The more we mature and emerge into adulthood, the more conscious and aware of our sexuality we become. But sex is a topic that is easily appropriated by others who don’t necessarily want what’s best for us, even if they pretend to. We might think a boyfriend or girlfriend or older adult has our best wishes at heart, but in reality, our own ignorance could be our undoing and the main channel through which we’re manipulated by others.
In today’s society, men are especially susceptible to this kind of manipulation. They’re encouraged to not save themselves for marriage or monogamy, or they’re so turned off by the toxic messaging of modern feminism that they become disinterested altogether. Both extremes are avoidable though, if we take it upon ourselves as women who want the best for the men in our lives to guide them. We’re not talking about addressing extremely adult topics with young children who need a more fundamental and age-appropriate introduction, but we can instruct our high school and college-aged siblings on these topics.
Chances are, they’re probably curious about these issues but are being misinformed by their own friends or by depictions of sexuality on social media or television. We shouldn’t assume that’s the norm for sexual education these days, nor should we wait until it’s too late to undo this damage. Here are eight sex-related topics you need to talk about with your little brother.
No matter what anyone says, pornography is never a depiction of a healthy sexual relationship. Not only does porn rely on violent depictions of sex and the degradation of others, usually women, but it does us an extreme disservice by introducing us to sex in a way that is not compatible with nor reflective of reality.
For many young men, porn is their introduction to sex. This is unfortunate, to say the least, but what’s most unfortunate is that now the majority of women in our society assume that they’ll be unable to find a partner who doesn’t watch porn. Because it depicts sex, not intimacy, porn can be addicting and intoxicatingly powerful to an impressionable young person.
Steering clear of the evils of porn and thus avoiding its negative impact – which includes how it rewires our brain to see individuals and even how it contributes to low self-esteem and sexual dysfunction – shouldn’t be seen as abnormal but as something to aspire to. Why would we want to continuously subject ourselves to the pain of an online “relationship” when we could be having relationships in real life with actual people? Porn is not a “normal” or healthy habit that every person experiences sooner or later. It’s a scourge on society, and its use, especially by young men, needs to be deterred as much as possible.
Dating apps can be a fun distraction, but most of the time, you’re rarely signing up for what you think you are. Though there are some, most individuals on dating apps aren’t looking for long-term relationships, let alone marriage. Most dating apps serve their purpose in that they can easily and effectively arrange for casual sex or a meaningless hookup.
Even if you aren’t looking for something casual, a large number of the people you match with probably are. Not only that, but dating apps teach our brains to operate purely on a physical level. Let’s be honest – you’re much more likely to swipe left or reject someone after seeing an unflattering photo of them from years ago than you are to actually talk to them and find out if your personalities are also incompatible.
Dating apps are an innovation of the postmodern world, and as such, they’re constructed to facilitate what is fleeting but easily catches our interest. But like any other fixture of our culture, they’re not designed for the long term.
Though the basic functions of biology are often far-removed from today’s conversations on sex, they are absolutely necessary to talk about. Sex without protection or contraception can and will oftentimes lead to pregnancy if the woman is within her monthly fertile window. Yes, unplanned pregnancy happens frequently from failing to account for this or ignoring this very basic reality. And it’s not a political talking point to acknowledge that.
Don’t have sex with anyone you couldn’t see yourself having a child with.
In fact, sex for the goal of procreation dates back to the dawn of civilization. It’s only in our modern world that we’ve decided we can somehow sidestep this consequence if casual, meaningless, or strings-free sex is what we’re after. But there’s a simple remedy to this – don’t have sex with anyone you couldn’t see yourself having a child with. Is this suggestion unpopular? Yes. Is it also effective? Absolutely.
The hookup mindset governs our culture, and now it affects how young people see sexuality, themselves, and others. Even if we’re not raised in a sexually-liberated environment, our culture ensures that we’ll be pressured through nearly every influencing medium around us to at least consider it at one point or another.
