Tag Archives: teenage sexuality

What I Wish I Learned In Sex Ed

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I like to think I had a good education in sex growing up. I grew up in an area that heavily promoted comprehensive sex education and did not solely rely on telling horny teenagers to abstain. On top of that, my parents were very upfront and transparent on sexual issues. They did not lie to me and they did not avoid the issue whenever I asked them questions.

In that sense, I consider myself luckier than most. I’ve heard way too many horror stories about kids getting a form of sex education that’s downright damaging. At the same time, there are some things I wish my teachers and parents had taught me. I feel like it would’ve saved me a lot of stress, confusion, and uncertainty later on in life.

While some things can only be learned through experience, I think in matters of sexuality, insight goes a long way. It’s one of the few acts we’re biologically wired to seek. Even if we find something out on our own, we’re not always going to understand it and that often means making flawed assumptions. That can make things awkward, to say the least.

What follows is a list of minor, but relevant aspects about sex that I wish I’d learned more about growing up. Some of these issues are things my teachers probably couldn’t have mentioned in a health class without getting into trouble with parents, but that’s exactly why they’re worth putting out there. I think these are conversations worth having with young people, especially as we enter a new sexual landscape.


Number 1: What Orgasms Are And How They Differ With Gender

Looking back on my experience with sex education, this feels like the biggest oversight. I learned about male and female anatomy. I learned about pregnancy, contraception, and diseases. I even learned a little about healthy relationship skills. At no point in any of these discussions did orgasms come up.

While I knew what they were, no teacher ever said that word or even hinted that they were a normal part of sex. They either avoided the issue or pretended it didn’t exist. They described sexual function the same way my biology teacher described how animals digest food. This led me to wonder that adults were hiding something from me and my peers.

Later on, as I learned more about sex outside of school, it gave the impression that adults just didn’t want to tell young people about things that felt good. Never mind that orgasms have a lot of health benefits and are a great way for a couple to bond. Not even mentioning them just sent too many mixed messages that only get more mixed over time.


Number 2: Feeling Horny Is Natural (And Not An Affliction)

This was especially common in middle school. Granted, most teachers said that thinking about sex is natural. However, actually wanting it might as well have been the same as wanting to steal a car. In any case where someone might have wanted sex outside of marriage, it was framed as something deviant and wrong.

Again, this was not a religious school. This was a secular public school in a community that was not overly-religious. Even so, every health teacher gave the impression that being horny was no different than having a violent impulse to choke kittens. I’m thankful my parents did plenty to counter that, but it did leave me feeling more stressed than I already was as a teenager.


Number 3: The Sex You See In Porn Isn’t “Real” Sex

Most reasonable adults understand that the sex they see in porn isn’t supposed to mirror actual sex. That kind of sex is designed to be shot, edited, and exaggerated for erotic effects. The problem is that too many reasonable adults, some of which teach health classes to teenagers, assume that only adults are watching porn.

I knew what porn was when I was a teenager. I knew how to access it. Everyone in my class knew as well and anyone who claimed they didn’t were liars. While there were discussions about sex in the media, it never got beyond things like body image and peer pressure. They never actually explained to uninformed teenagers that porn is not a good representation of what sex is.

For men who think they’re supposed to hump for 40 minutes straight and women who think they have to hiss every half-second, it’s an important tidbit that’s worth sharing. It also doesn’t help that porn does a terrible job of depicting romance. Just a simple explanation at how exaggerated it was would’ve gone a long way towards developing a healthy understanding of what non-pornographic sex was.


Number 4: Not Having Sex Isn’t The End Of The World

This issue is similar to the issues associated with the DARE program that tried to convince teenagers to not do drugs. That program not only doesn’t work. It gave me and my peers a very flawed image of drugs for years to come. The way my health teachers talked about sex wasn’t much different.

Beyond skipping the joys of orgasms, they often described sex as this scourge that was spreading disease and misery to countless teenagers. If you weren’t doing it, then something must be wrong with you. At the time, I already had severe self-esteem issues that were compounded by a terrible acne problem that made me feel ugly and unloved.

While no teacher ever said that people who don’t have sex are somehow flawed. They only ever framed people who didn’t have sex as safer and less likely to get diseases. That’s not the same as saying it’s okay, it’s not the end of the world, and it’s actually pretty common. That revelation may not seem like much now, but at the time, it would’ve made a world of difference.


Number 5: Sex Can Be Emotional, Intimate, And Fun

This is a bit more personal for me because I was a closeted romance fan. I’d been a romance fan before I was a teenager and once sex entered the picture, I knew there was a link. My health teachers just did a terrible job of explaining it. They talked about sex as though it was just a formality, like a wedding or a tax refund. Romance and intimacy never entered the picture.

Sex was either just a small part of human reproduction or this dangerous thrill sport on par with juggling chainsaws while wrestling a hungry grizzly. There was no emphasis on intimacy, romance, or just the fun of it all. Couples do have sex for fun. There’s nothing wrong with that. My own parents even told me that. My health teachers, on the other hand, gave the impression they were completely unrelated.


