Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: It's Not Sex, and It's Not Education

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  • Rageaholic, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    Do the extra-larges come under the 144 for $3 deal?

    I didn't ask, sorry - I just needed a few to tide me over until the test results came through,a nd also had regular sized ones at home. I just asked for the extra large out of curiousity.

    More info about what normal, large, and small sizes *are* for penises would also be really handy for kids. And about the diversity of genital appearance in general - useful both for self-esteem and ability to spot real abnormality. I dunno if that's in the curriculum now, I don't recall it when I was in school.

    +1 - I think people (especially during their more educational years) should see as many different example of "real life" genitalia as possible so that they can see how much they vary in real life. (although I would probably refer to "medium sized" rather than normal ;) )

    Eden • Since Nov 2010 • 19 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to James Butler,

    Yeah, but what I found rather grimly amusing about that app is that the supposed markers of teh gayness were pretty demeaning to straight guy - many of whom I know do shower, change their shirts and run a comb through their hair before going out of an evening. Hell, they may even go out to partake of musical theatre or a singing "diva".

    But I digress... as I said up thread, a sober, fact-based sex education course wouldn't have turned me into a raving heterosexualist at the sight of a cutaway diagram of lady parts. But who the hell knows, it might have contained some useful non gender- or orientation-specific information. As far as I'm aware, there's no STI that GLBT people are magically immune to.

    And tonally, do you think it's possible that an environment where sex and sexuality isn't treated like a dirty joke (or some horrifying secret) might contribute to adolescence being a safer place for non-straight youth? You can't write a curriculum that will make adolescence an angst-free place for anyone, but perhaps you can make things a little better.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11783 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Emma Hart,

    OIC. I was working from a hearing-impairment perspective. I now think I should just... (ironically and impossibly) quietly withdraw.

    S'okay. Anyway, the metaphor, thin and flimsy to start with, was swelling alarmingly close to breaking point.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 799 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Emma Hart,

    See, I was looking at "the 3dB line" and thinking, man, anything under about 120dB and I'd say it wasn't working...

    130 dB is 'threshold of pain', apparently.

    Just sayin'. Especially when 100 dB is a jack hammer.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2326 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    How do we know how honest reports/ surveys/ studies are? How honest will someone be in a study if (like Ben) someone feels inadequate, freak, alone, massive, puny? I can see how all studies could be accused of being questionable. Especially about, if you always do, sometimes do or definitely do use a condom. How about the monogamous relationships with the affair on the side? Seems to me, asking questions and getting pure honesty could be a can of worms. Studies are done how, in these more sensitive matters?
    As an aside, I remember I used to check the print of certain magazines in Oz. The checks included colour correctness for penises. I actually asked my boss how I knew if they were all the right colour because I thought some pinks were a bit bright and her answer was. " "Don't worry about pink, it's the grey ones we have to worry about" My response was " Yes but I think the blueblack ones look a tad shady also." Her comeback was,"'do you want to do the tits?" My reply, NO!:)

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 5923 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    To bring things almost full circle:

    The “Clueless or Clued Up: Your Right to be informed about contraception” study prepared for World Contraception Day reports that the number of young people having unsafe sex with a new partner increased by 111 percent in France, 39 percent in the USA and 19 percent in Britain in the last three years

    ...

    “The results show that too many young people either lack good knowledge about sexual health, do not feel empowered enough to ask for contraception or have not learned the skills to negotiate contraceptive use with their partners to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies or STIs [sexually transmitted infections],” she said.

    link (Jakarta Globe).

    Teenagers are very easily able to find images of what the porn industry thinks genitalia should look like, and they all look the same.

    Since the conversation has strayed that way, there's also the huge issue of the porn industry staying very much away from depicting condom use. Which is related to, but separate to the issues they have with HIV and other STDs. Being an industry, it's a slightly different situation to a casual encounter in a bedroom - asking for a full rundown and health check is different in that situation.

    There's also the interesting question of whether porn is giving younger people better information about sexual pleasure. While much of it is indeed bad and highly unrealistic, it isn't an entirely static medium either, and I've heard it suggested that the focus has changed with the much wider uptake of porn through the internet. Again, I don't know enough to do more than ask questions.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2119 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to George Darroch,

    There’s also the interesting question of whether porn is giving younger people better information about sexual pleasure. While much of it is indeed bad and highly unrealistic, it isn’t an entirely static medium either, and I’ve heard it suggested that the focus has changed with the much wider uptake of porn through the internet. Again, I don’t know enough to do more than ask questions.

    Dude, even back in the 80s, the only place I ever saw any acknowledgement that women could enjoy the sort of thing I enjoy was in porn.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4328 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    But who the hell knows, it might have contained some useful non gender- or orientation-specific information. As far as I’m aware, there’s no STI that GLBT people are magically immune to.

