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Let’s Talk About Sex

Growing up, I was taught there were three things one didn’t discuss in polite company: sex, religion and politics. Religion and politics can lead to heated arguments – just look at several countries around the world at the moment with very volatile political environments. As a respite from the politics, let’s talk about sex, baby.

Edit October 24, 2016: Judging by the comments below, it seems I may did have made clear my main argument, so I’ll be blunt. I’m hypothesising lack of sexual compatibility can result in love dying in a relationship. Lack of compatibility can be the result of lack of knowledge, lack of skill, lack of similar desires/needs and the societal repression of female sexuality. I specifically avoided the use of the word “love” in order to retain focus. There is no question that love + sex can and should be, well, mind-blowing!

My focus is the social repression of female sexuality and the lack of training/skill development generally. Sometimes I read articles that make my blood boil. I read one such article yesterday. Apparently, in 2016, it is still OK to send completely different messages to our young people.

He spoke to the girls about sex — and how they shouldn’t have it — in a mandatory assembly, during the school day, attended by all 350 female students. But he spoke to the boys about “dating tips” in a voluntary, after-school assembly attended by only 25 male students.


In response to a question, Henning explained that guys are sexual so the species won’t die out, while girls have a low sex drive so the planet will not get overpopulated.

Let’s look at some of our society’s “standards”. Young men are encouraged to “sow their wild oats” but girls are to be virgins when they walk down the aisle. A male fellow student of mine, a father in his mid-thirties, has completely different ideas about the allowable dating lives of his sons and daughters. Years ago my son ranted and raved at me for allowing my daughter’s boyfriend to stay over. “But”, I countered, “you are sleeping with your girlfriend!” His response? “That’s different.” How? That girlfriend was someone’s daughter! How did he develop that double standard? From society. Both son and daughter were adults by this stage.

Who, exactly, are these young men supposed to sowing their wild oats with? Each other? Because us women are all so busy protecting our virginity, after all – or at least not bedding too many partners….. We have sex education in some societies and some schools, but even then it focuses on the mechanics of how the male and female bodies work. I distinctly remember my own daughter coming home from school after sex education at about age seven or eight. The conversation went like this.

M: “Mum, we had sex ed today”.

Me: ” That’s good, dear.”

M: “Yes, but I’m confused.”

Me: “Why?”

M: “Well, we learnt the sperm comes from the man and the egg from the woman and together that makes a baby, but they didn’t tell us how the sperm and the egg meet.”

On the basis if a child is old enough to ask a question, they are old enough for an answer, I proceeded to explain, in the simplest terms I could, how the sperm and the egg meet. Her reaction? “Oh, Mum, that’s disgusting, they pee with that!” As she is now 37 and very happily married, I guess she has moved past her initial horror. I did explain the function of the prostate to her at the time! (Conversation shared with permission)

About 20 years prior I had also had sex ed at school. Not much had changed, I thought.

At no point in time do we instruct our young people how to have a good sexual relationship, how to make love well, how to enjoy sex. No, we are still too busy encouraging young men to sow their wild oats and women to refrain from being sluts. Not as blatantly as in the 1950s perhaps, but generally that undercurrent is still there, loud and clear. It is OK for males to enjoy sex, but not women. Yet we have no hesitation in draping scantily clad women over anything and everything to sell “stuff” – more mixed messages. An amusing look at that cultural proclivity can be found at The Huffington Post, “If Men Posed Like Motorcycle Babes”.

Many readers will be familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs


We teach our children how to cook, we toilet train them, we teach them to get enough sleep and drink enough water. Breathing and homeostasis really take care of themselves. But sex, the other basic physiological need? No, we ignore that. Heaven forbid we should actually provide any guidance to our young people on one of the most important aspects of their adult life.

Not only that, but society is effectively still repressing female sexuality. We still have double standards, we still have a culture that will blame rape victims for the way they dressed or because they were drunk which effectively is nothing more than excusing the rapist and buying into the very rubbish the lecturer cited above spouted: women have a low sex drive and men have a high sex drive. How about society considers some people have a low sex drive and some people have a high sex drive irrespective of gender. I can think of examples of all four situations I have known during my life.

I applaud the efforts to eradicate the rape culture we still seem to be saddled with and the efforts to hold rapists accountable for their actions irrespective of a woman’s dress. What I don’t see is society teaching young people how to be good lovers. Many young men get much of their “guidance” from porn movies, much more readily available today than pre-internet. Maybe they’d be better having a decent conversation with their father. Some do, but many don’t.

”In my private practice I had a 16-year-old girl who came in and said her 18-year-old boyfriend told her her vagina didn’t look like the images he saw on the internet.