Number 6: Some People Are Just Wired Differently For Sex

This may have been a product of my own teenage angst more than anything else. The way my teachers talked about sex made it seem as though everyone had this scary creature lurking inside them and a good chunk of our lives are spent keeping it at bay. Everyone had to do their part to tame their sexual demons. There was no way around it.

However, that’s not how peoples’ sex drives work. Some people just aren’t that sexual. They don’t get as horny as the average people. When they do, the things that satisfy them are wildly different than the things that satisfy others. Some people have elaborate kinks. Some are happy with a quickie in the shower twice a year.

This idea that everyone has their own sexual makeup wasn’t even hinted at. It made it seem as though everyone in the world, myself included, had the same sexual proclivities. Even though we can’t agree on gods, the afterlife, or pizza toppings, we’re all somehow in agreement on this. I know it sounds like common sense to an adult. To a teenager, it framed the world in a strange, overwhelming way that I could’ve done without.


Number 7: Not Every Woman Goes Crazy On Their Period

I know people don’t like talking about women’s bodies, especially when it comes to that time of month. They’ve been taboo for centuries and for a long list of frustrating reasons. When young men learn about what women go through during pregnancy and menstruation, though, they get the impression that their hormones turn them into meth addicts in withdraw.

Having grown up in a house with multiple women, sharing a bathroom, and just being around a lot of women in general, I know that most women don’t radically change when they’re on their period. Some do have issues. Most are understandable, treatable, and not a reason to fear an entire gender.

In the sex ed I got, I had multiple male teachers joke about how glad they were to not have to deal with periods. These teachers were married, by the way. It made me wonder whether they knew when to leave town or sleep in the basement during certain times of month. It also made me wonder if the women in my family were different because they didn’t seem to go crazy every month.

There’s certainly room to talk about women’s issues during sex ed, even among teenage boys. However, a little perspective would’ve gone a long way. It made being around girls more awkward than it already was. I was a teenager. There’s only so much awkwardness I could handle and I handled it poorly. I’m not saying better sex ed would’ve fixed everything, but it sure would’ve helped.

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A Personal Story About Puberty, Thongs, And High School

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It has been a while since I shared some personal insights. In my defense, this past year has been rough. Back in the summer, two very close family members of mine passed away. It has not been easy getting personal under those circumstances. I’d like to change that and in a way that isn’t entirely depressing.

With that in mind, I’d like to tell a story about puberty. I’ll give everyone a moment to stop laughing and/or cringing. Take all the time you need. If you’re like John Oliver, you may need more time than most.

I feel like it’s worth bringing up because, for better or for worse, how we go through puberty plays a big part in how we grow into adults. I can’t claim with a straight face that I handled puberty as well as I could’ve. If I were to grade myself, I would probably get a C-minus, at best. This story that I’m about to share should help explain why.

To understand why this moment in my life sticks out, there’s a particular context I need to establish, especially for my female audience. When it comes to changing from a child to an adult, there’s no one moment that marks the transition. One single strand of pubic hair doesn’t make you a man any more than one juice box makes you a kid.

More often than not, at least for men, there are a series of moments that effectively signal that you are not a kid anymore. You’re not an adult, either. You’re a teenager, steadily transforming into an adult body and doing your best to handle all these weird and overwhelming changes.

I can’t speak to the female experience, but I can say that as a male, those moments can be pretty powerful. They’re like way-points on the journey to adulthood. This story marks one of those way-points. It involves one of my least favorite classes in high school and cute girls wearing revealing thongs.

I’m being dead serious, here. Again, take all the time you need to stop laughing and/or cringing.

The setting was innocent enough. It’s my freshman year of high school. I’m an awkward 15-year-old with a terrible acne problem, an underwhelming stature, and low self-confidence. I’m also at an age where I’m really starting to feel my hormones and not just in terms of awkward boners. While I’d always enjoyed the company of girls, my teenage brain was starting to complicate those feelings.

I could manage that, for the most part. Then, I walk in my Introduction to Spanish class. Now, I’m already dreading this class because, at the time, I sucked at memorizing things not associated with comic books or NFL stats. It didn’t help that my teacher was awful so I was rarely in a good mood when I walked in.

That mood changed, somewhat, when my teacher gave us assigned seating in a new classroom. As it just so happened, I ended up sitting right behind a beautiful young woman with brown hair, tan skin, and nails she always painted purple. Why do I remember that while I forgot pretty much everything else in that class? That’s where thongs enter the story.

This girl, in addition to being beautiful and sweet, loved to wear thong underwear. I knew because from where I was sitting, I could see it clearly. It didn’t matter what kind of pants she wore or what the weather was like. Whenever she leaned forward on her desk, I got a perfect view of the top part of her thong.

I don’t know if it was intentional. This girl was not shy about her body, but not in a trashy sort of way. She was very sweet and kind to everyone, regardless of what she wore. She was that way with me, even though I had lousy social skills and bad acne. Whatever her reason, she didn’t seem to care that her thong showed every time she leaned forward. I never pointed it out to her and neither did anyone else.

I freely admit that I was very distracted by this, but not in a way I minded. If it weren’t a beautiful girl wearing a thong, it would’ve been something else. That’s how disinterested I was in this class. It led to more than a few awkward boners, but I’d been getting those for years. I’d never gotten them in a way that felt like a direct response to someone else’s presence.

