Speaking of sex can be embarrassing, especially for boys, teenagers and young people. But an adequate knowledge of sexuality is essential for personal growth. Fortunately, there are many strategies that can help make this sometimes delicate aspect of your education a little easier.
Understanding the Importance of Sexual Education
1) Take note that you are not the only one who feels uncomfortable.
Embarrassment is a common reaction when discussing topics about sex! Sometimes the boys pretend to be embarrassed to hide their curiosity, as they want to prevent their friends from thinking that sexual discourse will make them excited. But any reaction is fine!
In most cultures, sex is considered a personal and delicate topic, so it is not addressed with the same open mind with which other issues are dealt with, but do not allow this to stop you from asking some important questions.
Psychologists and sexologists know how to speak calmly about such delicate topics, but unfortunately in Italy for the moment there is no provision for the teaching of sexual education in schools, apart from individual projects that any local reality may decide to adopt or not.
2) Sex education provides the approach to many issues.
It is not limited to the discourse of sexual relations in itself since it also involves the study of the male and female genital apparatus and the care of one’s own body.
In the United States, where most of the sex education curricula are established by the Ministry of Education of the individual States, the courses tend to cover issues such as puberty, anatomy, health, self-esteem and social problems such as pressure peers and violent relationships.
A sex education course should answer questions about the menstrual cycle (for girls), explain how to behave if you think you are gay, how to prevent infections and sexually transmitted diseases, what to do in case of sexually explicit text messages, how to act if you are the only virgin (or non-virgin) in your group of friends, how to deal with a boyfriend who assumes violent or manipulative behavior, and so on.
You may think that some of these topics do not interest you, for example, if you have already gone through puberty and you have easily passed all the changes and decided to remain a virgin for the time being. In this case, sex education may seem like a waste of time, but there are likely to be other topics you ignore.
3) Deepen your knowledge of sexuality.
Regardless of your point of view on controversial issues such as reproductive biology, homosexual unions, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, you are a sexual being. It is important that you know this fundamental aspect of yourself to grow as an individual with a healthy vision of yourself.
Even if you feel asexual (that is, you are not interested in sex), probably in the course of your life other people may make some advances, so you must learn how to deal with a society in which sexuality plays an important role.
Health and wellness courses are less demanding than basic subjects such as mathematics, science, history or literature and usually do not require homework.
You could even have fun!
4) Wait until you feel ready.
In principle, you can wait to know some details about sexuality until you are pushed by curiosity and you will not feel ready to begin to deepen the topic.
It’s fair to say “I do not think I’m prepared to receive this kind of information” when it comes to sex education. There are many points to be acquired and processed, so waiting until the moment you feel ready to face the subject is a sign of maturity.
5) Talk to your parents.
Although it may seem strange to you, they love you, accept you and help you. Sit down next to them and tackle the topic of sexuality, changes in your body, relationship problems or anything that comes to mind.
Do not limit yourself to the simple “speech”. Keep talking about it. A continuous dialogue is necessary to learn to know and manage one’s sexuality.
Take advantage of all the opportunities to ask them some questions when they arise naturally. You do not have to force the speech. It could be easier to deal with the question if you talk about something you saw together on a talk show, in a movie or on the news, rather than specifically asking: “Dad, what does homosexual mean?”
Do not forget that your parents always knew that this time would come and they always wondered how you could answer your questions in the most appropriate way. However, you may catch them unawares, so they may need time to think about a comprehensive response, without overwhelming you with information. So give them some respite if they seem embarrassed to you!
6) Address your questions to a trusted adult of your own sex.
Maybe mom is not the right person to ask about condoms. In many cases, it might be better to talk about it with an adult you trust, like a big brother, an aunt, a cousin or a family friend. Just make sure that the person you’re talking to is mature and has your interests at heart.
Be behaved in a relaxed manner. Talking about sex does not have to turn into a question of the state. You should simply say, “I’m going to ask you a few questions, can you give me a few minutes next weekend?” If you specify the reason for your request (for example, because you heard about your friends about a certain topic or you saw something on the internet) you will give them the opportunity to provide you with the complete answers.
