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Teens Want More Than Sex "Mechanics"

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Submitted by Heather Corinna on Sat, 2006-12-09 17:00

(Thanks for the AU link, Stephen.)

...a Federal Government-funded study revealed teenagers are crying out for better advice on sexual intimacy and relationships.

The groundbreaking study, funded by the Australian Research Council, shows that while an increasing number of youngsters are sexually active under the age of 16, they feel they receive little to no direction from parents or schools in the areas that matter most.

The research concludes that rather than the basic do's and don'ts of so called "sexual mechanics", what today's teenagers are desperate for is advice on the complexities surrounding sexual intimacy, negotiating consent, handling peer pressure and the potential for violence.

Youngsters who took part in the study also wanted further opportunity to learn communication skills in an area where many adults themselves fall short; dating and continuing relationships.

The chief researcher, Associate Professor Moira Carmody, from the University of Western Sydney's Social Justice Social Change Research Centre, confirmed the results would help shape an alternative sex education and violence prevention program, to be piloted in February.(More at the Age.)

Obviously, this -- or a study with similar findings at the Guttmacher Institute last June here -- isn't news here at Scarleteen: over the years we've done en masse sex ed, this is always what we've found, and has always been the approach we've taken.

(Still, it's always awfully nice to have outside sources validating what we've found, especially with the book -- also done with this approach -- now making its way to shelves so soon.)

I have to confess, I'm not a big fan of mechanics-based sex education, period, not for teens, not for adults. While I don't think mechanical or technical information about sex isn't valuable, I think that we often see way too much of it, and that too much has the capacity to limit intimacy and the individualization/personalization of solo or partnered sex. For younger people, feeling like somehow sex technique is this incredibly complicated thing can compound fears of doing things 'wrong," and make people feel like they need a script to have sex with a partner. To boot, we often have a profound lack of all of the other types of sex education we all need: in-depth address of communication and consent, realistic expectations, physical and emotional safety, relationship models and management, gender and body issues, the works, all done in the context of a given that sex is 100% okay (and hopefully better than okay!).

Nicely, the proposed PATHWAY act dovetails with this perfectly. It's really, really refreshing to see more connections being made between gender and sex inequities, rates of sexual and interpersonal violence, STI transmission and truly comprehensive address of sexuality, and more realizations that we can get to a more healthy cultural sexuality VIA some of the other cultural changes which are long overdue; that change in those areas is vital to supporting healthy sexuality.

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