It wasn’t just a sign that my body was changing. It signaled that my mind was changing too. How I felt and how I thought about girls was different than before. It was never going to be the same again and I feel like it started with that one thong-loving girl.

I acknowledge that there will be some people out there who think less of me for gawking at the sight of a young woman’s underwear, especially while at school. I’m won’t make excuse and I won’t apologize for it, either.

I was a 15-year-old boy going through puberty. I hadn’t yet mastered the art of hiding porn in my bedroom and the concept of sexy underwear on beautiful women was just starting to appeal to me. It’s for that very reason, however perverse some may find it, that this memory is so vivid for me.

It was at this moment, sitting in Spanish class and covertly admiring the cute girl’s thong, that I realized I was not a kid anymore. I was becoming an adult. That was a critical revelation for me because, up until that point, I still thought of myself as a kid. Even at 15, I hadn’t quite shed that part of my identity. This experience changed that.

I couldn’t keep clinging to childhood. Moreover, I didn’t want to anymore. I felt like an adult. I wanted to grow up. I know that sounds like a lot of revelation from just seeing a cute girl’s thong, but make no mistake. The impact was that profound. It remains a defining moment for my adolescence.

In addition to the thong, I also remember the girl’s name. For the sake of her privacy, I won’t share it. However, after I finished that class, I never had a class with her again. I didn’t see much of her for the rest of high school. I doubt I’ll ever see her again. Even if I don’t, her impact on my teenage life is etched in bedrock. For that, I thank her and her tastes in underwear.

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Should We Re-Think Our Expectations Of Teenagers?

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When I was a teenager and in a particularly bad mood, which happened more often than I care to admit, there was this one thing my parents often told me that really pissed me off.  It came out in many forms, but this was the underlying sentiment.

“If you EXPECT it to be a bad experience, then it’s GOING to be bad experience.”

I can’t recount how many times I heard something like this. I just remember it pissing me off even more every time I heard it. They usually said it to me whenever we were going out to do something that didn’t involve me sulking in my mood. Being the great parents they were, they didn’t let that happen. They got me off my ass and out of that mindset.

They probably didn’t know at the time, but that bit of good parenting reflects a real phenomenon within our collective psyche. It’s called expectancy theory and it’s kind of what it sounds like.

It’s based on the principle that if someone has certain expectations about something, it’ll affect how they approach it. If they have a positive, hopeful attitude, then they’ll be more likely to evoke positive, hopeful outcomes. If they’re negative about it, as I often was, then it’s not going to turn out well and confirmation bias will help make it worse.

With that in mind, I’d like to apply this to an experience that’s pretty much universal for everyone. Specifically, I want to focus on our expectations as and towards teenagers. Now, I know I’ve given teenagers a lot of crap on this blog, often highlighting how they tend to do dumb things and have misguided attitudes. In my defense, my own confirmation bias has somewhat affected that.

I did not have a good teenage experience. I had a terrible attitude for much of my teenage years and, despite having great parents and amazing social support, I found ways to make myself miserable. However, for the purposes of this discussion, I want to focus less on my own experience and more on the concept as a whole.

Take a moment, whether you’re a teenager or not, to ask a few important questions about the sentiment you have towards teenagers. Don’t just think about how you feel about it, personally. Think about how we collectively approach the teenage experience.

Are teenagers more deviant because of basic developmental biology or because we expect them to be deviant?

Are teenagers more immature because of basic developmental biology or because we expect them to be immature?

Are teenagers disrespectful because of their basic developmental biology or because we expect them to be disrespectful?

Are teenagers more prone to risky behavior because of basic developmental biology or because we expect them to do risky things?

See the pattern? There seems to be this underlying assumption about teenagers that rarely gets scrutinized. It’s this idea that all the biological changes that teenagers go through with puberty somehow transforms them from these sweet, innocent children into these reckless, irresponsible, proto-adults who aren’t capable of managing themselves.

It’s fairly likely that all those biological transformations that teenagers go through has some affect on their mentality. However, even the most up-to-date research on the issue concedes that our understanding of the mechanisms behind the process are extremely limited. What that means in a scientific context is we should not assume that our assumptions at the moment are wholly valid.

It may very well be the case that our expectations about teenagers have a significant impact on how we treat them. In turn, how we treat them ends up affecting how they act in response. Then, when they react, we use confirmation bias to justify our expectations. It comes off as one elaborate self-fulfilling prophecy to which we all contribute.

When you think about it, the signs are there. If you’re a teenager, just look at how the world treats you. If you’re an adult, think about how you were treated as a teenager and how you treat teenagers now.

We impose strict curfews about what they can do with their private time. We don’t trust them to consent to sexual activity until a certain age. We regularly send them to educational institutions where their lives and schedules are strictly controlled, not unlike that of prisoners. Whenever there’s a crime or an act of deviance, we tend to expect teenagers to be involved.

From my own experience, I can attest to this. When I was in high school, I noticed a distinct change in the way adults and teachers dealt with us, compared to middle and elementary school. Suddenly, everything we did was subject to greater scrutiny. It was as though everyone thought that we, a bunch of hormonal teenagers, were just one impulse away from becoming violent deviants.

