How Do We Give Girls a Healthier Start to Their Sex Life?

Tue, 08/12/2014 - 08:32
Submitted by Betty Dodson

Dear Dr. Betty,

I just read your interview on, where you'd said this:

"I want women to have independent orgasms. I want them to understand their bodies. I don’t want them to go out into the world and let some well-meaning but stupid little jackass who doesn’t know what they’re doing, fuck ‘em. Teen pregnancy! They don’t have any information. We send our little girls out into the marketplace totally unarmed, totally helpless. They don’t have information, they don’t have birth control, they’re drenched in stupid ass religion!"

It struck a cord with me (48 year old male), because my first time having sex was at age 17, with a 30 year old woman. It was fantastic, in large part because of the age difference - she was older, patient, and kind. I've always felt bad for teenage girls having their first sexual experiences with boys their own age as a result. But society has such hysteria about teenage girls having sex with anyone older, I'm always reluctant to express that opinion for fear of being branded a child molester.

For the record, I've never been with anyone below the age of consent; and would probably find the company of a girl that young to be horribly tedious. But I'm curious about your thoughts on the matter - how do we give girls a healthier start to their sex life without creating a wave of new branded-for-life sex offenders?

Dear R,

Your first time experience is exactly what I'd recommend for all teenaged boys. First sex with an older woman who can guide them through the mysteries of how a woman functions sexually. But you are right in your assumption about teen girls with older men. Although it happens all the time according to my information.

We have different ages of consent from state to state and different countries the world over. So while no one wants to be branded a pedophile, your fear might be excessive. One way you can give girls a healthier start to their sex life would be to give them one of my books and send them to the D&R website where we offer sex information for the taking. There's no need to fear sharing information.

Dr. Betty

Liberating women one orgasm at a time

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healthy teenagers need good sex ed

Tue, 08/12/2014 - 10:39

Ans: Good sex education. Access to free (or at least cheap) contraception helps. Access to Betty's website & books are good examples of the former.

The irony is that good sex ed also tends to delay partnersex to late teens as well as reducing teen pregancy.

But reading your letter I was also trying to work out why the idea of a 30 year old man having sex with one of my teenage daughters was giving me the creeps so much, especially given your positive expereince at a similar age with a 30 year old woman.

Perhaps it's because of the inherent power/control dynamics that operate within relationships. I want my daughters to feel empowered in their relationships, sexual or otherwise. This must be more problematic in a relationship with a man so much older, so much more authoritative. And ofcourse there are sexual and emotional predators out there that all parents must worry about.

Whilst the age of consent in the UK is 16 it varies across Europe. Many of the laws around Europe include more specific age limitations on people having sex with teenagers eg. in Germany the age of consent is just 14 providing the person they're having sex with is not over 21 and acting in an exploitative manner. Although the legal age of consent for the Netherlands is 16, sex between kids ages 12-16 is permitted, though subject to challenge by parents etc

Whatever the legal boundaries, the answer is more likely to involve empowering the young woman than adding an older, authoritative male partner into the process but maybe the opposite holds true for young men.

Healthy teens and unhealthy adults

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 02:01

The opposite does NOT necessarily hold true, NLH. Some 'older women' in possession of authority and sexual knowledge misuse that authority, and it may be anything but a wonderful, heart-warming experience when they do. This happened to me when I was 15 years old and in a prolonged recovery from a serious illness. Sexually, I was a scared Catholic kid who'd been told that even thinking about sex could get me sent to Hell. I was completely inexperienced, in other words. The woman in question was a divorced nurse and a mother. She was supposed to be providing responsible care, but instead she tried repeatedly to lure me into sexual situations I couldn't possibly have been prepared for. She even invited me to her apartment. She would creep into my room at night when nobody else was around, and I still remember shaking with fear when she would close the door behind her and come closer and closer to me and there was nowhere to run and no one I felt I could tell. It was a long time before I felt comfortable being with a woman.

