Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Feels good.




When we had D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse something something don't do it kids) at my elementary school, they talked about reasons kids might start doing drugs: peer pressure, low self-esteem, media glamorization, dealers getting you hooked. There was one glaring, obvious omission from that list and from every other discussion in D.A.R.E. - drugs get you high.

Drugs, at least all the ones I've tried, feel good. Alcohol helps you laugh and socialize more easily. Cigarettes simultaneously wake you up and calm you down. Amphetamines make you euphoric and energetic (and skinny). Opiates make you utterly relax and feel like all is right with the world. Marijuana makes you think that you're really smart and deep and insightful, and so is everyone else here, oh my god we are like so connected you know right now and we're like connected to the Earth too you know, maybe connection itself is what connects us, whoa.

Obviously, I'm not saying to do drugs. Everything listed above comes with catch-22s ranging from "you should do it with caution and infrequently" to "you could seriously die." But I'm acknowledging that the temptation is real--that although they're not good for you, even dangerous drugs (maybe especially those) feel good. Because you just look like a liar who can't face up to the obvious if you don't admit that. The conversation on pros and cons is hopelessly stifled if you can't be honest about the pros.



When I had my first sex ed class, they told me that the man would get an erection and put it in the woman's vagina. (They did not tell me about other configurations, which is kind of a shame considering how much those other configurations have become a part of my life. It's like taking an Auto Shop class that has a moral stance against any discussion of the radiator.) What they didn't tell me was why people would do such a thing. To have kids, okay, and... peer pressure? Low self-esteem? Media glamorization? Dealers?

By the time sex ed rolled around again, I'd gone through puberty. (And gotten an Internet connection.) I understood quite well now. And I also understood that the teacher, being post-pubescent and married herself, probably was also familiar with those funny feelings that make you want to do the baby thing. And yet those funny feelings didn't come up at all in sex ed class this time either. In a room full of people who more or less all knew full well what it feels like to have a boner or get wet or masturbate or have a wet dream, we spent an entire semester pretending to wonder why people would do such a thing. Peer pressure, perhaps...



This stalwart denial of the bleeding obvious is still following me around as an adult. Almost every discussion about sex--even the ones by the "good guys"--seems to footnote pleasure if it doesn't ignore it altogether. We can talk about freedom and safety, but we rarely get direct about what exactly we want to be free and safe to do, and why it matters so much to us. Why am I kinky, why am I poly, why am I slutty, why do I support sexual diversity and self-expression, why do I think and write and talk about sex all the time?

Gosh. Peer pressure?

37 comments:

  1. I remember for drugs ed in my school we did talk about the effects of the drugs-- but we were also told about how those effects, while pleasant, can block pain receptors and other danger signals. For example, the paramedics who talked to us told us about how on E, you feel super happy and like everything is great-- which means you don't realise that you're becoming dangerously dehydrated. Or that you're lying in the middle of the road, and there's a car coming towards you. Or that your friend is in serious trouble, and since you don't realise anything is wrong, you don't help them and they die. We were also told about how annoying drunk people in the emergency room were.

    Though I have to say, the one thing I was told that put me off cocaine for life was when we were given a talk by a former addict/dealer who said he used to thin the cocaine he sold with athlete's foot powder, since they looked the same. That grossed me out more than any picture of thirty year old meth addicts with no teeth.

    I agree though that there should be more of an emphasis on pleasure in sex ed-- particularly masturbation. Because I think that that's probably the best way of making sure kids don't have sex until they're ready-- if you teach them that it's okay to experiment on their own first.

    ReplyDelete
  2. S_Morlowe - Speaking of "until they're ready," I think sex ed programs should do more to clarify what exactly that means. Mine said "ready" a lot but implied it was something you'd just know.