I’m not going to lie. I found that kind of insulting. Teachers, adults, and even police officers would talk down to us whenever they discussed things like sex, crime, and even our personal lives. It wasn’t just that we were expected to screw up. It was almost as though we were supposed to screw up.

It never really crossed my mind that being a teenager could mean anything else. The idea that these attitudes were somehow flawed never entered my mind. I don’t think many people, including other teenagers, give it much thought now. That may very well be a problem that only makes itself worse the longer we have these expectations.

Part of what inspired me to write about this topic is an article from TheVerge that pitched the crazy, yet oddly logical idea that we should consider those under the age of 24 to still be teenagers. I admit I thought it was a joke at first, albeit not of The Onion variety. However, the author does make some interesting points.

Compared to earlier generations, youth today are staying in school longer, marrying and having kids later, and buying a house later, writes Susan Sawyer, the chair of adolescent health at the University of Melbourne, in an op-ed published today in the journal The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. The transition period from childhood to adulthood lasts far beyond age 19, when it is popularly thought to end. As a result, she writes, we should change our policies and services to better serve this population.

In a sense, the author of the article is doubling down on the expectations. Now, it’s not just people who don’t have a two in front of their age to which we should ascribe these assumptions. We need to apply that to people even older because somehow, they’re still not meeting the other expectations we have of functioning adults.

Personally, I think that’s taking things in the wrong direction. If we’re going to start expecting more deviance and immaturity from more people, then that’s what we’re going to see and not just from confirmation bias. Just as I did as a kid, my negative expectations led to negative manifestations. Now, they may follow young people beyond high school.

It’s not magical thinking to say that attitude matters when it comes to dealing with people. Human psychology is extremely complex and varies wildly from individual to individual, but humans are still a very social species. As such, treating others with respect and maturity will provide them with incentives to do the same.

I don’t deny that certain assumptions are difficult to escape, especially when some of them are incorporated into actual policies. Even if we woke up tomorrow and started treating everyone over the age of 13 as a responsible adult, it probably wouldn’t resolve the many issues we still have with youth in society. However, as I came to learn as an adult, having a good attitude goes a long way towards achieving a good outcome.

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Teaching About Sex, Consent, And Relationships (Through Video Games)

Let’s face it. Most kids aren’t that eager to learn about the stuff that their teachers, parents, and school administrators want them to learn about. They’re not interested in knowing the skills that will make them healthy, productive, tax-paying consumers who will keep society running. They’re interested in the skills that will make them popular and/or get them laid.

The deficiencies of our education system are many and I’ve made no secret of my disdain for the experiences I had within that system. However, I don’t want to dwell too much on that this time. Talking about how much I hated high school is rarely that sexy.

Instead, I want to focus on something that most kids are eager to enjoy and how some people are using that to improve their understanding of sex, sexuality, and relationship. What could kids possibly excite kids that much to learn about something that they would rather not learn from the same gym teacher that makes them run laps in winter?

The answer is more obvious than you think. It’s video games. Admit it, that almost makes too much sense.

There’s no question that kids love playing video games more than learning about quadratic functions. According to a survey done by the MacArthur Foundation, approximately 97 percent of kids between the ages of 12 and 17 play video games. When it comes to statistics and surveys, you can’t get much more definitive without asking kids whether chocolate fudge tastes good.

Kids might not be able to agree whether Superman could beat the Hulk, which he totally could, but they agree that video games are awesome. So if kids love video games so much, why not use that love to teach them valuable lessons about sex, relationships, and consent?

That’s not a rhetorical question. I’m not being facetious either. It’s not about the medium or whatever asinine controversies it may have. It’s about working with what kids already love and using that to help them in valuable ways. It’s not that radical a concept. Hit movies have been made about it.

When it comes to teaching kids about sex, though, I wouldn’t expect Edward James Olmos to star in a movie about that. That doesn’t mean the concept is entirely flawed. Teaching kids about sex is hard enough. Teaching them in a way they’ll remember and take seriously might be beyond the power of Hollywood.

That still doesn’t stop some from trying. In a story by Kimberly Lawson at Vice, an associate professor of medicine at Yale University has helped create a game called PlayForward: Elm City Stories. It’s a fairly straightforward, two-dimensional role playing game that is less about killing aliens or Nazis and more about guiding players through a narrative, showing how their decisions affect them along the way.

That’s not quite as radical as it sounds. Role-playing games represent a large chunk of the video game industry. Major game franchises like “Mass Effect” and “Final Fantasy” are built around the idea of having players make choices and face repercussions of those choices. Take away the aliens and the monsters, though, and you’ve got a solid basis for understanding real life choices.

PlayForward: Elm City Stories plays less like Dungeons & Dragons and more like the classic board game, Life. In it, you play as avatar in a fictional, but fairly realistic city where you have to navigate a variety of activities and make choices along the way.

Some of those activities involve who you your friends are. Some involve going to certain events and parties. Some even involve whether or not to make out with a cute girl. It may sound mundane, but like most RPGs, the appeal is diving into the world of the character and leading them through it. Here’s how Vice describes the experience.

