It’s not entirely clear why so much of the world is uncomfortable with the idea of sex. Indigenous societies had a much healthier attitude towards it. Adolescents learned about responsible sexual behaviour during initiation rites that often involved periods of seclusion, and everyone in the community understood the value and importance of sex.
Unfortunately, a lot of these traditional practices are now painted in a negative light, and so their positive aspects get dismissed as well. Traditional sex education is now lumped together with harmful practices like underage marriage, female genital mutilation, and human sacrifice. In that context, it’s difficult to see any benefit to that lifestyle.
When we think about indigenous communities that walked around with minimal clothing, we see it as primitive and offensive, when it may have a different slant. It may simply be that in these communities, everyone had a healthy body image, and so nudity was not taboo.
In such communities, children understood gender variation from a young age, and that helped them develop healthy sexual attitudes and habits. As for how civilisation moved from happy hippies to ‘sex is bad’, it may have a lot to do with religion. As empires developed, the church gained power and administered society, governing culture and economy.
In many ways, the church controlled society through chastity and austerity. As a result, pleasure in all its forms was looked down upon. Over the centuries, this negative perception towards material possessions and carnal pleasure was passed down. Capitalism has mostly cured us of our mistrust of money, but we retain our fear of sexual matters.
Psychologist Joe Kort, PhD, talks about an incident he experienced while setting up his office. In his new premises, his practice was billed as The Centre for Relationship and Sexual Health. He received complaints from both his landlord and a paediatrician with a clinic in the building. They felt his practice was offensively named and implied sexual predation.
Both the doctor and the building owner believed Dr. Kort was treating sex offenders and paedophiles, even though his practice is concerned with helping patients to enjoy a healthy, happy sex life, both psychologically and carnally. It’s worrying that these two educated individuals shared the same misinformed opinion that the general public does.
It seems that when the average person hears ‘sexual health’ they immediately think of ‘unhealthy sex.’ Worse, they think the very idea of sex is ‘bad’, and that it should never be discussed or expressed in public. This makes it difficult to deal with genuine sexual health concerns such as premature ejaculation and intimacy issues in a relationship.
Doug Braun Harvey is a certified sex therapist, and he makes an interesting observation. To quote him, “When it comes to sex, the most uncomfortable people in the room have all the power.” This is because these ‘uncomfortable people’ have the ability to prevent everyone else from openly discussing sexual matters, whether positive or negative. If we all become more comfortable with sex, then we could resolve sexual challenges far more easily.
Dr. Kort believes a paediatrician would be well placed to build more ease around sexual discomfort. After all, they work with kids and teenagers. Children are taught that ‘sex is bad’ before they fully understand it, and by the time they reach teenage, their hormones make sexual thoughts and feelings rampant, yet they can’t share, express, or discuss them because their parents and teachers tell them it’s dirty, evil, and wrong.
At the same time, society offers them sexual stimulation to an almost overwhelming degree, leaving them even more confused and conflicted. If their trusted doctor helps them shift their attitudes in childhood and teenage, they will grow up with a more positive, helpful attitude towards sex. And if all our youngsters embrace this new approach, they will carry it into their adulthood and soon the whole world will think differently about sexual health.
This direction is already being explored in the US, where the American Academy of Paediatrics encourages doctors to delicately and confidentially speak to teenage patients about STIs, relationships, and reproductive health. Dr. Hort explains that whenever he hosts talks on sexual health, his audience tries to sabotage him by associating sex with human trafficking. He even faces censorship on social media, by Facebook back-end permissions.
To help evolve the negative sexual attitude and transform it into something beneficial, he explains that unlike their assumptions, sex therapy does not equate to sexual surrogacy or having sex with his patients. Instead, it’s a form of ‘talk therapy’ that covers issues like infidelity, intimacy, failure to orgasm, religious shame, and mismatched libidos.
He helps partners deal with their attitudes towards porn, fantasies, and sexual challenges after chronic disease or childbirth. He also trains parents on how to have healthy sexual discussions with their kids and teens. Being more open about healthy sex is the best way to resolve the harmful effects of reproductive diseases and sexual disorders.