Full Show Notes
For most parents, the main goal with sex education is to keep teens from having sex for as long as possible and make sure that, when they do have sex, they always use protection. These are definitely good goals, but they leave a lot to be desired. That’s why a new movement is focusing on “sex positive education”, with the goal of setting teens up to have a positive, fulfilling, and empowering sex life.
How do you adopt sex positive education with your own teenager?
Gia Lynne says the answer has to do with shifting our focus from teaching a results-oriented mindset to a pleasure-oriented mindset. Gia is the author of the new book On Blossoming: Frank and Practical Advice on Our Bodies, Sexual Health, Sensuality, Orgasm, and More. On this week’s episode of the podcast, I spoke with Gia about how sex positive education works and what parents can do to start using it in their own homes.
The first thing to understand, Gia told me, is that sexuality and sensuality are not the same thing.
Sensuality is about using our senses to experience the world in a rich and pleasurable way. Sexuality, on the other hand, is related to intercourse and sexual attractiveness.
Here’s another way of thinking about sex positive education. Sexuality focuses on the end result (having an orgasm or producing a baby), while sensuality focuses on enjoying everything fully in the moment as it occurs. Gia refers to this as having a “results-focused orientation” versus a “pleasure-focused orientation”.
Teenagers who are results focused are more likely to rush into sexual intercourse, while those with a pleasure focus are more likely to slow things down and savor the sensual pleasure derived from experiences like holding hands, snuggling, and kissing.
How can you teach this attitude to your own teenager?
Gia told me it is about more than just sex. Sex positive education is about teaching teens to slow down and savor all of life’s little pleasures rather than rushing through to get to the “good stuff”.
She gave me some great tips for how to pass this mentality along to your teenager. For one thing, it starts with modeling. Let your teenager see you pause for a minute to savor an amazing cup of coffee or stop to watch the sunset. Show them that there is so much joy in life’s simple pleasures.
Another component of sex positive education is training our teenagers to ask for what they want and to stand up for themselves when they don’t want to do something. During our interview, Gia revealed some great strategies parents can use to start teaching these skills to teens.
We also talked about some other important topics in sex positive education, like masturbation, ‘losing” your virginity, using the right words when you talk about sex organs and acts, and a whole lot more.
Word-for-word examples of what to say to your teen
1. If your teen is worried or curious about masturbation:
“There is nothing wrong with masturbation. In fact, I think it’s especially important for a young person because you haven’t had as much time in your body and you don’t know what you are capable of feeling. Before you get into situations with another person it’s important to know your own body well.”-Gia Lynne
2. When your teenager is worried about what it will mean when they lose their virginity:(Members Only)
Step-by-step guides for applying the ideas from this interview
1. Learn the Right Words for Sex Organs and Acts (and Use Them Frequently):Gia is an expert on pleasure-focused education and during our interview she stressed the importance of using the right words to discuss sex acts and body parts with your teenager. This serves two purposes. First, by showing your teen that you aren’t afraid to use words like “vulva”, “clittoris”, and “handjob”, you subtly communicate that it’s OK for them to talk openly with you about these things. Second, your teen may not know all of the specific words for these things. By using them yourself, you can make sure your teen knows what the words are. This way they will be prepared to talk about this stuff with their future sexual partners. Take a moment to take a quiz on sexual anatomy and see how you score!
Female Sexual Anatomy Quiz (The Guiardian)
Male Sexual Anatomy Quiz (Buzzfeed)
2. Teach a Pleasure-Oriented Mindset to Your Teenager:(Members Only)
Complete Interview Transcript
Andy: So you have written this book, On Blossoming.
Gia: Yep, On blossoming.
Andy: It’s an interesting mix of like things about sex and the body, and also things about your upbringing. You have a really interesting story. I wonder if you could just talk a little bit about how the book became that and what that whole interesting journey is to get into this point.
Gia: That’s a really great question. I had a very interesting process writing this book. I first decided I wanted to write it with my sister when we were 12 and 13, when we were really in puberty ourselves, really feeling it. Because we were having really great open conversations with our mom and the adults in our lives. And we were homeschooled. So we had a weekly class that was called the Female Body Class. And that had actually started several years before that. But it was basically a time where we could talk about anything that we wanted to talk about, but specifically about changes we were noticing. She had a book that she would read from. The book changed over the years, but it would introduce topics that we could ask questions about.
Andy: Okay. Yeah.
