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Asexuality is often misunderstood.

In general, it's believed to be the absence of any romantic interest, but asexual identity actually means that a person is not sexually attracted to anyone. Romantic feelings and the strength of those feelings can vary from person to person.

Currently, about 1% of adults have no interest in sex, though some experts believe that number could be higher. For a long time, information on asexuality was limited, but researchers recently have found information that gives us more knowledge about asexuality.

Being asexual can be tough, though — just ask the artists from Empathize This.

To demonstrate, they put together a comic on asexuality, defining it as a sexual orientation, not a dysfunction:


This article originally appeared on 5.16.16


Identity

An open letter to men who will have sex with me but won't date me

"It's one thing if you're not into fat women — everyone has their preferences — but if you want to have sex with us without being seen in public with us, that's emotionally abusive."


Many years before I got together with my boyfriend, I had a sex thing with this guy that I thought was relationship material.

He not only had an amazing body but a great personality as well. I was honest when I met him that I was looking for something more than just sex, and he led me to believe that was what he wanted, too.

Between mind-blowing sex sessions, we ordered in, played video games, and watched movies — couple things but without the label. But when I tried to get him to go to a show or out to dinner with me, he refused. My frustration grew as the months went on, and one day I confronted him.


"Why don't we ever go anywhere?"

"We have everything we need here," he answered while simultaneously distracting me by caressing my shoulder blades.

"We actually don't," I said. "I'm hungry, let's check out that new Indian place around the corner."

"No! We might run into one of my buddies," he said, moving his body further away from me. The underlining meaning was clear — he couldn't take the chance that someone he knew would see him with me.

He needed to keep our relationship on the DL so that no one would ever suspect that he enjoyed spending time with me — a fat woman.

He was super fit, so obviously that's the kind of woman he wanted to be associated with, the kind he could be seen with at the Indian place.

When I realized he was ashamed of being seen with me, I felt as if I had been punched in the stomach — a place where much of my pain already resided.

To him, I was fuckable but not dateable. He dumped me soon after that conversation.

He did me a favor by not continuing to lead me on. Otherwise, I might still be trying to prove to him that I was worth any shit he might have gotten from other people. If I was still his secret shame, I might not have met my next boyfriend, so thanks, athletic asshole.

I had hoped that, in this age of body positivity, men would no longer need to hide their desires when it comes to fat women.

But I was wrong.

It's just a sad fact: Many men who are sexually attracted to fat women are ashamed of it.

They're OK with banging a fat girl, but they don't want to hang out with her — someone might judge them for it.

It's one thing if you're not into fat women — everyone has their preferences, and not every body type appeals to everyone. But if you find larger women hot and you want to have sex with them without being associated in public with them, that's emotionally abusive.

Everyone should have the freedom to express their desires openly (as long as there's consent from both parties). If you modify your behavior and wants to what you think will protect you from criticism and/or ridicule, then you need help because that kind of self-loathing will only grow until it has destroyed you.

Don't act like we're in a relationship if all you really want is to experience what sex with a fat woman is like.

I'll tell you what it's like: It's as amazing and fun as having sex with anyone who's into having sex with you. We don't have magic vaginas, and our breasts don't do any special tricks — well besides the usual, like feed or comfort people.

Fat women are just as hot and sexually gifted as women of other shapes, sizes, and abilities. Being fat doesn't mean we're so hungry for attention that we'll put our own needs aside and do whatever we can to rock your world.

If you're with someone who doesn't make you feel beautiful or who isn't proud to have you on their arm, you need to dump their ass.

Being alone is far better than compromising on what you deserve or being made to feel as if you're someone's big dirty secret.

You're not only dateable, you're lovable and worthy of being treated with respect and love.

I regret not standing up for myself when I discovered the athletic guy was only using me for sex. But at least I learned, as we all should learn, that I'm responsible for being my biggest advocate and to never accepting anything less than what I need.


This article was written by Christine Schoenwald and originally appeared on 06.29.18

Photo by Long Truong on Unsplash
woman in white sleeveless dress kissing man in blue dress shirt


"It may be the most important thing we do in life; learn how to love and be loved."

At least, that's according to Harvard psychologist and researcher Rick Weissbourd.

He's been collecting data on the sex and love habits of young people for years through surveys, interviews, and even informal conversation — with teens and the important people in their lives.