She was not only older and vastly more experienced; she was an adult with all the power conferred by a uniform and an official position. Power isn't only about gender; it's about hierarchies and roles and relative maturity. It's possible that there might be an empowered teen girl (or boy) who is mature for her age and could be involved more or less benignly with an adult who is chronologically older and more experienced but at the same stage of social development. It's also possible that pure exploitation could be going on. We have to have some protections in place for younger people, but we also need to recognize that every situation and every person is different. What might be a wonderful initiation into adult pleasures for one teen might be a disaster for another---boy or girl.

Good sex ed. & a sense of humour

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 05:39

What a dreadful experience! I am so sorry that such a marvellous part of our humanity should have had such a terrible introduction into your life.

As you say, we have to recognise that every situation and individual is different. R had a wonderful experience with an older woman. You had an awful, predatory experience. The stereotype of an older woman introducing a young man to sex is
pretty much established in our western culture from "Mrs Robinson"
forward but I've always struggled with it, largely because when the roles
are reversed it just creeps me out too much.

My own introduction to sex was very much one of two teenagers fumbling together in the back of car, followed quickly by the realisation that if I didn't get a grasp on exactly how my body worked, there was no chance of any of the boys I knew being able to work it out. Eventually I got there.

Whilst it has it's downside, I think working through ignorance with someone of a similar age and experience probably had the best chance of "success"

Empowering young women to "own" their own bodies and sexuality through education and self-awareness has to be a big part of developing a healthy attitude. Good quality sex education for young men, exposing the myths exploited within porn is also essential.

As a parent, the scary thing for me is letting go - letting them out into the world to make their own mistakes and knowing that there are bound to be some. No matter how well informed and well supported they are, as a parent of two teenage girls this part terrifies me.

Let's hope good sex ed. and a sense of humour gets them through.

She's older. It does't guarantee better sex-skills or maturity

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 06:02
Lizzie Smith (not verified)

Patrick, my empathies. 'Older' adults do not always behave responsibly. They don't interpret messages correctly in social situations. They cannot even always leave unused a chance to abuse superior status if they think they can get away with it not needing to suffer serious sanctions.
How about older women as sexual hands-on advisers for younger generation? If the woman is truly psychosocially an adult, it can be a terrific idea.
On the other hand, we also need to acknowledge, if a woman is older it's no guarantee of her better (even reasonably sufficient) sex skills, self-knowledge or overall maturity, i.e. suitability for a giving, reciprocal, beneficial sexual companionship with a young novice.
If the older woman does not meet certain criteria, her relationship with the younger person may be predatory.
Often we read on D&R and other sources how women are not grown up enough to be familiar with their own sexual response and orgasm. They are called preorgasmic. What can be expected, when a sexually unsophisticated mentor approaches an equally inexpert young beginner with high hopes?
There is mutual excitement, yes. But can this mentor teach how a woman's sexuality at it's best works? Probably not. The young person may learn things incorrectly so, that old faulty misunderstandings are strengthened.
What can be gleaned from D&R reader's letters is, whether older or younger, the women who know how their body works into an orgasm in partnersex context, or at all, in any circumstances, are a minority.
How small a minority? If I remember right Dr. Betty has sometimes mentioned it can virtually be as small a number as something like 10-15%. (Correct me, please, if wrong, which I sincerely hope.)
The statistics talking about some 30-35% (of those answering the surveys) are most likely exaggerating for many reasons:
The elusive nature of female orgasm, women confuse general sensual, loving pleasure with orgasm. Simple lack of know-how of female orgasm among men and women. Immense pressure from inside and outside, from the society, for women to perform. A woman knowing her orgasm would scarcely tick the box, No, never, when asked if she regularly orgasms. Instead, performance pressure may make a woman tick a Yes, when in fact it is not true.
By the way, I have a little hard time believing what Dr. Betty often states that, young women nowadays have a habit of orgasming and not knowing it themselves, not identifying the sensations as orgasms because they have an overly idealized understanding of what an orgasm is.
I can very well see a young woman may orgasm a couple of times in six months not quite certain of what the passing feeling was. If she experiences more profound orgasms routinely she does not even bother to find out of these few exceptions. But if 'not knowing if I orgasm' is a person's prevailing routine I would suggest she is still preorgasmic.
Orgasm brings such a compelling release it cannot be experienced unrecognized as a day to day pattern.
In your story, Patrick, 15 years old, by not complying and by keeping your boundaries, and prosecuting later, you were able to behave in a grown up manner.
The older woman was abusing power conferred by a uniform and an official position.
I wonder if you were her first target. She must have been seeing and feeling you were scared even though you said otherwise. Factually, what you were saying, is of no importance concerning responsibility. Had you agreed and gone along with her intrusion, she would have carried all the legal resposibility of it all, anyway. 
It may be this was not her first time going too close to her young patients. Any past successes on her path may have increased her twisted self-confidence.
A mature adult does not let herself be overwhelmed by her own power in any situations.
A psychologically mature enough adult familiar with her sexual response, among other things,  knows she always has several policy options. She knows how to effectively use sexual fantasy as a means of personal release.
She makes assessments all the time and corrects herself if she finds out she is wrong. As an adult it is extremely important for her to know she interprets correctly the behavioural signs of the other person specially in delicate sexual settings.
A psychologically grown-up enough person never exploits her higher status in order to gain sexual or other gratification at the expence of a person in a clearly dependent and weak position.  

