Complete Wellness

A Place for Healing MindBodySpirit


Premarital relationships

Pre serious relationship: Don’t have sex unless you really, really, really want to and if you do, use a condom.

Innate programming has teens ready to make babies at 14-16 years old. Historically speaking, people used to get married and start families at that age. So it follows that kids begin to want to have sex by at least that age. Your bodies are supposed to make babies and your bodies therefore want sex. The cruel part is that mentally, emotionally, socially and culturally, you are so not ready to have a baby. It gets really confusing and frustrating.

I always say to people that, at the end of the day, when it’s just you behind your closed eyes, you have to feel that you are a good person. It’s really tough to know that you behaved as your best self when you are still trying to figure out who you are. But you have to trust that you know the difference between right and wrong and you know how to treat others well.

So what is sex anyway?
How do we define sex in this day and age when a recent President of the United States declared under oath that he “did not have sexual relations with that woman”. (Do you guys remember that? He received felatio, ie a blow job and sort of redefined sex for us all.) My definition of sex is the touching of any part that is normally covered by underwear. That means penis, breast, vulva or vaginal area and anus. Rubbing through clothing doesn’t count. Kissing is not sex, unless you’re kissing one of those parts I just mentioned. But listen, sex is really complicated and not everyone agrees on these definitions, so if you’re already sexually active or seriously considering it, there will be a thorough discussion in another section.

Your parents care about you so much but what it really breaks down to is that they want you to be safe and happy. Really happy. Not “Oooo great, I just got a new phone!” happy. But really deeply happy with yourself as a person. The information here is supposed to help you act as your true and best self. To be safe, solid, steady and deeply happy. Any one alive who really thinks about it, knows that they don’t know what they’re doing. We’re all just doing the best we can.

Any medical professional you go to, whether it’s your pediatrician or family doctor or a clinic, can help you with more specific information. Doctors are required to talk to the parents of anyone under 18 about any medical issue except sexual issues. It’s crazy, but if you say you need an antidepressant because of your nutty parents, we’ve got to tell your parents. But if you say you had sex and seek medical advice, we are not allowed to talk to your parents about it unless you want us to.

Sex just for fun
The fact of the matter is that people get emotionally involved when there is a sexual relationship. It gets to be romantic even if people don’t want it to. Boys are better at compartmentalizing feelings and separating sex from attachment. Anyone can do it to a certain degree, but mostly people get attached, even if they didn’t want to. My out-of-hand advice is “three is never a good idea”. Interpret it any way you want, but it’s just to keep you aware that even in sexual situations that are supposed to be purely recreational can end up with people getting their feelings hurt. It’s not really possible to maintain a “friends with benefits” relationship without someone getting more into it than the other.

Sex is a profound sharing and leaves people feeling very vulnerable. It can be a tremendous emotional bonding force but the other side of that two edged sword can cut deeply.

Kids start experimenting with sex from the moment they figure out that touching their own genitals feels really good, at less than 2 years old. Mostly we continue experimenting till we die. Just because you find a member of a gender attractive doesn’t mean you are gay or straight. Much of the connection between people is about the individuals involved. Some people are acutely aware of their sexuality from a very early age and some aren’t. Be nice. Be tolerant. Be yourself, the best “you” you can be.

All by yourself
Speaking of being you, masturbation is a fine option. But they are called private parts, because use of them is supposed to be private. What you want to do in the privacy of your own space, bedroom, bathroom, whatever, that doesn’t cause harm is fine. Your body is craving all kinds of stimulation and it doesn’t do any harm to experiment in this way as well.

How old are you?
Anyone you’re with romantically or sexually should be around your same age. If you’re 16 and a 20 year old is wanting to get serious with you, look out. A general rule is that one partner should not be younger than half the age, plus seven of the older partner. A 20 year old could be with someone 17 or older. (Half of twenty is ten, plus seven, is seventeen.) That rule, or actually it’s more a guideline, goes for older people too. A 60 year old shouldn’t be with someone younger than 37. (A practical application of algebra; bet you weren’t expecting that!)

Love in the time of internet
You put a lot at risk with a sexual relationship. In the computer age, your reputation can be broken in minutes. Another one of my rules is “Never photograph (or video) anything ever.” You just don’t need to. It is never going to be a good thing to have a permanent or electronic image of your sexual behavior. Never. Just don’t do it. (Being drunk or stoned often plays into these episodes, so keeping it as a hard and fast rule is helpful in maintaining those boundaries even if you’re a little messed up.) 

