Q & A with MATT POSNER — HOW ARE GIRLS JUDGED?

WHEN IS A GIRL A SLUT?

I ‘m discussing the word “slut” in here (it doesn’t appear in my writing for Teen Guide) because it is one of the most common terms thrown around by teenagers these days.  The term slut is very old, going back at least as far as Shakespeare’s time, when it originally just meant “young girl.” Now it means “a girl who isn’t picky about sexual partners.” And it is a common insult word just used to make girls feel bad. In fact, it’s pretty common to claim a girl is sexually active when she isn’t, just to hurt her feelings. It’s so common, in fact, that you might as well apply the standard of the U.S. courts to any girl accused. Slut? Innocent until proven guilty.

I don’t think the issue in being picky about sexual partners is a moral issue. I think it’s a health issue. Physical health is endangered by multiple sexual partners for two reasons. One is the significant risk of sexually transmitted disease. The other is the significant risk of pregnancy, even with the pill (if you forget to take it) or condoms (they sometimes break).  Emotional health is endangered by worsening the feelings of low-self esteem or loneliness that usually cause a girl to seek out sex without love. I would recommend counseling or a doctor’s help for a girl in that situation.

So my answer to “when is a girl a slut?” is really — NEVER. It’s a nasty expression, and I would never apply it to a young person. I might apply it to an adult woman who used sex to destroy people’s lives, breaking up relationships or marriages to serve her own interests, but I don’t think the word should be used for girls. My reasons can be summarized as follows.

First — most girls to whom the term is applied have not done anything sexual.

Second — a girl who has sex in an unhealthy way is to be pitied, and helped, rather than treated cruelly.

IF A GIRL DRESSES SEXY, DOES THAT MEAN SHE IS LOOKING FOR SEX?

I can’t get into the minds of girls, but I’d have to say that varies. Girls like to wear the latest fashions, and often, the fashion industry encourages sexy looks for teenage girls, and even for tweens (horrifying most adults like me). Girls embrace the sexy clothes because they want to feel grown up, to  fit in, or to feel different from their parents. I would say that a girl who dresses in sexy clothes is probably not looking for sex most of the time. She is more likely trying to send a signal to other girls that she is fashionable, can afford sexy designer clothes, or is grown up. (She may also be dressing like her mother — at least, I see that in Brooklyn a lot.)  Whatever her intentions, boys are likely to think she is looking for sex, and they will tend to treat her differently because of it.  Boys, the girl who is best for you is the one you can talk to, whatever she is wearing.

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First Time Sex

(from December 22, 2012)

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Question for Matt & Jess:

They say that sex for the first time (as a girl) is painful, is it true ? And if so, is there a way to avoid the pain?
— 15 year-old Teen Guide: Q&A blog visitor

MATT: A girl’s hymen is a tissue that covers the vagina during childhood. An intact hymen — not torn, broken, or removed — has been a common test of virginity worldwide. But this probably should not be so. There are many ways a hymen can be broken or removed besides being penetrated by a penis. It can be torn or broken during athletics. In some cases it can be stretched out of the way to allow the penis to enter the vagina (although this is very unusual). It can definitely be removed by a doctor, probably inside the doctor’s office, in a very minor procedure.

The most likely cause of pain during first sexual intercourse is the breaking of the hymen. But this doesn’t always hurt. For some girls/women, it’s nothing but a pinprick feeling. If you have a very thick hymen, breaking it might hurt some, but once it’s done, it’s done, and if the sexual encounter was a good decision, then the momentary pain won’t be a lingering source of worry.

Another possible source of discomfort can be the fact that your vagina is inexperienced with sex, and lacks the flexibility of a sexual active female’s vagina. In other words, it may be “too tight” and you may get some rubbing feelings or rash. If your partner forces his way in without waiting for your vagina to lubricate properly, this could happen. The rubbing, rash, and tightness go away with more frequent sex.

There are a few rare medical conditions that can cause pain during intercourse, for male or for female, but only a doctor can detect these. If you find that you have pain during sex after the first few times, talk to a gynecologist.

JESS: I’ll always remember how one of my (girl) friends described her first sexual experience. She said that it was really her “first time — with the blood and pain and everything.”

I also remember that some friends described it in a totally different way (one said that she was “prepared beforehand, so it didn’t hurt much” — another said it was great because she waited till she was “ready and comfortable with her boyfriend”).

As Matt says in his answer, sex for the first time (as a girl) can be painful if your hymen is still intact, or if you’re inexperienced and your partner penetrates you without getting your body comfortable and relaxed first [when a female is ready for sexual intercourse, her body is aroused and she gets “wet” (versus a male who gets “hard” when he is aroused)].

There are a couple of general ways to avoid or reduce the pain of first time sex for a female.

(1) By Yourself: You can explore your own body first, by sliding up a finger first, then two. I personally like this option because I’d like to get to know my own body first (before exploring with someone else).

Don’t just “shove your finger right in” because being rough right from the start isn’t going to help. Make sure your fingernails are short and that your fingers/fingernails are clean.

Gently explore as you get more aroused (you can switch between touching your clitoris while the other explores your vagina). It’s okay if only the tip of your finger may enter, at first. You might feel some resistance, but not so much that you feel pain, for a couple seconds, as you continue exploring. Over time, slowly work your way up to three fingers, or an object of equivalent size. This can take a week or less, or several months. It all depends on how elastic your hymen is and how relaxed and flexible your pelvic and vaginal muscles are.

(2) With a Trusted Partner: You can explore with your partner if it’s somebody you trust and who respects you. Good communication is essential, as you need to inform your partner if they are using too much pressure or going too fast.