    Off the top of my head, "ready" should mean:
    -Knowledgeable about contraception and STI prevention, and able to make those decisions and stand by them
    -Able to express your consent or lack thereof, and to respect your partner's
    -Holding a realistic view of how sex will (or more importantly, won't) change the relationship between you

    I think it's actually a lot more concrete than the image I always got of a kid just sort of feeling mature enough.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Well duh, women don't have sexual urges. They only give in and have sex because they think that'll make the man love them! (No we don't have an explanation that includes lesbians. Lesbians aren't real.) We just have to teach girls that sex won't make men love them, and then we can stop them having sex in ways we disapprove of!

    ReplyDelete
  4. It must have been peer pressure that shaped my sexual desires. You know, all the kids in high school were into whips and heels, I had to do it too.

    ReplyDelete
  5. For us, we got a very jargon-filled scientific explanation of the effects of certain drugs. They highlighted the "it kills braincells" bit and footnoted the "feels good man" bit but it was there.

    In sex ed however -- augh. >> It wasn't so long ago I was taking health class (too little too late) and that was painful. Most of the girls in our class said they'd never masturbated and made "ew" faces. I didn't learn anything new, and it highlighted the uncomfortable fact that everything I learned about pleasure and sex was from the internet.

    As much as I love the internet, no. That really should not have been where I learned about was sexuality, including kinks, were all about. There was a very real possibility I could have gotten wrong, and even dangerous messages.

    When I started masturbating I had no idea what it was, and for about 2ish years I was convinced I had some terrible medical condition but was too scared to tell anyone (thank god). That? Is not okay.

    Not explaining sexuality to kids seems irresponsible and selfish, no matter what reasons you think you have.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm pretty sure most people mostly have sex because it feels good. But thinking about it now, I have somehow internalized the idea that pleasure is not a good enough reason to do something.

    So whenever I'm in a position where I feel like I have to defend being kinda slutty "Because sex feels good" never feels like a good enough defense. When really, seriously...I do it because it feels good. And as long as I'm being safe and responsible that is a perfectly good reason to do it.

    ReplyDelete
  7. My first sex ed class was in fourth grade, and continued every year after then. I was recently talking with some friends (post-college), and we realized that after years and years of sex ed, nobody /actually/ knew what sex was until they had it themselves or watched porn. I still have trouble wrapping my head around it - what happens? what goes where? They did a lot of "emotional" explanations, and some biological, but not physical or practical in any sense. Also, I'm pretty sure homosexuality was never covered despite going to the most liberal of schools.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Another comment to S_Morlowe - You know the quote that really scared me away from Ecstasy (this was from a news story, not school)?

    It was a guy saying "the two happiest times in my life were when I got accepted to Harvard, and when I tried E for the first time."

    In a weird way, that struck me as hideously sad. I suppose it's too idiosyncratic to work as a deterrent for most people, but for me it made me want to never try it.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Anon - No sex ed class I ever took ever mentioned thrusting.

    Maybe they thought it went without saying or it was somehow "obscene" (?), but until I started looking at porn, I thought the man put his penis in the woman and... just sorta stayed like that until they were done. The most basic, obvious mechanics, the first things you'd notice if you saw people actually having sex, weren't taught in sex ed.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Adding nuance to any school discussion is a double edged sword, because thoroughly explaining things to children makes them feel respected; a condition that can lead to disciplinary problems. Better to develop a narrow guideline of acceptable social norms and ram it down their throats like salisbury steak. Plus, this makes it easier for bullies to target any "free thinking" students who don't follow the herd.

    If American children want a thorough sexual education class, they should spend more time with the clergy.

    ReplyDelete
  11. @ Sex Mahoney - yes, gods forbid we let young people think they might actually be on the same level as their educators. Just another way the public education system in this country makes home schooling awfully tempting.

    ReplyDelete
  12. In MY sex ed classes(which are during Cathechism), we get nothing of the sort. A lot of talk about the unthinkable effects of pre-marital sex. Pregnancy! STDs! Abortion! And many videos of pregnant teens crying. No biology at all, just the consequences.(The solution: no sex till you're married, young ladies.) The teacher did talk about what led teens to do the dastardly(pre-marital sex) - peer pressure, searching for identity, insecurities, media influences.

