How To Talk To Youth About Sex, Porn & Sexting

  • When should you start talking about porn (literacy)?
  • How can you support a teen who has been sexting?
  • How do you explain where babies come from to a 4-year-old?
  • What is the first thing parents should teach kids about sex?
  • What are some ethical porn sites for 18+-year-olds?

Dr. Karen Rayne, author, educator, and executive director of UnHushed, joins us to answer your questions about sex education and how to talk to youth about sex & relationships.

UNHUSHED curricula empower people, making it possible for individuals of all ages to make honest, ethical, and empathy-based decisions about their sexuality. Their resources provide the knowledge needed to make crucial decisions and the tools to communicate with current and potential partners. Their curricula and lessons plans are comprehensive (covering birth to adulthood), innovative, fun, inclusive & revised yearly to be on the cutting edge of the constantly evolving sexuality education field

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Rough Transcript:

This is a computer-generated rough transcript, so please excuse any typos. This podcast is an informational conversation and is not a substitute for medical, health, or other professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the services of an appropriate professional should you have individual questions or concerns.

How To Talk To Youth About Sex, Porn & Sexting

Participant #1:
You’re listening to the Sex with Dr. Jess podcast, sex and Relationship Advice you can use tonight. Hey, it’s the sex with Dr. Jess Podcast. And today we’re talking about the most important topic. In my opinion, this is the reason I got into the field. Most of you know that I was a high school teacher, that I saw the gaps in the system, and I went back and did my research around sexual health education. And of course, we talk about all sorts of things on this program. But we’re getting back to me, really what the roots of my work in this field really are, and that is sexual health education. Today I am joined by Dr. Karen Rain, who has been working in education for 20 years with expertise in sexuality education. She has a PhD in Educational psychology from the University of Texas at Austin, where she focused on ethics education and the choices that adolescent mothers make. She is the executive director of UnHushed. This is sex ed done right resources and curriculum that I hope you will all check out. Dr. Karen Rain, thank you so much for being here. Thanks for having me. Jess it’s a pleasure to be here. Tell us a little bit about anhushed this project that you have launched and you are leading, and I know you have an entire team alongside of you. I do, yeah. My formal education started in being a high school teacher as well, actually. And I don’t know how many people know this, but I was going to teach English with chemistry as my secondary subject. And then I got into the schools and I was like, oh, I can’t use these really fun, innovative methods that I’ve learned about in my college career.

