Ep 222: Demystifying Sex

Benjamin Dunks, author of Intimacy, comes on the show to demystify common concerns and misconceptions teens have about sex. We discuss how parents can rethink the sex talk, why teens might be insecure about intimacy, and cover tricky topics like orgasms and even penis size.

If you've enjoyed Talking to Teens, we'd love if you could leave us a five-star rating, and if you have time, a review! 

Full show notes

Most teens have a million questions about sex: When should I have it for the first time? How do I find the right person to do it with? What’s the best way to ask for consent? How does sex even happen?

Typically, kids don't exactly feel comfortable coming to parents with these concerns–and might even be too scared to ask their friends. Instead they often turn to porn for explanations…and although not all pornography is bad, there are plenty of harmful things online for kids to find.

So how can we make sure kids learn about sex in a healthy way? 

To find out, we’re talking to Benjamin Dunks, author of Intimacy: A Guide to Young Men About Sex. Benjamin is a professional in the world of dance who’s studied the human body in both artistic and scientific ways. He’s spent the past four years interviewing young people about sex and intimacy to find out where their concerns and confusion lie.

In our interview, we’re discussing how parents can have effective sex talks with kids, and how teens can deal with insecurities like lack of experience or anatomical differences. Plus,we run through the most critical things kids should know before they have their first intimate encounter.

Tweaking “The Talk”

When parents are approaching the sex talk, we often come from a place of fear, says Benjamin. We’re scared that our kids might get pregnant, contract an STD, acquire a bad reputation, get their feelings hurt–the list goes on. But when we come out of the gates full of warnings and negativity, we sometimes unwittingly push kids in the opposite direction, Benjamin explains. They roll their eyes at our advice, and then do the opposite of what we tell them!

Instead, Benjamin recommends opening ourselves up to an honest and frank talk about intimacy, and even emphasizing the positive aspects. This can help kids see the pros and cons of becoming sexually active, without scaring them off with tales of terror. When we open up this line of communication with teens, it can also create trust that extends past sex talks and into other parts of life, says Benjamin.

So where can we start when it comes to “the talk?” Benjamin suggests starting with lighter questions, and easing into the heavy stuff.. Benjamin also recommends that parents open up about their own experiences–although maybe without all the details! Reminding kids that you also felt scared or confused about sex when you were young might make them feel less alone, Benjamin says.

Facing Insecurities About Intimacy

Teens can be insecure about lots of things, sex included. Many teenagers, especially young boys, might feel insecure about their lack of knowledge or experience surrounding intimate encounters.

This is often because young men are taught that masculinity is all about control–controlling their emotions, their friends and their partners, Benjamin explains. When young men can’t express their insecurities, they double down on this need for control, creating a lack of communication in intimate encounters and even sexual violence. Being open and honest with partners about their insecurities instead can lead to a lot of growth for young men. 

Vulnerability helps create more trust between partners, and ultimately healthier relationships overall, explains Benjamin. Intimacy is more than just a sexual act, but includes emotional connections and quality time spent together, he says. Vulnerability isn’t easy–especially when teens are young and scared of getting hurt. But the more open they can be about their insecurities, the closer they’ll be with their partners.

Often times, kids who feel insecure turn to drugs and alcohol to lessen their fear of a sexual encounter, Benjamin explains. That’s not a sustainable solution, however, and can lead to gray areas around consent and safety, he says. Instead, teens need to learn to be vocal about how they’re feeling. Do they feel uncomfortable? Unsafe? Are they unsure of themselves or just reluctant to become sexually active?

These communication skills are just one of many things kids should know before heading into their first intimate encounter. Benjamin and I are discussing what teens should know if they’re preparing to start a sexual relationship with someone.

Critical Concepts For Sexually Active Teens

If teens are going to jump into a sexual encounter with someone, there’s a few things they should know first! Benjamin and I are reviewing some critical concepts that parents should review with teens who might have an intimate interaction on the horizon.

One thing that Benjamin emphasizes is that every encounter is different. Everyone has unique anatomy, and an intimate interaction might be short or long, slow or fast, loud or quiet. Instead of expecting things to go a certain way, he says teens should remain open-minded and above all, communicate. Communication is key to creating a better experience, not just for themselves, but for their partners.

In the episode, Benjamin and I chat about a common insecurity men face–the size of their genitals! But Benjamin assures us that size isn’t everything, and everyone is looking for something different in a partner. Other parts of an intimate encounter are just as, if not more significant than penetration, especially when it comes to women’s pleasure. We talk further about different kinds of pleasure in the episode, and how we discuss such an awkward and potentially sensitive topic with teens.

Benjamin also shares what teens should know about orgasms–and why it’s ok not to have them all the time. Sexual encounters don’t always have to have orgasms as the end goal, and can be perfectly enjoyable without them, he says. However, it’s important to know what a partner enjoys, and how our own bodies work! Learning about how partners can pleasure themselves and one another can be an important part of sexuality and forming intimate relationships.

In the Episode….

This episode is chock full of incredible advice for teens who might feel confused or insecure about sex. On top of the topics discussed above, we’re also talking about:
  • Why we shouldn’t shame masturbation
  • What teens should know about sex toys
  • How we can teach boys about periods
  • Why teens shouldn’t learn about sex from TV
If you liked this episode, you can find more from Benjamin at his website, Benjamindunks.com. Thanks for listening, and don’t forget to share and subscribe. We’ll see you next week!

Follow us on Social Media! We're @talkingtoteens on Instagram and TikTok

Creators and Guests

Andy Earle
Andy Earle
Host of the Talking to Teens Podcast and founder of Write It Great
Writer, artist, educator and designer working across a range of worlds. I write books and social media posts, train young dancers and pursue a better world
Ep 222: Demystifying Sex
Broadcast by