It is time of groping and fumbling – and not all of it is in the dark. Much of the cobwebbed confusion that plagues the adolescent years exists in those teenaged minds as they try to come to grips with their own emerging sexuality. Because of the shroud of dark secrecy that has been flung over the subject, half-truths about sex tumble over self-delusions and jostle with antiquated falsehoods – adding to the turbulence of those troubled years.
‘Is withdrawal safe enough not to make me pregnant?’ ‘Is my penis too small to satisfy my girl – and me?’ ‘Will a sniff of cocaine take my ‘performance’ to the heights?’
Questions, questions… they abound in those perturbing pubescent years! And neither stretching your imagination nor asking your cleverest classmate provides satisfying answers. Or even the right ones! Below, a compendium of the confounding sexual myths that blight the teenage years – and the ‘whole-truth’ answers:
MASTURBATION IS SELF-ABUSIVE, A DIRTY WORD, IT MAKES YOU WEAK AND ADVERSELY AFFECTS SEXUAL ENJOYMENT
No other form of sexual activity has been has been more frequently (or secretly) discussed among teenagers, more roundly condemned by their parents – and more universally practised by both generations.
Some teenagers – both boys and girls – attribute anything that goes wrong – from acne to falling hair – to the fact that they masturbated, thus providing regular punishment for the enjoyment of a perfectly natural activity. What’s worse, ‘weakness’ has also been connected with masturbation. Finally, the semen is thought to be a very precious fluid of which each man has only a limited supply, and therefore its loss through masturbation, it is feared, may cause them to lose their potency.
Actually, the semen is just a glandular secretion and in a healthy male the testicles are capable of producing semen whenever required. However, a 25-year-old unmarried man who masturbated fears physical weakness and losing his potency – an illogical fear.
Many teenage girls, too, suppress the urge to masturbate because they fear it will hurt them, stop menstruation, retard breast growth, make them infertile, rupture the hymen or adversely affect their capacity for sexual enjoyment later in life.
Like boys, some girls also feel that the urge to masturbate is a sign that they are “abnormal” in some way. These disturbed feelings may manifest themselves in the form of psychosomatic symptoms like headache, giddiness, shivering and breathlessness. Some girls even worry that masturbating could make them pregnant. And if this feeling coincides with missed periods, which sometimes happens in the early menstruating years (because the hormones take time to adjust), they may even get neurotic and contemplate suicide. Sometimes it’s tension and worry that bring on amenorrhea.
However, the manual stimulation of clitoris does not cause any damage. Nor will manual stimulation of the vagina rupture the hymen.
Finally, there is nothing abnormal about masturbating unless it interferes with normal daily activities or becomes an obsession – what is abnormal is its unnatural suppression.
IT IS ABNORMAL TO HAVE SEXUAL FANTASIES
From adolescence on, fantasies become the order of the day – or night. The main reason fantasies are kept a closely-guarded secret is the fear of being met with disgust and contempt. In girls, they are at first usually romantic fantasies about dating idolized figures like movie stars, pop singers, models, teachers, doctors, etc. Sometimes, they are more explicit or ‘bold’, involving situations such as stripping and violent sex.
Among boys, the fantasies are more structured. They may mentally “size up”, feel and enjoy the parts of a girl’s body, and they often go to the extent of fantasizing the whole sexual act.
Such ‘pastimes’ involve the fantasizing teenager with acquaintances or friends in intimate sexual activities – which the dreamer would find unthinkable in reality, and certainly embarrassing, even hurtful, to reveal. In a girl any fantasies that involve her father or a father figure are nearly always severely suppressed.
It is natural for teenagers to fantasize about these in their immediate environment (family, school, college, neighborhood) because of their limited exposure to the outside world. In fact, to some extent, fantasizing is helpful in shaping a healthy sexuality, provided the young boy or girl is not obsessed with them to the extent that they interfere with normal life. Sexual fantasies are no more dangerous than any other kind of day-dreaming – which also shows an upsurge in adolescence.
GENITAL DISCHARGE ADVERSELY AFFECTS ONE’S HEALTH
From puberty on, most young men naturally have nocturnal emission (“wet dream”). This often happens when the mind has been sexually stimulated during the day, or on the other hand, because of an accumulation of sperm that needs to be released. Often, it is a combination of both. This induces a secretion of the prostatic gland – a secretion which serves a s a nourishment, a vehicle and a safety cover to the sperm. Many teenagers feel this discharge is abnormal and that it makes them weak and ill. This again, like the mourning of the loss of semen in masturbation, is not called for, since this emission is also just a glandular secretion.