So I’m back to college and got a PhD in educational psychology, learned a whole bunch of new fun ways to talk with students in classrooms and ways to do education. I was kind of casting about for what to do with this PhD in educational psychology that I was walking away with and kind of fell into sex education because I had a friend who had a 14 year old who had a pregnancy scare. And so I was like, well, my friend was like, bemoaning the lack of comprehensive sex education in Austin. The kid’s school didn’t do anything and planned parents here to do things on contraception, but she was like, what about all the other things? What are all of the other millions of things that are part of sex and sexuality? And being an ariant almost PhD candidate that I was, I was like, I can do that. I can do sex education. That sounds like fun. And so I did I did some work one on one with 14 year old, and then I did some work with my friend and her partner, and we talked about how they can talk about sex more openly in the home because that’s what my friend really determined was the problem here was that her daughter hadn’t felt comfortable coming and talking to her. And so it was great. And I was like, okay, I’ll do this. I’ll do this for the rest of my life. And so I did that for a good decade and a half, and then I was like, you know, there are some gaps that I’m seeing in the sex education curriculum world. And I wanted there to be a curriculum that would always be on the cutting edge. Where that was a mission driven element to the program was that it would stay up to date, it would be constantly modified, that it would always be meeting young people where they were rather than where young people were ten years ago, or where the federal government was in its funding policies ten years ago, or what is safe for a Planned parenthood clinic to discuss publicly. I wanted it to be unbeolden and innovative and inspired to reach towards that future of sex education. Just turning five this year, so we’re just at this, like, five year mark, which is also really exciting. Happy birthday. Happy anniversary. I want to hear more about the unhashed program, but a big part of it is preparing people, preparing young people, preparing parents, preparing professionals to be able to answer the practical questions. Like you said, meeting young people where they are not the sperm swims to the egg, or I guess it’s actually the egg swims to the sperm, but that’s a whole other thing. But really, what do I do when I’m feeling this way in my body? What can I do about it? And so I’ve solicited some questions from my community, and I’m hoping that you can help me out. And I know that it will lead back to your curriculum as well. So starting at the very beginning, I think just a broader question. What is the first thing parents and caregivers should teach kids about sex from birth? Like, where do we even begin? Does this conversation begin when kids are two months old or two weeks old, and we’re just referring to their genitals by their real names? Where does it all begin? Yeah, I would actually say it begins before that. It actually begins in the way that we touch them when they are first born. This touch is, at its basis, our first kind of communication and then become such a critical part of every possible communication moving forward. What does it feel like when someone holds me? These are things that infants learn right away. Is this something to be scared of, or is this something to offer recomfort and love and consideration? That is then something that I can grow over time to expect from other and yes, then also the names of their genitals. And how do we respond to them when they touch their genitals? Do we name the clitoris and the labia and the penis and the scrotum? In the same way that we name the eyes and the ears and the elbows? Or are they somehow different? Or do they somehow have a name that’s descriptive of our emotional state rather than the thing it is? Right? Like, is it our no no space? There’s so many ways that we can go about engaging with infants, but that nonverbal communication is the first one. So when you say touch a child, do you mean, like, the way we hold them, the way we caress them, the way we explain to them that they’re safe just with our touch? Yeah, it’s the first really sensory experience that anybody really has that touch. And if we’re looking at before a baby is born and it’s still in the uterus, there’s some sound, but not a lot. Maybe there’s an occasional, like, shadowy light of some sort of there’s something really bright going on outside the uterus, but for the most part, it’s just touch. And so that’s the sense that they are able to engage with most thoroughly after birth. And it’s the one that we use to communicate. The majority of those things with our infants at first go and then responsiveness, right? Like when they’re hungry or uncomfortable or their diaper is wet. Do we respond to that? Do we try to figure out what is wrong and help their little bodies come back into some kind of comfortable place? That development of comfort and closeness and also attachment from a young age we know is so meaningful. And I’m thinking about adults too. And so many of us are either touchdeprived or even touch adverse. Like we’re afraid to be affectionate. But one thing I notice is that adults who avoid affection and closeness, physical closeness with other people, they will do it with babies. Like, there’s something about being willing to hold a baby. And I think it’s why so many people love babies because there’s no, I guess, really clear response from them. They might be soothed when you hold them, right? They might stop crying, they might murmur, they may not. But there’s something about, I think, puppies like dogs and cats and babies where people, because they’re nonverbal adults, will let their guard down a little bit. So we have a lot of learning, I think, to do about ourselves there. So if from birth it’s about touch and responsiveness and then using language, I think it’s good practice, right? So a baby, obviously a two day old, can’t hear you even say penis. So it’s really good practice if you’re not used to saying penis, if you’re not used to saying Labia, if you’re not used to saying Volvo. But as they get a little bit older, what does good sex ed look like? So, for example, in kindergarten, what should young people be learning about sex? And I can already see from everything you’re saying that sex is not just about sex. It’s about communication. It’s about affection. It’s about closeness. It’s about attachment. It’s about feelings. Right. When we think of sex ed, people are afraid that we’re teaching the mechanics of sex, but it is so much more. So what is sex ed in kindergarten in terms of being effective? Because I know that in a hushed year, it’s medically based, it’s evidence based, it’s age appropriate. What does that look like? Yeah. So just a few little points of language in there. Our curriculum is not spaced. Our curriculum is evidence informed. Okay? And so this, like, language difference, it’s just a really important point of clarity is that the differences of curriculum is evidencebased has been itself studied against a control group that did not receive that curriculum to ensure that the people taking the curriculum receive certain kinds of knowledge and make sure that they’re actually learning the things. Our curriculum is evidence informed, which means that we take all of the evidence out there about what makes a really good curriculum, and we apply it to what we are doing. Now, when I just say it like that evidence based curriculum sounds great. Why aren’t all curriculum evidence based? And there’s a couple of problems. The main one for us is that because we update annually, we cannot, in fact, be evidence based, because we would have to restaurant our curriculum every single year. And it’s just not practical. Even if the money were there, which is obviously not in the sex ed world, there’s just not the time. Right. An evidence based program takes time to write, time to study, and it’s already out of date by the time it’s in use. And so because of that, we have an evidence informed curriculum. Yes. And we love research. We have a bunch of research on our website, actually, for people who want to know what research informs our studies. That’s all or curricula that’s all there. So for kindergarteners to go back to your question, if we think about what is going to make what is going to provide that’s a better word what is going to provide an adult with the capacity to have a wellbalanced, happy, communicative, positive sex life? And then we take those skills, we say, okay, we want our, let’s say, 20 year olds to have those skills, and then we kind of work backwards from there. Okay, if you want them to be here at 20, what do we need at 18? What do we need at 16? What do we need at ten? What do we need at five? And what we have kind of landed on here then are we need young people who are able to understand the beginnings of consent in both your relationship and other relationships. So, like, our kindergarten curriculum has a whole section on a medical consent, right? We talk about consent as like, oh, you have to explicitly ask before you can have any physical contact. But for a five year old going to the doctor, that’s just not accurate. And so we want to be really honest about the nuances of life and be really clear that things are not immediately obvious, but that they have autonomy and power in as many places as it’s possible to give them. We want five year olds to be able to take care of their bodies. You want them to understand what cleanliness is, to understand what bodily care means. Right. In terms of things like washing your hands and brushing your teeth are the age appropriate things for a five year old. Which then turns into things like making sure that you’re wiping appropriately so that your partner doesn’t deal with skid marks. Making sure that you’re able to take care of menstruation products properly and being able to talk about bodily functions in ways that are possibly funny because kindergarteners often find them hilarious.

