Did you grow up having open conversations with your parents about masturbating and the clitoris? Or do you still laugh whenever someone says “erect?” Although the sex talk is super cringy to think about, not having it can lead to some even cringier moments as an adult.
And that’s exactly what the documentary “A Sexplanation” tries to tackle.
In the documentary, Alex Liu, a freelance science reporter, investigates how we talk about sex and why so many of us are afraid to talk about it. Growing up as a gay Asian man, he says he felt shame and confusion about his sexual desires and was afraid to talk to his parents about his feelings.
Through the film, he interviews experts to find out why talking about physical intimacy still makes us want to hide under our Spice Girls comforter. So why are we all so embarrassed to talk about sex?
11 Lessons from “A Sexplanation”
1. We’re all repressed.
Liu interviewed adolescent psychologist Lisa Medoff, who confirmed that in the US, we’re too repressed to talk about sex.
She explained that the shame we feel about sex is a problem. Shame is supposed to keep you from doing bad things, but if you’re ashamed about sex, you’ll think it’s a bad thing. The shame doesn’t prevent you from having sexual feelings, but it does keep you from talking about them. And that’s how you end up in the emergency room with the wrong part in the wrong hole.
2. Parents don’t know how to talk about sex…
Liu interviews his parents about how they handled the idea of the “sex talk” – they didn’t.
His parents explained that they were worried about bringing it up for him, since he might be embarrassed. They knew that sex ed was taught in school, so he was getting the information he needed. But we all know how helpful sex ed was.
3. …but parents know you’re masturbating.
No matter how sneaky you thought you were, you probably weren’t that great at hiding your masturbation habit. Liu’s mom said if you’re the one cleaning the house, you find the evidence.
The people who had to drag you kicking and screaming into the bath noticed that you’re suddenly taking 30 minute showers twice a day. Even if you aren’t great at math, you can at least add that up.
4. People don’t know their parts…
Liu interviewed people on the street with drawings of the reproductive systems and asked them how many body parts they could name. Most full-grown, tax paying adults walking by weren’t able to name many parts, but several did ask, “What’s the fancy name for balls?”
Great. Now we’re craving meatballs.
5. …especially not the clitoris.
We’ll take, “Things That Aren’t Shocking” for $500, please.
William Yarber, a scientist at the Kinsey Institute, said that in a study about parents naming genitals for their children, they found 0% of parents taught their children about the clitoris. None. Zilch. Goose egg. No wonder nobody can find it.
6. Nobody really knows what the definition of sex is.
Liu visited University of British Columbia’s sexual health conference and asked the sex researchers how exactly they would define sex. Most of them looked like they were trying to remember the lyrics to “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”
7. We’re studying orgasms in the brain now.
Barry Komisaruk and Nan Wise, scientists from Rutgers University, explained that there is basically no research about how sex and pleasure affects the brain. They were the first to study orgasms by having study participants masturbate in an MRI.
So if you’ve ever wanted to “play doctor,” give them a call…for science.
8. Everyone is watching porn…
Liu interviewed a data scientist at PornHub, who used a fake name to protect his identity. Deep throat, indeed.
PornHub is one of the 50 most visited websites. In 2017, 4.6 billion years of porn were watched worldwide…all in one year. Netflix, watch out.
9. …but everyone is scared of porn.
Since 2016, fifteen states have adopted resolutions declaring porn a public health crisis. The experts that Liu interviewed all agreed that porn itself isn’t harmful. All except for, shockingly, the Republican state senator, Todd Weiler, who introduced the bill in Utah declaring porn a public health crisis.
The problem is when porn is a replacement for sex education. If nobody is talking to kids about sex, they learn from porn. And porn is about as realistic as the CGI in The Polar Express.
For example, anal sex is over-represented in porn compared to how often it’s done IRL. And, porn rarely shows that anal requires lots of lube, and there is always a risk for code brown.
10. Shame can ruin your relationships.
According to sex therapist and radio host Dr. Laurie Betito, shame about sexual fantasies can ruin your relationship. Many people have fantasies that they feel are bad and wrong. But fantasy isn’t the same as real life and there’s nothing wrong with having thoughts about “wrong” fantasies.
Most fantasies can be safely explored with porn, erotica, imagination, or a willing partner. But if you hide your fantasies because of shame, they never really go away.
Dr. Betito shared the story of a client who had a fetish for acting like a baby by wearing a diaper and being taken care of by a mommy figure. He didn’t tell his wife before they got married and spent years trying to suppress it. But he eventually realized he couldn’t live without it, and she wasn’t into it, so they broke up. Then, by being open with future partners, he found a partner who was willing to explore this fantasy with him.
There’s a lid for every pot, even if the pot needs a diaper change.
11. “The Talk” should be an ongoing conversation.
All the experts agreed: the sex talk should be happening earlier and more often. Many parents wait until their kid asked about sex to talk about it, but kids won’t ask questions if they don’t know you’re willing to talk about sex.
And school’s sex ed isn’t going to cover it all…if at all. Basics like masturbation and LGBTQ+ relationships often aren’t included. So if you want sex ed done right, you’re gonna have to do it yourself. And maybe “A Sexplanation” is a good place to start.
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