Even if you’re just playing, or pretending to do something vaguely sexual, taken out of context and put on the web can cause irrevocable harm. For example, don’t stick your tongue out as if you’re about to play tonsil hockey with your best friend, and snap a picture on your phone and send it to another buddy. You never know when or where that’s going to show up.

The Daphne Rule of Relationships
This is a general rule for any romantic relationship named after a good friend of mine who is as bad at dating as I was. The rule is that you are not allowed to make plans further into the future than you have been going out exclusively already. For example, if you’ve been dating for three months, you are not allowed to make plans for a vacation six months from now. If you’ve been together as a couple for four months, you can commit to plans as far as four months in the future and no farther.

Good relationships for young adults
This follows from a general rule of young adult relationships. If your relationship isn’t fun and easy like 95% of the time, it’s just not worth it. Look, you’ve got no mortgage, no bills, no kids. Whatever stress you have is going to get worse. Seriously. If you’re not bringing out the best in each other and just having the best time ever practically all of the time, it’s not a good relationship for you. 

You are not responsible to save or help anyone else. It’s hard enough to take care of yourself in this world. You really don’t have to add to your stress by feeling responsible for someone else, especially if they have problems. Be a friend, if you must but take care of yourself first. If this relationship keeps you from your family, from having fun, having friends, you have to find a way out.

Again, your parents really care a ton about you. They truly want you to be safe and happy, and they really want to help. But I will also say that they don’t really want to know what you’re doing as much as you don’t want to know what they’re doing. They might want to know the overall big picture, but believe me, they don’t want details. Just imagine the tables turned and your Mom telling you the details of her love life. Yikes. You really don’t want to know. If you need your parents help, you have to find a way to describe what you need without completely freaking your parent out. Remember, your doctor can be a great resource instead of your parents and must keep any sexual information private.

Bottom line, real rule; don’t have sex unless you really, really, really want to, and if you do, use a condom. But even condoms aren’t perfect. Unwanted pregnancy is one of the most undesirable things that can happen to a person. What I say to my boys is, “Once you put a baby in someone, your decision making is over.” 

Truly. I’ve had a family devastated because their 17 year old son had unprotected sex with his girlfriend in a fit of unchecked hormone outburst. The very next morning, when he suggested they go to the pharmacy and but Plan B, the morning after pill, the 16 year old girl replied that she “didn’t want to hurt the baby.” In fact, they now have a baby, and their lives certainly had to change substantially and in unexpected ways. The point is, no matter what the boy, his parents, or even her parents wanted, this girl gets to make this decision. She has no clue, but she gets to make a decision that affects all those lives in a huge way. The impact is lifelong….college?...17 year old has to get a job to support a child?... and continue to support this child for the next 21 years…21 years!?!? 

And if a girl has a baby with a guy, that guy has the legal right to walk in her door for the next 21 years. Regardless of whether or not he helps out in any way, financially, emotionally or not, he has the right to come into your life to see his child. You might be 32 years old, a working, married mother with a whole settled, fun life and all of the sudden old knuckle head from that drunk bonfire can knock on your door. Your terrific husband has to let him in because he is the father of your 15 year old and he just got out of jail! OK, so that’s a little over the top, but you really have to think about whose baby you’re having.

And as an aside, if you want to get really freaked out, I had a patient who was married, had a three month old baby, and was a virgin. Shut up. Really. She was in her 20s and had a serious boyfriend and had kept her virginity. One day they were “fooling around” and he ejaculated (“came”) onto the outside of her vaginal area. One of those little spermies swam that extra six inches up the vagina and found an egg. She, of course, was so shocked when she finally realized she was pregnant, which took some time as she didn’t even realize it was a risk. (She had never had sex, after all.) The couple married. The baby was born by cesarian section. And she was still a virgin, because her mind got so messed up by the whole crazy turn of events, she couldn’t bring herself to have sex. Believe me, if I hadn’t seen it myself, I’d be hard pressed to believe it. Eventually, we got her to a place where she found her husband sexually attractive and rediscovered her own sexuality enough to go on with a normal full life. But see what I mean about an unplanned pregnancy. It can really create chaos and turmoil.

It’s a very personal decision, but I am very relieved to be living in a place and time where elective abortion is safe and legal. Vote.