But also translate into concrete. Substantial things that provide them with the kind of knowledge and information that leads to a sexually responsible adult. So you’re laying the foundation with these foundational skills so that they can use them moving forward. And I imagine it also falls into the relational territory. Right. So if my friend is being mean to me, how do I deal with that? Am I mean to them back? Do I get physically aggressive? Do I tell them how I’m feeling? Do I stop and ask myself, what does it feel like when they talk to me this way? If my friend says that they don’t want me to be friends with another friend, what do I do? And these sound like obviously kindergarten issues, but these issues persist throughout our lives. Right. We’ve all run into this in high school, in college, in adulthood. I’m sure I’m not a senior yet, but I’m sure seniors run into the exact same things. And so I imagine the curriculum is addressing all of these elements that intersect. Yeah, one of the little scenarios we have at the elementary school level is a kid is hitting the head with a rock and turns around and finds a younger child standing beside him and starts to yell at the younger child, and then the younger child’s older sibling comes and yells at the person who got hit by the rock. And so it’s this way of beginning a conversation about how somebody who has been harmed can still perpetuate harm themselves. Right. Which is this really complex idea. And I think that as adults, we’re like, oh, I don’t know necessarily the little kids would be able to discuss the nuances of that kind of issue, but in fact, kids experience those issues all the time, so let’s give them scenarios that feel authentic and allow them to have the conversations to work out those things so that then we’re then scaffolding. Right, so then what is that little scenario for a seven year old or an eight year old? What does that lead to then when we’re talking about harm and harm reduction and harm perpetuation among teenagers or among people who are young adults or older adults or seniors. There are so many ways that scenario can be mapped onto sexual situations older and we know later in life, and I wouldn’t be surprised if young people are in some ways better equipped to have these conversations openly and honestly and with nuance because they may not be carrying in baggage or expectations from as many previous experiences. That’s really interesting, and I think those scenarios are so important. Again, people think sex ed, they think about the plumbing, they think about condoms on a banana. They think about the scary part of young people having sex, which scares a lot of adults, and they don’t realize that there is all of this nuance and all of these skills around communication and relationships. So if kindergarten involves conversations around hygiene, taking care of bodies, interacting with friends, interacting with family members, I’m curious, you must run into oftentimes kindergarteners whose parents are pregnant, right? So if your child is three or four or five and you’re pregnant with what is to be a younger sibling, how much can you tell them about where babies come from? Because that question comes up almost inevitably, right? Like, how did the baby get in there? And I see a big shift with adults today talking about the babies inside my uterus or the babies inside my room, like they’re getting beyond just the stomach, obviously, and I think you’ll acknowledge this too, that every parent gets to decide how much information they’re giving and how they’re giving it. And even one four year old is very different than another four year old. But let’s just say that you do have a three or four year old and they want to know, how does the baby get in there? Where might you begin for your child? Well, I’m going to start off by saying that lots of parents get very squeaked out with the idea of being very clear about an erect penis going into a vagina, which is how the majority of pregnancies happen. I might be switched out by that. Okay? There’s nothing wrong with that as an explanation. Like, I’m all here for it. If you’re a parent who’s like, oh, yeah, I can say those words, then by all means say those words. And if you’re a parent who’s like, I just cannot say those words to my three year old, I’m like, okay, then let’s find a different way for you to answer the question accurately and then wait until they’re a little older or you can find other resources. There’s actually a new book out, Justin. It’s not mine, and I’m still going to plug it wholeheartedly. It is called The Science of Babies. A little book for big questions about bodies, birth and Family by Deborah Rothman. And it just came out in May and it’s just an utter delight. And I was talking with Debbie about it recently, and I’m going to definitely be like, if you have that three year old and you’re like, how do I say this thing? By all means, go get the science that I need by Debbie Rothman as a place to kind of help you navigate that space. So there are resources, right? I would say that the biggest and most important thing is that you don’t put off a feeling of grossness or squeakiness, right? Like, if you’re like, I don’t know, that’s what your kid is going to pick up on. So if you give a full medical response, right, great, fine. If you are able to do something like, oh, a part of daddy and a part of mommy come together and then those two parts come together and starts to grow into a baby in mommy’s uterus, which is a part of mommy’s body, and you can change that up based on your needs, right? So you can say, oh, well, a part of mommy’s body and a part of a donor’s body came together and is growing into a uterus, into a baby in mommy’s uterus. Right. Like you can modify this to accurately represent and yeah, your kid is going to ask hollow questions by all means, and that’s okay. That’s not a problem. And it’s also okay for you as the parent to stop that dialogue when you are ready for it to stop. And just be prepared for your own lines and know that as a parent, one of the benefits of being a parent is that you are around every day, and if you stop a conversation, you can restart it again another day after you’ve had the time to figure out how exactly you want to say those words. Your kids are used to you saying things like, oh, gosh, I have a phone call or I have to go make dinner, we’ll continue this conversation later. They are accustomed to that. Even three year olds are accustomed to that. So know that you can do that for reasons other than actually having to go do those things, but because you need a breather from the conversation to work out some language to practice with your partner or with a friend or a family member or someone like me, a professional, and then come back around and be prepared to actually have the conversation in more depth. Yeah, I have a friend who became pregnant. She used a turkey baster and a donor, and she was super honest with her little child. I think he was probably like three and a half or four at the time. And she said she just used the words, I got the sperm, I’m using the turkey baster, I’m putting it inside, and hopefully the two things will come together and a baby will grow inside of there. And so I do think that people have to know that their own comfort level matters. But if you’re totally uncomfortable, like if you’re avoiding the topic, you’re going to perhaps teach your child that there’s something really uncomfortable about this or not good about it, or something that ought to be avoided. So if you are feeling that way, it’s time to be time to check in with yourself and think about, OK, what can I do about this and that? What can I do? Might be working on your own discomfort level, or it might be finding another adult in your child’s life to play that role. Let’s be honest about what our capacity levels are. Let’s lean in on those capacity levels. By all means, right? And you’re like, this is never going to be my deal.

