Posts Tagged ‘sex education’

Teaching Sex

Dr. Janell CarrollI always get so excited this time of year.  The weather gets cooler, the leaves begin to change, and I get back in the classroom.  I have been a college professor for over 20 years now.  While I have taught a variety of courses, my favorite has always been the sex course.  Why?  Well, this is a class which often generates high student interest.  Students always want to learn about sex.  They love to talk about it and explore various sexual attitudes, practices, and behaviors.

I have found that many students have never talked to their parents about sex.  Instead they come to the course with a basic sexual knowledge from friends, television, books, magazines, and in some cases, a health education class somewhere along the way.  For the most part, knowledge levels are fairly remedial.  Because of this, I sepnd a great deal of time exploring the foundations of human sexuailty – including male/female anatomy and physiology.  It always surprises me how little most students (and most people in general) know about their own bodies.  Male students have asked me why they have “split streams” when they try and pee with an erection, while female students ask how they can pee with a tampon in (let me know if you need any answers here…).

Anxieties are typically high the first few days of class – this is exactly why I like to keep it light and use lots of humor.  Laughing can help reduce anxieties, which in turn will help in the learning process.  Students who are anxious often have difficulties understanding and/or assimilating new information.  In my perfect world, the sex class I teach at our university would be taughter much earlier.  In fact, I think it would be very useful and appropriate for middle school or early high school students.  Unfortunately in the U.S. we tend to believe that sexual knowledge is bad.  We worry that if we tell kids about sex when they’re young, they will run out and get laid without much thought.  We American are good at teaching kids about the negative aspects of sex, such as pregnancy or STDs.  But why are we so afraid to talk about the positives about sex?  Sex is great.  It’s  a wonderfully exciting interaction, especially when shared in a loving an dmutually respectful relationship.  Great sex and frequent orgasms can make us all happier, healthier, and much more productive.

Child Porn & Sexting

sexting_w_credit1By now most of us have caught wind of the legal cases surrounding teen “sexting.”  In New Jersey a 14-year old girl is facing sex offender charges and a possible 17 years in jail  for posting nude pictures of herself on MySpace (Sexting in NJ).   In Pennsylvania felony charges are pending against 3 teens who sent “racy” images of themselves via cell phones (Sexting in PA).  Similar sexting cases have recently surfaced in Connecticut, North Dakota, Ohio, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.  All these cases have motivated lawmakers to use legal charges to discourage teens from sending and receiving “racy” photos.

These cases raise interesting questions about teenage psychological development and teen sexuality, the definition of pornography, and parental responsibilities.  First of all, I believe the teens involved in these cases are stupid and naive.  They are exploiting themselves with little understanding of the consequences.  This is not “child porn” and they are not “accomplices to child porn.”  Developmentally, a teen doesn’t view such behaviors the same way that adults do.  They post pictures of themselves in their bras and underwear because they don’t think things through or think about the repercussions of their behaviors.  It’s impulsive and stupid.  Social networking sites and cell phones are new technologies that teens have embraced very quickly, without understanding the potential long-term consequences of these technologies.  These teens are innundated with nonstop sexual messages and images.  They hear about sex (turn on your radio and listen to any song on the major radio networks), read about sex (pick up any teen magazine and it will tell you how to have great sex and what makes guys hot), watch sex (check out the tv programming they watch today), and talk about sex (listen in on any teen conversation and you’ll get the picture).  What is missing from all of this, is good, solid information about sex.  Tighter school budgets means less adequate health and sex education classes in middle and high schools across the country.  And many parents aren’t talking to their kids about sex.  As a result, these teens don’t understand sexuality, see it all around them, and impulsively join in the fun.  Why not?

I don’t think that slapping legal charges on a bunch of kids, labeling them as sex offenders, and sending them to jail will help teach kids how serious these things are.  Of course they need to learn that there are serious consequences -but how?  I think what has to happen is parents need a huge wake up call.  They need to be more involved with their kids, talk to them about sex, sexting, social networking sites, use of the Internet, and help them understand the potential long-term consequences of these behaviors.

One more thing before I get off my soapbox – does anyone notice that it’s the girls who are mostly in trouble here?  I haven’t seen any sexting cases in which boys send around photos of themselves in their tighty-whiteys.  The images are only of girls – and the photos resemble many ads that appear in various women’s magazines today.  There is a much bigger problem going on today that involves female sexuality.  Girls desperately need to learn about sexuality and understand the importance of self-respect and self-confidence.  I’ve seen too many girls give up their bodies in an attempt to find love.  The media reinforces that girls need to give up their bodies and their sex in order to get boys to fall in love with them.  Sexting and hooking up don’t lead to love.  In fact, these things often do just the opposite.  It’s time to start talking about this.

Sex & Alcohol: Do College Guys Want a Drunk Lay?

Did you hear the recent news that many college women drink excessively because they think it impresses the guys on campus? College women believed men found drunk women “sexy” and “appealing” (click here for more info on this recent study).