Players have to make important, life-changing decisions, including whether or not they should go upstairs to make out with someone, if they should use a condom or not during sex, and whether they should accept pills found in someone’s grandmother’s medicine cabinet. At any point, they can fast-forward to the epilogue to see what their character’s life looks like at 30, based on the decisions they’ve made.

Through that experience, players learn about more than just saying no to the guy on the street corner offering a free hit of crack. They experience both the short-term and long-term impacts of their decisions. Given the notoriously short attention spans and limited foresight of kids, that kind of insight in indispensable when teaching them about sex and relationships.

It’s no “Super Mario Brothers,” but the lessons it conveys are more valuable than any princess. It puts the players in a position to choose the right and wrong path. It shows them just how right and wrong those paths can be in the long run for their character and themselves, by default.

Beyond just consequences, the game gives players a chance to explore situations involving intimacy, consent, and relationships. Their choices help forge the relationships they have throughout the game. To get a better outcome, they actually need a better understanding of intimacy and consent. The fact that gives them tools to apply those lessons in the real world just a pleasant side-effect.

In a sense, PlayForward: Elm City Stories is coming along at the perfect time. We live in a world where sexual harassment and sexual assault are heated issues. We, as a society, are not as willing to turn a blind eye to these sorts of indiscretions anymore.

Just punishing the Harvey Weinsteins of the world isn’t enough, though. We need to teach the emerging generation that there’s a time and a place to show a beautiful woman your genitals. Knowing those circumstances will be the difference between having a great sex life and being sued into oblivion.

Kids aren’t going to learn those skills through lectures, after school specials, and cute puppets. Some of the most effective learning methods involve active engagement with real activities that offer real rewards. In that sense, video games are the perfect medium for that kind of teaching.

While I doubt that PlayForward: Elm City Stories will win any game of the year awards, it sets an important precedent that is worth building upon. Saving princesses and shooting killer aliens is still fun, but learning about relationships, consent, and sex will take a player much further in life.

Kids, and people in general, learn best when they don’t know they’re learning something. Video games may still have a nasty reputation in some circles, but it offers opportunities to teach valuable skills that aren’t easy to teach, especially to hormonal teenagers. We should take advantage of those opportunities and hopefully, PlayForward: Elm City Stories is just the beginning.

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What “Big Mouth” Gets Right (And Wrong) About Puberty

When you’re a platform that has created shows like “House of Cards” and “BoJack Horseman,” the bar for quality is higher than most. That’s the benefit/burden of being successful. Say what you will about how Netflix has evolved over the years, it has produced some amazing content in an age that some call the third golden age of TV.

Then, there are shows like “Big Mouth.” I’m not saying that Netflix is lowering the bar for the sake of balance, but I’m still struggling to make sense of this show. When I heard about it, especially with comedian Nick Kroll attached to it, I hoped I had found another show to pass the time in between seasons of “BoJack Horseman.” I’m won’t say I was disappointed, but I do feel like I took the quality of Netflix content for granted.

I’m not going to say that “Big Mouth” is a bad show, but I won’t make excuses for it. It’s the kind of show that goes out of its way to be crude for all the wrong reasons and not in the traditions of “South Park” either. It doesn’t go for the cheap laugh or even the mid-priced laugh. It’s a show that just goes out of its way to sensationalize teenagers going through puberty.

On paper, it sounds like a great concept. Going through puberty is wrought with all sorts of craziness, some funny and some embarrassing as hell. I’ve shared some on this blog, including a story about the most awkward boner I’ve ever gotten.

Big Mouth” tries to extract humor from similarly awkward situations. It takes a lot of swings and it misses a lot of pitches, but it does manage to hit a few balls here and there. Yes, I also mean that in a literal sense. This show does resort to that kind of humor.

It may not be the kind of high-concept insight you get from an episode of “Rick and Morty,” but it does at least try to send a message about the horrors of puberty. Even if the product is crude and exceedingly exaggerated, that message is relevant, so much so that it’s worth talking about.

I honestly didn’t expect to write about “Big Mouth” in any capacity, especially when writing about sexy memories from my college years is so much more interesting. However, after gritting my teeth and watching the show, I feel the horrors of puberty are worth talking about, especially with ideas about toxic masculinity being so prevalent lately.

Big Mouth” doesn’t attempt to wade too deeply into those kinds of issues. It’s too crude and too crass a show to even attempt that kind of commentary. However, it does do a good job at showing just how powerful and, at times, overwhelming that flood of hormones can be to a young person. For some, it’s downright traumatic.

Throughout the show, the main characters, Nick Birch, Andrew, Glouberman, and Jessi Glaser, are often hounded by literal manifestations of a monster that personifies their hormones. It’s never clear whether the monster is invisible or not, but this creature basically says everything the FCC won’t allow teenagers to say out loud.

For the boys, the monster is named Maurice and his advice usually amounts to things like, “Go ahead and jerk off!” or “Look at her tits!” or “Too bad, buddy! You’re getting a boner!” I’m not going to lie. That monster kind of triggered some awkward moments from my teenage years where I found myself thinking thoughts too crude, even for my novels.

