Quality Of Online Sexual Health Information

There is no denying it … The Internet can be a great source for finding all types of information relating to any topic. However, when it comes to young people and the thought of them accessing anything to do with sex, personal relationships and sexual health information we squirm at the different types of information they can access (see my publication). Why wouldn't we? They are looking for information because they don’t know something and for all we can try and safeguard young people we can’t always stop them from accessing sexual explicit material totally. However, we can move forward and provide them with the information they need and I suppose now we have to briefly ask the questions … WHY and WHAT are they searching for?

The WHY’S …

After recently conducting research with 12-16 year olds I found that young people are accessing pornographic websites due to the curiosity surrounding sex. One 12 year old girl said, “You don’t really learn anything about relationships and feelings, but it helps you try and suss out what all the hype is about sex – everyone is talking about it and I just want to be told more than what we get told at school.” The research also found that the main reason young people use websites is to try and get their questions answered based on what they are experiencing at the time and to seek help and advice. However, what is it that they are actually searching for?

The WHAT’S …

It is evident that young people are searching for information that adds to their knowledge and gives them the information they need based on their individual situation. The research found that young people want to use websites that are straight to the point and give the specific answers and advice to their questions and queries. They don’t want to be preached to and told what they should and shouldn't do, but instead to be treated with respect and given the correct information that satisfies their needs and give them the answers they are looking for. One young person from the research said “When do people ever ask us what information we need about sex? Adults don’t always give us the answers that we want, so we go and try to find it ourselves”.  Talk about what comes from the horse’s mouth!

Moving FORWARD …

From the research I have deciphered that more research needs to be conducted so we can listen to the wishes of you people, but in the meantime we need to possibly address three main issues that relate to young peoples needs. These being to address:

  1. The quality of online sexual health information;
  2. How young people access the Internet to have their sexual health questions answered, and;
  3. The ability for young people to sift through the colossal number of sources for accurate information.

We have tried everything to prevent young people from accessing dodgy sexual information online, but if we placed as much effort on listening to them and providing them with the information they need, pornographic material may not be the first port of call for them to learn about sex, relationships and sexual health information online.

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Sexual Pleasure and Pornography

Sexual ignorance no longer exists in the 21st century to the extent it did previously. However, the mention of sexual pleasure induces a gamut of thoughts and feelings, which can include interest, intrigue, shame, guilt and also excitement. This is mainly because sexual pleasures are marked by sexual feelings, sexual attractions or desires, which can lead to sexual arousal and, sometimes, orgasm.

However, sexual arousal and orgasm not only come from the act of sexual intercourse but, other activities that relate to sex when people are alone and are having private thoughts. Although sexual pleasures are unique and shared by a particular individual, they are still governed by societal rules and sexual norms as in previous centuries. Although some forms of sexual pleasure (e.g. pornography) are more frowned upon than others (e.g. sexual fantasies) they have often been identified as a means of educating people about sexual matters and in the learning of their own bodies. 

Sexual fantasies can be thoughts about many aspects that people, as individuals, deem desirable (e.g. fame, beautiful places and money) including erotic content and taking place whilst awake and where sexual arousal occurs. Nocturnal erections can similarly occur when asleep based on the same principles, which can lead to a nocturnal orgasm, otherwise known as a wet dream. This would suggest that the brain is as important as one’s genitals in that what we think about can enhance or lead to a sexual response through bodily functions. However, understanding people’s sexual fantasies and what content they include is under-researched mainly because eroticism is still regarded by some as politically incorrect and not a respectable function.

However, research has shown that men and women both have sexual fantasies. Although some people may not wish to admit or divulge in the content of these sexual fantasies due to embarrassment, rejection or being ridiculed by society, research over the last two decades has identified the sexual behaviours that men and women are likely to fantasise over. These include: touching and being touched sensually, oral and/or genital sex, caressing naked bodies, seducing or being seduced, having sex in unusual positions and having sex in unusual locations. It was also found that men were more likely to have sexual fantasies than women and that these were more venturesome (e.g. whipping or being whipped by a partner), whereas women would generally fantasise about having sex and getting married. Although it has been found that sexual fantasies can be internally generated, research suggests that fantasies are provoked in people by something they have seen or read. This not only individualises the types of sexual material people are likely to read, but also causes concerns over the sexual message people are subject to. This is especially so over the last twenty years where sexual images and acts have become a firm feature in the media, commercialising pornography in magazines, films and more explosively on the Internet. These developments have also caused much controversy and challenged several aspects of society, mainly in the laws on censorship on pornography.