    You should have heard the talk on homosexuality(an abberation!1!!?)

    I spend the entire class thinking 'If only Holly were teaching it'.

    ReplyDelete
  13. That's what annoys me so much about "empowerment." Sucking cock isn't empowering, but that doesn't matter. Sucking cock is fun for me, so I like it and want to do it. It's not like there's such an excess of fun in the world that we have to stop doing some of them lest the entire world die of Funitis.

    ReplyDelete
  14. At my school at least, both the DARE an sex ed curricula used a lot of "fall from grace" stories to scare us. They were the worst and very formulaic:

    1. He was a track star/She was the homecoming queen

    2. He smokes a cigarette to look cool/she has sex after prom to please her boyfriend

    3. DISASTER. He gets kicked off the track team, her boyfriend dumps her and she spirals into depression, they lose their college scholarships and disappoint the younger sibling who used to idolize them. Also, AIDS.

    What I hate about this is not just that it's incredibly stupid, but that if kids identified with it, it wouldn't help them actually deal with sex and drugs. If people believe that perfection is the only way to avoid complete disaster, they won't bother trying to fix any of the actual problems in their life. Drugs and sex are potentially destructive, and that's why kids need to learn what to do after they find themselves in a destructive situation..

    Also, the whole thing is cribbed from one of those 19th century novels about fallen women. AIDS is the new dieing in childbirth.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I think a large part of why pleasure is not mentioned is because that brings in moral dimensions that especially the public education system may be uncomfortable with implying. One might think it is immoral to have sex for pleasure. Even the Catholic Church admits that the bond created through sex (of course when married) counts in favor of having it even if you are infertile. I don't think they get specific about pleasure though. I read a great article this summer "Pre-theoretical Assumptions in Evolutionary Explanations of Female Sexuality" by Elisabeth A. Loyd. Loyd basically points out that female sexuality is only talked about in terms of reproductive functions but this is strange because various data show that these are distinct (it is especially obvious in the case of women where "30% of women never have orgasm with intercourse"). It seems like the education system wants to talk about reproduction but fears talking about sexuality.

    ReplyDelete
  16. To clarify:
    In the moral worry case one might want to educate without bringing in any other contentious information. In the scientific case sexuality has been thought to be enveloped by talk of reproduction. When you combine the influences it looks like sex ed is really baby ed and in large part has nothing to do with sexuality.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Drug Abuse Resistance Education! ;)

    Shit, that was my very first black t-shirt.

    Also, my D.A.R.E. officer was later arrested/thrown off the force for breaking into a dentist's office to steal narcotics.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I was out of school by the time DARE came along. I thought it was a stupid idea when I heard of it. I've never found any information that would change my opinion.

    I don't do drugs because I've had family members die from it. It kind of takes the idea of it being "fun" out of it when you are looking down into a coffin at a four year old who accidentally found someone's stash. I don't know what motivates others. I would hope they don't have to go through what I did.

    As far as sex is concerned, and writing about it, I do it because, as a sexually submissive man, I have found it damn nigh impossible to find an intelligent voice of male submission who can present it as a healthy and fulfilling and very natural style of loving - not a "lifestyle," not a "choice." It's just how I be me when I love a woman.

    That lack of a voice hurt me. I'd like to stop that.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hershele OstropolerAugust 23, 2011 at 3:17 PM

    When I had my first sex ed class, they told me that the man would get an erection and put it in the woman's vagina. (They did not tell me about other configurations, which is kind of a shame considering how much those other configurations have become a part of my life. It's like taking an Auto Shop class that has a moral stance against any discussion of the radiator.) What they didn't tell me was why people would do such a thing. To have kids, okay, and... peer pressure? Low self-esteem? Media glamorization? Dealers?