Fine. Talk to your co parent. See if they’re going to be the person. Right? In my parenting world, I’m the one who talks about sex. My partner is most definitely the one who talks about drugs, for example. And let’s do that by all means. You don’t have to be all things to your children. You can’t be. And it could be a cousin, it could be an auntie, especially those of us from families that are very, very communal. Of course, I’ve had family members and friends asked me to talk to their neighbors, asked me to talk to their kids because it’s what I do. It’s very easy for me, right? Like, I could be on the toilet on a phone call. It wouldn’t matter to me. Like, it’s very easy. Okay, so let’s get to some of these other questions, if that’s okay. So somebody asked about their boys who are seven and nine. She says, My boys are seven and nine. I think it’s time that I talk to them about porn. How do I even start the conversation? Short and sweet. I like these questions. Thank you. Yeah, love the question. The answer is not quite as short and sweet. But here’s the thing. As with all things related to sex and sexuality, you have already been having these conversations. You already have a launch point as a baseline that exists because I am quite certain that you have already been talking about media and porn, while people think of it as its own deal, is in fact a form of media and part of a wide spectrum. It does not exist on its own. And so what about the skimpoli clad models and the Victoria’s Secret catalogs? What about the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition? What about that kiss in Frozen? There’s all of these ways that contact, physical contact in various stages of undress happen in the media, and we see them constantly. And I bet that you have already been talking with your kids to some degree about that. So now you’re just leveling up a little bit. You’re just making the conversation a little more pointed, a little more expressive. Right? And with a seven year old and a nine year old, a lot of what you’re doing is saying, giving them the information, people film themselves and take pictures of themselves having sex. My guess is if you’re ready to talk with them about porn, you’ve already talked to them about sex. So having that baseline of like, okay, what is sex that’s useful to have already done before you start talking about porn? But then you add information. Some people like to film themselves and record themselves and take pictures of themselves having sex. Those pictures are meant for themselves and for other adults. They are not meant for children. You are not wrong if you see them, it is not your fault. You can always come and ask me. I will always be here to explain things to you. And this is part of the journey of you becoming an adult, is realizing that this thing happens. When we spoke last time. Because you were previously on the podcast. I remember you talking about this or providing this analogy of every time you talk to your young person. Especially once they get to 910. 1112. 1314. You are auditioning. And I might be paraphrasing a little bit wrong. But I remember you saying something along the lines of this is your opportunity to get them to come back to you again. Because when they’re six. They kind of don’t have anywhere else to go. But when they are 910, 1112, 13, 1415, and so on, they have many other places they can go. And so if you want them to keep coming to you to ask questions, you’re sort of pitching yourself as somebody who’s fair and empathetic and patient, perhaps knowledgeable, or at least willing to acknowledge our limits of knowledge. This must be so important when it comes to porn because you mentioned you can always come and ask me more questions, but we also have to set the tone so that they want to write. I find that sometimes just asking them, like, have you ever seen anything online that makes you uncomfortable? Or have you seen naked pictures online? Or maybe this person’s asking because they’ve seen that they’ve seen because we have our search histories. Or they might even say like, my friends were looking at these pictures and asking them how they feel about it. Right. What do you think? I think is an opportunity. And I love that you bring up pop culture because porn is a part of that media or pop culture. And the more we talk about what we see in pop culture, I find the easier it is to facilitate these conversations because we’re talking about third parties, we’re talking about out there fictional scenarios. And it’s easier for me to say I hated the way he kissed her, or I love the way she approached her, or whatever the case may be at any age. So seven and nine, would you say that’s an appropriate age to start talking about the possibility of encountering porn? I think it depends on what kind of access the seven year old and nine year old have to meet, frankly. Right. There’s definitely families who are seven and nine year olds have phones, right? And so, yes, if your seven year old, your nine year old, or your four year old for that matter. I’ve had a parent of a four year old call me and ask me how to keep their four year old off porn. And I was like, okay, let’s talk about your four year old access to the internet. Where is your four year old viewing porn? And their response was, well, on the computer in her room. And I was like, okay, I’m going to be bold here, but suggest that you take the computer out of her room. So it really depends what kind of access does the seven year old and the nine year old have to the world of the Internet. And some seven and nine year olds have a lot of unfettered access, in which case, yes, absolutely, it is your responsibility as the person providing that access to provide them with the tools to navigate that safely. If they are not however, they don’t really have access if they don’t have phone, if you don’t ever hand them your phone, and lots of parents don’t, there’s a growing awareness, I think, that seven year olds are definitely not yet prepared for that kind of digital engagement. And particularly if you’re looking at the folks who work heavily in tech, they often heavily restrict their young people’s access to technology and instead have them spend a lot of time outside and working in arts and crafts stuff. That’s what the tech world really does with their children. It really depends. But yes, if your kids have access, if they ever have a device in front of their face that you are not also looking at the same screen as them, you need to have this conversation regardless of their age. And is there an age by which we really should be talking about porn? Because even if you don’t give your kids access, they could be at a friend’s house.

