Who wants to talk about sex? Everyone. Even people who feel they don’t want to talk about it because they think they either aren’t able to, or they simply have no one to talk to. It is especially (though not exclusively) young people who struggle with the latter problem.
Of course, this is not a new problem, and today’s youth are the next in a line of many generations left on their own, because sexuality has always been a taboo topic in Hungary, something that can’t be discussed publicly. So young people are left with consuming internet porn, tabloids on sex, reality shows, and the American S&M trilogy and the pulp fiction surrounding it. But I wouldn’t condemn all this nearly as much I would the hypocritical eye-rolling that takes place about them. Because the problem is not with these things, but with the void that the aforementioned entertainment industry products are trying to fill.
As an Obstetrician-Gynecologist, part of my job is to talk with young people about sexuality. It won’t surprise anyone if I tell you that they know very little about sex, and even less about safety. It’s apparent that they get all kinds of information from each other. They express the same stupid misconceptions all the time. These generally come in waves, so I always know what the current trend is. For example, one that is still a current trend is that after the first few times they have sexual intercourse, men usually „fall out of the habit” of using condoms, because they believe they’re allergic to them. But it’s very rare for someone to experience an allergic reaction due to the lubricant on the condoms. Those experimenting with promiscuity often wind up in my office because they do not know about basic hygiene principles relating to this kind of encounter. We don’t even have to go too far – it’s not even obvious that prior to intercourse they should wash hands and use the toilet, and do the same afterwards, as well as shower. Regarding sexually transmitted diseases, they know of HIV and can name perhaps one or two others. But there are many, and not a single one of them is something to sneeze at.
It’s obvious that parents (or adults in general) under normal circumstances do not talk with children about sex. By this I mean that they literally do not speak a word about the topic with them, nothing. Because it’s obviously awkward for both parties if we approach a teenager and say come on, let’s talk about sex. Then it’s too late. Open answers have to be given starting in early childhood, incorporating this into the upbringing as is appropriate for their age, not when a child becomes a teenager and turns away from the parent. Once we’re there, we have to provide them with the opportunity to also get information from a good source. A book, a conversation with a gynecologist or sexual psychologist, it doesn’t matter.
My daughter just earned her university diploma. When she was in high school, I thought I would go to her high school and talk with them about sex in the form of an organized presentation. Then once I was invited to a school that teaches auto repair, where the guys wrote their questions onto little pieces of paper. There were very good questions, many of which were about basic things. After a couple of minutes of embarrassment, we were able to have an open and relaxed discussion, even though the school’s female principal was present, as was the homeroom teacher, whose idea it all was. (Both of them offered their congratulations afterwards, even though many „technical terms” had been flying around the room, but they saw the advantages of this kind of discussion.) I felt that I was able to tell them things they had not yet heard from an adult. The young people loved these presentations. Why? Because there was an adult there who talked with them about safe sex while saying, go ahead and have good sex. You could see that they were blown away just by the fact that it’s possible to talk openly about this. I could see what a great demand there is for this, and I am worried about today’s teenagers because they don’t receive useful messages that can help them manage the storm of hormones inside them.
Kids want to talk about sex, but we don’t talk with them. We let their thinking about sex be formed by stories that start out from various defects, which through this then forms our sexual culture. Sadism resulting from severe childhood abuse (50 Shades trilogy), a professional athlete (Nikolett Szepesi) deformed by a lack of love, crushed by Hungarian athletic training that’s based on competition rather than cooperation, all while being abused. Reality show heroes hoping for stardom from massive, public, paid sex? Is this really all we have to say about sex? What effect does this produce other than sympathy or scandalization at these prime-time antics? I’m horrified that people can talk about sex as something that is not a joint activity, where the other person doesn’t matter.
And by saying that, I’m not attempting to stress romance. I’m far from being a prude. There’s nothing wrong with someone changing partners quickly or entering into flings frequently. What’s a problem is if we have no consideration for the other person and we approach them irresponsibly, arrogantly, or simply apathetically. Young people want to talk about sex, and we should be on speaking terms with them.
This article originally appeared on HVG.hu.