    When you're teaching prepubescents, I'm not sure the "why" matters; when your students have gone through puberty, they know why. In the latter case, of course, the curriculum should be developed with that fact in mind.

    I think it's actually a lot more concrete than the image I always got of a kid just sort of feeling mature enough.

    And, of course, there's nothing easier for a teenager to say than "if that's a badge of maturity, I'm just not ready."

    No sex ed class I ever took ever mentioned thrusting.

    Come to think of it, I think it's from porn that I determined thrusting was involved too.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I was never taught about thrusting, either. That would have been dangerously close to acknowledging that sex is pleasurable, and we can't have that!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Off the top of my head, "ready" should mean:
    -Able to express your consent or lack thereof, and to respect your partner's


    By that standard, the vast majority of people in our current society are *never* ready :S

    (Not saying it's not a good standard. Just saying how fucked up our society is.)

    ReplyDelete
  22. My DARE instructor claimed the entire time that his name really was Officer Friendly.

    ReplyDelete
  23. You want to know how confused I was about the why of sex? When I found (fairly bad) porn literature online and read scenes with women orgasming I distinctly remember thinking that reason she was "screaming" must be because she was in pain.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I didn't know about thrusting at first, either! Although I think I figured it out from a PG-13 movie when I was... ten? Which was before I really started looking at any kind of porn.
    I guess that still sounds young, but I knew about the biological basics from a very early age. But only the biological basics.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Ozy -- word about the whole "empowerment" thing. It really annoys me when people who want to excuse sexualisation of women do so by saying 'No, no, she's having sex to be empowered'. That's so backwards! I don't want to have sex to be empowered. I want to be empowered so that I can have sex. And I want to have sex because it feels good. Obviously. Why does pop culture get this the wrong way round?

    ReplyDelete
  26. At some point in my childhood my mom explained that people have sex because it feels good. At some other point in my childhood I asked my mom what oral sex was, and when she told me, I said it was "gross." She replied "it's not gross, and it feels really nice." I think I was 12 at the time.

    That's way more information that I ever got in school. It's also one of the most useful things anyone has ever told me.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I have to say I was very lucky in my sex ed classes- By 7th-8th grade, the fact that sex feels good was not only mentioned, it was mentioned that it can feel SO good that if you participate in foreplay you might not care that you don't have a condom on you when the question of intercourse arises, so...be prepared, and pay attention to where things are going before sensation overrules sense.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I had a very good sex education (private high school outside the US, parents who talked honestly about it) and didn't acquire any intuitive understanding as to why, until my sophomore year of college.

    The theory that kids will catch on automatically at puberty, is incomplete; I'm somehow missing some overlap between visual appreciation and turn on, and simply didn't know what I wanted well enough to look for it.

    ReplyDelete
  29. The other similarity is the sheer amount of misinformation presented as facts in both classes.

    Took DARE, appreciated the opportunity to have 1 or 2 (I can't remember now) 45-minute period each week where I didn't have to do much thinking. Took sex ed classes in junior high & high school, didn't appreciate the facts that were withheld yet easily found on sexuality education websites at the time.

    A couple of years ago, I was at an elementary school and there was a DARE book for the kids. So I picked it up to look through it. I was shocked by how much exaggeration & falsehood was in this little paperback. There was the ubiquitous gateway drug argument, but it just, snowballed. Like if you smoke 1 joint you WILL become an addict and a failure and are horrible. If you have premarital sex, you WILL become pregnant and get AIDS and die a horrible lonely death and you WILL be the laughingstock of the entire school.
    (Okay that last part about being the laughingstock was almost true... but only because the culture there condoned such slut-shaming of the ladies.)

    I remember thinking to myself in high school too, like, well if drugs are really so bad & horrible, then why do people do them at all? We never talked about how they make you feel good.

