Oy Vey! Humans Make Sex So Confusing!
I would like to do something a little different in this story; I would like to employ you — the reader — and your investigative mind to help me solve a sexual problem.
And no, you are not helping me solve a personal sexual problem!
Now that I think about it, it’s much more than just a problem, it’s a conundrum; a sexual conundrum so big, it made me change the original title of this story from Sex is Simple to Oy Vey! Humans Make Sex So Confusing!
FACT: There is no other human condition humans intentionally talk more wrong about than human sexuality.
The conundrum I would like you to help me solve is finding exactly who is to blame for making sex confusing.
So, what do you think; will you help me solve this conundrum? Before you answer, know this: If this conundrum is not solved, its ramifications will continue.
And its ramifications are vast.
They include societal, personal, psychological and economic problems, such as: Unwanted & Unintended Pregnancies; Sexually Transmitted Infections; Fear, Anxiety & Depression; Sexual Stereotypes, Prejudice, & Discrimination; Low Self-Esteem, Confused Self-Concept, & Poor Body Image; Shame & Guilt; Poor Communication within Relationships; Poverty; Domestic & Family Violence; Sexual Assault & Rape; and Murder.
Let me be clear about something: Sex itself nor the knowledge of sex is not causing these problems — instead the cause of these problems is humans making sex confusing.
If we find who is making sex confusing and stop them from doing so, then these problems have the possibility of being eliminated.
It’s official. I’m assuming you’re helping me, so let’s begin our search for the sex-confusers by defining what sex is.
Biologists and psychologists define sex as being one of four fundamental parts of being human — with the other three parts being: feeding, fighting, and flighting. These are the basic motivators of our behavior and the primary purpose of these motivators is to allow for our survival. Feeding energizes our survival; fighting is the assertiveness to gain what we need for our survival; flighting is the ability to stay away from what is dangerous to our survival; and sex’s primary purpose is…
Uh-oh. This is where it begins getting confusing.
What is sex’s primary purpose? If we ask biologists, they’ll tell us it’s reproduction; if we ask psychologists, they’ll tell us it’s happiness; if we ask sociologists, they’ll tell us it’s family; if we ask theologians, they’ll tell us it’s God; and if we ask our parents, they’ll tell us… “Don’t Do it!”
To make sense of this cacophony of answers, the research scientists Cindy Meston and David Buss of the University of Texas at Austin did a really weird thing. Instead of asking theologians, parents, biologists, psychologists or YouTube stars why they think people have sex; they actually asked people, why they do have sex.
When Drs. Meston and Buss did this, people answered with 237 different reasons, and the bulk of these reasons had a single theme: Pleasure.
FACT: When asked, Why Do You Have Sex? Men’s and women’s answers do not significantly differ from one another.
Thus, although us humans have sex for a variety of reasons, most of these reasons simply come down to pleasure.
As much as energy, assertiveness, and an awareness of danger is at our core for survival — so too is pleasure.
Interestingly, throughout our lifespans, we humans know sex’s primary purpose is pleasure, but we’re so bombarded by the sex-confusers telling us we don’t know this, or we should know something else, we often forget this simple truth.
If you’re interested in confirming you’ve always known this truth about your own sexuality, then take part in this thought experiment: Calculate the number of times you have had — and will have sex over your lifetime. Keep this number in your mind for you are about to do two things to it. First, take from this number — the number of times you will have or have had sex for reproduction purposes only. Second, take from this number — the number of times you will have or have had sex for pleasure purposes only. Now compare these two numbers. Which number is greater; for that matter, which number is way-way-way greater?
It is clear, biologists, psychologists, sociologists, theologians, and parents’ reasons for the primary purpose of sex are not based on data, so what are they basing their reasons on?
Maybe this is where we will find our sex-confusers — by searching for where we learn about sex from?
Where — and for that matter, whom we first learn about sex from is ourselves.
Look in a mirror; you are our first suspect for being a sex-confuser. Are you guilty? We humans begin learning about sex through self-exploration, as early as within the womb during the third trimester of pregnancy; and we continue with physical self-explorations through at least early childhood. Our self-exploration’s purpose is to discover erogenous zones, which are sensitive areas of the body. Based upon our self-explorations, we decide whether these physical zones are painful, ticklish, or pleasurable.
Sex is sensual during this first stage of learning. It is simple. It is truthful. We are not about confusing ourselves about sexuality. Thus, you are not guilty of the charges of being a sex-confuser.
Developmentally speaking, the next place we learn about sex from is in our homes from our parents.
FACT: Only about ¼ of parents have the “sex talk” with their children.
Our parents are the next suspects for being sex-confusers. Learning about sex from our parents primarily comes from and coincides with language development. Young children simply want words to attach to the things they have been discovering about their bodies. But the vast majority of parents, instead of giving children words to communicate about their sensuality, give children confusions — in the form of codes, anecdotes, and euphemisms — none of which children’s sensorimotor and preoperational minds can understand.
