Sex-ed, Lies, & Protection


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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83 Responses

  1. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    The picture used to illustrate this article is disturbing. Thats mainly because I can’t tell if the boy with the controller, can’t identify the system, is disappointed from getting his butt kicked in a game, being excluded from sex, or both.Report

  2. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Interesting piece, Will. Zazzy and I use condoms because of medical conditions that prevent her from using oral contraceptives. I do get frustrated with how it interrupts the flow and the sensation is indeed different (though this varies from brand to brand and model to model).

    But we use it. Every time, except when we were trying to conceive. Because the risks outweighed the gains and it was the responsible thing to do. Delayed gratification and all.

    Oh, but I wear jeans… so I’m not an adult. See why this is all so confusing?Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

      medical conditions that prevent her from using oral contraceptives.

      I look forward to the day when science gives us the opportunity to take an oral contraceptive (or an easy-to-administer shot). It’ll be great for a number of reasons, including cases like that.

      I assume that IUDs aren’t an workable option? That’s what Clancy went with after the birth. The best of many worlds, that one.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

        I don’t know that we ever looked into it, to be honest.

        I personally don’t find condoms all that bothersome. They do have their downsides, as mentioned, but I don’t find those to be all that big a deal. But I’ll look into the IUD.Report

      • IUD’s are one of those things that sound downright creepy, in a way. (And from what I recall you saying here, your wife has a strong sense of boundary). I can understand why women choose not to. It’s worth pointing out that, though, that it does have among the highest satisfaction rates among its users.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Will Truman says:

        Since Mrs.Dwyer and I are in our late 30s a lot of the couples we are friends with are at the point where they probably aren’t going to have any more kids but aren’t quite ready to go in for the permanent snip. On a camping trip back in the spring the subject came up and I was intrigued at how many were using IUDs. I think it’s a great option. It would be nice if more parents were willing to push their teens in that direction as well as a failsafe against pregnancies. They are amazingly effective.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Will Truman says:

        It’s not just that IUD’s sound creepy, there was one problematic design or model that gave them a bad rep in the US. Even though that issue has long been resolved, the perception here remains. Also, when there IS a (rare) bad reaction (which can be related to either the device, or the competency of the doctor inserting it, or just the woman’s own physiology/biology), the results can be unpleasant enough that the anecdotal stories scare away other women.

        I tried to get my wife to go with IUD after kid #2, but she did not want to do so because she had talked to a girl who had had a bad experience. So we went with other contraceptive methods that turned out to be…less reliable. We’ve now gone with a permanent method. 😉Report

  3. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    When I found my son’s first little porn stash, I got the boy a little box of condoms. Told him to learn to spank that monkey wearing a condom. Once he’d learned to enjoy himself that way, he’d be in great shape for sex with girls. If he didn’t like that brand of condom, we’d find one he would like.

    Figured it this way: if I’m already buying birth control for my daughters (medical reasons, they both had troublesome periods, birth control pills stabilised that situation), my son deserved the same level of care.

    It’s all a matter of habit. The condoms were kept under the bathroom sink next to the tampons and they would appear on the grocery shopping list. In my home, sex was treated as a fact of life. All the bedrooms had locks on the doors and boyfriends/girlfriends were welcome to spend the night. None of my kids got a venereal disease or got pregnant.

    If you don’t like sex with the brand of condom you’re using, find another brand or another size. It’s not like shoes or gloves where you can try them on in the store but if you don’t like the condom you’re using, get some more. For all this dangerous complaining about how condoms reduce sensation, there’s other little buzzkills to consider. So there you are, jollifying yourself and your Significant Other, wondering all the while if you’ve just contracted a disease — or if a few enterprising sperm are busily working their way up her fallopian tubes. Sperm are amazing little critters, the only fully rotational mechanism in nature. Pleasure is just nature’s way of convincing you to do the deed and sexually transmitted diseases have evolved to go along for the ride.Report

    • Avatar Patrick in reply to BlaiseP says:

      It’s all a matter of habit.

      There’s more than a little truth to that statement, right there.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to BlaiseP says:

      We pretty much plan to do the same thing. Basically, these are our views and expectations regarding teenage sex. We don’t want you to be in the situation of “announcing” that you’re about to be sexually active, or taking unnecessary risks because you’re afraid of announcing it, so we’re going to put everything in place that if the time comes – and it shouldn’t, not for a while yet! – you have access to what you need for whatever sex you have to be as safe as possible. (Then a little bit more about our views on sex.)