Well, the average age of porn viewing is test, so that hasn’t changed in quite some many years. What has changed is the volume of porn and the intensity of the porn that a ten year old can view. So yeah, I think that by the time a kid is ten, having had an explicit conversation about, like I said, I wouldn’t use the word porn. I would use that language that I was using earlier around. Some people like to take videos or pictures of themselves having sex and those are meant for other adults. It’s a very child friendly way of saying those things. But yes, I would say that ten is by all means do it by then. Lots of kids have not yet seen porn at ten, as evidenced by that average age. Right. But their friends may have. And we want to be talking about kids. We’re talking with kids about things before. They need the information. Right. Not as a reactive thing, but as a proactive preparatory. Right. How much better is it for your kid to see porn and to go, I know what that is, I know who to go to and I know what to do now rather than see the porn for the first time and go, oh, my God, I have no one. I’m alone in this moment, right? Absolutely. I have another question here about porn from Instagram. This person says, you say that porn isn’t a good model for sex ed, but I know they’re going to be watching it. So is there a place they can watch it that is better or less full of harmful stereotypes and inaccurate lessons? Yes. And one of the struggles, because I’m asked this question fairly frequently and one of my struggles is that somebody under the age of 18 viewing porn is not legal. And so for me to make an explicit recommendation, there is, I would say, unethical for giving my position. So here’s what I do when I’m talking with young people about porn. And our curriculum definitely addresses porn. So it addresses porn currently at the high school level this summer and part of our annual update, we’re addressing it at the middle school level as well, which is, again after I think parents should already be talking to their kids about it, but what we do is say like, OK, what do you think about porn? What are your values? What are your emotional reactions? What is your information like? And then we say things like, pornography that you pay for is going to be more ethically produced than pornography that you do not pay for. And let’s take a minute and think about when you’re looking at porn, consider the performers faces and engagement. Do they seem authentically involved? Because that’s the kind of sex that we want to be modeling. Do they model consent? Do they model contraceptives? Because that’s the kind of thing that I want young people to be able to navigate in the same way. Because this is really just media education, right? In the same way that we tell people, young people, when you are faced with an advertisement for something that looks really fun, who is advertising it to you and why? What is the purpose of this thing that they have created, that they’ve paid to create and they have paid to land in front of your eyeballs? Why are they doing it? Right. Pornography is no different. Why are they doing it in certain ways? And is it something that you think will ultimately lead to you having a healthier sex life? So if we’re having these really explicit conversations with teenagers, definitely these are conversations that teenagers can and should be having to help support their decision making about what kind of and whether or not to consume pornography. And I know that can sound like a lot of questions for reflection, for a lot of people. But my experience with young people is that they’re really open to reflecting. Like, they’re really open to thinking about how they feel, how it aligns with their values, how it might be different for them than for a friend. There seems to be this openness with Gen Z, and I don’t even know who’s after Gen Z next generation to be really reflective, really thoughtful about their own values. And it might come from the fact that we’re in a place where there’s more choice than ever. There are more resources than ever. There is more data than ever. There’s more of everything, whether it’s like, flavored sodas or porn or resources to read. There’s just more options than when we were growing up. And so I don’t know if they’ve been forced to be a little bit more reflective, a little bit more introspective, but I see it as a really positive path and journey. And again, I know with other people, they’ll say to me, like, with older people, especially people, like, quite a bit older than me, they’ll say it’s too much to think about, like, you’re putting too much on them, but they’re kind of used to it. And maybe it also comes with privilege. Maybe it also comes with maybe having more time to think about these things, maybe not worrying about some of the other things that I think about our parents as immigrants, for example, who literally just had to survive. A lot of people’s parents, we just had to survive. And so you couldn’t be thinking about, well, where do my values on this? We’re like, no, we got to pay our bills, and we got to put a roof over their head, and we’ve got to make sure our kids are fed and probably watching themselves with their own key to the house. Times have changed. I don’t know. I think it’s a good time. I’m always very inspired by younger people, very motivated by younger generations, and I think we have a lot to learn from them. And of course, I know we think they have a lot to learn from us, but it really is, I think, multi directional. Are there any porn sites you’d recommend for, let’s just say, 18 year olds? Yes, I have a short list.