Through it all, one thing has been abundantly clear:

"We spend enormous amount of attention helping parents prepare their kids for work and school," Weissbourd says. "We do almost nothing to prepare them for the tender, tough, subtle, generous, focused work of developing mature healthy relationships. I'm troubled by that."


Now he and his team have finally compiled five years of intense research that asks the question, "What do young people really think about sex and love?"

And maybe just as important: "How should we be preparing them?"

Here are three major takeaways from the groundbreaking new report:

1. Hookup culture might just be a big ol' myth.

Everybody's hooking up with everybody these days, right? Not so fast.

The Harvard report presents a startling statistic from a related study in 2008. A group of college students in the U.S. were asked what percentage of guys on campus they thought had sex on any given weekend. They guessed about 80%. The reality? As low as 5%.

Weissbourd notes that because hookups are so culturally visible (especially in college) and gossiped about, it creates a perception that they're a lot more common than they actually are.

The Harvard study itself found, in fact, that most young people are a lot more interested in sex within a committed relationship or, shockingly(!), things that don't involve sex at all.

What it means for parents: We as adults, unfortunately, play a big role in this pervasive and harmful myth. "In every era there've been complaints about how sexually out of control kids are," Weissbourd says. "It's a story adults really love to tell."

When we play up this stereotype, the study finds it can actually make young people less likely to seek advice or to talk about sex and relationships because they may feel inadequate or embarrassed about their lack of experience.

silver tabby cat lying on white textilePhoto by Laura Chouette on Unsplash

2. Sexual harassment and assault, however, remain huge, unaddressed problems.

"There are a significant number of young men out there who think that all they can't do is rape someone," Weissbourd says. "They can't drag someone in an alley to rape them."

What many of them have very little concept of, he says, is how harmful and dangerous behaviors like catcalling, pressuring, and coercion can be.

The study cites endless instances of girls being harassed at school, complaining to administration, staging walkouts; anything to get the problem addressed. But the "boys will be boys" attitude persists, and problems are often swept under the rug rather than tackled head-on.

A culture of sexual violence is harmful for obvious reasons, but the report also found these kinds of attitudes can bleed over into relationships that can "disproportionately involve females servicing males."

What it means for parents: Talk. to. your. kids. about. consent.

"I was really surprised how many parents had not had basic conversations with their kids about things like consent, or how to avoid sexually harassing a person," Weissbourd says.

We have to make it crystal clear to young people what kinds of behavior are and aren't acceptable, and follow up those lines with real consequences. It's the only way things are ever going to change.

3. Teens and young adults want more guidance than we're giving them.

Most parents aren't thrilled about having "the talk," and admittedly, bringing up the topic of sex with a teen is no easy task.

But with all this dread and hand-wringing over how to talk about the birds and the bees, the Harvard report notes that many parents are overlooking a much bigger topic: love and relationships.

Roughly 70% of surveyed young adults reported wishing they had received more or better guidance on the emotional aspects of relationships, both from parents or from health class. But it's not just a hindsight thing.

Many parents are overlooking a much bigger topic: love and relationships.

"The percentage of young people who want guidance on romantic relationships was encouraging," Weissbourd says. "Kids light up when they are talking about love and what love is and what does it mean. That was surprising and really encouraging."

What it means for parents: When you're done teaching your teenager how to put a condom on a banana, make sure to spend some time talking about the day-to-day work that goes into building a healthy relationship.

That means going beyond platitudes. The Harvard team suggests diving into more complex questions like, What's the difference between attraction, infatuation, and love? How can we be more attracted to people the less interested they are in us? Why can we be attracted to people who are unhealthy for us?

Those are questions some of us might not even have the answer to, but having the honest conversation with our kids is a major step in helping them learn how to love and be loved.

As Weissbourd says, it's one of the most important things we'll ever do.

The full report tackles even more and is jam-packed with must-know findings and statistics. It's definitely worth a read.


This article originally appeared on 05.18.17

One of the greatest parenting milestones is the day you get to explain to your children the basics of sex. Sometimes that day arrives because a kid bluntly asks how babies are made, sometimes parents bring it up so their kids to hear it from them before they hear it from other people, and sometimes it's a result of an unexpected encounter (like a kid walking in on their parents doing the deed).

