouldn't they like to know that the hard solid facts are being laid out? I believe a lot of teenage pregnancy is caused by girls being naive. If parents took the time out for the uncomfortable hour talk, then maybe the teen pregnancy rates wouldn't be so high.

  6. For me, I never had any sort of, "talk," with my parents. I suppose they never really saw a need to bother with it, considering I was more interested in taking apart household electronics than talking to girls. I learned about sex from school, 5th grade we watched basic sexual education films, 6th grade we discussed sex, 7th grade covered sex in Science. For all the gaps in the learning that I had, I just cobbled together whatever I had heard or seen from television, overheard conversations, or Wikipedia. I can't say that I ever learned anything about sex from any friends or peers of mine. It was never really a conversation we would talk about.

    In college, I was shocked when I heard my new groups of friends talking about sex, calling "dibs" on girls, and other "normal" conversation topics that I thought only appeared in cheaply made sitcoms. I didn't even know that people actually threw parties. Of course, by this time, my knowledge of sex was at a comfortable working level and whatever I heard from my new groups of friends, I didn't incorporate any of it into my sexual knowledge. I'm rather thankful that I didn't learn from my peers as the conversations I hear from these people make it clear that they view sex in a very non-realistic light.

  7. I was raised in one of those homes where religion came first, and sex was never discussed. Even now, at 33 years of age, the topic is never brought up in front of certain family members. Because of this, when the time came to experiment with the opposite sex, it was extremely difficult to handle the different emotions that i was feeling. What I realize now (With a family of my own) is that it is important to have a relationship where talking about sex is not discouraged or considered "dirty".

  8. Now that I think about it...I wish my parents were a little more open about talking about Sex. Unfortunately the way I learned was through the tv or the internet. And as much as I wanted to ask questions I always felt like my questions would indicate I was messing around with some boy. Which I wasn't, but I also hated making my parents worry about anything. That's something I plan to do differently with my kids. Hopefully we can create an environment where sex isn't looked at as dirty or inappropriate but rather just another part of life.

  9. The initial biology was taught to me by my parents in a surprisingly open way for devout Catholics raised in the fifties. My mother was very good at talking about the value of committed relationships, the struggles in and benefits to maintaining them, and the physical and emotional risks associated with promiscuity. Mostly my siblings and I, as products of our generation, thought she was a bit corny and outdated.
    One thing my parents weren't so good at was ensuring age appropriate development in a family of six kids spanning ten years in age. Sharing a dorm style room with my older brothers who were 9,7, and 5 years my senior from the age of 5-6 on was probably not the healthiest environment for me to learn about sex and love. I was exposed to all sorts of things I shouldn't have been and it certainly affected my sex life which began at the tender and emotionally immature age of fourteen. This is not bragging- I would wait much longer if it were mine to do over.
    In a lot of ways Mom was right.

  10. I don't know how it is in current times but no I didn't then and will not now talk to my parents about my sex life.If you even dared talking to a religious figure about it the answer was simple just don't have sex.Yeah real helpful,so I had to find out on my own we didn't have internet loaded with porn in the late 80's so it was all imagination.I do believe that men do go to the extreme in love if that wasn't true than fairy tale stories would have the women going to save her prince in distress.

  11. I found this peace easy to relate to because i did get the "talk" from my mom. too bad she over killed it and gave it to me about every couple months in high school, then thought it would be a good idea to give it to my friends every now and then just in case they didn’t know. So i had the opposite problem i didn’t learn it from friends my friends learned it from my mom.

  12. I never did have "the talk" with my parents, I believe i always tried to avoid it out of disgust. Sex ed in school was only abstinence only, because that was George Bush's policy on sex ed for teenagers, which in my opinion kids enjoying doing thing they are told not to do, so of course kids are going to have sex when told not to. Also it make a lot of sense that men go to the extreme in love because girls have a close knit circle of friends to talk to about their feelings, guys just hold it all in and dont talk about it.

  13. I happened to learn about sex through books and old "naughty" movies my father ahd in his room. I also found out more about sex after things that shouldn't be talked about in a public sitiuation when I was only 12. Sex to me is something that should be cherised and only be shared with someone you extremely care about or love. Having sex with someone just for the hell of it, appeals to me as stupid and reckless.

