Yesterday I started a five-campus lecture tour. Co-sponsored by the Secular Student Association and funded by the website SexEd.Net and its founder Steve Markoff, I started in Utah State University. I’ll end at M.I.T. in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
I had put together this fabulous slide deck—talking about the most common sexual question (“Am I normal?”); why people have sex (good and bad reasons); why people don’t enjoy sex (from shame to pain to having sex when you don’t want it); and much more.
The students were obviously enjoying it. But about 15 minutes into my fabulous talk, I paused to ask if anyone had a question. The organizers had created and distributed a QR code so students could send us their questions directly, and after only 15 minutes we were already flooded. And so our evening became 15 minutes lecture, 90 minutes Q-&-A. It was glorious.
Students asked pretty much the same questions that adults ask at my lectures. Here are a few:
- What should you do if your boyfriend or girlfriend doesn’t want sex as much as you do?
- How can you overcome a background of sexual violence or abuse?
- How can you get over performance anxiety?
- How do you tell someone you don’t like the way they kiss?
- What should you do if your religion has taught you sexual restrictions and inhibitions? (Particularly poignant at a campus whose student body is highly Mormon.)
And, of course, what about porn? No matter where I go, no matter who the audience is, everybody wants to know about porn. I could talk about porn for hours, but since I only had a few minutes, here’s what I said:
- Too many people think porn shows real people having real sex. It doesn’t. Your body isn’t like a professional’s (it isn’t like LeBron James’, either), and your sex life isn’t professionally lit or edited to seem perfect. So don’t expect real sex to feel like porn sex looks.
- Masturbating with porn is, indeed, easier than creating a satisfying sexual relationship with a person. It’s also far more limited. So
- How much porn is too much? I’d rather frame the question as “How do you know if you have a porn problem?”
Answer: If you’re late for class or work because you’re enjoying porn. If you lie to yourself about how much you use. If you promise your mate you won’t use any, and you still do (although your problem is probably more about making promises you don’t want to make or keep). If you can’t think of a single thing partner sex offers that masturbating to porn doesn’t.
I ended by talking about Much Better Sex. What are the keys?
- Accept your body as it is.
- De-emphasize intercourse. De-emphasize orgasm.
- Talk to your partner about what you want. Ask what they want.
- Decide what kind of birth control you’re going to use with intercourse.
- During sex, focus on your five senses instead of thinking about doing it right, or preventing failure.
And this being a college audience, I underlined that drinking less is necessary for making sex better. I said it’s hard to enjoy anything when you’re drunk except being drunk. It’s hard to feel actual pleasure, hard to communicate, hard to connect. It’s hard to say no, hard to state preferences.
I discussed the study of college women showing that the more comfortable a woman is with her sex partner, the less she usually drinks before sex—and that when having sex with near strangers, college women tend to drink a huge amount. Why? Because they’re anxious. That anxiety shouldn’t be obliterated with alcohol, it should be listened to: Do you really want to do this?