“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” –John Dewey
Understanding what it means to have a sexually healthy life is a question that most people face throughout their life and relationship cycles, and for good reason. Human sexuality is among the most powerful and mysterious aspects of our personality. Without learning a basic vocabulary to describe what motivates and eliminates our erotic drive, many of us are left to struggle with how we express this part of ourselves and how we communicate both our desires and our fears about who we are erotically.
Like every other aspect of our personal development, it is through education that we become a better and more resilient version of ourselves. Here are three steps to evolving your sexual education and recognizing that our sex life is an emergent- rather than an objective- reality. This means we come to understand our sexuality and its meaning moment by moment, as we open up to the new things we are learning each time we are sexual.
Embrace Sex Education
The work of sexual education belongs to all of us. The primary questions that we ask about being sexual don’t change much throughout our lifetime. Questions like, “Am I normal?” and “Will it hurt?” begin with our first inklings of our sexuality and evolve as we age. I always say that as soon as we are able to ask a question, we are ready for a true response. This is the best guideline for learning about our own sexuality as well as teaching it to our children. Providing honest and developmentally appropriate responses to the curiosity that we all share about sex is the foundation of healing our relation to it. Answers should always be provided without shame, using real vocabulary terms based on anatomical structures. There is great freedom and power in calling a thing by its true name. This is the kind of education that gives us both ownership over our own bodies and the language to create solid boundaries to prevent inappropriate sexual interaction. Having a voice to express our sexual selves is how we develop the courage to both set boundaries and report when they have been violated. This is how ongoing healthy sex education can change the trajectory of a life.
Develop a Shared Intimate Language
It is not just children who need and deserve evolving sexual education. In fact, our children will learn more from how we behave in our own intimate relationships than they will from what we say. Learning how to communicate with your partner is hard work, but a required step in evolving your sexual IQ. Many consensual and loving relationships struggle in communicating sexual needs and desires to their partner. It is normal that the power and complexity of our sexual drive can overwhelm and confuse, which is all the more reason that developing a comfort with words is critical…We are never too old to learn and grow up sexually. As with any area of knowledge, our ability to understand our sexual experience deepens and becomes real through being heard and listening to our partner. This is what meaningful sex education looks like as we mature.
Understand the Source of the Erotic
We come into our erotic consciousness in our early adolescence. This process is mostly subconscious, as the maturing brain establishes unique patterns of pleasurable stimuli, often in response to painful events or relationships that it is working to resolve. Like our fingerprints, or the subtle distinctions in our sense of smell, our arousal mechanism evolves outside of our control and often to our surprise. It is no wonder that the first and often long-standing issue most of us begin our sexual journey with is – am I normal? As we come to know what turns us on, even in its most subtle forms, our arousal mechanism and associated fantasies can push our boundaries. Making peace with our sexual selves and coming to terms with the unique, and often wild streak that lives in each of us is where sex education flourishes and allows us to experience the full pleasure potential we hold inside.
And yet, many adults never fully understand or appreciate the rocket fuel of sexual energy they contain. Instead they suppress their erotic self, which only makes it more powerful and difficult to manage. Instead of suppressing our sexual nature, learning to ask honest questions about our sexual selves and applying reliable information enhances our sexual experience and boundaries.