      I’m positive this conversation (or series of conversations, actually) will go without a hitch because it just seems like it will be so easy.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Will Truman says:

        The kids will roll their eyes. like they always do.
        And you’ll discover (unless you do this at around age 9)
        that the kids have already learned half of it (wrong) off the playground anyway.Report

      • Was actually thinking about 11 or 12. That’s probably a decision I will leave to Dr. Wife, though.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Will Truman says:

        no, by then it will be too late! You’re going for the “kid who gets to spoil santa for everyone else”… or else they’ll already know everything (half twisted and wrong, of course)… and then they won’t listen to you.

        (if this doesn’t come across as humorous, reread).Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Will Truman says:

        I believe it was our own Pat Cahalan who expressed what seems the exact right attitude about a parent laying down rules for teenage sexual activity — no, you aren’t allowed to ride on motorcycles, and if you do ride on a motorcycle, wear a helmet.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Will Truman says:

        The key is to evict prudery from a child’s mind. Starts when they first learn decency, that moment in Genesis/Bereshit where Adam and Eve realise they are naked and make themselves aprons of fig leaves. They hide from HaShem and make an excuse saying they hid because they were naked. HaShem asks them “Who told you you were naked?”

        Well, in our house, that’s how it was taught. Some people think the Bible is very stupid. We didn’t.

        So I asked my kids — Who told you you were naked? Where did you learn all that? Yes, we should wear clothes but there’s nothing wrong with your body. Yes, you close the door when you go to the bathroom, take a shower, get dressed, that sort of thing. Your body is not disgusting. Your bodies are just fine the way they are. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. You are magnificent. We only show our naked selves to those we trust, like doctors and lovers and family and suchlike — in this culture — but other cultures let people run around naked. Even here, some people, the nudists, walk around naked in their own places. Get that straight in your mind’s eye. Naked is okay.

        Now if you run across stupid children, snickering and saying stupid things about other people’s bodies, you ignore all that rubbish talk. In this house, things are different. We’re sensible people. At some time, we’ve all opened the door on someone in the bathroom, it’s no big deal. Matter o’ fact, two of you have walked in on your mother and me making love, remember that? We’re family. You were conceived in love and I’ll be damned if you will get wrapped around the axles of your own sexuality. There’s no need for it.

        Sex is the most fun you will ever have in your life, far and away. But it’s serious stuff, fucking people has consequences, most of which are avoidable if you follow a few simple rules. Just know this: it’s easier to get into a sexual relationship than out of one. For all these blazing hot waves of desire and the pangs of love and all these dumb songs written about Romance, sex kinda makes fools of us all. Gotta have a sense of humour about it, too. At some point, someone’ s gonna fart. At that moment, you’ll remember this one.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

        One of the most difficult things about sex (in general, but particularly for younger people) is that it is essentially a binary. You are either having sex or you are not (leaving aside things like oral sex, for the moment). You can’t really ease your way into sex. You can’t practice it. You can’t really do it with your parent in the passenger’s seat guiding you through your first drive around the block. One moment, you are not having sex. The next, you are. And as soon as you are, you assume ALL of the risks, whether you are 16 or 36, with someone whose name you don’t know or someone you’ve know for damn near forever.

        How, exactly, we will handle this conversation when the time comes… I really don’t know. Things might be vastly different then on any number of levels. Ultimately, I will want a key part of the message to be, “Know and understand the risks, know and understand what your choices are, and act as responsibly as humanly possible.” In some ways, this isn’t much different than how I’d want my children to approach any situation, but the stakes are higher with sex than with most others.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Will Truman says:

        I flat told my girls “If Romeo can’t make you come with his fingers or his mouth, don’t even dream about playing Hide the Sausage with that one. He’s too stupid. You can work with some lovers, teach them what you want. But some won’t learn. Just dump them. It’s just that simple.”Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

        That’s a pretty screwed up message to send them, even for you.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Will Truman says:

        I dunno. Figured I’d save them some heartache. Now if you think sexually incompatible people ought to just tough it out — that, Kazzy, is extremely stupid thinking. Even for you.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Will Truman says:

        Kazzy, I cannot even begin to imagine the possibility or even potentially thinking about the likelihood of ever, even at the limits of my insane imagination, uttering those or similar words to my daughter.Report

      • Avatar Cascadian in reply to Will Truman says:

        @kazzy Hmmmm. To me it would be right up there with don’t put your dick in crazy. I have a daughter. Sounds about right to me.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Will Truman says:

        Think again, would-be daddies. I did say those words. They’re both happily married, thank you very much for asking. I am so annoyed with American prudery. Half the reason this nation is so fucked up, obsessed with pornography, they never developed a healthy attitude about sexuality. Sick little twisted people, utterly consumed with desire but get them naked and they freak out like a dog in a thunderstorm.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