  14. My parents didn't have "the talk" with me. Honesty i do not blame them, I would have been just as uncomfortable as them. Even though i wish they did. I learned to much on the bus, which was later solidified by google and health class and books. Yes i believe it is important for the parents to have the talk but it is not easy. When i was younger i was so eager to find out how everything worked. I still remember some of the ridiculousness that i was told by my friends, then i was shocked and now i just laugh.

  15. My folks handed me a book about sex when I was 10 years old. Asked me if I had any questions, I said no... but I obviously had a million questions that I was too embarrassed to ask. Although at a early age sex is too much a confusing and elusive subject, I don't think there's alot to be learned through books and instruction.
    Right now sex is the simplest component of any relationship I can have in my 20's. It is the most visceral act. I think that sex should be instinctual and should be improved by being intuitive about your partner.
    Everyone should teach themselves how to have great sex. We are animals first, so we know how to get down, but we are really freakin smart animals so we can build off that platform and make sex interesting and fun. At the most primal level, sex is hands down the simplest thing to perform, adding extravagance to sex is something that our human minds allow us to do while other animals can not. The only people that can give you insight on how to have a good/better/one-at-all/best- sex life is you or your potential partner.

  16. It is no surprise that I am one of the 90%, and untimely lost my virginity because of the people I was hanging around. I remember it like it was yesterday and the fact that my parents were alcoholics did not help when it came to being involved with me and teaching me what was right ans wrong. I was left to steer my own boat and what I saw was what I did. Now I am 24 years old and can tell you the sex i have now is pleasurable compared to the meaningless two pump chumps i encountered back them. I did not even enjoy it mainly because I did not know what I was supposed to be enjoying. What was an orgasm? or semen? nothing was clicking which made sex something I did to be accepted by my peers. Education is so important for teens and sense adolescents is a time for for rebellion sex ought to be taught not as an forbidden thing. From experience if someone had tough me what to expect and what to feel and what how to deal with it if it had happened maybe i would have said no after the first horrific time. Although my parents were not around, I don't know if I would have wanted to hear it from them anyway. It's hard to say what the best way to go about educating teens on this subject but for me i would probably be most comfortable with an older peer in there 20's. Having a female who was not an authority figure who has been through it would have afforded me the opportunity to take in and actually practice what I was being taught. Well i can't turn back the clock on what I've done but am so happy that there is so much education out there now for me to learn and explore.

  17. I never had any type of sex talk with my parents, and it's still not discussed or mentioned in my home. My parents see the word 'sex' as dirty, and refuse to talk about it. I remember once when I was younger, my brother went up to my mother in the kitchen and told her he had a question. He said "what is sex?". My mother refused to answer him and said to never ask anyone another question like that again.

  18. Nowadays i feel kids learn most of what they know about sex from school and the media. Kids feel embarassed about going to their parents about the topic, or feel they'll give them a "PG version" about sex or only tell you what they feel you should know. I feel today kids learn too much too soon about sex and thats why so many kids are having babies at younger ages. But also the things they learn at school or from the media may be way more than they wouldve every learn from mom and dad

  19. My parents avoided the talk for as long as possible then one day my dad decided to give me the religious aspect of sex, honestly I learned more about sex on the bus from the older kids.

  20. I agree with this blog about how 90% of people other than thei parents. in my case i learned about sex from my mother. she gave me advice and also ur opinion. my mom answered all my queston to the best of her knowledge. now my dad is another story he wasnt hearing it. i hope when i have kids they feel as comfortable with me as i did with my mom.

  21. Interesting, I always sort of separated my love for my friends and family from those I loved intimately/sexually, but I didn't know that different parts of my brain were responsable for each.

    I think the sexual education problem is caused by a combination of things. What you said, discussing sexual relationships, with those whom you love separately in an attached/familial way, is awkward because they're different relationships developed by different systems in the brain. But also, society's way of dealing with sexuality is very particular. It's like denial! In the U.S. media for example, violence is okay, but sex is not. You can see someone get completely massacred on television, but sex is rarely shown. ...And if it is it's like "Oh, they're having sex now, pan camera away, and let the audience imagine the rest... to themselves..."

    I feel like homosexuality is a worthy mention. Successful relationships in general complement themselves. And if you want to talk about lack of sexual education... ask LGBT youth where they learned about their future. It surely wasn't sunday school!