Uncomfortable but necessary sex talks

By John Zawawi


The earlier you start talking to your children about the realities of sex and its consequences, the better, say public health officers. (Chris Ware/Lexington Herald-Leader/MCT)
The earlier you start talking to your children about the realities of sex and its consequences, the better, say public health officers. (Chris Ware/Lexington Herald-Leader/MCT)

When I found out about this special issue, I cringed. Not because I have an issue with talking about sex; I don’t. But the bulk of my readership for these articles comes from my parents, my aunts and whoever else my mom emails. I do feel uncomfortable talking about sex with these people.

Just about everyone in the world has sex. The only reason I’m writing this is because people had sex. I’m going to school on a campus that probably has more sex per capita than the Moonlite BunnyRanch.

The progressive part of my brain questions my discomfort – the part that says sex is something that shouldn’t be a taboo, that it’s as natural as eating or drinking, that there is no reason to fuss. Not only should it not feel awkward, it’s important. Talking about sex in an open and realistic manner goes a long way. Just ask the Texas high school with abstinence-only education which is currently experiencing a chlamydia outbreak.

But that doesn’t change the fact that talking about sex is weird. We go so far as to call it the “birds and the bees” because it feels too uncomfortable to just say “sex.” I’m remembering my own personal sex talk with my dad. I was in fourth grade. He said, “You know how sex works, right?”, and I said, “Of course, Dad. I’m in fourth grade.” He then asked me to describe it, so I said, “It’s when two people get naked and just hug each other for a while”, to which he replied, “Well, you aren’t wrong”.

I had “the talk” with my mom some time in high school, after a condom made its way through the washer and dryer. The one, and only, time we have ever talked about sex started with her saying, “John, you aren’t ready to be a daddy,” and ended with me immediately leaving the room.

It is inherently uncomfortable to talk about sex with the vast majority of adults. When is the last time you chatted with your grandparents about losing your virginity? Never. Never ever.

I remember in elementary school, in order to “become acclimated with puberty vocabulary,” our whole class had to chant “penis” fifteen times in unison, which our teacher led us in. If you don’t feel weird reading that, picture an octogenarian leading a large group of 9-year-olds sitting criss-cross-applesauce, yelling “penis” in a cult-like fashion. The video we had to watch after the penis chant was even worse, as it consisted of a  middle-aged man who would take breaks from his bass guitar solo to say things like “you may be feeling some tingles and urges,” and who also used the word “testes” way too casually. This was indicative of almost every sex education class I’ve had (I say almost because I have had one sex ed teacher who ran a class that felt natural. Mrs. Lombard, if my mom has emailed you this, I tip my cap in appreciation).

But the truth is that kids feel more comfortable talking about sex with their peers than they do with adults. This can be an issue – I can personally attest that the last people kids should be learning about sex from are other kids. I once listened to someone explain how to masturbate using an orange peel. Another time I heard, “Don’t worry, you can’t get Hep C (sic) from butt stuff.” Clearly, the sexually blind leading the sexually blind is not the best way to go about educating the youth of today about sex.

But allow me to present the Internet as a valuable resource for sex education. I’m not talking about PornHub. There are very good sex education websites out there. The OhJoySexToy educational comics and Sex, etc., to name a few.  Using the internet as a resource for uncomfortable topics like sex ed can get the message across without the tension that causes students to ignore important conversations.

However there is added value for a teen to learn about sex from someone they know and trust, and so, as usual, the Internet is not an entirely suitable replacement. But while it is not the perfect solution for sex education, we should understand that the last thing a kid wants to hear after the sex talk is, “Now what do you want for dinner?”

John Zawawi is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]