        Many women can’t orgasm from manual or oral stimulation. Should they just go through life single?Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Will Truman says:

        Apparently learning each others’ bodies is out of the question too.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Will Truman says:

        Kazzy, BP is making a different point. One that goes a bit, uh, deeper.Report

      • Avatar Cascadian in reply to Will Truman says:

        @kazzy Well, that’s why god created the Hitachi wand. If you can’t get off with that, you’re in luck, no reason to play around at all.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

        I agree with him about prudery. But if he really told his daughters to dump any guy who could’t get them to “come with a finger or tongue”, that is straight up asinine.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z aitch in reply to Will Truman says:

        Apparently learning each others’ bodies is out of the question too.

        To be fair, he did say, “You can work with some lovers, teach them what you want. But some won’t learn.”Report

      • Avatar Cascadian in reply to Will Truman says:

        Sorry Kaz. I’m still with BP. My little one just turned 11. She is encouraged to sip wine. We tell her about the realities and dangers but encourage her to learn what will be important to know.

        With sex, we are very frank and honest. The word “nudist” makes me think of clubs and trailer parks. We don’t do that but the best beach in Vancouver is Wreck and you don’t wear swim trunks in the natural hot springs. I’ve never said what BP claims to her yet but you can bet your bottom dollar she’ll understand the same exact message, if worded differently, by the time she’s active.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Will Truman says:

        What’s so embarrassing about talking about sex with your children? The single most important thing they’ll ever do, decide to share their bodies with someone — and I have to listen to this crap about what you would never say to your kids? Too embarrassed? Kinda shy about it all? Had a tough time learning your way around the landscape — and now you want to perpetuate all that with your kids — because you’re too ashamed to talk about it?

        The adolescent brain is just seething with desire. Things you won’t say to your daughter

        – Sex is very scary. I know you’re a girl and all, and I know you’re under a great deal of pressure from your friends, some of whom might already be having sex, stupid creatures that they are, rushing into what they don’t understand and likely to be horribly damaged by it. But I’m a big old prude and so is your mother and sex is soooo scary we can’t talk to you about it. That’s how scary it is.

        -What’s more, despite the fact that we return to what gave us pleasure before, and many’s the girl who developed a taste for bad boys because those are the ones who were bold enough to ask her to Put Out and the experience wasn’t total hell and those girls go back for more, as your father, I think it’s more important you learn that lesson for yourself and I have no business teaching you such things despite you being my own child and though I’ll try to protect you from any other sort of harm in life, this one area of your life, I’m too much of a squeamish idiot to tell you anything of this sort.

        -I’m afraid of you, girl. I never really understood your mother, either. Women in general are great mysteries and I’ve never put much effort into understanding them. I have learned that female desire can be as great a force as a man’s desire and once women get a taste of good sex, they want it with all the ardour of any man — but it’s just not my place to say such things. You might fall in love with some guy who can’t please you — but far be it from me to say that might be a reallyreally important consideration before you set up shop with this guy. Because this sort of talk scares me and truth to tell, and I’m just not enough of a man to talk about it.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:


        If women followed Blaise’s advice, my wife would never get married. She has never orgasmed from manual or oral stimulation. Is some of that potentially related to a socialized prudishness and its impact on her various comfort levels during certain acts of intimacy? Sure, I guess. But that isn’t going to be undone by a berating speech from an old man when she’s a teenager.

        It’s bad advice, plain and simple. I’m not saying don’t talk to our children about the realities of sex and all that. But I am saying that that particular piece of advice shared by Blaise is complete and utter bullshit and is the sort of thing that is more likely to lead to unhealthy relationships than healthy ones.

        So the 16-year-old isn’t a natural born pussy eater… he should be dumped over it? That’s a disgusting attitude.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Will Truman says:

        Spare us all your outrage, Kazzy. You’re just getting started raising kids. Every woman’s different, that much is true. You don’t seem to have any trouble talking about your own wife’s sexuality, I’m making an entirely valid point here: if a man can’t give a woman an orgasm ere he starts in on the Act Which Leads to Pregnancy, that man is probably unsuitable for her and her for him. The Orthodox Jews grant divorces for sexual incompatibility. It’s a significant problem for lots of unhappy couples.Report

      • Avatar Cascadian in reply to Will Truman says:

        @kazzy Well, wow…. Um, I come from a very Christian family of the worst variety. I have a cousin who was a virgin three years after she was married. I shit you not. I don’t even want to get into what the realities of your situation are but yeah I’d be looking at figuring that out.