In fact, many women said that a man would be more sexually attracted to a woman who had 5 or more alcoholic drinks. Am I the only one who thinks someone is missing the real story here? College guys are attracted to drunk women so they can get laid – not because the women are drunk!! The men know that a woman who has had a few drinks is more relaxed and uninhibited.  Many women drink so they can use the alcohol as an “excuse” to be sexual, among other things.

Let’s face it, we live in a culture that imposes strict standards on a woman’s sexuality. Women are supposed to be “good girls” and limit the number of sexual partners they have so as not to appear “slutty.” Two standards of sexual behavior exist – one for men and another for women. Men are given much more sexual freedom and are expected to be highly sexual (this can cause problems for the guys but that’s a whole other blog). Men are expected to have higher sex drives than women and can bed multiple partners without repercussions. Women, on the other hand, are supposed to keep their sexual desires in check and limit the number of sexual partners. I believe this double standard contributes to high alcohol use in women. Alcohol removes inhibitions and enables women to firmly grasp their sexuality in an “I-don’t-give-a-damn-what-anyone-says” kind of way. They are free from the shackles of “love” and “romance” that society tells them should motivate their sexuality.

The bottom line is that women have an enormous capacity for sexual interest and pleasure. However, society has wrapped female sexual desire in love and promotes only committed relationships as the appropriate context for women’s sexuality. Romance novels, soap operas, and sitcoms all readily share this message. As a result, women learn to romanticize sexual desire and alcohol enables them to step outside of these societal restrictions.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I do not think alcohol is the answer here. I merely point it out to begin a discussion about female sexuality. Alcohol is a big problem on college campuses today and we all know it can reduce one’s ability to make good decisions. However, the fact that women think it’s sexy to guys concerns me. But I do think we need to explore how we can get women back in touch with themselves and confident about their sexuality before we can do anything about the alcohol use.

Is sex before marriage like eating someone else’s food?

I was talking to my class today about abstinence and how schools and churches teach these concepts today. We’ve all heard the horror stories about lessons that teach students that sex before marriage causes lifelong depression, shame, and guilt; and can also contribute to incurable diseases, sexual dysfunctions, lost relationships, failed marriages, and even risks to unborn future children. These arguments are ridiculous. To me, we are a society full of sex-negativity. Let’s just scare kids into not having sex! I think it’s the wrong approach. Giving kids a one-sided argument doesn’t work. They’ll do it anyway and not be responsible when they do it (take a recent article that found that kids that take virginity pledges are less likely to use protection when they have sex the first time). Let’s be honest with kids and tell them the good (and great) things about sex along with the risks. Let’s not make things up and give false information. I’m all for healthy, comprehensive sexuality education starting at birth – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Kids can make decisions when given all the facts, not just the negative ones. Why can’t parents talk to their kids about masturbation, orgasm, or sexual pleasure? What are they afraid of?

Here’s an interesting “skit” that I found on God Tube (now called – it certainly makes you think…….well, think and laugh. What is interesting about this skit is the fact that it appears that the message is having sex with a woman who has had sex with someone else is like left overs…..but there appears to be a gender difference here.  Why isn’t sex with a guy with several partners like left overs?  Hmmmmm…….

Talking About Sex is Fun


This photo was taken on location in Paris, France, where we were filming a pilot television show.  I have so much fun talking about sex because it just never gets old.  People have so many questions and I love to have a good conversation about it.   I laugh alot and just have a great time.  Why can’t people open up and TALK about sex?

Let’s TALK About Sex

This song goes way back to a radio show I hosted in the early 1990s called Let’s Talk About Sex on KCMO radio in Kansas City. It was an awesome show that honestly and openly explored issues related to sex. Unfortunately, Kansas City is on the buckle of the Bible Belt…..the show was pulled because a few people (ok, one person mainly) was uncomfortable with sex talk. However, the fact remains – Let’s Talk About Sex was one of the stations highest rated shows.   People want to know and that’s why I’m committed to never shutting up.  Let’s keep talking about sex.

Viva La Vulva!!!

I’m going to try something a little different today.  This weekend I was at a party and a friend pulled me aside to ask a personal question about sex.  This isn’t that unusual – in fact, it happens all the time.   As a sexologist, I’m used to getting lots of questions.  You might be interested in what people want to know.  If so, read on…..

I have an unusual problem.  My boyfriend says that my inner labia look like two pieces of raw steak slapping together.  He says my vagina and inner lips look so ugly and repulsive that no one will ever want to have sex with me if we ever broke up.  Consequently, I have a very hard time reaching orgasm becuase he makes me feel insecure about my body.  He has no problem with sex or orgasm.  In fact, he wants it every day.  I feel horrible about myself and I’m hardly ever in the mood.  To make matters even worse, my boyfriend didn’t just say these mean things to me….he told all his friends too.  I’m so confused.  Do I need to see a plastic surgeon?  

My first question here is WHY THE HELL ARE YOU WITH THIS GUY?  He sounds like a complete jerk.  He has succeeded in sucking every bit of self-confidence from you.  My guess is that he is afraid of losing you and to avoid this, he makes you feel that no other man would ever want you.  The fact that he shared something so personal about you with his friends makes him an even bigger loser.