The girls aren’t spared from that awkwardness either. There’s another hormone monster every bit as crude, but reserved for female characters. Her name is Connie and she embodies all the alpha bitch, hyper-feminine extremes that Sam Kinison ever joked about. She’s emotional, dramatic, and demands that every female character be confused or overwhelmed by her body. That’s basically puberty in a nutshell.

In a sense, “Big Mouth” is unique in its balanced approach to showing how boys and girls both struggle to endure puberty. That’s rare in most coming of age stories that either focus on horny guys trying to get laid or bitchy girls trying to get popular. This show doesn’t give a pass to either gender.

This is what “Big Mouth” actually gets right about puberty, to some extent. It’s not just overwhelming and frustrating for one gender. The male experience is unique. They have to deal with constant erections and that annoying voice in their head urging them to think dirty thoughts about anything that even looks like a beautiful women.

Since I’m a man who has more than his share of bad memories from my awkward teen years, that’s a sentiment I can appreciate. However, it’s the female perspective in “Big Mouth” that I found most intriguing. The idea that girls are just as freaked out about the changes in their bodies, minds, and everything in between shouldn’t be such a novel concept, but this show goes out of its way to belabor it.

Now, I don’t know for sure that the girls I went to high school with had an actual hormone monster on their shoulder, telling them to cry irrationally at a moment’s notice or lash out at anyone who dared to look at them the wrong way. It’s just somewhat refreshing to think that teen awkwardness knows no gender.

If gender balance is a strength in “Big Mouth,” though, it’s biggest weakness is portraying how the characters deal with it. The show is so over-the-top with the extremes of puberty that it’s hard to glean a meaningful story from it all.

It’s not just that puberty takes the form of actual hormone monsters that sound like uncensored commentary from a bad porno. It’s not that the show makes puberty sound overly traumatic either. There’s never a sense that the characters, even Jessi and Nick, actually grow through the experience. That’s kind of a big oversight with puberty.

From a purely biological standpoint, puberty is the maturation of a child into adulthood. That maturation part is never even hinted at in the show. After watching the first season of “Big Mouth,” it’s hard to imagine any of the characters involved growing into functioning adults.

In the real world, puberty tends to bring out the best or worst in a person. If someone starts becoming an asshole in puberty, they usually stay that way into adulthood. If someone shows an ability to deal with it and grow, as a person, then they’re usually in good shape. It can even get pretty hilarious when both kinds of people have to deal with one another. Unfortunately, we don’t get that with “Big Mouth.”

I won’t go so far as to say the show is terrible. It does have its moments and some of those moments are genuinely funny or insightful. It is, as the end of the day, an overly comedic take on the rigors of puberty. It doesn’t try to be coy or deceptive. It doesn’t try to use colorful metaphors involving flowers or cucumbers. It gets right down the dirty, gritty details.

I can see the show appealing to those who suffered more during puberty than most. I can even see the show appealing to “South Park” and “Family Guy” fans. It’s hardly a guide or a warning with respect to the rigors of puberty, but it reflects a common truth. Being a teenager sucks and puberty is a big reason why.

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Another Sexy College Story (Kind Of In The Way You Think)

By now, I imagine most college freshmen are settling into their new life of exams, late-night studying, and awful cafeteria food. I understand it’s a transition. It takes some getting used to, living on your own for the first time and having to be responsible for your own laundry. It can be jarring at first, but you come to appreciate it quickly.

College is a strange, but amazing experience. It’s like the last rest stop on the road to adulthood and you’re not entirely sure if your bladder is up to task. However, once you go through and do your business, you’re off on your own and ready to be an adult. It’s scare, but you really come to appreciate being able to buy beer without a fake ID.

Compared to the prison sentence/nightmare that was high school, college was breath of fresh air and a mouth full of chocolate fudge. I learned more in those four years than I did the last ten of public school. I actually got to forge my own path, make my own decisions, and carry myself like an adult and not some brooding teenager. It might have been the best therapy I could’ve gotten at that point in my life.

As part of that process, college had its share of sexy experiences for me, but not entirely in the way you think. There were a number of events in college that really made clear to me that I was an adult now and being horny wasn’t something my health teachers would treat like a goddamn chronic illness.

I’ve already shared one of those sexy college experiences on this blog. To date, that still ranks as one of the sexiest. It involved a party, a lot of drinking, and a couple showing off their sex appeal in front of a cheering crowd that I was proud to be part of. You can’t get much more college than that without a John Belushi look-a-like crashing the party.

While that night might have been one of the most memorable experiences I had in college, it definitely wasn’t the only one. Since the last one I shared went over so well with readers, I’d like to share another. This one isn’t quite the spectacle, but it’s still sexy in a more direct sort of way. It doesn’t involve a party or anything. However, it definitely helped inspire the young erotica/romance writer in me.

This particular incident happened in my sophomore year of college. It also happened to be the first year I stayed in a co-ed dorm. It was an upgrade compared to my freshmen year when I stayed in an all-male dorm. Believe it or not, when you put a bunch of young, hormonal men in a confined building who have never been without parental supervision before, it tends to get messy.

Living in a co-ed dorm did help balance things out, somewhat. There weren’t as many fire drills at two in the morning and not as much of the building smelled like sweaty socks. Don’t get the wrong idea, though. Contrary to what “Animal House” rip-offs would have you believe, it’s not as sexy as it sounds.