Hookup culture damages both men and women. It teaches women that the only thing they’re good for is to be disposable for the temporary pleasure of someone else and that it’s commendable to lower themselves to the status of sexual objects. It teaches men that meaningless sex is not only better than a monogamous relationship but in fact preferable, and that the status they have among their male peers is directly correlated to how many sexual partners they’ve had. Not only that, but women most often feel the emotional damage from this kind of lifestyle, while men are still told they’ll be able to “settle down” with a nice, inexperienced girl regardless of their prolific sexual past. Hookup culture, like everything else our society touches, is toxic to the individual man or woman, and engaging in it for even a short amount of time is a recipe for mental and emotional anguish and low self-esteem.
Alcohol-Related Sexual Assault
When we talk about the victims and perpetrators in a so-called “rape culture,” we most often generalize it to a basic if misguided discussion: Women shouldn’t be raped, and men shouldn’t rape them. While there’s truth to this, we’re ignoring the agency and oftentimes extenuating circumstances at play in situations like these.
While the jogger running for her life from the stranger following her is what we most often think of when we think of sexual assault, the reality is that most victims are assaulted by parties that they know – whether it’s ex-boyfriends, lab partners, friends, or otherwise.
What we don’t talk about nearly enough is alcohol-facilitated sexual assault. One report from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that in one-half of assaults, alcohol has been consumed by the victim or perpetrator and in many cases both parties. The report also outlines how “alcohol’s effects on sexual and aggressive behavior, stereotypes about drinking women, and alcohol’s effects on cognitive and motor skills” are all exacerbating elements which can contribute to sexual assault. Drinking in excess can often lead us to do things we would never normally do, or place us in situations we didn’t expect to find ourselves in. This is true for both men and women, and while it certainly doesn’t excuse forcefully taking advantage of someone else, it plays a part in many sexual encounters, whether consensual or otherwise.
Sexually Transmitted Infections
STIs may be the primary scare tactic your high school health teacher used to frighten you into abstinence, but do we really talk about them enough? Sexually transmitted infections can be a consequence of sex (like pregnancy), and they too are also completely avoidable. Though we often write them off as something that’s not a big deal or something we can treat quickly with antibiotics, that isn’t often the case. One public health initiative estimates that 20 million cases of these infections are counted each year. Diseases like HIV, chlamydia, and syphilis can have painful short-term symptoms as well as lasting impacts on physical health for both men and women, and unprotected, casual sex is the sole perpetrator of these diseases. A quick decision that decides the outcome of one night could affect the rest of our lives.
STIs can have painful short-term symptoms, as well as lasting impacts on your physical health.
Intimacy and sex are meant to be one and the same in an ideal world, though they’re often as divergent as possible in the world we find ourselves in today. True intimacy is found through meaningful, intentional, and fulfilling emotional relationships and is altogether absent from casual relationships. In fact, couples in monogamous relationships often report higher rates of sexual satisfaction and fulfillment than those who aren’t in the same kind of relationships. It’s not rocket science. You’re probably more likely to enjoy sex with someone you’re emotionally invested in than someone you’re not.
Though most men are told otherwise, masculinity is not measured by how many meaningless hookups you have. Masculinity equals strength, and again, though the messaging tells us otherwise, masculinity in its intended form is not toxic, far from it, in fact. There’s a large number of women out there who want nothing more than a masculine man and look for that quality first and foremost in a life partner. If you exude masculinity unashamedly and exhibit the traits of a masculine man – i.e., protective instincts, the urge to provide, physical and mental strength, emotional intelligence, compassion, integrity, honesty, determination, and a firm work ethic – the right woman will be attracted to those traits. As the saying goes, weak men create hard times. Masculine men, whether the times are easy or difficult, stare in the face of adversity and are undeterred from their goals.
Young men deserve education and information on the reality of sex, but it’s patently clear they’re not getting it from trustworthy sources, if the current state of modern dating is anything to go by. Casual sex and situationships harm men just as much as they harm women, though women are at the forefront of who we think of as the casualties of this practice.
In forcing this rhetoric on men, we denigrate their natural masculine instincts and their chances for healthy relationships. But if we as older sisters and women make it our goal to instruct our younger siblings on these truths, another generation won’t have to needlessly suffer through this kind of emotional pain and uncertainty.
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