Your concerns about your vulva really aren’t that unusual.  Many women feel uncomfortable with the size, shape, or appearance of their vulvas.  After all, we’ve been brainwashed into believing the vagina is ugly and dirty (one walk down the feminine hygeine aisle will convince you of this).  We’ve also all heard enough “fish” jokes to convince us the vagina is smelly.  But your man is making your normal concerns into huge issues for you. 

The vaginal lips are supposed to hang down – they are built to protect the vaginal opening.  However, like fingerprints, no two vulvas look alike.  They are as individual as we are.  Some women have long labia, while others have shorter ones.  In some countries, women actually use botanical stretching methods to lengthen the lips because this is considered sexy.

While there are surgeons who offer cosmetic vaginal or labial surgery (called vaginoplasty or labiaplasty), you don’t need it.  What I think you do need, is a good dose of self-acceptance.  Grab a mirror and make friends with your vulva.  Spend some time getting to know it and accept it.  Once you can do this, I think you’ll find your problems with sexual desire and orgasm will improve. 

I also think you seriously need to think about why you are with your boyfriend.  Who needs a guy that sucks the confidence out of you? What you need is a partner that helps support you and makes you feel beautiful.  Run…..don’t walk….and start working on YOU.

The Day Aunt Flo Comes To Visit

final_cover1I remember waiting for the day my first period would come.  I wondered where I would be when it came and I worried that I might be in school or even worse, at a swim meet. I worried that I’d be wearing white pants and I was scared that everyone would know! The truth is…… I worried about a lot of things when it came to my first period and I had tons of questions.

Girls today still worry. In fact, worrying about a first period is very normal. What concerns me is that a young girl’s experience with her first period is shaped by how well-informed she is about menstruation – making it really important to learn as much as she can. I am a strong advocate of parents talking to their kids about the changes that happen during puberty – to daughters as well as sons.

I saw a study the other day that said less than 19% of adolescents feel they have someone to talk to about personal issues such as these.  This troubles me.  Now I know that some kids get “health education”  starting in 5th grade, but in my opinion, the information they get in these classes is too little and much too late!  Kids need to know about puberty and sexuality way before 5th grade.  I talked to my kids about puberty, development, and sexuality issues as soon as they were old enough to listen.  I wanted them to hear it from me and I wanted them to always know they could come to me with questions.

Those of us with kids know that somewhere around middle school we begin to lose them. Friends become very important and are usually their main sources for information.  Before this time, however, they want and need to hear it from the people they trust the most- their parents.

I wrote THE DAY AUNT FLO COMES TO VISIT: AN HONEST CONVERSATION ABOUT GETTING YOUR PERIOD both for young girls and their parents.  I wanted a book that parents and daughters could read together.  The book is straightforward and honest and answers the most common questions that girls have about getting their periods – such as when will it come?, who should I tell?, what should I do?,  can I still swim?, and pads or tampons? The book is designed to help girls understand more about the biology of menstruation, along with the common emotional and psychological reactions. I explore why and how periods happen and what they feel like and share personal stories from girls who have already had their first period.  In these stories, readers learn what these girls thought about, worried about, and where they were when their first period came.  Some of these girls had positive experiences and some had negative experiences.   Some felt excited and some felt scared.  The common thread in all of their stories is a wish that they would have been more prepared and knew more about what to expect.  In fact, that is what inspired me to write this book.  My goal in writing this book and talking to girls about menstruation is to help them become more knowledgable and, in turn, more confident about becoming a woman.

When my daughter got her first period I threw a party complete with a red “period” cake, ice cream,  and presents.  I wanted her to know how excited we were.  I also wanted her to see that getting your first period isn’t something to be embarassed about – it’s something to celebrate!  Now we talk about periods and girl stuff all the time.  She knows that I’m here for her.  And if I don’t have the answers to her questions, she knows I’ll help her find them.  I’d much rather have her asking me then relying on her friends, who might not give her reliable information.

If you are interested in the book, go to for ordering information.  If you have comments or questions, I’d love to hear them!

Sex on TV

I find it facinating how much sex is on television these days.  Studies have found that 70% of today’s TV shows (2 out of 3 shows) contains some sexual content.  This really doesn’t surprise me.  What I find funny is that although sex is a common element in today’s television shows, the portrayal of sex is totally sensationalistic. When you pair this approach with a lack of good quality sexuality education in the U.S., then you realize where the problems are.   The information is not realistic and the messages are clearly negative – overall, it does more harm than good!  Without a solid foundation and understanding about sexuality, sex on television can be misleading and detrimental.  I am a huge advocate of early comprehensive sexuality education and I really think it needs to start at home with your parents.  Unfortunately, most parents don’t know how to talk about sex or what to say – so they say nothing.  Why are parents so hesitant to talk to their kids about sex when kids are being innundated by so many sources – television, magazines, advertisers, and peers?????

What we really need are more good, quality programming about sex, that can educate, inform, and even entertain people!  Programs that are fun, but can also educate.  Hmmmm, I’m working on it! 





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