    And indeed, there's the assumption that there are one bunch of people who only touch penises, and another who only touch vaginas. There are plenty who do at least a little of either, no matter how they publicly (or privately) identify. A wider education would help those as well, and do no harm to the rest.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2119 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    Isn't it the case that any form of contraception or STI-prevention is a compromise? All methods are going to compromise someone's pleasure (or in some cases, health) somehow. I don't know any women or men who actively enjoy using condoms, but many of us do use them because they are way better (for us) than the alternatives. No method is going to suit everybody; a lot of people find them the most acceptable option. I've used them in several relationships over a period of many years.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3411 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    I know it's easier to just say "always use condoms" and pretend that that is all the information that people need.

    Nobody said that. Seriously. Nobody said that.

    Megan Weagan said:

    I'd rather no kid got taught 'don't worry, 25/31 days, you can't knock her up'. ...
    Aren't we asking for as much information to be given as possible?

    Which is the most concise example of the confusion here that I can find easily.

    What I see is people consistently ignoring what I do say, not answering questions, then coming back with "no-one is saying {what moz said} and no-one is questioning {what moz questioned}". Which makes it very frustrating.

    Back in the day, I asked:

    So, what do you do when one kid says "condoms are not allowed by my religion, so my parents use the rhythm method. How does that work?" And do you mislead about how ovulation works so that it looks as though women are fertile more of the time, or do you just hope that kids don't put the picture together?

    To which the answers were "teenagers often have irregular cycles". It doesn't even address the question, it leaps to why the imputed answer is not a complete answer for everyone. Megan Weagan's answer above was to this.

    Then

    And do you pretend that the STDs that can be transferred when condoms are used, don't exist? Or that condoms stop them? Do you mention that condoms can break? If you mention that, do you explain that that means STD transmission or do you just let them assume that the morning after pill also cures STDs as well? Or do you just prevaricate and change the subject, because this is all too advanced?

    was met with "They are the only thing that works".

    Prophylactic use of specific antivirals (PEP) in that case actually does work, but it's generally left to the person presenting to ask for them. I think it'd be handy if that was taught, but there are mixed reports of population response to those messages - sometimes risky behaviour increases as the perceived risk drops. So I suggest that condoms are not the only thing that works.

    And yes, those are serious questions that I would actually like to see addressed. If you want anecdata, I have met one woman who caught HSV-2 despite using a condom and was quite unhappy about it. Unhappy enough to do some very unfortunate things (to me, as well as others). But she knew the safe-sex messages that Lucy et al promote very well.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 409 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Sofie Bribiesca,

    How do we know how honest reports/ surveys/ studies are? How honest will someone be in a study if (like Ben) someone feels inadequate, freak, alone, massive, puny? I can see how all studies could be accused of being questionable. Especially about, if you always do, sometimes do or definitely do use a condom. How about the monogamous relationships with the affair on the side? Seems to me, asking questions and getting pure honesty could be a can of worms. Studies are done how, in these more sensitive matters?

    Methodology in these sorts of studies is always a separate can of worms - self-reporting, anonymous survey, series of interviews? No study is definitive, but I don't think it's fair to say they're all questionable. Social science is by necessity fuzzy, but it can give very useful information.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2092 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason, in reply to Moz,

    Once we had that down it was just "sex in gumboots".

    Gumboots they are wonderful,
    Gumboots they are swell.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1479 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    I'm not contributing much here, but that's mainly because Lucy is saying things far better than I could. The insouciance is starting to get to me.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2119 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Emma Hart,

    I love it how your post wasn't about porn to start with, but now it is.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 799 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Moz,

    So I suggest that condoms are not the only thing that works.

    They are only thing that is cheap, easily distributable, and have high reliability rates. Condoms are not perfect, but given all current constraints, they are the best available solution.

    Regarding the rhythm method - it simply isn't reliable for teenagers or people not in committed relationships, who also may have less control over when their sexual activity happens. The conversation we're having is about sex education. It's not responsible to educate teenagers that the rhythm method is a good contraceptive method for them at that time. It's not even close to the many hormonal and non-hormonal other methods available.

    As a biologist, I'm also immediately wary about prophylactic use of antivirals - that's generally not advisable except in specific high-risk situations. Not quite the same problem as antibiotics, but close. If you're worried about the influence of drug companies, too...condoms bad, drugs good?

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2092 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to James Butler,

    I love it how your post wasn’t about porn to start with, but now it is.

    For general reference, yes, I love what I've done to the internet.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4328 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    I love it how your post wasn’t about porn to start with, but now it is.

    It did take 16 pages. Mind you, that's not far, even for a short novella.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2119 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Emma Hart,

    I love what I’ve done to the internet.

    so it was you who filled the internet with porn!! Impressive. ;-)

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3411 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to George Darroch,

    There’s also the interesting question of whether porn is giving younger people better information about sexual pleasure. While much of it is indeed bad and highly unrealistic, it isn’t an entirely static medium either, and I’ve heard it suggested that the focus has changed with the much wider uptake of porn through the internet.

    I’ve seen it suggested that young people, girls especially, feel more pressured to say yes to sex acts which are common in porn but less likely to be pleasurable IRL, because their partner can find hundreds of porn examples in a second and say “Look, everyone does it!”. But I don’t know if that’s a real problem or an OMFG TEENAGERS SEX PORN beatup.