        “So the 16-year-old isn’t a natural born pussy eater… he should be dumped over it? That’s a disgusting attitude.”

        It’s already been discussed that BP put some riders on that, but again, yes. The 16 year old doesn’t have to be a natural, but a keen desire to learn would be becoming. If that person is nineteen and not a virgin then definitely yes. If this is a disgusting attitude, I’m OK with that. I’m with BP in thinking that good sex is too important to be swept under the rug and uncaring partners are to damaging to ignore.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:


        Don’t get me wrong, we have a great sex life which we enjoy thoroughly. But there are certain things that just don’t work for her. Such is life. But by BP’s calculations, that should serve as an impediment to her finding a mate.

        I don’t object to stressing the importance of a relationship that nourishes all parts of an individual… mental, emotional, physical, etc. I do object to narrowly defining the criteria on their behalf at such an impressionable time in their development.

        What if they have no interest in receiving oral sex? What if it grosses them out? Not because of prudishness… but just because it does? Who is Blaise to tell them how they should seek to enjoy and please their body in relationships? Their father, yes… but he doesn’t own them. His speech is no different than telling them not to do anything. It is simply imposing one external set of expectations for another… cunnilingus instead of abstinence, with both requiring mastery before advancement. Horrible.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

        Spare me the sanctimony (again), Blaise. I’m not outraged. I just find what you said objectionable. Don’t attempt to impugn the intent or legitimacy of my objection by ascribing it to mere outrage.

        Not only do I find what you claimed to have said objectionable, but I don’t think for a second you actually said it. You’re going for effect, as usual. And also as is usual for me, you missed, wildly.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Will Truman says:

        Can it, Kazzy. Fact is, nobody’s a natural born pussy eater. Kinda got to learn your way around the landscape. Scroll back a bit, Brother Maynard, and you will find that bit wherein I related how we return to what gave us pleasure, again and again. Our sexual identities are forged early, with our first encounters. If we’re given an introduction to sex with stupid people, we develop a taste for stupid.

        All sorts of deficiencies develop in people sexually. Once a boy gets to the point with a girl where he’s commenced upon The Act Which Leads to Procreation, he won’t settle for less. That is a fact. If you think TAWLTP is the only act which can please a woman, you are very sadly mistaken.

        I am so tempted to turn your nastiness on you but am thinking better of it.Report

      • I think there’s a bit of talking-past going on here. Being who I am, I think both sides are making some valid points. I think Blaise is right about focusing on other things before flipping the Sex Switch because, once it’s flipped, at all or within a particular relationship, everything changes. That’s what I think he was largely getting at. But I think Kazzy is right to be wary of such specificity about orgasms that will or will not occur. and beyond that, there is a “just so” aspect to it that I don’t think is so, particularly, as it seems the suggestion that if you’re not getting that feeling from non-TAWLTP, you’re not going to get it all.

        I think there is a message, for guys and girls, that if you’re not getting a certain thing from sexual activity that there’s something wrong with you. That’s not what Blaise is trying to say, at all, but I would be concerned that’s how it would come across given the degree to which girls are often so self-critical about such things.

        On the other hand, I am a puritanical prude, because there is simply no way I would say anything like that to my daughter, in such terms or such specificity, under any circumstances. Even though I might, in the broader outline, make similar points about pleasure, her right to it, and that levels can be achieved without giving up an ounce more than she is comfortable giving up. Or, given who I am, probably not.

        I have been developing a party line on the issue more generally, though. Or trying to. This would be easier with a son.Report

      • Avatar Cascadian in reply to Will Truman says:

        @will-truman I must admit this is actually hypothetical for me. I already have an agreement with my daughter that she’s not leaving home until forty.Report

      • @cascadian Which I am sure will go exactly as planned.

        Tangential, but I dunno if you saw or not, but Michael Cain had to duck out of our previous conversation because he’s got a brand-new granddaughter. (That and his Internet connection was flaky. But that’s less interesting.)Report

      • Avatar Cascadian in reply to Will Truman says:

        @will-truman OK, well, no, I’m not actually thinking this is going to pan out (still laughing) but god I wish it could. Did you see the link I posted to Michael Gersons’s piece on dropping his kid off at college? If little one’s dreams work out she’ll be out of the house by 16. I hope they do but damn it’ll be a rough day.Report

      • @cascadian My wife went off to a statewide math & science magnet school when she was 16. It was a life-changing experience for her in more than just the obvious way. Surrounded by a lot of the state’s most intelligent kids. Taking classes that, for once, challenged her. She has been pretty adamant that if our kids have such an opportunity, she wants them to be able to do it. I agree, logically and ultimately, but another part of me says “But that’s two less years!”Report