Contraception- Condoms and more
Condoms do a fair job at protecting against pregnancy, but birth control pills, rings, patches and shots work better. Condoms can fall off or break. Don’t even think about the withdrawal method. Remember I said your body is ripe for baby-making in the teen years, well it will go so far as to trick you by sending a few sperm out before the big party. And we know it only takes one of those little swimmers to do the job. Talk to your doctor about your contraceptive options. (Not your friend whose mother works for a doctor, or is on the pill, actually talk to a medical professional. There are clinics for such things if you’re not crazy about talking to your doctor about this kind of stuff.)

Condoms also don’t protect against all sexually transmitted diseases. They just don’t cover all the parts that touch when you’re having sex, if you’re doing it right. I’ve seen people with warts on their tummies, and sores on the base of the penis and around the vaginal are; the parts that touch but wouldn’t be protected by a condom.

The best protection from STDs (I think they’re being called STIs, sexually transmitted infections, so people don’t feel bad about being “diseased”, but I don’t think you could really feel worse.) is, if you’re going to have sex, do it with people who are unlikely to infect you. That would require knowing a person well enough to pretty much know his or her sexual history or be close enough to talk about it. I’ve actually had someone say to me that she wanted to be tested for STIs because she didn’t know her partner well enough to talk to him about his past exposures. OK, so you get naked in bed with him, but can’t talk to him? Not an ideal relationship if you ask me, but I’m old. You should always be honest about your history from a health perspective. You can be vague. “I might put you at risk of an STI.” No further details are necessary. Only your partner can decide whether it’s worth the risk.

Condoms can be intimidating and really feel like they get in the way of sexual activity. I’ve had more than one patient tell me that they completely lost their erections just looking at the condom, even in the wrapper. My solution for that is 1.practice a million times by yourself till you are totally confident in your ability to put that sucker on, with one hand, in the dark, in 7.2seconds. (Not literally, but you get the idea.) 2.make sure you are really worked up before you attempt to use the condom with a partner. You know, when you get to that point where turning back does not feel like an option.

What is real sex
I’m told by my younger colleagues that my definition of sex is all wrong. But it’s not all that simple. The dictionary says sex is what one does to make a baby. But that means gay people aren’t having sex? What about the girl who’s had her mouth on every penis on the football team, but has left her vagina out of her sexual activities? She is still a virgin technically, but to me, not really emotionally or ethically. And the girl who gets raped but has never had a voluntary sexual encounter. Technically, not a virgin, but in my eyes she still is.

As an aside, many view rape as a crime of violence, not of sex. Saying rape is a sex crime is like saying that beating someone with a baseball bat is a sport crime. They are both crimes of violence, just using different weapons.

Back to the topic at hand, anything can be interpreted as sexual if the intention of intimacy or sexual release was there. And plenty of people say what they are doing, have done, isn’t sex, even though, as mentioned, you could make a baby by fooling around.
I get it that many people feel that sex is only when a penis and/or vagina is involved. Is only vaginal penetration sex? Is anal intercourse sex? Or is that only sex if it’s between guys and there is no vaginal option? 

It seems like there are so many other parts and activities that are so sexual that I hate to exclude them. And even with that many people don’t consider oral contact to a penis or vagina as sex; it’s oral sex, they say. Back to President Clinton. There are some who feel that oral sex is actually more intimate than intercourse. If two women spend time naked rubbing on each others’ clitoris till they both climax, but their vulva areas didn’t touch, doesn’t that sound like they had sex?

I feel like this is all a very personal and grey area. I really feel like it’s nobody’s business but your own and whomever you consider a potential sexual partner. It’s long overdue that we relearn the phrase, “It’s none of your business.” And “I don’t feel comfortable discussing that with you.” The phrases I really like are “What did you just ask?....I thought so.” And then don’t address the question at all. Or even “I’m not going to answer that question.” Some things should be allowed to be private, even encouraged to stay in confidence.

Another interesting comment in this conversation might be to question why a person would want to know a specific piece of information. “Are you a virgin?” can have all sorts of meanings and implications depending on who is asking. Feel free to not answer, and instead ask “Why would you want to know that?” Asking the question back to the questioner can really backfire. They might not have the sense or discretion not to answer. You are not obliged to answer personal questions even if the other person offers up his or her inappropriately intimate details. “I don’t need to know that about you at this point in our relationship and I don’t feel the need to share with you either.”

Keep in mind again that the internet can be an incredibly fast tool of dissemination of information, true or false. Be very careful what you share and with whom. Also keep in mind that information you hear about others might not be particularly true either. Be true to yourself and trust your gut.(…and your mother’s gut.)





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