Source: The Age

That’s a great start to a sexual relationship, don’t you think? That is an interesting article worth reading in full, even though a few years old now.

Teenagers are always usually highly embarrassed if their parents try to talk about sex, but isn’t that society’s fault? If we treated sex no differently to teaching young people how to cook or eat a balanced diet or get enough sleep, perhaps our young people would be better equipped to enter the adult world and find sexually compatible partners.

It has long been cited that when relationships start to breakdown, the sex stops. While I am not a psychologist, I’ve often wondered what comes first here, the chicken or the egg? Is it always the case other relationship dynamics fail first, or is it that the sexual compatibility isn’t there and that triggers other issues in the relationship? Could sex be the glue that may keep a relationship together? Remember, we are talking about a basic physiological need, according to Maslow. He didn’t publish gender specific hierarchies, however the following observation is noted:

Although Maslow (1970) did study self-actualized females, such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Mother Teresa, they comprised a small proportion of his sample. This makes it difficult to generalize his theory to females and individuals from lower social classes or different ethnicity. Thus questioning the population validity of Maslow’s findings.

Source: Simply Psychology

There are other aspects of Maslow’s theory open to question, outlined in the above article.

I am not the only one who has wondered.

Can sex kill a marriage? Absolutely. Problems in the bedroom can lead to deep dissatisfaction. A marital sex problem is like a canary in a coal mine — a warning alarm that danger lies ahead.

Source: The Huffington Post

One reason the author of the above article didn’t cite was simply lack of skill or sexual incompatibility (although Reason 6. comes close to the latter). Incompatibility can (not always) result from lack of skill, I suggest.

Think back to the very first time you had sex – did you really have any idea what you were doing, apart from the mechanics of the act? Feel free to share in the comments! We learnt as we went along. I may not recall the stats correctly but I have a recollection of reading, in my dim, dark, youthful past, that some 60% of women (at the time, it has improved) did not achieve orgasm. While it may be that some women are physiologically unable to reach orgasm, maybe with a little, oh, EDUCATION it might be possible for many more. Recently our modern imaging technologies have provided a much better understanding of the female clitoris. Bit bigger than many people think, huh?


Image source: Company handout.

The Guardian has a good article covering the details, “This is a 3D model of a clitoris – and the start of a sexual revolution“. The French will use this 3D model in sex education. Good. That’s a start.

There is a wealth of material out there to assist people, yet even so, many people don’t seek any guidance until after they’ve experienced a failed relationship or they blame other aspects for the relationship breakdown. Young people are unlikely to read a sex text book before they embark on a sexual relationship because we have created a society that finds such things embarrassing.

Individuals in a relationship can certainly learn from each other, but what if neither knows?

Incompatibility is a completely different issue. We are all different. Like different things, high, low, medium sex drive, morning versus night people, missionary versus the Kamasutra. Although certainly compromise is possible as in any aspect of life, if compromise has to be such that one person is no longer being fulfilled or enjoying the sex, this is likely to lead to relationship problems. If we didn’t send our young people out into the world with the belief that “it will be alright on the night” and everything will naturally fall into place, perhaps they could make more informed choices.

Sex requires energy. If the female in the relationship is working full-time, picking kids up from childcare, preparing dinner, doing the dishes, helping with homework and folding washing while the male catches up with the latest sport and news on TV, guess what? Said female is not going to have the energy for sex, irrespective of how much she may want it or need it or desire it. Suddenly it will become yet another task for the day and most likely just one task too many. None of us, male or female, have inexhaustible energy stores. It isn’t just the sexual skills we need in relationships, it is the knowledge around sex: ensuring the timing and environment is conducive is just one important aspect.

Imagine if we stopped treating sex as some great secret. Imagine if we actually treated sex as the normal part of life that it actually is, if we stopped preaching that females are somehow less sexual that males. Perhaps we could reduce the divorce rate. Perhaps we would eradicate or minimise the rape culture. Perhaps we would stop the victim blaming. Perhaps everyone could have a better sex life! The transition may take a generation or two, but surely it is time.

We won’t know unless we try.

Interestingly, some time after I published this article, I came across an article in The Guardian which discusses this very topic with an historical perspective. I found it very interesting: so might you! The Story of Sex: from Apes to Robots is a book written by a French academic.




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  1. townsvilleblog

    I’ve had sex a few times but it is nowhere near making love. Making love with someone you love is a precious thing, whereas sex can be had by two dogs on a street corner. When I was capable, my wife and I made love twice a week, every week. Now I’m too old and too ill to even think about it. I’d rather a good meal these days. But my memories are now precious.