      • Congrats to Michael Cain about the new granddaughter!Report

  4. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    People believed there was no loss of sensation because they condomed into it.Report

  5. Avatar kenB says:

    It is politically incorrect to acknowledge the truth and simplicity of the condom’s inadequacy

    I didn’t know this was a thing. I don’t remember ever being told that there were no disadvantages to using a condom — just that there was one very important advantage. I think I’m older than the median around here, though, so maybe this is something that started after my school days.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to kenB says:

      I grew up in the age of AIDS. Where pregnancy concerns aside, condoms were considered to be a life and death issue. I can understand the desire to obscure and shoot down reasons not to. But like a number of things they were dishonest about (including abstinence promotion) I think the deception hurt more than it helped. At least, with me.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to kenB says:

      Yea, I remember a discussion about loss of sensation. But I think it might have been student initiated.Report

  6. Avatar TerryC says:

    Like taking a shower in a raincoat.Report

  7. Avatar NoPublic says:

    I’m far more concerned with the folks who lie from the other side of the question and the fact that sex-ed in general is being watered down to nothing in our schools. But then I’m not generally supporting the party that does those things so I don’t have to come up with different sticks to poke my opponents with just to assuage my guilt.Report

  8. Avatar J@m3z aitch says:

    If it prevents people from using condoms, it’s significant.

    If we could get rid of all the moralizing about, well, everything, and just adopt this approach, our public policies would be a lot more effective.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to J@m3z aitch says:

      We have an obligation to stop moralizing.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

        A moral obligation…Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

        You really should do that, you know. For the good of everyone.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Jaybird says:

        I already stopped moralizing. I expect reciprocity.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z aitch in reply to Jaybird says:

        Yes. Just think about the harm done to our children!Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

        I expect reciprocity.

        What’s in it for me?

        Oh wait. Sorry. Wrong thread.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z aitch in reply to Jaybird says:

        Is reciprocity a moral duty? Or just a pragmatic strategy?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

        Is reciprocity a moral duty? Or just a pragmatic strategy?

        The distinction can get blurry, even fused, as Roger’s recent comment replying to Chris demonstrated.

        For my part, I think it can be both, or neither, or something in between, given that the idea of reciprocity is a moral property while pragmatics is an empirical one (albeit, usually understood in relation to a moral framework).Report

      • Stillwater,

        For my part, I think it can be both, or neither, or something in between, given that the idea of reciprocity is a moral property while pragmatics is an empirical one (albeit, usually understood in relation to a moral framework).

        That is pretty much my view. I do think that urging pragmatism and discouraging moralizing is often (always? necessarily?) also a moral claim, or one founded, as you suggest, in a moral framework.

        I recognize the type of moralizing that Aitch is against, and I agree with him (even though I sometimes indulge in it), I just don’t think we can fully extricate ourselves from some sort of posture that can be called “moral.” I am, however, becoming more comfortable with the “first do no harm approach,” at least when it comes to public policy and “helping” others who don’t ask for it. Even then, it can be a close call.Report

  9. There were a lot of ways the sex ed I received in school might have been better. Still, it was probably better than what my (significantly older) siblings received, and almost definitely better than what my parents (who were born in the early 1930s) would have received. And my parents never talked about sex with me (in fact, when I brought home from school a small booklet that had been given to me that went over the changes boys go through in adolescence, my mother took it away from me, but to her credit, she had signed the permission slip to allow me to take part in the school’s sex-ed program).

    Frankly, I don’t remember them mentioning the downsides, but they didn’t, to my recollection, actually say there were no downsides. One thing that needs to be considered, along with loss of sensation, is the difference in effectiveness between using them the way they’re supposed to be used and using them the way people usually use them in practice. They seemed to present condoms as a 100% guarantee against std’s and pregnancy, instead of “probably the best, but not perfect way, to prevent transmission and a good, but not perfect, way to prevent pregnancy.”Report

  10. Avatar Rod Engelsman says:

    This is a fantastic and very, very true post.

    My wife was on the pill for many years after our first child was born. She was told that a second wasn’t advisable for health reasons. I probably definitely should have gotten “snipped” but just sort of never got around to it. Then when I started trucking and was gone for two or three weeks at a time she decided to ditch the pill over cancer risk concerns and greeted me with a box of condoms in hand.

    They absolutely affect sensation and pleasure but only for the man. I know because at least three or four times the damn thing slipped off inside her and she never knew the difference! I knew because suddenly it started to feel like I was fucking.

    To make a long story short, condoms as a method of birth control are only as good as your consistency in using them. The result just started fourth grade last week.Report