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.