Just like your parents, sometimes even other adults may feel uncomfortable dealing with this kind of conversation with boys or teenagers because they are afraid of providing wrong information or giving it more than they should. If they seem embarrassed or taken aback by your questions, give them time to reflect on the answers and do not worry too much.
7) Do research on the internet.
Provided that you are cautious when choosing sites, the internet is an extraordinary source to search for some topics that you would like to know better.
Avoid research by entering keywords that refer to anatomy and sex: you may accidentally bump into sexually explicit or pornographic sites, rather than informational ones. Look for reliable sites such as Wikipedia that, for example, show images of the human body (both male and female) and explain the unclear terms.
Make sure your parents know what you are looking for. Always remember to be honest with them and make sure they know why you are doing it, to avoid problems or embarrassing situations.
8) In the event that your school organizes a sexology course, attend it.
It is useful to make use of the support of an expert professional who answers your questions, away from your parents.
If you do not have the opportunity to take a sex education course, contact your school’s psychologist. In some cases, it may help you solve some sensitive issues in private.
9) Contact your doctor.
Doctors are specialized professionals who are required to respect privacy. You do not have to feel embarrassed with them because they have chosen a career that provides in-depth knowledge of the human body. No question can leave them amazed or surprised.
You can prepare questions for your doctor at the annual check-up, or you can make an appointment if you have urgent questions. Do not hesitate to put your questions in writing and, if you feel embarrassed to ask them directly, give them to the nurse before the doctor enters, to show them to you. This way, your doctor can read your questions and reflect on your answers before visiting.
10) Know that on eros you never stop learning.
Surprised? Sex education involves the constant acquisition of new information on interpersonal relationships, on intimacy and on the human body. With the passing of time you will learn how to become a healthy and safe individual, and when you grow older, your knowledge will have to be updated.
For example, as an adolescent, you may ask questions about puberty or have problems with your sexual identity. As an adult, you may not be able to conceive a child and so on. There’s no time when you’ll know everything like magic, so you could start learning from now.
Overcoming the embarrassment and the excess of information
11) Pretend until you can.
Sometimes embarrassment is inevitable, so the only thing you can do is pretend not to be embarrassed. With time and practice, this way of acting will help you really get over your embarrassment.
You can also try to overcome your embarrassment with humour, to make the atmosphere less heavy. This is a common strategy among young people who acquire information about sex; if I simply called the word “penis” in a teen room, everyone would start giggling! It seems that laughter is a natural reaction to try to overcome the embarrassment. Therefore do not be afraid to laugh to ease the tension.
Embarrassment leads you to believe that everyone is watching you and judging. When young people hear about sex, it is very likely that they feel uncomfortable and weird. Nobody judges you because maybe you feel embarrassed like you!
12) Learn how to respond if you have different opinions.
It could happen that you disagree with something that tells you an adult, but it is right to expose your ideas.
If you have the impression that a teacher expresses discriminatory or unseemly ideas, please let your parents know so they can evaluate whether to talk to the headteacher.
Otherwise, do not hesitate to raise your hand and to communicate politely, but firmly, that there are other valid opinions on the subject. Please note that it is unlikely that you will change your teacher’s opinion, but at least you can share your point of view with your classmates.
13) Find someone to talk to.
If you are troubled by a variety of information about sex or the human body, you may feel anxious, confused, or frightened. Sometimes you have these reactions because the information is not accurate enough to understand the problem fully. If you are perplexed, worried or disturbed by something you have heard, talk to someone you trust and can reassure you.
Consider talking to your parents or a trusted adult and tell them what you have heard or experienced and why you feel upset.
If you continue to feel anxious about these problems or your sexuality, consider consulting a psychotherapist or a psychologist. You can start by addressing your problems with your parents, your doctor or the school psychologist, asking them who you may contact.