Lady Gaga's never been one to shy away from making controversial statements. But it's her stance on sex that been making headlines in recent days.
Appearing on Howard Stern Monday morning, Gaga told the shock jock, "I've got a lot of young fans ... Honestly, you should wait as long as you can to have sex. As a woman you don't even begin to enjoy it until your mid-20s."
It's a bold statement for Gaga. Only 25 herself, the pop star has been roundly criticized by parent groups for her highly sexual costumes and performances. On the Stern show, she appeared wearing a bondage-inspired onesie of black latex, fishnet tights and an exposed garter belt clasped around her waist.
But experts say that overtly sexual image shouldn't negate the singer's message.
Dr. Laura Berman, one of the nation's foremost women's sexual health experts and author of several books on the subject, says Gaga's stance is a refreshingly positive one.
"Actually, I'm impressed with her," Berman told The Huffington Post. "She obviously exudes a kind of sexuality that a lot of her fans aspire to, but what she's saying is that you should own your own sexuality and be comfortable with who you are before having sex with someone else."
Women in their teens and early 20s are typically reactive in their sexual experiences, Berman explains. They're more likely to respond to external pressures to have sex -- peer pressure or pressure from a boyfriend -- rather than act in accordance with internal desires.
That doesn't change entirely until a woman is much older. In other words, the widespread notion that men peak sexually in their late teens while women peak in their mid-30s is in part true, Berman says.
"By the time a woman is in her mid-30s, she knows who she is, and she's not apologetic about it," Berman said. "She's much more likely to have sex from a place of empowerment and be assertive about what feels good to her."
While it may be unusual for a woman to wait until her mid-20s to have sex, Berman says there's actually some scientific proof it's a good idea. "A woman's prefrontal cortex -- the decision-making part of the brain -- isn't even fully developed until the age of 21. That means the consequences aren't fully recognized until then."
And while Gaga's image may exude a sexuality that makes parents wary of the star, Berman says her racy look doesn't necessarily negate her message to fans.
"It's one thing to own your sexuality, and it's another to have sex," Berman says. "You can absolutely be sexy and flirtatious without engaging actively in sex."
"What she's saying, in between the lines, is that you need to explore your own body first. You can't just expect a man to figure it out. You have to figure out what you want first."
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