Whenever someone asks what I do for a living, I have a decision to make: do I “out” myself as a sex scientist, or do I give a generic answer that doesn’t emphasize the fact that I study sex for a living? For example, I could simply say that I’m a social psychologist or an author and leave it at that. This choice is something that all sex educators, researchers, and therapists face. Each of us has to figure out on our own what we want to reveal about our jobs to different audiences. However, there’s one audience that’s often especially tricky to navigate: our families.Read More
In the United States, the average age of first sexual intercourse is 17 for men, according to data from the CDC. The number is roughly the same for women, and it has remained pretty constant for the last two decades. Based on these data, some parents might be tempted to think that talking to their kids about sex can wait until they’re fairly grown up and almost ready to leave for college; however, that would be a poor assumption to make.
It turns out that there is wide individual variability in when adolescents start having sex and a new study suggests that, on average, about 1 in 12 high school boys in the US say they’ve had sex before the age of 13—and, for certain groups of boys, the number is actually more like 1 in 4.Read More
As a sex educator and researcher, one of the more common questions I get asked is when and how to talk to your kids about sex. Case in point: a reader of the blog recently asked, “At what age should parents talk about sex to their children—or at what age do children need to know about sex?”
So when should you start? And what the heck do parents need to know about navigating this discussion? Here’s a brief guide to help you get started.Read More
In the United States today, adolescents' experiences with sex education are anything but consistent. Believe it or not, less than half of all states even require that sex education be taught at all. In those states that mandate sex ed, the information teachers provide doesn't necessarily have to be useful and, in some states, the materials does not even have to be accurate! The status of American sex education in 2019 is poor, and this is a large part of the reason why we continue to have one of the highest rates of teen pregnancies and STIs in the industrialized world. Check out the infographic below for a closer look at just how incredibly variable sex education is throughout the nation.Read More
As someone who studies the science of sex for a living, I’m often asked what it is that drew me to this field. How and why did I decide to devote my life to studying, writing, and talking about sex? Here’s what I tell people.Read More
The state of sex education is poor for American adolescents—but you probably already knew that. However, what you may not have realized is that the state of sex education for US medical students isn’t all that great, either. This is both surprising and sad, given all of the important implications (good and bad) that sex can have for our health.Read More
Parents have the potential to play an important role in their children’s sex education. Indeed, many of you reading this probably received a version of the “birds and bees” talk from them at some point. For some of you, this talk may have been your very first introduction to the topic of sex (even if it was a little awkward).
However, some people are more likely to receive sex education from their parents than others. A new study suggests that your odds of having the “birds and bees” talk depends on your birth order, meaning whether you were a first-born or later-born child.Read More
Many sex education programs in the United States fail to meet the needs of sexual and gender minority students. This is especially true for programs that have an abstinence-only focus. Research has found that LGBTQIA students who take such courses report that they not only reinforce negative stereotypes, but they are also seriously lacking when it comes to providing useful and relevant information and resources .
We need comprehensive and inclusive sex education—and there are a lot of wonderful people in my field who are working to change the way that we approach sex ed around the world; unfortunately, however, there’s a lot of political resistance and progress is slow. The good news, though, is that some sex educators have begun to put together valuable educational resources for LGBTQIA students that are readily available to anyone with an internet connection.Read More
In the United States today, 37 states mandate that information on abstinence be provided in sex education courses. As you might imagine, it’s not uncommon for students to be asked to take “purity” or virginity pledges as part of the sex ed. curriculum in these states.