    ReplyDelete
  30. My sex ed class wasn't abstinence-only, but looking back it seemed like it was even worse, because it was almost as though it was intentionally designed to make sex look bizarre and gross. We were treated to such things as a recording of a penis ejaculating inside a vagina, and an infrared image of an erection so you could watch some guy's wang become a glowing pillar of light, and a childbirth video that scared the shit out of everyone. And in the meantime, not much was said about the actual act of having sex. Mostly it was a lot of jargon and unhelpful graphics that really didn't explain to me why the hell my dick kept doing that and what I was supposed to do with it.

    On the other hand, that's what porn taught me. So technically I can say a porn star taught me how to have sex, and enjoy the looks on people's faces before they figure it out. But the fact that I had to go to porn to figure that out is fucked up on its own.

    It was much the same with drugs, but the one thing I notice about it now looking back is that it made drug users out to be the villains, just as bad as the drug dealers. And once I reached the age where I became aware that other people in my life used drugs sometimes, I couldn't really think of drug users as evil fallen beings anymore. But if we weren't portraying them as such, maybe it would be easier to get them the help they so frequently need.

    Either way, what's kept me off drugs is not wanting to be all fucked up by them as has happened to some of my friends, and the part where in the US you can practically get sent to prison for just looking at drugs. So in the sense of instilling fear of drug use into me, I guess DARE was something of a success, to the extent that it told me about all the ghastly legal consequences I would face for being in the same room as some drugs or whatever.

    ReplyDelete
  31. It's also kind of disturbing to me that people would learn about sex from porn because....it's not like most porn is a great example to go by, either.

    ReplyDelete
  32. RE: lain

    You mean... sex ISN'T like it is in Big Butts Bonanza 4?

    :( I am so depressed now.

    --Mac

    ReplyDelete
  33. We had sex ed every year from being 11. I'm now 19 and can honestly say that every useful thing I learned about periods/sex came from my best friend, who had three older sisters. For far too long I didn't know people had sex for enjoyment - I assumed that every time you did it, you got pregnant, and that was the only reason it ever happened.

    ReplyDelete
  34. "Why am I kinky, why am I poly, why am I slutty, why do I support sexual diversity and self-expression, why do I think and write and talk about sex all the time?"

    That is exactly how I often feel! My sex ed class was considered advanced for its time, but it was all about disease and the 'technical' process.

    I do find it interesting that sex education from books was (and continues to be) far better in most cases than sex ed from in-person classes. Of course, it would be even better if those great how-to books were available in school libraries so that students could have access to them.

    ReplyDelete
  35. I remember asking my dad how babies were made when I was about 10. I'd heard a rumour and thought it sounded icky. I got the 'when a mummy and daddy love each other very much they have a special hug' response, and that was that. Then I was told that because I'd asked I obviously already know and shouldn't be asking those things.

    School sex ed didn't happen for me - I moved schools from somewhere that taught it in year 10 to somewhere who did it in year 9, so I missed it. Apparently it was all pictures of diseased penises and vaginas. Everything I learnt came from the agony aunt sections of magazines like Mizz, Sugar, and chats with girls in the cloakroom.

    I actually remember hearing that if you didn't have a condom you could use a crisp packet, and that if you squirted coke up your vagina fter having sex you wouldn't get pregnent. Thankfully I thought those sounded stupid.

    ReplyDelete
  36. The thing with sex ed is that it's supposed to only tell you the reproductive stuff and how to stay safe when you have sex, it doesn't tell you 'how to have sex' it was never supposed to , and I argue that it shouldn't teach 'how to have sex', that this is a part of the student's private lives and the teachers have no right to tell students what to do with their sex lives, there are other professionals that deal with advice when it's actually wanted.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Anon - That's like a driver's ed class that only tells you how to put on your seatbelt. It isn't demurely allowing you to develop your own method and theory of driving, it's just withholding basic information.

    Also, if you think teenagers who have terrible sex are going to seek out a sex counselor (or even be able to), you're pretty idealistic.

    ReplyDelete