What do you imagine happens when a professional organization of sex therapists, educators, researchers, and professors spend a weekend together in Monterey, California? That’s right – they talk about sex, learn about the latest sex research, listen to presentations by masters in the field, network and share resources, and take copious notes.
I had the pleasure of being among them at the annual conference of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT), June 5-8, 2014. (This is the organization that gave Naked At Our Age the 2012 Book Award!) The weekend was packed with information.
One of my favorite presentations was a spirited and savvy slide-show illustrated talk by Paul Joannides, Psy.D, author of the excellent self-help guide for young people, Guide to Getting It On! A Book About the Wonders of Sex. His presentation — usually given to college students — was entitled “I Wish My Clitoris Was Bigger, So My Boyfriend Could Find It.”
The title is, of course, ironic. Young people exploring sex may have heard that the clitoris has thousands of nerve endings, but they (and we?) have little understanding of the structure of the clitoris. It’s not just the little nubbin that’s erect and usually visible when aroused.
The bigger issue, of course, is how, when, and where to give the clitoris the attention it needs. Since every clitoris owner gets pleasure in a different way, it’s up to her to discover what works for her and convey it to her confused but willing partner.
- “No matter how many women you’ve been with, the first time you’re between the legs of a new woman, it feels like warm apple pie.”
- “He thinks, ‘I have no idea what I’m doing.’ She thinks, ‘I can’t tell him because he’s a guy and he’s supposed to know.’”
- “Even the best partners are clueless about your amazing vagina. It’s your job to teach him and his job to learn.”
- “85% of the women who have orgasms during intercourse need a clitoral assist, not through thrusting alone.”
- “The single most damaging aspect of porn is the expectation that the guy is supposed to automatically know how to please a partner. That’s a toxic idea.”
- “Because she’s having intercourse [in porn], and that part’s real, you forget that she’s faking the pleasure.
- “For some reason, porn actors do not have a gag reflex. That must be what they go to porn school for.”
- “When it comes to sex, we’re always a work in progress. We’re changing from the day we’re born until we’re really old.”
I was recently interviewed by Karen Rayne, Ph.D., a sex educator for teenagers and their parents who has a blog about adolescent sexuality . I’d like to repeat that interview here and get your comments:
Karen Rayne: Why do you think senior sexuality is important?
Joan Price: It’s important because we’ve been seen by society and by the media (and sometimes by ourselves!) as asexual, unsexy, and altogether icky if we are sexually active and enthusiastic about it. We need to change that, not just for those of us who are already in our golden years, but for all ages. I offer this plea to young people: Help us change our society’s view of older people as either sexless or ludicrous and disgusting for wanting sex. Realize that our bodies change, but we’re still the same lusty and loving people that we were when we were your age.
Karen Rayne: What do you see as the life-long path that can lead to healthy senior sexuality?
Joan Price: Acceptance of our own sexuality and open-mindedness about any consensual sex taking place between people of age to give consent — and by that I mean emotional age, not legal age of consent necessarily. I know that at age 17, I was fully ready to engage in sex with my 19-year-old boyfriend. We had been dating for two years, and only waited that long because we were scared to death that either my parents would find out or I’d get pregnant. (The first happened; the second didn’t.) I fear for girls who become sexually active before they’re emotionally ready, though — to please a boyfriend, or because “everyone’s doing it.” I encourage teens to talk to older, trusted adults before becoming sexually active, and definitely to use barrier protection (condoms) every time.
Karen Rayne: How can parents and teachers best help children and teenagers start down that road?
Joan Price: I was a high school English teacher for 22 years before I switched to a writing career, and I still have a great love for and enjoyment of teenagers. When I was teaching, many students talked to me or wrote in their journals about their relationships. Sometimes they confided intimate details that they didn’t feel they could tell their parents. I encourage teachers to make themselves accessible and safe, letting their students know they’re available, opening up topics in class that let the teenagers know that the teachers understand and have useful perspectives to share. I encourage parents to do the same thing, but realize — and please accept this — that as open-minded, accessible, and loving as they are, their teenaged sons and daughters might feel more comfortable talking to a different adult. (I’d love to hear from teenagers about how they feel about this topic.)
Also, see your body as a lifelong source of sexual pleasure, and see the beauty in older people. I know it’s difficult, when our society and especially the media stresses that beauty and sexuality are the domain of the young. For your own sake, please reject this notion. As you age, welcome the new image of sexuality that you’ll see in yourself and in your peers.
I also invited Karen’s readers to visit this blog:
As young people (and I’m talking to both teens and parents!), you may resist reading about people who are 60 or 70 or older talking so openly about their sexual attitudes and experiences, but I think it’s very important that we talk and you hear us, just as you want us to hear you.
I look forward to reading the comments of the teens and their parents who visit us here.