  2. diannaart


    I believe it is a sign of maturity when one understands, fully, the difference between having sex and making love.

  3. abbienoiraude

    Had to keep checking the date on this post as well as the date on my computer to see if they correlated.

    21st Century???Pffft.
    What on earth has happened?

    My mother, born in 1920’s was told nothing. She married my dad and for 50 years had a passionate and amazing sex life. She wanted to pass that on to her three children. She talked coyly but honestly about how wonderful ‘climax’ was ( this was 1957-1970) and friends would come over after school and loved seeing my mum and dad canoodling in the kitchen with mum blushing and dad being sweet and sweeping her off her feet.

    Ergo I grew up with a pretty good understanding of the mechanics ( at 6 being taken to ‘mother and daughter’ night and mum offering to answer questions on the way home in the car) and the loving nature of sex.
    I never had sex. Was asked a couple of times and I declined and was offered by a girl I knew once, but knew I was hetero, so thanked her and declined.

    Finally meeting up with my best friend from high school after leaving home we ‘got together’ ( 21 C term for it).

    Finally married early 1970’s and had prolific love making 2/3 times a day ( he would come home at lunch times) and finally we had 3 children of our own. We could not stop making love. Our children would roll their eyes.

    I would hand over the book “The Joy of Sex” by the time they were 5 to look at the pictures and gradually they asked questions ( 1 boy 2 girls all treated equally). When they turned 16 they got a variety of condoms in their birthday presents and before leaving for uni were taken to doctors for medical check and off for the pill ( for the girls) and more info for the boy who said he didn’t need it thank you.

    What’s the problem? Where is the ’embarrassment’? Why the sexism? Why the gender divide re sex?

    One of my daughters made a huge mistake….marrying a male ( he is no man..turned out to be a control freak) who had absolutely zero interest in sex. Says he could go the rest of his life without it…would rather ride a bike. So to get their child she had to use peeing on sticks and saying ‘now’ and he would sigh and say ‘ok then’. Not one ounce of passion. She said; I can’t live like this…had child left after his controlling became so restrictive she shut down.

    I have a hundred and one stories people, family have told me over the years….All different, some sad, some ecstatically gorgeous, some painful, some horrific ( like rape in marriage…yup), some romantic but short lived, some ignorant and fumbling but loving…All different.

    I just did not know…this was still a ‘thing’..till reading this!
    Disgusting, ignorant, frustrating, sexist, misogynistic, anger making and plain stupid!

  4. Deanna Jones

    Loving your work, Robyn. I think the most pernicious lie is that women are less sexual than men. This drives rape culture because one of the primary principles of rape culture is coercion and the idea that women have to be strong-armed, or tricked into sex using a bunch of techniques that men have turned into a cottage industry teaching each other how to do. It is really galling to hear that a man in a position of authority over boys is disseminating this lie even now in 2016.

  5. Robyn Dunphy

    Townesvilleblog and diannaart – I agree with you both, however delving into the intricacies of love as well would have resulted in a book rather than an article. I specifically didn’t want to cloud the issue I was addressing today. Even so, there is no excuse in this day and age for repressing female sexuality.

  6. Robyn Dunphy

    abbienoiraude, thank you for your wonderful contribution to the discussion. Your mother is to be applauded, as are you, for educating your children.

    Deanna, thank you for your insightful contribution. You’ve said it way better than I could have.

  7. diannaart


    I can’t believe female sexuality remains an issue either. We (women) still get divided into slut, virgin or mother (married preferably).

    AND we are still fighting to keep the right over our bodies. Plenty of politicians still would love to slap abortion back into the criminal courts.

    I also believe we cannot address the reality of female desire without taking a forensic look at what aspires to be masculine – another book?

  8. Jan Dobson

    Such a simple matter yet such a complex subject, Robyn, covered very well. Since we’re spilling details, my ‘sex talk’ with my son & daughters (after ensuring they knew the mechanics & the risks) was
    1. Respect yourself & your partner
    2. Sex is an art, not a science. What works today may not work tomorrow or with a different person. Educate yourself (porn is not a how to guide but a little won’t hurt you either) & practice/experiment ’til it works for you.
    3. Respect your partner & yourself
    4. Respect……but a little humour won’t go astray, either

    Like your commenters, for me, sex & love are intertwined but for those for whom it’s not….not my business. It makes them, man or woman, no more or less entitled to my esteem; of no less or more value; no less or more morally upstanding. Violence, minors, manipulation, duress and exploitation have no place in a sexual relationship. Anything else, between consenting adults, should never be the subject of condemnation, ridicule or judgement.