Pornography is an elusive term that can mean different things to different cultures, historical and social contexts, and more so on individuals’ own experiences and beliefs. There is a general understanding that pornography is any sexual explicit material (visual or written) intending to cause sexual arousal. However, pornography has become a common tool that allows people to learn about sexual matters whether they want to or not, and often without the notion that they are actually viewing pornography most of the time. This has mainly become possible because of more relaxed attitude towards censorship regulations on television channels (including cable channels) and with the high usage of computers (including the Internet). Although images of the penis, vagina, anus, female nipples, slang words for sex (e.g. ‘fuck’) along with hard-core sexual activity are banned on television networks before the watershed, references to sex and programmes with sexual content are all too common.  The same could be said for computers and the Internet; however, this poses an even starker problem in that it is global, allowing for sexually explicit Web sites, interactive chat rooms and pornographic material to be viewed without much monitoring or regulation. Technological changes have allowed sexually explicit material to be seen at greater ease and it is expected to become worst with futurists predicting that virtual-reality technology along with the Internet is set to provide sexual interactions between people at a distance. This may not seem so ludicrous especially when considering companies such as Safesexplus.com already sell sex toys, which can be controlled by a remote control devise through the Internet.

Although pornography has been seems to have it uses in educating young people about their own bodies, it is our responsibility as parents to make sure our children get the correct information that does not rely on sexually explicit material to teach them about sexual matters. Talking about sexual matters more openly with our children will hopefully steer them away from the need to use porn to learn about sexual matters.

Dr Triece has provided some research on young people and pornography, but what are your thoughts as parents? What are the views of young people and the use of pornography? Have your view on Twitter@DrTriece, Parent-Zone on Facebook, or go to LinkedIn to have your say.

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The Sexual Revolution that is Sweeping the World!

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ has embraced the sexual revolution. If people aren’t experimenting more with sex then they are definitely talking about it! Even young people are finding the content fascinating, or is it just confusing them more when it comes to knowing about sex and sexual behaviour? Admittedly, the raving novel of Fifty Shades of Grey has taken sex, especially BDSM (Body-Discipline and Sadomasochism) to another level, but what messages do we want to send out to our children about sex.

On the one hand we want to keep them safe and protected, and then on the other hand we want them to have the information so they can be prepared for what is going to happen to them as they become young adults engaging in personal relationships and developing their own sexual identity. The big question is … what do parents need to know to ensure this happens?

The research shows that …

  • Providing good-quality sex education is paramount if young people are to avoid unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs);
  • The more knowledgeable young people are about sex and personal relationships then the initiation of sexual behaviour is delayed;
  • If young people know about the different forms of contraception then they are more likely to use it when sexual intercourse occurs (preventing unintended pregnancy and STIs);
  • If they know about the consequences associated with sex then they are more likely to be responsible over their sexual health.

With these facts in mind why do we deny our children the sexual information they need? Times have passed where we rely on the old-fashioned information to suggest that telling our children about sex is going to enflame their hormones so they rush out and have sex with multiple partners – They are not rabbits! Instead, they are human beings who should be shown more respect and trust than we possibly give them. Young people are growing-up quicker than ever before so we need to prepare them as much as possible for what is to come. Admittedly, they are young adults with limited knowledge and experience, but this is where it is our job as parents to fill the gaps and provide them with the information they need to keep them safe and avoid the negative consequences associated with sex. However, what information do they want?

Apart from the ’10 Things Your Kids Want to Know, But Daren’t Ask’ children and young people are saying that they want to be given the facts associated with sex – they don’t want any stone unturned. They don’t want to be left wondering what things mean, or what is going to happen to them physically as they go through puberty, developing and move towards the transition of becoming a fully-fledged adult. However, if we listen to their needs more questions need answering, such as … What should good-quality sex education entail? Possible answers … Do young people need to resort to the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ to learn about sex and relationships? Should we leave it to the education system to educate our children about SRE? Do we wait and let our children learn about sex through experimentation? The answer to these questions is NO on so many levels, which is why it is important that parents take control and steer the education of their children. Safe Cool Sex allows you to do this by giving the correct sexual information that you were possibly taught when you were younger, but have forgot. Furthermore, Safe Cool Sex gives support, advice and parents the skills to talk openly about sexual matters with their children. It also addresses sex and relationship education that is in-line with the 21st century. So, if you are one of those successful parents who want to get with the program – Join Dr Triece and let us dispel the myths about sex and ensure that our children get the correct sexual knowledge that does not resort to BDSM as in the Fifty Shades of Grey, pornographic material through the internet or through being given bad sex education at school that prevents our children from having the knowledge to make informed choices over their personal relationships and sexual behaviour.

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