Gia: And so my sister and I, we were pretty into it. Particularly me. I really wanted to have my first period and I wanted to start experimenting. I felt very intrigued by all these things that were changing. And so we were like, “Well, we should write this book.” That went for a little while and then fast forward a number of years. I really had more perspective on the interesting upbringing and how unusual it was. Because I grew up in an intentional community and they teach courses in communication and relationships. As an adult, I really got to appreciate how unique that was and that it really gave me a unique perspective really on puberty and how to raise teens.
Gia: I decided to pick the book back up and actually finish it this time. I used my own experience because I wanted to create a more personal connection with the reader because I found a lot of sex ed books or art. There’s all a great ones out there, but they’re a bit removed or kind of more like, “Okay, you should do this.” Or biological emphasis. And I was like, “This is such a personal thing.” Really wanting to create more of a connection with the reader. So that was the foundation for the book.
Andy: So what is an intentional community?
Gia: Great question. So I think people use this term in different ways, but for me, the intentional community, it’s a group of people that have decided to live together and that’s the basic premise. This community was founded on the idea that they wanted to live together to have the most fun possible. So they wanted to research and sort of experiment, figure out the tools that it was going to take for them to have friendships and have the communication in place in order for them to actually live together in a sustainable way. They actually started the community over 30 years ago and they were taking courses from another community that actually started in the 60s. So they got a lot of viewpoints and a foundation from them. They’ve been going strong for 35 years, 30 years, something like that. So it’s just a group of people living together, essentially.
Andy: Yeah. Okay. Well, it’s interesting. And it’s unique and in the book it sounds really cool. It sounds really open and like a strong community, I guess. It’s funny because I feel like we kind of live in a world now where a lot of people don’t even know their neighbors or we live kind of near and around these people, but don’t have that strong kind of connection to them. It just really struck me reading the book that it was kind of the opposite of that. It was like these really, really deep connections with the people around you.
Gia: Thank you. Yeah. I think they realized early on that those kinds of connections, having those kinds of relationships was part of leading a happy life. So that’s been part of our foundation.
Andy: You’re listening to Talking to Teens where we speak with leading experts from a variety of disciplines about the art and science of parenting teenagers. So can you tell me what the difference is between sensuality and sexuality and what should we tell teenagers about that?
Gia: I love this question because I think that these are two words that are used almost interchangeably. Sensuality is kind of a euphemism for sex or sexuality, and I find them to be very different and a really important difference. It really makes these conversations around sex or just around growing up a lot easier because talking about sex is really difficult for people, typically. So for me, I make a distinction between sensuality and sexuality, where sexuality has to do with reproduction. It’s our biological urges. That’s about how we’re all because of a successful sexual act, right?
Gia: Somewhere, somewhere sex happened and we’re here. But sensuality for me has to do with the senses and has to do with note taking in the information that’s available to you every moment of your day. And that’s a very basic definition, but it in a way is a foundation for a way of viewing the world. Or if you’re being in the present moment, living in present time, when you are paying attention to your senses. So I use it for our foundation for the book because throughout the book it’s actually one of the first chapters, as I define the difference between sensuality and sexuality, because it’s sort of the premise that I build the book off of, because yes, I do talk about sex in the book, but it’s not the only thing. There’s so many more things that we can learn about our bodies and about our surroundings, that if we train ourselves to pay attention to them, we lead much more rich and fulfilling lives.
Andy: So I like that. It’s pretty cool. It overlaps with mindfulness a little bit, it seems like to me. It’s interesting to think about how you could be sensual without being sexual and vice versa, how you could be sexual without being sensual at the same time. So if you were going to have a conversation with your teenager about this issue, what do you think would be important to say?
Gia: About the issue of sensuality?
Gia: Well one more thing about how I use the two terms differently is that it ties into a results-driven mindset, like a production oriented mindset, which is one thing I talk about in the book versus a pleasure-oriented mindset. And so with the sexuality model is typically a results-driven mindset, right? Because you want to have intercourse and you make the baby. That’s like that kind of very basic urge. And it looks different ways depending on your sexual orientation and all of these things. But it’s basically people talk a lot about this. It’s when you’re in the bedroom and you need to produce the climax or produce whatever the sex act that it is that you have all the focus on.
Gia: So, that’s more of that production mindset. Whereas coming from a pleasure-oriented mindset, you’re taking in everything and you’re already having pleasure before you even are in the bedroom. You’re conceptualizing it like, “Hmm, what do I want to do?” Or, “Hmm. Gosh, my tea is so delicious and I’m just having such a good time right here in the moment.” So you’re already experiencing pleasure before ,if you are going to have a sex act or not, you’re just already experiencing pleasure. So I think this is really important to talk to teens about, because boy, talk about being result-driven or feeling that kind of pressure to do certain things. There’s so many firsts that are usually happening around this time. Whether it’s your first kiss, or your first date, or your first prom, whatever your thing is, your first period, there’s so many firsts.