All right. I’m ready to have some name drops here for sites that produce beautiful ethical pornography. Yes, please. Okay. Some of these are names. Some of these are production companies, but it’s just a great list. So erica lust I feel myself. Pink and White productions aorta Films and Crash Pad series. Awesome. Love it. And I’ll add a couple of friends to that list. Royal Fetish films jasmine and King Noir. And there’s a new one. Are you familiar with XO afterglow? I am actually there in Austin with me. Oh, I didn’t even know they were in Austin. Okay. I met somebody working on their team down in Jamaica, and we ended up doing some collaboration. So there are we hear the word porn, and I think for all of us, it carries so much emotional weight. There’s, like, all these notions of morality attached to it. And when we talk about porn, even as educators and I’m guilty of this, sometimes we’ll talk about it in one felt swoop, when in fact, there’s porn and then there’s porn. There’s porn, and then there’s more ethical porn. And I think we used to talk about feminist porn, but I think ethical porn is really the way to look at it, the lens through which to consider porn. How are the actors treated? Are they a part of crafting the scripts? Are their feelings on that day and their desires and their fantasies considered in the production? And so talking to people like Jasmine and King, I’ve really kind of gained a new appreciation for what type of media I want to consume. And again, I think I’m super hopeful, super optimistic for this next generation, really wanting to do the same and really caring about people more generally, even if they’re not people within their circle, even if they’re people that are very different from themselves. All right, do you have time for a few more questions? Yeah. Okay, good. We’ve got one. My daughter is nine years old, and she’s always rubbing herself. Apparently, she’s doing it in class two. What do I do? Well, so this phrase rubbing herself is so general, if I were talking with his mother, I would be asking some follow up questions. What does that mean? Have you taken your doctor to a physician to make sure she doesn’t have a yeast infection? Like, what is actually happening here? Like, are you sure this is about arousal and pleasure or something else entirely? What’s at the root of this experience that this young child is having? But let’s just take the mother’s insinuation at face value, right? Let’s say, okay, this is a nine year old who is masturbating both at home and at school regularly. And this thing that I’m going to tell you to do sounds really simple. And when I say it, you might think to yourself, wow, she really doesn’t understand because it can feel very hard. But you have to open your mouth and talk about masturbation, right? You have to use the word masturbation. You have to talk about boundaries and privacy, and you have to talk about the way that while your daughter assuming that that’s what’s happening, that your daughter is masturbating, that it might feel like a private experience, but it does not look like a private experience. And so it’s about increasing her awareness of the ways that she is seen. And this can be a bit heartbreaking, right? It’s about taking a child’s very intimate feelings of her body and making her realize that those are publicly available experiences when she does them in public. And then at the same time, you need to be offering her places and times that she can masturbate that are healthy and that you can be supportive of. So it’s this kind of, like, holistic approach of you’re infringing on other people by doing this, even though you’re only touching yourself, it nevertheless infringes other people’s space in inappropriate ways, but we can find ways that are appropriate for you to touch yourself, and I can help you do that. Beautiful. Yeah. And I think so many people also reach down and touch themselves to soothe. Right. Like, we may see it as masturbatory and erotic, but for them, it can just be physically soothing without being necessarily sexual for some people. I’ve had students in the past who struggled with compulsive physical behaviors, like from eating to pulling out their hair to touching themselves. And so that can be a whole other conversation, but I really appreciate that you’re saying, also check with the physician, because there might be something up where she’s very uncomfortable. So let’s not assume that it’s one thing over another. Thank you for that. All right, last one. And this is a bit of a big one, and I’ve condensed it down from the many paragraphs I received. But basically this person says, I caught my 15 year old daughter sexting with a boy in her class. I took away her phone as punishment. I know that’s not the right approach. How do I make amends? Because she hates me now and deal with this in a way that repairs our relationship, but also teaches her that there are risks involved with digital technology. Yeah. So I want to start with again, I have worked one on one with basically this exact situation with a set of parents who had me come and talk with them about this as it was an ongoing experience in their home. And there’s so much nuance here. Right. I have so many follow up questions. So acknowledging that I cannot ask any of those follow up questions, let’s just start with you can start with an apology. And part of that apology probably needs to be an acknowledgment of your fear of the legal and social stigma and problems that are not merely immediate, but can be lifelong associated with sexting as an underage person.

