Ep 96: Getting Over the Awkwardness to Talk About Sex

Cindy Pierce, author of Sexploitation and Sex, College, and Social Media, brings her immense knowledge and humorous vibes to this week’s episode. Porn is wreaking havoc on our teens’ sexual development, but, fortunately, Cindy has ways parents can help undo the deleterious effects.

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Full show notes

Talking to teens about sex is one of the hardest things to do as a parent. Initiation discussion about the birds and the bees can be very confusing, messy, and just plain awkward! Not only that, but teenagers can be very resistant to opening up and talking about sex even if they have questions and want clarification on the subject.

No matter how uncomfortable or difficult talking to your teenager about sex and relationships is, it’s a crucial part of helping your child to grow up happy and healthy. Kids today are exposed to sexual content from a very young age, with the internet providing an infinite amount of pornographic content. While knowing about sex from a young age is ok, kids should be learning the facts from an educational, honest source rather than porn. The porn industry, more concerned with making money than protecting the minds and hearts of young people, often portrays sex as degrading, violent, and often not even consensual.

Sound terrifying? I’m scared too! That’s why I’m sitting down with Cindy Pierce in today’s episode. Cindy is the author of several different books that tell you how to talk to teens about sex: Sexploitation: Helping Kids Develop Healthy Sexuality in a Porn-Driven World and Sex, College, and Social Media: A Commonsense Guide to Navigating the Hookup Culture. She also travels around to schools across the country to educate teenagers, parents, and college students about sex.

She reveals fascinating and shocking things about how kids today are learning about sex as well as great tips to master talking to teens about sex. Cindy also shines light on a lot of the questions teenage and college aged people have about sex, relationships, and porn.

For example, she reveals that in her experience, most kids in the modern day are exposed to sex and even pornography by the age of 9. This is why one of Cindy’s biggest tips for parents is to start talking to your teenager about sex and relationships from as young as ages 5-7. This doesn’t have to be a full briefing, but instead a safe, simple explanation about biology and the reasons why people decide to copulate.

It may seem a little early to start talking to teens about sex, but it’s easy for children to be exposed to porn and be confused and manipulated from a young age. We want our kids to understand that sex is meant to be between two consenting adults who care about one another and communicate effectively. Instead, they may begin to believe that the degrading and often violent sex they see in porn is the same as real life sex--and we know it’s not.

By talking to teens about sex and relationships early, you’re also establishing an important connection with your kids that lasts, a certain trust. It helps you open up a safe space to talk about complicated subjects. Then, as they grow up and begin to experience the myriad of problems that comes with growing up, they’ll know they can come to you for advice and that golden parental wisdom instead of the internet.

Nervous about initiating discussion? Wondering how to talk to your teenager about pornography without saying the wrong thing ? Cindy also shares some tips for how to make sure that when you give the talk, you give it right. One thing she recommends is vulnerability. It’s easy to feel pressure to be a perfect parent, but you’re only human. It’s much healthier and more productive to talk openly about your experiences and be honest when you don’t know all the answers.

Although it would be nice if there was a secret to success when it comes to talking to teenager about sex and realtionships, there’s no one way to approach your child about these topics. This is because all children are different, with different personalities, fears, and interests. Every kid is unique, and struggles with their own complicated relationship with intimacy and sexuality.

Cindy speaks on the idea that talking to teens about sex is one that continues to evolve over time, not a static event. Instead of one specific instance in which the two of you sit down to discuss it all, the “talk” is really a shifting conversation which changes as your teenager grows. Keep communicating, keep up the dialogue about how to have safe, consenual sex to ensure that your teen develops and maintains a healthy relationship with the subject.

Speaking of changes, one of the biggest shifts in a teenager’s life is their transition into college life--and this transition includes new sexual experiences. College hookup culture creates a confusing environment for many young adults as they enter university.

This confusion and chaos is often the catalyst for, as Cindy puts it in the episode, below average sex. This means sex that is completed without trust, without communication, and often, without condoms! That’s why we need to be talking to teens about sex on a regular nasis and educating them about how to maintain self respect and sexual health while in college.

Cindy breaks down how this hook up culture during the early years of college is largely motivated by the need for high social status. With the addition of social media to the lives of young people, status and image has become more significant than ever for college students. Part of this image is who you decide to sleep with. This means that students are motivated to hook up with other students to garner respect from their peers, rather than to share an intimate, fun experience with someone they care about.

According to Cindy’s research, most college students actually report that they dislike hook up culture. Although it may seem like a convenient, no strings attached way to futile one’s physical need for intimacy, it can lead to a lot of traumatizing experiences, emotional damage, and, quite simply, unenjoyable sex. Often times communication between the two individuals is poor, leading to the lines of consent becoming blurred, the status of the relationship to be confusing and the sex to be bad.

Instead of promoting this kind of sexual experience, Cindy emphasizes the idea of happier, healthier sex that involves trust and consnent By listening to her ideas about how young people can form positive sexual habits, we can teach our kids about how to communicate better with their partners and keep themselves from getting hurt.

In the episode we cover:
  • The most awkward question to expect from your teen
  • Just how financially powerfully the porn industry is
  • What the impact of Covid-19 is on teen and college hook up culture
  • A myriad of internet resources for teens and kids of all ages to learn about sex
  • The importance of teaching about pleasure
  • Why teens and young men are suffering from erectile dysfunction despite their youth
Having "the talk" is already a daunting task for many parents--it may come as a shock that "the talk" actually should be an ongoing conversation. However for our teens healthy development into a full adult, having ongoing, in depth conversations about sex and sexuality is of the utmost importance. Teens crave good information, and while it may be uncomfortable explaining intimate things to your teen, a few moments of awkwardness is a small price to pay for a well-adjusted, sexually-intelligent adult.

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Creators and Guests

Andy Earle
Andy Earle
Host of the Talking to Teens Podcast and founder of Write It Great
Cindy Pierce
Cindy Pierce
Author, sexuality educator, speaker and comic storyteller
Ep 96: Getting Over the Awkwardness to Talk About Sex
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