Gia: That’s a lot of the pressure that teens and kids feel is like, “Oh, am I doing this at this, at the right age that other people are? Am I normal? Am I not normal? Is that good?” And I think that comes from feeling like that same production-oriented mindset where as opposed to taking things in as they come. For example, I had a lot of pressure on myself about when I was going to have my first period. And that was something that was way beyond my control, obviously. So, having those conversations about having a pleasure-oriented mindset versus a production-oriented one is a really great foundation where you can kind of check in with your kid, or whomever it is you’re taking care of.
Andy: Yeah. You have an interesting graph in your book. That’s the graph of pleasure during sex. And it’s the old model that kind of just leads up to an orgasm and then you suggest this kind of new model, I guess, to go by. There’s kind of different aspects of it. But one of them is this thing called a D.O. Date. So can you explain the D.O. Date and how that works?
Gia: Yeah. Absolutely. I’m so glad you’re asking me about this. So the two different models is the first, the model that we’re all familiar with is the Masters and Johnson’s model where there’s the increase in excitement and plateau and then being a climax and those things. So it’s more of a steady increase in sensation and the sharp peak, and then a sharp decrease in sensation where it kind of drops off and you usually start off lower in sensation than you did in the beginning. It kind of it goes up and then goes way down. So that’s great. There’s fine. That’s worked for a long time. And I think that a lot of that model largely came out of the fact that they needed to research something and be able to grasp something because the reality is as human beings, wow, our sensuality it can look way different and there’s so much more variance in how people experience orgasm.
Gia: A big emphasis of the community that I’ve grown up in, where there’ve been doing a lot of research about really the human potential for orgasm. And so this is a model that they have developed, or it’s more of a dome shape where you build sensation, there’s peaks where you kind of have an increase in sensation, then maybe it goes down a little bit. And then you go on another peak, where it goes up and goes down. And then overall it creates this larger dome where you can actually end the experience with having more sensation in your body then when you started. So it’s really fun because it ties back into the not needing to have that producing kind of mindset where you need to produce that climax.
Gia: It’s more of you’re enjoying each peak, or each stroke, or whatever. This can actually be used in outside of a sexual situation too. It’s really a model for approaching many things in your life, but since they’re talking about it in the setting. Really, it’s more in that taking in your senses and taking in all of the sensory information that’s available to you. As opposed to just focusing on that one climate. So it’s more like going to the symphony to hear the last note, as opposed to taking in the entire symphony. So, a Duty Delivered Orgasm that’s the D.O. it’s related to that model, where in the way that I talk about it in the book, it’s where you use your hands to stimulate the genitals, whether that’s a vulva or a penis.
Gia: And I talk about this form of sex, because it’s a very precise because our hands are agile. They give us so much information and you can see, you can use your eyes to see what you’re doing and what you’re touching. And you can still communicate. So you can talk to your partner, you can ask them questions, “Would you like more pressure? Would you like less pressure?” And then the person that you’re stimulating can answer. So it’s a really great way to have sex, I think because you can really have the experience that you want to have. You can have those places touched that you really want to be touched without the kind of like, “Okay, you’re in the dark and you’re fumbling around.” And things like that where you may or may not get what you want. And so I think that it ties in really well to the conversation that we’re having about consent and about building positive relationships and things like that because you’re creating a foundation of communication through they’re doing, or deliberate orgasm.
Andy: Yeah. It strikes me that it’s just like a really great practice, especially when you’re really experimenting with sexuality for teenagers, especially. And so it makes me wonder how you said you were already familiar with this concept because it was a thing in your community that other people had talked about before. It’s not something that you made up.
Gia: Yeah. Do you want to know about the history of that?
Andy: Yeah. I’m interested in how it was passed along and how other parents can do the same thing to just expose their teenagers to the idea of it, you know?
Gia: Yeah. Well, so I knew about it in theory.
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About Gia Lynne
A pleasure-positive writer, educator, and personal coach, Gia Lynne is dedicated to researching and teaching the craft of pleasurable living and healthy sexuality. Having been raised by an intentional community that offers courses on relationships and communication, she offers a unique perspective on pleasurable living, human sexuality and their connection to our quality of life. She realized that while many people wish they had been raised with better sex ed, she actually had that experience. She has a degree in English Literature from UC Berkeley and is pursuing a master’s degree in Sexuality Studies.