    We are such strange creatures. Passion and pleasure is a taboo subject, yet brutality and cruelty are the subject of entertainment. :/

  9. Robyn Dunphy

    Jan, I too think love and sex are intertwined – essentially that is the importance – I think lack of sexual synergy can be one of the causes of falling out of love. Perhaps a too frequent cause in our society.

    I am not talking about “just sex”, I’m talking about relationships. I’ve added a paragraph at the top of the article for clarification.

    No, porn is not a “how to” guide because it is all about performance for the camera, rather than the pleasure of the participants – much of it has little intimacy and a lot of action, some of which borders on the unrealistic! Like you, I don’t abject to it either – except for the bad stuff.

    Love your last line: “We are such strange creatures. Passion and pleasure is a taboo subject, yet brutality and cruelty are the subject of entertainment.”

  10. Robyn Dunphy

    Diannaart – another book? Hmmmm – I think I’d need a psychology qualification to write such a book with any authority! Not sure personal life experience necessarily qualifies for authorship of a serious tome! And I DO think this is serious. If we look at the history of the place of women in society, it really is pretty shocking. Back in 2012 I wrote and although I might write it differently now, four years later, I’m still as stunned today as I was then by the history.

  11. wam

    sex is for procreation in all animals. Consequently the action of dogs is heavenly and compatible with the churches beliefs on the matter.(don’t know how that works in heaven but??)
    My dad put the education simply. So when I turned 13 he said:
    Son remember:
    ‘where you go in a baby comes out’.
    The church put women into context by god creating women with physiological and psychological flaws that render them unequal, untouchable and, in the religion of many cultures, unclean. At the same time the men and women of these churches can modify god’s creation with removal processes. The one to enhance sexuality and the other to diminish sexuality? Does anyone doubt that religion is by men for men?

  12. helvityni

    Robyn, sex is for doing ,not just for talking about, it’s as natural as eating, sleeping… Some countries/religions have made sex into a taboo subject, something to smirk and giggle about, something dirty and dangerous…

    abbienoirraude seems have gotten it right. 🙂

    It seems that we have gone too far away from the ‘natural’, and need to do some re-learning… 🙂

  13. Robyn Dunphy

    helvityni, exactly! We talk about eating and sleeping without fear, yet OMG, let’s just flounder around in the dark on sex. Now we do indeed need to do some re-learning. How and where do we start? In the home is the obvious answer, and some of the comments above indicate that happens in many cases – but clearly not enough or we wouldn’t have lectures such as the one I cited happening in “civilised” countries.

    Wam – don’t get me started on religion, we could be here for 12 months straight. Not only is religion “by men, for men” it is also for power over the masses.

  14. diannaart

    If only sex was as easy and natural as eating and sleeping.

    But. I like to have a say in how I express my sexuality, what I eat and when I get to sleep. I also believe all women and men have a right to their sexual integrity; to be treated with respect, to be valued and not commodified.

  15. townsvilleblog

    diannaartOctober 23, 2016 at 2:03 pm It has always been thus for me.

  16. townsvilleblog

    Robyn, I have never given a toss about what other people think, I was raised with morals and have only fallen once in 60 years, as for the male ego, I have never seen the sense in being a ‘bad boy’ or a nerd, or anything else. Perhaps at times I upset some with my frankness but I tell it the way I see it, and don’t conform to anyone else s model. Sex can be nice, but that niceness is amplified for me if I’m making love with a partner that I love.

  17. Team Oyeniyi

    Townesvilleblog, I wasn’t implying anyone not stick with their moral and values. I don’t disagree with your perspective, but then I don’t think our views are mutually exclusive. Do you?

  18. Robyn Dunphy

    Townesvilleblog, I agree with you – I wasn’t suggesting anyone compromise their values or beliefs. I don’t think your perspective and mine are at all mutually exclusive, rather more complementary in fact.

  19. diannaart


    I don’t believe monogamy is for everyone. However, I do believe this about successful long term relationships:

    A study by Karl Pillemer, a Cornell University gerontologist, reported on interviews with couples that had been together for 40 years or more, and gives an important insight into sex in the later years. It isn’t sex that makes a relationship grow and remain fulfilling over the years, but the quality of their emotional and caring relationship which maintains their sex life.

    Participants mentioned communication (about things big and small), genuine compliments, frequent acts of kindness and helping each other out, as significant factors which fed their intimate life. One of the comments I loved from this study is the idea that sex expands from focus on specific sexual acts to other intimate acts such as holding hands, or sitting together reading. “There’s a kind of quietness there that’s quite deep. It’s very fulfilling.”

    I also know that unprompted sharing of household tasks is a great way to create a good mood in the household. 🙂

    Even casual sex is better if the participants have a meeting of minds.

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