Ugh! I’ve got the worst cold today. And here I am writing an entry for the Scarleteen Sex-Ed Blog Carnival. Instead of feeling like an all-American male sexpert I feel roughly as sexy as room-temperature jello.
But that’s actually a perfect hook for this post! When you’re sick, a track coach or personal trainer might be able to give you some good advice, but really, the best person to talk to is a doctor. Similarly, when you’re trying to start a business it’s fascinating to talk to an accountant or patent lawyer. But you’ll get much better advice from your local Small Business Administration. Well, it’s the same thing with sexperts vs sex educators.
Why? Fitness experts and doctors, accountants and small-business consultants, sexperts and sex educators all have or employ very different skill sets. One set is great when you’re already on your feet and ready to run, the other set is about getting you up on your feet in the first place. The first are great for helping you fine-tune the instrument you’re already playing, the second are best when you’re not even sure what instrument you want to play.
Enter Scarleteen. There’s a very good chance that founder Heather Corinna knows more about all the different ways one or more can enjoy sex than Dr. Kinsey and Dr. Ruth combined. But guess what? You’ll only find a fraction of all that information in the thousands of pages of Scarleteen. Why? Because what Heather and her staff of volunteers brings to Scarleteen is a deep and committed awareness of what it takes to get from the unformed stirrings of puberty to self discovery of what works for beginners. And pre-beginners.
Heather and I used to be nearly neighbors, and while she was finishing her book S.E.X. The All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College. And so I got to hear a lot about the various experts she first spoke to and her frustration with their emphasis on technique (“You gotta get ‘em started on bondage right away.” “Make sure they know about the logistics of multiple partners.” And “sex toys and lube, sex toys and lube!”) It’s not, she said, that those things aren’t interesting, important, or fun. It’s that almost by definition by the time you’re experienced enough to credibly call yourself an expert at sex you’ve pretty much forgotten your very earliest sexual feelings. (Hint #1: For almost everyone, by the first time you have sex nor even the first time you kiss you’ve been in sexual development for years.)
And one of the tricks about trying to jump straight to technique is that you’re leapfrogging a heck of a lot of other critical steps. Such as, oh, I don’t know, identifying your feelings and determining or at least confirming your primary orientations. There’s also learning to handle previously unfamiliar hormonal surges. And coming to grips with ongoing body changes. Then there’s coming to grips with personal and group identity formation. And how about worrying like crazy that your erections, or lubrication, or breasts, or hair patterns, or even just acne and voice changes are “normal” when they sure as heck weren’t there last year and they don’t feel normal to you now! Oh yeah, and how about negotiation, boundaries, deconstructing locker room, media, magazine, and porn chatter? How about physical and psychological integrity? How about safety? How about learning tolerance for others? How about learning to expect and demand tolerance for yourself?
What’s great about good sex education, and Scarleteen’s commitment in particular, is they’re focused on sexual development and not just the (very good) “good stuff” sexperts are able to offer once you’re ready. Sexperts are darn good at helping you stay healthy and whole while having a blast. Sex educators are darn good at helping you grow up for yourself.
The world would be a sorrier place without both sexperts and sex educators. But the world would also be a sorrier place if we confused the two.