You learn quickly that putting young men and women in a confined building who aren’t used to being on their own can be just as messy, but with a few twists. When the sexes mix, it changes the dynamics and not always for the better.

It’s not just that young, hormonal men do stupid things when in the presence of women they’re trying to sleep with. Sometimes, the presence of both genders just means both have more chances to do all the crazy stuff they hesitated to do when they were still living at home. This story is a nice reflection of that.

Unlike my previous story, this one doesn’t take place at night or during the weekend. This takes place in the middle of the day, on a weekday, and right around mid-terms no less. It’s a stressful time, to say the least. There aren’t as many parties going on and some of the dorms, mine included, mandate certain “quiet hours” so residents can study.

In terms of timing, it may very well be the least sexy time of year. My roommate, who had a girlfriend, seemed to understand that. I remember him being a lot less energetic during that time, even when his girlfriend was around. However, other couples on my floor didn’t get the memo.

One of those couples, fittingly enough, lived right next door to me. Now, I knew my neighbors pretty well. I often went over there and watched TV with them when my roommate needed some “alone time” with his girlfriend, of which I totally respected. On this day, though, it wasn’t my roommate who was the issue.

It starts at around two in the afternoon. I’m in my dorm, my roommate is in class, and I’ve got my last mid-term of the week in about an hour-and-a-half. Naturally, I’m eager to get it over with and take a breath. Then, just as I’m trying to study, I hear something in the dorm next to mine.

It’s moaning. Namely, it’s the very sexual kind of moaning.

At first, I thought my neighbor accidentally left his speakers on while watching porn. It was kind of an unofficial rule. If you’re going to watch porn, you wear headphones. It’s just common courtesy. Then, as I listen closer, I realize this is not coming from a speaker.

I soon recognize one of the moans as belonging to my neighbor, the same guy who was nice enough to let me watch TV with him and his friends every weekend. I don’t recognize the girl, but I do recognize real, sexy moaning. It doesn’t take a porno connoisseur to know the difference.

Needless to say, I’m a little taken aback here, but I’m also very much intrigued. Remember, these are midterms. These might be the most stressful parts of the semester for some people and yet here’s my neighbor, dealing with it by having sex with his girlfriend. I’m not saying it’s a bad way to deal with stress. I’m just saying it’s a bit surprising, given the circumstance.

I quickly find myself listening a little closer. At one point, I think I stood close to the wall, right next to my closet, to make sure my ears aren’t playing tricks on me. I determine my senses were in perfect working order. This was really happening. A couple was having sex just a few feet from me, separated only by a cinder-block wall.

They weren’t very tactful either. I heard a bed rocking. I heard gasping, grunting, and moaning. It didn’t sound like a gentle, romantic kind of sex. This was the rough stuff and they seemed to really like it. I know because the girl was pretty vocal. I heard a few things from her that would probably get her fined by the FCC, but I doubt she minded.

It created this powerful scene in my head. I could vividly picture my neighbor and his girlfriend in the bed, going at it and loving every second of it. It might not have been romantic, given the setting, but they still made it sweet in their own special way. I like to think it helped lay the foundation for my future efforts as an erotica/romance writer.

I don’t remember exactly how long it lasted. I just know that the moaning and grunting stopped. Maybe they still went at it for a bit longer, but it was hard to hear at that point. That didn’t stop me from listening a bit longer, trying to pick up on the details. Eventually, though, it got quiet again and I surmised they had finished.

All this happened and I still had a mid-term in less than two hours. I’m not going to lie, that was quite a distraction, but one I didn’t mind. If anything, I found it to be kind of refreshing, given how stressful everything had been all week. I remember eventually going to my class, taking my mid-term, and not feeling as overwhelmed as usual. I guess my neighbor and his girlfriend deserve some of the credit for that.

I saw my neighbor again a few times after that. I didn’t mention what had happened that day. Neither he nor his girlfriend brought it up either. Every time I looked at them, though, I couldn’t help but laugh a little. During a stressful time in college, in a less-than-romantic moment, these two found a way to get sexy and intimate. For an erotica/romance writer, that’s nothing short of inspirational.

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On Nice Guys, Women, And Whining

We’ve all heard it before. We’ve either experienced it, know someone who has, or seen at least fifteen movies built around the concept. There’s a guy sitting myself, his head held low as his lips quiver with sorrow. He’s sad. He’s lonely. Nobody likes him and women would rather endure amputation rather than touch his cock. When anyone asks about it, he tells the same boring story.

“I’m a nice guy! Why don’t women want to be with me? I’m not some jerk or asshole. What’s wrong with them?”

On some levels, we have sympathy for guys like that. Yes, I know there are women who feel this way too, but a generation of teen movies, romantic comedies, and high school drama has conditioned us to hear a male voice every time we hear this overplayed diatribe of angst.

Since I’m not in a position to undo that conditioning, I won’t try. Just bear with me because this is an important message to anyone who has either said those words or heard them from someone else. I don’t want to underscore the depths of that loneliness and angst. I’ve been there too. However, there is a context worth pointing out here.