NLH and Lizzie, I appreciate

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 17:36

NLH and Lizzie, I appreciate your thoughtful and sympathetic comments. Now that I've been an adult for a long time, I still wonder about that woman. I think in one sense she was sincerely attracted to me; she repeatedly asked me to go to the movies with her and even meet her at her flat---it was quite clear what she had in mind. At the same time, when she cornered me in my room she had to know I was terrified, but it didn't stop her and I had the distinct feeling there was something she enjoyed about the power she had over me. (We should remember that 'Mrs Robinson' in the film was a cold-hearted, predatory bitch). I've since wondered whether she pursued someone so young because she was herself frightened of men her own age. We had a 'joking', friendly kind of relationship at first, so I was profoundly shocked when this adult 'professional' became so aggressive. What was clear to me all along was that my feelings in the matter were secondary. She 'wanted' me for whatever reason, and I never felt that she was a kindly woman who had my best interests at heart. The way she crept into my room and came closer and closer made me think of a vampire. It was a long time before I told anybody what was going on (typical), and I even blamed myself for being a dumb kid rather than a grown man who would have known how to handle such a situation (also typical).

Some cultures have formalized sexual initiation. I think the !Kung people of southern Africa have a tradition in which old women, the 'grandmothers', introduce adolescent boys into sexual relations (very practical and good for both of them!). So an experienced older person might have basically benign intentions in becoming involved with someone much younger. But they also might not; they might get off (in an unhealthy way) on being the one with all the power, knowledge, and control, and they might not know what the hell they're doing even if their intentions are good. Again, every situation is different. But what you both suggest about empowerment and self-knowledge is extremely important. You realized, NLH, that you had to depend on yourself to know your body and its responses, not depend on some equally inexperienced boy. If we teach young people how their bodies work and encourage them to explore their sexual responses in private, they won't be so vulnerable to older persons with predatory intentions. And if they do meet a 'nice' older person and there's a real mutual attraction, they won't rush into a sexual relationship with them merely out of sexual need. Of course, an equally important part of sex-ed is learning the facts about what's pleasurable for other people---one's future partners.

In a truly sex-positive and healthy culture, I can see a lot of theoretical merit in sexual mentorship with a kind and experienced older person. Unfortunately, that's chancy in a society like ours with all of our power imbalances and general sexual ignorance. I'm not saying it could never work, but considerable caution would be necessary. Maybe it's best in general to simply raise our kids in a sex-positive atmosphere, where complete sexual information is freely available and curiosity and self-exploration are encouraged.


Wed, 08/13/2014 - 20:54

Quite frankly I think teenage sex is going to be awkward no matter what happens. Experimenting is the only way things will get better and work themselves out. What we need is a more sex positive culture all around.