FACT: It is not until about 11 years of age when a child can understand abstract or implicit meanings of words.
Simply put, children want — and in fact developmentally need to learn sexually denotative words like vulva for vulva and penis for penis, but instead are more likely to learn sexually connotative words like cookie for vulva and wee-wee for penis.
Imagine if parents did this for body parts other than the vulva or penis — a set of parents systematically teaching their child to use the word wang doodles for eyes, honey pots for cheeks, and vajayjays for ears? These parents likely would be put in jail for being so intentionally abusive and neglectful to their child; and their child would be beyond confused about their eyes, cheeks, and ears.
Unfortunately, we don’t have to imagine parents intentionally doing this for body parts associated with pleasure; and indeed their children being beyond confused about these body parts.
FACT: The same confusing language parents use about body parts associated with pleasure — perpetrators reinforce to keep sexual abuse a secret, making childhood sexual abuse the least likely reported form of assault.
Sexual language is intentionally made ambiguous during this stage of learning. It is made complicated. It is made deceitful. Parents confuse children about pleasure, sensuality, and sexuality. Thus, parents are guilty of the charges of being a sex-confuser.
The next place we learn about sex from is school.
You might assume, as with any other academic topic, ethical and moral principles drive schools to present objective, truthful information about sex.
You know what they say about assuming?
In fact, the vast majority of schools in the United States today can make-up anything they want when it comes to the topic of sex.
Only 20 states require sex education be taught using scientific, medically accurate information, whereas 30 states can build sex education curricula based upon opinions, beliefs, or ideology alone.
Imagine if 30 of the United States could do this for the academic topic of math…
Yes, little Jimmy, 2 + 3 equals 4.
Or for geography…
Yes, little Juanita, there are 55 states that compose the United States.
Or for History…
Yes, Juwanna, the revolutionary war began in 1977.
Because US schools’ sex education curricula are most likely based on beliefs, opinions, and myths, they are guilty of the charges of being sex-confusers.
The next place we learn about sex from is our friends.
Friends are the most likely source people use to gather information about sex. But this is where it gets really, weird — and turns into a vicious cycle. For where are friends getting their information about sex? From the already convicted sex-confuser parents, who are talking in sex codes; and the schools, who are systematically lying about sex.
The conviction of friends being sex confusers is a no-brainer because their principle sources for sex information, parents and schools, are sex confusers themselves.
The last place we learn about sex from is the media.
Whether it be social media, mass media, movies, television, magazines, commercials, or even pornography, the media’s existence and viability, is based on portraying sex in often unrealistic and dramatic terms to generate money or hits or likes or followers.
FACT: 1/3 of adolescent males use pornography as their primary source of information to learn about sex.
Because the media is rooted in generating money, hits, likes, or followers, and not the truth about topics of sexuality, they are guilty of the charges of being a sex-confuser.
You have helped solve my sexual conundrum: Parents, schools, friends, and the media are guilty of being sex confusers.
But now that we know who the sex confusers are; what are we going to do with them?
Shame them? Take away their driving privileges? Throw them in jail?
Punishing parents, schools, friends, and the media might make us feel good for a moment or two, but it will not help eliminate the problems they have caused.
Educating parents, schools, friends, and the media will help.
Since you’re the only one found not guilty of being a sex-confuser — this education is up to you.
It is up to you to educate your parents about sex. No matter if your parents are 30 or 90 years of age. This education begins with talking clearly about sex using denotative words. Time to pick up the phone or pay your parents a visit, a vulva is indeed different from a vagina which is indeed different from a clitoris.
It is up to you to demand your city’s schools teach sexuality from a science-based perspective — like any other topic it teaches. Comprehensive-based sex education is science-based; abstinence-based sex education is not.
It is up to you to normalize talking about sex with your friends as you do with any other topic. It is up to you to encourage your friends to be aware of and critical about the sources of information used within your discussions about sex.
You are the social media; it is up to you to contribute to it in accurate ways; discerning primary sources of information about sex from secondary sources; and it is up to you to be aware of why different media sources exist — following their money, hits, likes, or followers.
You are the solution; by educating the sex-confusers, the problems they cause — go away; and the awareness, intelligence, and wisdom you share, will make sex what it really is: The most powerful form of communication humans have to obtain health, wellness, and happiness.
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Don Lucas is a Professor of Psychology and head of the Psychology Department at Northwest Vista College in San Antonio Texas. He loves psychology, teaching, and research.
If you like this story, then check out Don’s videos on his YouTube channel, 5MIweekly: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQFQ0vPPNPS-LYhlbKOzpFw/featured, follow him on Instagram @5MIweekly, and like him on Facebook: http://fb.me/5MIWeekly