When it comes to your sex life, which one of these two philosophies do you live your life by: (A) Ignorance is bliss or (B) Knowledge is power? Research shows the latter keeps us healthy, but it also shows that too many of us -- especially younger people -- are living life by the former.
Another mistake in judgment: Talking about sex (and yes, even practices that some consider shocking like fetishes) is the same as telling people they should go out and do all these things. On one of our recent episodes of That Sex Show, I talked about sounding -- the practice of putting metal rods down a man's urethra. But trust me: Any person who hasn't always had a fascination for this kind of sex play isn't going to rush out to buy a set of metal sounding rods. But people who choose to engage in any kind of sexual behavior have the right to accurate information to make informed decisions. These days, most people's information about sex comes from the Internet, and that's not exactly the best source. One study found 46 percent of the sexual web sites analyzed had inaccurate information on contraception. (1). Maybe that's part of the reason we continue to have one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the developed world. (2).
So yes, knowledge is power -- as long as that knowledge is based on accurate information. It should be delivered in a non-judgmental way. And one more twist: Maybe if we have a little fun while delivering the information, we can actually get people to listen and even ask questions they've been too embarrassed to ask. (And let's use people's preferred method of communication these days: Tweet us your questions @ThatSexShow.)
Hopefully, this will be one small way we can get better at educating people about sex, because sex education in our country still isn't working. The Centers for Disease Control recommends 11 STD prevention topics, and the number of public schools teaching all of these topics varies by state. Only 12.6 percent of schools in Arizona teach all 11 topics; 66.3 percent of schools in New York do. (3).
And make no mistake: Americans are having just as much sex as their European peers. The difference: Americans are less likely to use contraception and have shorter relationships Santelli J et al., Transnational comparisons of adolescent contraceptive use: What can we learn from these comparisons? (4). Which explains why U.S. teens have extremely high rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia when compared to teens in Western Europe. (5),(6).
Some of this difference may be rooted in moral and religious beliefs. But even the most conservative parents should know that not only does sex education result in an increase in the use of condoms and birth control; it also delays sexual activity and reduces the average number of sexual partners. (7). So, let's all start talking about sex -- in our families, in our schools, and, yes, on TV.
I hope that all of this education leads to what I consider to be the best-case scenario for all of us: forming loving, committed, long-term relationships. This isn't always easy, but it does require us to talk openly and honestly about things that matter. It requires us to say the things we've been too afraid to say and be vulnerable in ways that may feel completely foreign. It requires calculated risk-taking, because love is, indeed, a battlefield. And I truly believe that great lovemaking is a requirement for lasting relationships -- whether you're 25 or 95. Because at the end of the day (and our lives), there's really only one thing that matters: Did I love, and did I feel loved in return?
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1. Buhi ER et al., Quality and accuracy of sexual health information web sites visited by young people, Journal of Adolescent Health, 2010, 47(2):206-208.
2. McKay A et al., Trends in teen pregnancy rates from 1996-2006: a comparison of Canada, Sweden, USA and England/Wales, Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 19(1-2):43-52.
3. Kann, L., et al., HIV, other STD, and pregnancy prevention education in public secondary school, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Centers for Disease Control, 61(13): 222-228.
4. Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine, 2008, 162(1):92-94.
5. Weinstock H et al., Sexually transmitted diseases among American youth: incidence and prevalence estimates, 2000, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2004, 36(1):6-10;
6. Darroch JE et al., Teenage sexual and reproductive behavior in developed countries: Can more progress be made? Occasional Report, New York: The Alan Guttmacher Institute, 2001, No. 3.
7. Kirby D, Emerging Answers 2007: Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Washington, DC: National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 2007.
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