However you arrive at it, that initial conversation is always interesting. No matter how prepared you think you are, some awkward hilarity is inevitable as you navigate those new waters. Sex is pretty simple on the one hand, but quite complicated on the other, and figuring what details to share at what stage is a tricky balancing act.



Some kids are open and curious and ask a million questions. Some kids are quiet and reserved and process it all in their own sweet time. But the first reaction of most pre-pubescent kids when they first hear about the mechanics of sex, even if you introduce it in a sex-positive way, is something along the lines of "What?? Are you serious? EW." And when they connect the dots that their parents had sex in order for them to be alive, the reaction gets even funnier.

A thread on Twitter illustrates how true this is as parents share their children's reactions to hearing about the birds and the bees.

A thread on Twitter illustrates how true this is as parents share their children's reactions to hearing about the birds and the bees.

Clearly, Megan has three kids. Logic.

Some kids let questions slip out before thinking about whether they really want to know the answer. Once you know it, you can't unknow it. Sorry, kiddo.

@meganmuircoyle On a summer walk my 1 boy(9) was asking ? about sex & I explained everything. My husband was away f… https://t.co/0hHQQxUFgt— arlene geerlinks (@arlene geerlinks) 1612372163.0

Parents have to be prepared for awkward questions, but sometimes you really can't predict what a kid might want to know. Kids aren't exactly known for having boundaries, and that's doubly true for a topic that's totally new for them.

Most of us don't like to imagine our parents having sex, so this is one area where kids who are adopted have somewhat of an advantage (until they learn that procreation isn't the only reason people have sex).

“@meganmuircoyle My kids are adopted, and I once heard, "Well, at least you guys didn't have to do THAT!"”

“@meganmuircoyle My kid learned about it in the backseat at Target in a spur of the moment conversation. We got home and she goes up to her Dad, “YOU STUCK YOUR PENIS IN MOM’S VAGINA TWICE!!!””

It's not just the questions, but the declarations that come along with kids learning about sex that can take parents by surprise.

“@meganmuircoyle @bames_jrolin My nephew was about 7 when he got this info. At the next big holiday dinner he spontaneously stood up on his chair, flexed his biceps and loudly announced, “I am strong and healthy and full of sperm!””

It's always entertaining to see a kid's understanding move from innocence to reality.

@meganmuircoyle when he got older I told him about the cervix, contractions, labour etc and he was like "oh. okay.… https://t.co/u7mnCiVYUg— L. (@L.) 1612384726.0

And even more entertaining when you realize that you were the one who inadvertently introduced your kid to a sexual concept you may not have been prepared to discuss.

“@fitz_lorie @meganmuircoyle @JoJoFromJerz I asked my mom the same question around the same age. She wanted to know where I had heard such a word from. Ummm from you and my aunt talking the other day. 😂😂😂😂 She never asked that question again! It’s important to know I was raised Southern Baptist! 😂”

And then there are the unintentional misunderstandings that occur when kids don't get quite enough information.

Perhaps the funniest part about talking about sex with kids is how actually kind of weird the physical act really is when you think about it. Of course it seems absurd to children who haven't sexually developed yet.

In fact, some kids find it so weird, they literally don't believe it.

Like, what the heck with this design? And they don't even know at this point about the nitty-gritty details that you only really know once you've done it.

As funny as these stories are, the fact that parents are having open and honest conversations with their kids about sex is seriously awesome. Some people do their kids a disservice by being too creeped out to talk about it, or maybe worrying they'll give too much info, so they don't talk about it.

Whatever your moral perspectives on the topic, sex is part of life. It's basic health and biology. It's a human reality that everyone learns about one way or another, and it's generally better for kids to learn about sex from their parents than from their peers, who might give wrong information. Starting early by answering kids' questions matter-of-factly, giving age-appropriate details (which admittedly can be hard to discern), and bringing up the topic occasionally if your kids don't can help kids ease into a healthy understanding of sex.

While the basic mechanics conversation is indeed a parenting milestone, the best parent-child conversations about sex are ongoing and ever-expanding. Making consent and boundaries part of the conversation is vital as well. Some uncomfortable moments may be inevitable, but keep the line of communication wide open will go a long way toward helping kids prepare for what's to come.

This article originally appeared on 02.04.21