Right. So getting out there and saying, hey, we need to have a conversation, I’m going to start that conversation with an apology and really give that authentic feeling that I hear in your even condensed message that you really feel badly. Like, make sure that she really gets that, but don’t let that apology to overshadow that your fear was legitimate because young people are held accountable for sending images even of themselves in some places. Yes. I don’t know the laws in Canada. I know the laws in the US. Pretty well. They are state specific. I’m in Texas, which remarkably, has one of the best sexting laws in the country. So in Texas, it is a misdemeanor that can be wiped from your record if you do some education on underage sexting. There are other places in the country where if you are under the age of 18 and you take a photo of yourself that is naked or otherwise sexually explicit, you can be charged with the creation of child pornography. And if you text it to one person, it becomes the distribution of child pornography, which can come with a lifelong sentence as a sex offender. And so it then impedes your ability to work with children. To live within 200 yards of a church or a playground, you have to register with your photo, and it says online searchable that you have been charged with creating child pornography and distributing it, and it does not have a little asterisk saying of yourself. So the laws are very arcane in some places. Yes, those are things to be afraid of. What a frightening landscape for young people where texting is the normal way of communicating. Texting, images and videos is the normal way of communicating. This is the most common medium. And if you express yourself in a way that feels comfortable for you at the time and I’m not saying that there aren’t other consequences beyond the law, but some of those consequences can be positive for some people. What a frightening landscape that you can be labeled. I mean, that’s a whole other conversation. But as a sex offender, and so this parent is, as you said, legitimately frightened. I’m just wondering, when we talk about social stigma, like ten years down the road, if someone sent a photo of themselves when they were younger, are we really going to not hire them? No. It seems so sad to me. No, we are not going to not hire them. However, in two years, when they’re applying to colleges and their college admissions counselor googles them and finds that picture, they might not allow them into college. Well, they’re being torn down. When I started working in the field, Jess, it was a totally different ballgame. Like, at the time, sexting would have been considered to be a life ruinous event. And what I told my students then is that in another ten or 15 years that it’s not going to be like that anymore. And I don’t feel like it is. But does it mean you’re not going to get into college of your choice, of your first top choice? Maybe. And so how do you address this in the unhashed curriculum? How do you address this real topic that, come on, so many people are doing right? And it’s like, what, you turn 17 and 365 days and then it’s fine to do it? All of a sudden you’re supposed to be a pro at it? Right? You read all the articles about being a master sexter. How do you address it? Is it really through conversations and scenarios and helping young people to figure out how it aligns with their goals and values. It is, yeah. And actually, one of the things that I think is worth knowing is that adults sex at way higher rates than teenagers. Teenagers often know about this legal issue and often choose not to sex, or they do it in such a way that you can’t see their face or any other specific things. Teenagers are making better choices about sex than any teenagers on record have made, and most adults we know.