The guy needs to go slowly and be very gentle, even though they might “feel” they must do it in an eager and rough way. When you are comfortable with your sexual partner, your muscles will be more relaxed, and you’ll be more ready for sex. You and your partner can have a bottle of lube on standby too, as it helps make penetration smoother.

Communication really is essential — if you discuss certain things beforehand (such as type of birth control; which activities you or your partner are not into for the time being), this will help you be more relaxed and less tense during first sexual intercourse. It also helps if you think about why you want to have sex for the first time with this person, so that you are more aware of some of the feelings or situations you might have to deal with later as a result of your first sexual encounter.

Q. How do I know if it’s the right time to have sex?

(from December 9, 2012)

* Matt’s answers are featured first — Jess will respond soon.

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MATT: Here are some questions from a female reader in the UK.  As per my policy, I don’t respond directly — can’t give personal advice for legal reasons — but I am pleased to offer general responses for all readers. The reader’s words are in bold.

Q. How does sex work?

Matt: I’m sure my buddy Jess would agree that sex involves both body and mind. Your body drives you toward sex for various reasons, but it’s your personality that determines the timing and frequency you are comfortable with as well as the partners you desire. You may want sex (or agree to it when you don’t really want it) because of loneliness, boredom, need for emotional support, or just the influence of your hormones (the body chemicals associated with growth and development and sexuality). As I said in Teen Guide, casual sex is risky because deeper attachments often form when they aren’t intentional, and when the partner isn’t suitable in the long-term. So there is a disconnect between when you want to have sex and when it’s good for you. Be careful! Sex always has consequences (good or bad). It’s pleasurable, but it isn’t just for pleasure.

Q. At what stage in your life do you feel love for the other sex?

Matt: That depends upon your definition of love. In my view, love is the result of a mature, complex interaction between people, but you can believe yourself to be in love when you are very young. Sometimes that works out, but you’re lucky if it does. Usually it doesn’t. Connections that are actually temporary at best often seem permanent because of the intensity of your feelings when you’re younger. Later in life, you’ll decide it wasn’t love after all, and question the decisions you made.

If you are very young now, you won’t believe me, and that’s okay. What you are feeling probably seems like it’s what you were meant to feel for the person you are meant to be with. Chances are it’s not, though. There’s a basis for your feelings, but the rest is because of your stage of life, physical and emotional. We older people would like to be able to feel a young person’s passion and can’t, but we also cherish the kind of love that we can feel, that comes from deep commitment, acceptance, and security.

Q. How do I control my feelings for the opposite sex?

Matt: Write them down. Keep a journal or a diary, and don’t share it with anyone. Also, use a lot of physical energy. Play sports. Get exercise. Volunteer. Get a job. Meet and spend time with a lot of people. This will diminish the power of overly strong attachments.

Q. At what age do the feelings tend to calm at?

Matt: As a male, I was worst between 16-19, I didn’t calm down until my mid-20s, and even in my late 20s, I was still capable of getting emotional in a misguided way. Getting married calmed me down most. Now that someone returns my feelings, I don’t feel so needy, and my wife and I just take care of each other.

Your feelings will probably calm when you have more experience of relationships, and when you outgrow the hormone surges of your teenage years.

Q. How do I know if it’s the right time to have sex? What’s the first time like? How do you know if the feelings aren’t just lust?

Matt: There’s nothing to say here that wasn’t said better in Teen Guide. Here’s a short version of my point of view. Sex goes with strong compatibility and commitment and is best saved for a mature version of yourself. The first time is not usually all it’s expected to be. It’s over quickly and you will probably think or even say, “Was that it?” You know the feelings aren’t just lust if you can talk for hours and accept each other’s weaknesses and private feelings.

I hope this all helps.

Best wishes,

Matt

— originally posted at Matt’s website

Sex Questions from Teens

(from 26 June 2012)

A reader messaged Matt at his website to ask some questions.

Q. What should I do if I find out that my parents use pornography?

Matt: Don’t worry about it. A lot of adults use pornography for a lot of different reasons. If a couple has pornography, they may be using it together to add to their sex life. It’s not easy to think about your parents having a sex life, but believe me, you are better off as a young person if they do than if they don’t. A couple that aren’t having sex, because they are too stressed or angry, will have a harder time being good parents to you. Sex is an important part of the intimacy of any couple — it makes them feel closer. Honestly, any type of sexual activity that an adult couple chooses together, that doesn’t cause any injury, is okay.

It’s possible the pornography is being used by only one of your parents, but honestly, you don’t need to know who is using it or in what way. Just understand that pornography is very popular, and used by a lot of people, and that using pornography does not make a person bad. In Teen Guide, I recommend that teenagers not use porno, but I also say that it’s not harmful to people who understand the difference between reality and fantasy.

Q. I am experiencing pain when urinating. What should I do?

Matt: I am NOT a doctor and cannot give medical advice. Even online medical-advice sites are only useful to give you an idea of what you should talk to the doctor about. You should tell your parents you need to see the doctor.

— originally posted at Matt Posner’s website

Question: As a brand new single father…

(from 30 June 2012)

This was a question Jess received via Facebook:

Q. As a brand-new single father to a teen boy, I sure hope you’re not going to encourage kids to have sex. (I am in no way interested in being a grandparent at 45!)

Jess: Nope, the tone is decidedly balanced/educational (there is no good reason to “encourage” kids to have sex — at the same time, it is unrealistic to expect teens to be “abstinent”). The aim of Teen Guide to Sex and Relationships was to provide comprehensive and honest advice and facts, for teenagers to make a well-informed and educated decision with regards to love and relationships :)