Students are encouraged to take these pledges in order to reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections, but also to prevent unwanted pregnancies. As it turns out, however, abstinence pledges don’t necessarily accomplish either of these goals. In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family suggests that they might do just the opposite!Read More
This week in my study abroad course on sex and culture in the Netherlands, we're focusing on cross-cultural differences in sexual health and sex education. As a starting point, we're reviewing some statistics that highlight how dramatically different teens’ sexual health outcomes are in the Netherlands relative to the U.S. Check out the infographic below for a quick overview, which shows that teen girls in the Netherlands have much lower rates of pregnancy, birth, and abortion. Below, we’ll discuss why.Read More
Greetings from Amsterdam! For the second year in a row, I’m teaching a study abroad course on Sexuality and Culture in the Netherlands. Today is the first full day of my two-week course, and I couldn't be more excited. Amsterdam is, of course, an awesome city—but it’s also a fascinating place to teach students about cross-cultural differences in sexuality for a couple of weeks.Read More
The Trump administration recently released its proposed budget for 2019 and, just like last year, it seeks to ensure that sex education in the United States remains focused on abstinence. Specifically, this administration seeks to fund abstinence-only programs to the tune of $150 million. I've said it many times before, but it bears repeating: focusing sex education primarily on abstinence just doesn’t work.Read More
Students' experiences with sex education are anything but consistent in the United States. Consider this: less than half of the states even require that it be taught at all! Moreover, even in those states that mandate sex education, the information teachers provide doesn't necessarily have to be useful and, at least in some states, it doesn't have to be correct, either! The status of sex education in the US continues to be poor as we enter 2018, which is a large part of the reason why this country has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancies and STIs in the industrialized world. Check out the infographic below for a closer look at just how incredibly variable sex education is across the nation.Read More
This past summer, I taught a study abroad course on sex and culture in the Netherlands. We covered a lot of ground in this class, including an in-depth look at what a legalized prostitution system looks like and the implications of it for the mental and physical health of Dutch sex workers. In addition, we spent a lot of time talking about differences in sex education in the Netherlands compared to the United States. It turns out that these countries have radically different approaches to sex ed, and there’s a lot we can learn from the Dutch.Read More
In the final budget proposal submitted by the Obama administration last year, funding for abstinence-only sex education was put on the chopping block. They proposed eliminating abstinence-only programs entirely and, although it didn't ultimately come to pass, their proposal at least showed recognition of the fact that we need a new approach to sex education in this country. Study after study has shown that promoting abstinence only just doesn’t work. In fact, if anything, it seems to be counterproductive. For example, research has found that the U.S. states with the most abstinence-only programs actually have the highest rates of teen pregnancy !Read More
The next unit in my Amsterdam study abroad course focuses on sexual health and sex education. As a starting point, I shared some statistics with my students highlighting just how dramatically different teens’ sexual health outcomes are in the Netherlands compared to the United States. So that you can get some sense of this, too, I’ve put together the infographic below, which reveals that teen girls in the Netherlands have far lower rates of pregnancy, birth, and abortion. Below, we’ll discuss why.Read More
Hello from Amsterdam! Today is the first day of a class I’m teaching on Sexuality and Culture in the Netherlands. I’m confident I could not have picked a better place to teach my very first study abroad course. Amsterdam is, well, just an awesome city—but it’s also a fascinating place to go learn about cross-cultural differences in sexuality for a couple of weeks. Here's why.Read More
American sex education courses are seriously lacking when it comes to the subject of women's sexual anatomy and pleasure. Not only are terms like "vulva" and "clitoris" rarely uttered, but students typically learn nothing at all about the female orgasm, which (sadly) explains why so many college students set foot in my human sexuality course asking whether it's even a thing. I kid you not.Read More
A lot of parents avoid talking to their kids about sex because they are afraid the experience will be awkward, embarrassing, or uncomfortable. However, parents aren't doing their kids any favors by taking this topic of conversation off the table. As Dr. Aaron Carroll, a pediatrician and professor at Indiana University School of Medicine, explains in the video below, the research is pretty clear when it comes to parent-child communication about "the birds and the bees": kids who are able to talk to their parents about sex are more likely to practice safe sex. Check out the video below to learn more about the research on this topic.Read More
Sex education is wildly inconsistent throughout the United States. For one thing, only about half of the states even require it, while the other half do not. However, even in the states that mandate sex education, the information teachers are required to provide doesn't necessarily have to be useful--in fact, in some states, it doesn't even have to be correct! The current status of sex education in the U.S. remains pretty poor as we enter 2017, which is a big part of the reason this country has one of the highest teen pregnancy and STI rates in the industrialized world. Check out the infographic below for a closer look at just how incredibly variable sex education is across the country.Read More