So yes. To this parent, I want to say thank you so much for sharing your story. I know it’s really hard. I really admire that you’re willing to acknowledge that, hey, maybe I didn’t do the right thing by taking away her phone, and you might be able to acknowledge why you did that. Yes. Fear also a bit of control. Right. It felt like something maybe you could control at the time. But I really think about when we go back to like, the UnHushed curricula and what you do around encouraging young people to figure out what they want for themselves, that’s the conversation I’d want to be facilitating with a 15 year old at this time. Like, here are my fears. Do you have any of those same fears? Because don’t think that they’re not afraid as well. This is a generation that is quite fearful, that is quite mindful of consequences. And hopefully you can have a conversation that is nuanced and personal and reasonable enough that they kind of come to their own conclusion that. Yeah. You know what. Maybe this isn’t worth it in this way at this time. But whether you take away their phone or take away their data plan or try and supervise them. A 15 year old who’s about to be 16 and then 17 and 18 is going to make their own decisions. So we want to be having these conversations so that they can make those decisions on their own. And that’s what I’m a fan of in terms of UnHushed mission and curricula, is that you’re really focused on helping people to make decisions that work for them. It’s not about do this, don’t do that, do this at this age, do this at another age. It’s about being ethical, obviously. And you talk a lot about empathy based decisions as well in your curriculum, really thinking about how you feel, how others feel, how everyone involved could be impacted. And so unhashed is available online. You have comprehensive, you cover all age ranges. Right? So birth to adulthood, and as you said, you’re revising it yearly, which is such a huge thing up here in Ontario. People may have heard me talk about it before. We’ve been working with the 1990 819, 99 curricula for so long. It’s so frightening. It is so frightening painful. I graduated from school in 2010 and it must have been in the summertime, and I was all set to head down to the States and do this presentation on my dissertation. So proud that we were updating our curriculum here, because it happens at the provincial or state level here. It’s not board to board. And I was so excited. And then there was this huge backlash. The media started talking about how we were teaching kids about how to have anal and all of this other absurd nonsense that was not true. And I remember within the span of 10 hours, I had to change my whole presentation because our government rolled it all back, went back to the 2010. So that’s an old ass curriculum. And we’re seeing this across the board. We’re seeing this across the states and across Canada. And so I’m happy that you’re doing this with Unhush. So you’re updating it every year. I know some of the people on your board. I know some of your writers. Shadine Francis is one of your curriculum writers. What else do you want people to know before we let you go about UnHushed and the work you’re doing with sex ed curriculum? If you’re wondering how to get unhashed into your school, go talk with your school or something like UnHushed. There’s other comprehensive success curriculum out there. I think ours is the best, but there’s lots of them for different needs in different settings, and that’s the way it should be. But go to your school. Ask what they’re doing for sex ed. Be that parent who kind of keeps poking the school. There are lots of people who are verbally anti sex education. If you are a parent who wants your child to have an education, like what Justin I have been talking about here, go and talk to your school about it. They need to hear from you regarding kind of this porn stuff that we’ve been talking about and the digital access stuff. There is so little that you can do to actually restrict, particularly by the time they’re in high school, their actual access, and that starts to diminish.

Definitely a middle school, if not before that. You have to have these conversations out there. Recently, a Facebook friend of mine asked for recommendations on ways to restrict their child’s, I think probably 13 year olds access to different things on their cell phone, like what are the digital restriction processes they can do, or whatever apps that they can download. And my 21 year old so proud, and she is also Facebook friends with this person and got on and said, there’s really nothing you can do. My friends who had parents with these things had burner phones. They used their friends phones. They got on any way they wanted to, and their parents never knew about it. But what my parents did was they took the approach of talking to us a lot. We didn’t restrict anything. They didn’t confiscate our phones, they didn’t look at our phones. But we talked a lot. And I was like, I’m so proud. As you should be. And so we need our schools to be having that same approach, right, that’s happened at home. We need to happen at school. We need to have these united front of, we’re going to talk about these things. We’re not going to try to hide them, especially as you’re getting into that middle school, then definitely in that high school age, we’re not going to pretend like they aren’t there. We’re going to acknowledge their presence and we’re going to have conversations and we’re going to be proactive in engaging. I got to tell you. My observation from my friends who are parents is that the more open they are with their kids about anything. Whether it be drugs or alcohol or sex. The more these young people are opting to delay to the point that a friend came over the other day. So the daughter’s just graduating high school. And she’s like. She’s just not really interested in relationships or sex. And she’s like, you know, we are always open. They know they can come to us. They even say that. And I’m like, well, you haven’t made it. You haven’t created a repressive environment where you’re shaking that pop bottle and they’re willing to let it blow in any direction possible. I’m sure at some point she’ll be more interested in sex and relationships. And I know that the young person I’m sort of between the parents and the young person, and they’re not just hiding it from their parents. A lot of parents think their kids aren’t doing things, and I’m seeing this across the board that the more open we are, not necessarily they’re always going to delay, but they feel more comfortable making choices that align with their own values. And sometimes that means delaying. Sometimes that means abstaining, sometimes that means lots of engagement over a course of a lifetime. And all of those things can be fabulous and fulfilling and safe and full of love and empathy and all of those good things. So thank you for the work you’re doing with UnHushed. Folks can go check out the curriculum, including a number of free resources and accessible digital content@unhushed.org. Thank you so much for your insights. Thanks for answering our questions. I know that hopefully folks will go try these out. And if you have any thoughts because you’ve gone through some of these same scenarios on your own or with your kids or with another loved one, please send us a note, let us know, because we love to hear your perspective. Thanks for being here. Thanks for having me. Jess it’s always a pleasure. Love this conversation. Thank you for listening. Before you go, quick reminder that Adam and Eve has extended the Doctor Jess 50% off code, 50% off almost any single item, plus free shipping and some free gifts@adamandeve.com. That’s for the adults out there, adam and Eve.com code Doctor Jess folks, wherever you’re at, have a great one. You’re listening to the Sex with Dr. Jess podcast. Improve your sex life life. Improve Your life.

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