    Also, from an interesting Salon interview with a male pornstar:

    I once did a magazine interview where they asked me for tips on how to have sex like a porn star and one of my biggest pieces of advice was, don’t.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 799 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to James Butler,

    I’ve seen it suggested that young people, girls especially, feel more pressured to say yes to sex acts which are common in porn but less likely to be pleasurable IRL, because their partner can find hundreds of porn examples in a second and say “Look, everyone does it!”

    This is quite a common argument, to which I think it's pretty obvious to reply, "Wait, dude is pressuring you into something you don't want to do? Why the fuck does it matter where he got the idea? DTMFA."

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4328 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    I think it didn't help that you were a little oblique about the impotence bit and I (and a bunch of others) then assumed you were just not trying very hard to put them on, which set things off in an adversarial manner.

    You could have asked! I didn't really want this to go on as long as it has, nor to go into such detail, but the nuts and bolts are that it was always a problem, but it became worse and worse. Initially I think my success rate with condoms was around 50%. It slowly declined, probably as whatever part of my Animal Penis Brain responsible began to tell my other brain to fuck off, it was the one holding the keys. When it hit 14 straight failures in a row, I just gave up on them, and I can't face ever dealing with them again. The smell of them actually makes me feel sick now.

    I can't rule out that it's something to do with my physicality. Deflation was not the only problem, certainly the actual putting on is something I also found difficult from day one. They don't roll down easily, and they don't stay on, bunching forward constantly. They don't go in easily, and once in, they want to stay in. Many is the time I've withdrawn and the condom has stayed behind. So I tried holding them on, but this causes them to break.

    In the balance I think it was a mixture of physical and psychological causes, in a feedback loop. I had hoped to break out of the loop by having at least one genuinely enjoyable experience, to start the feedback going in the opposite direction, but it quite literally never happened.

    The part of the picture I most want to paint here is that impotence is quite a strange beast. Indeed, it's an odd word to use for a penis that can't function in one highly proscribed way, but can by relaxing one, and only one, of the strictures on it, a stricture imposed only by powerful sexual education, in fact. It's a word that has a medical connotation for something that might actually just be an innate preference, rather like being gay seems to be. Many gay guys have reported having hetero sex for quite a while, but not really enjoying it and not knowing why, becoming depressed and bitter until bingo, the light comes on one day when some honey of a dude cracks onto them, and yay, life is good once more.

    At the time all this was going on, I actually wondered if I was gay. However, it didn't take much research to work out I'm not. My porn is all straight. I've never had a gay fantasy. And any time the condom broke on my deflating penis, it was like "Wow! Maybe I've got it finally, it's working! This feels great", followed a little bit later by "Oh fuck. You are on the Pill right? We'd better stop". Several times I got the answer "Jesus Christ, don't stop, I'm almost there! Go harder, it's good, it's really good now". Is it any real surprise that I took my one of my 9997 lives? Is it really that hard to believe this doesn't happen to other people?

    Further anecdata has come from the many prostitutes I've spoken to over the years who told me that penis deflation during the use of the condom is really common. Some of that is possibly performance anxiety from the shameful prostitution situation, but often the guy is perfectly able to get it up again once the condom is removed. They're a particularly disliked kind of john, because there's not really much that's nice about having to give a guy a blowjob for half an hour off-and-on, and put up with the other half hour of being ground away at by a dry deflating penis, wondering if the thing is going to break or slip off inside them. And it ups the condom bill. Thankfully, they don't come back.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8305 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to George Darroch,

    Since the conversation has strayed that way, there's also the huge issue of the porn industry staying very much away from depicting condom use.

    There was a brief phase of it. It didn't sell. People watch porn to have a fantasy, not watch something their teacher told them they should do.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8305 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Emma Hart,

    This is quite a common argument, to which I think it’s pretty obvious to reply, “Wait, dude is pressuring you into something you don’t want to do? Why the fuck does it matter where he got the idea? DTMFA.”

    Sure, but if it's something you haven't done before, you have to use the resources available to assess whether you think it's going to be enjoyable or not. But yeah, in a healthy, trusting relationship it shouldn't be as much of an issue.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 799 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Emma Hart,

    This is quite a common argument, to which I think it’s pretty obvious to reply, “Wait, dude is pressuring you into something you don’t want to do? Why the fuck does it matter where he got the idea? DTMFA.”

    Practices in heterosexual porn seem to be a mix of transgressive fantasies that a few people will want to live out (and good luck to them), things that some more people might want to try out (I suspect that porn has opened people up to coming somewhere other than the vagina -- although even when I was young I had gay friends who were spraying it everywhere), and frankly dumb stuff that no one really does outside porn (that penis-whacking thing, for example).

    What’s most different, certainly in commercial porn, is the tone of the encounter. Even people doing really transgressive things IRL tend to be listening to each other a lot more than porn actors do. And that’s where porn often isn’t a good model for real-life sexuality.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18512 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to BenWilson,

    There was a brief phase of it. It didn't sell. People watch porn to have a fantasy, not watch something their teacher told them they should do.

    Crashpad still do safe-sex porn. Porn is the only reason I know about dental dams.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4328 posts Report Reply

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