Call it what you want. We really don’t have a label for it. I call it it “The Nice Guy Whine.” Unlike the wine you can drink, this one doesn’t get better with age. It’s one of those overplayed tropes that play out way too much in both the real world and in fiction. Movies like “10 Things I Hate About You” and “She’s Out Of My League” try to make it interesting and sexy. It doesn’t make the whining any less annoying, though.

They’re frustrated, isolated, and in utter despair. They’re nice guys. They do the right things. They’re generally well-behaved, law-abiding, and friendly. They don’t hurt anyone or go out of their way to make trouble. They’re just genuinely nice guys. So why won’t the beautiful women they want to get with hook up with them?

I don’t deny it’s hard and I’m not just talking about genitals here. As I’ve said before, we humans are a social, passionate species. We seek connection and intimacy. I’m not just talking about the kind we do between the sheets either, although that is part of it.

We want to find love. We want to be with someone. In terms of core needs, that’s right up there with food, water, and sufficient WiFi. When we don’t get that connection and intimacy, we get lonely and upset. That’s to be expected. Our brains and bodies know we need that intimate connection. When we don’t get it, it tries to do everything possible to get you to seek it, even if it means the occasional awkward boner.

So what’s going on here? Why is it that nice guys just can’t get any? Well, as someone who once asked those same questions and did plenty of Nice Guy Whining himself, I’d like to offer a clear and concise answer. For all the fictional characters and real people in this world who’ve whined like I have, listen up. This might be the most important thing you hear that doesn’t involve the IRS.

“Being a nice guy isn’t enough. The vast majority of the planet is full of nice people. By whining about it, you’re indirectly insulting every man or women who doesn’t want to be with you because you make it about them and not you.”

Reading that out loud, I’m sure it sounds harsh. Trust me, it’s not meant to be that harsh. It’s supposed to reveal a simple truth and it’s actually uplifting on some levels when you think about it.

It’s true. Most of the people in this world, including the guys, are nice. We only think it’s full of mean assholes because they’re the ones who make the news, get reality TV shows, and star in movies, albeit for all the wrong reasons.

The fact that these assholes get our attention is actually proof that most people are nice. Things don’t get our attention unless they’re rare, dangerous, or shaped like female breasts. Even science bears it out. People today are generally nicer and more decent to one another than they’ve ever been.

Why does this matter? Well, it matters because by whining about being a nice guy, you might as well be whining about the sky being blue or water being wet or tits being awesome. You act as though the mere fact you’re alive and not dissecting animals in your basement is reason enough for your dream girl to be with you.

Step back for a moment and think about that. You’re a nice guy. I don’t doubt that. Even so, why should that be your primary appeal to a woman? What else do you have to offer? What sort of skills, passions, and personality traits do you bring to the table? I’m not saying you’re devoid of those things. I’m just saying these are questions you haven’t bothered answering.

I ask them with the full understanding that I’ve done plenty of whining like that too. There were plenty of times, especially in my teenage years, when I whined about the girls I liked not wanting to be with me. For a time, it left me very depressed and extremely isolated. It was not a good feeling.

However, I’m not good at lying to myself so I was able to answer that question on my own. In addition to having a debilitating acne problem, I had piss-poor social skills and did not take care of myself. I like to think I was pretty nice in general, but how does that make up for the utter lack of benefits I would bring to a woman?

I know I have much more to offer now because I’ve actually worked on myself. I’ve taken the time to develop new skills and abilities. In addition to being nice, I’m very physically fit. I run at least 15 miles a week. I lift weights. I try to watch my diet. By most measures, I’m a physically attractive man.

In addition to my looks, I’ve got other benefits to offer. I have a car. I have no credit card debt. I have a steady job. I’m very skilled in terms of writing passionate, sexy stories meant to moisten panties. Believe it or not, these are skills that women find attractive. Just being nice is only a base requirement. Everything else on top of that are premium features.

It may sound cynical, the idea that being nice isn’t enough and you actually have to sell yourself somewhat. It gives the impression that people only want to be with you because you can do something for them. Well, how is that any different than what you want from them? It’s a bit crass, I know, but it’s entirely pragmatic when you think about it.

Part of being a social creature is bringing something unique to the table. Maybe it’s a skill. Maybe it’s a personality. Maybe it’s a certain type of energy that stands out from the others. Whatever it is, it’s part of the overall package that is you and you actually control what’s in that package. You have the ability to make yourself appealing. There’s nothing, other than sheer laziness, to stop you.

By just whining about being a nice guy, it’s like you’re trying to shame others for not having lower standards. You give the impression that someone is evil just because they prefer a smartphone with more features than an old flip phone.

In a sense, that undercuts your whole “nice guy” persona because wanting to do the absolute minimum to achieve the maximum desired results isn’t very nice. If anything, it’s as big a dick move as any Biff Tannen wannabe ever pulled off.

With that, all those whining nice guys out there have their answer. You know why being a nice guy isn’t getting you anywhere with your current crush. I even told you how to fix the situation. It may be harder for some than others, but the opportunity is there. You just have to take advantage of it. I’ll even add that most women, in my experience, will be attracted to men who takes advantage of those opportunities.

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