In women, the nocturnal emission is not as profuse. It is much less, of a more watery consistency and manifests itself as a slight wetness, many girls feel embarrassed about it and some even say they feel weak. Actually, it is a sign of a healthy sexuality.
THE BIGGER THE PENIS/VAGINA, THE GREATER THE SEXUAL SATISFACTION
Many boys and girls have spent tense, tear-ridden early teenage years worrying about the adequacy of their sexual organs. Many young girls, after their first painful, even disastrous sexual experience, spend miserable months or even years trying to cope with the illusion that their vagina is ‘too tight’ or ‘too small’ to accommodate the penis. Most fears arise from ignorance about the working of the genitals. As with the male penis, during sexual stimulation the vagina also undergoes definite changes. The muscles of vaginal opening relax; secrete the vaginal fluid which serves as lubrication and, in proportion to the sexual stimulation, the depth of the vaginal cavity increases. Worry (arising from fears about the size of the vagina) will not allow these changes to take place. The resulting nervousness and anxiety render the vaginal muscles rigid and impenetrable. This leads to painful intercourse, setting the stage for a vicious cycle.
Among boys, most worries concentrate on the length, shape and other dimensions of their penis. Many feel that the larger the penis, the more powerful the sex drive and the greater the ability to achieve and maintain an erection. In fact, an abnormally large penis can cause a woman more sexual discomfort than pleasure. Also, penises which are small in the flaccid state increase in size far more than larger genitals during an erection. Besides, it is the upper third of the vagina that is most sensitive, and the upper two-third that dilates to hold the penis firmly. The lower third of the vagina, the ‘orgasmic platform’, does not dilate and so sexual satisfaction is unaffected if the penis does not reach there.
What’s more, it’s not the vagina that is the primary centre for a woman’s sexual sensitivity – it is the clitoris, located at the junction of the labia.
THE FIRST EXPERIENCE IS ALWAYS PAINFUL
Many girls get the impression – from books, friends and relatives – that the first sexual experience is extremely painful. The fact is that most first experiences are hasty and lack adequate foreplay. This inhibits sufficient vaginal lubrication and makes entry into the dry vagina painful. Besides, inadequate foreplay makes the girl less responsive and receptive and the teenage boy, in an attempt to assert his masculinity or dominance, may use force, making it even more painful for the girl. The vagina only becomes ready to accept the penis at a fairly advanced stage of sexual arousal and this is some time after it gets lubricated. An understanding partner can help to minimize the pain to a great extent.
SEXUAL ENJOYMENT CAN BE ENHANCED BY STIMULANTS LIKE DRUGS AND ALCOHOL
Millions of teenage boys have wasted their money buying various drugs in the hope of increasing phallic length, and the duration and frequency of the sexual act – in general, to enhance their sexual powers.
Women are not as interested in aphrodisiacs because, with them, emotions play a major role. Besides, most women see themselves as passive partners in sex. However, some girls do take drugs to increase their desire. The role of most aphrodisiacs is doubtful as desire has much to do with the state of kind. Some, like Spanish fly and mescaline, do work, but their side-effects are hazardous, sometimes even fatal. Drugs apart, many teenagers use alcohol as a sexual stimulant. In small quantities, alcohol does help reduce inhibitions and anxiety and thus heightens sexual arousal. But in larger doses because of its lulling effect on the nervous system, it decreases the sensitivity of the sexual organs and, later, the capacity to maintain an erection.
MENSTRUATION IS DIRTY
In earlier times (and even today in rural areas), a menstruating girl was expected to hide herself lest she contaminate everything she touched, get near the crops and ‘damage’ them or even sour the milk. She was also not allowed to bathe, wash her hair, swim, exercise or have sex.
Today, although these practices are rare, the feeling, consciously or subconsciously, persists that there is something ‘dirty’ about menstruation. And mothers, who have grown up in ignorance, often manage to convey this feeling even to their own teenage daughters.
The myth about menstruation being ‘dirty’ arises from ignorance, even among educated city-dwellers, about what it signifies. From puberty on, every 28 days, a woman’s uterus prepares its lining to receive fertilized egg. If an egg is fertilized, it implants itself in the wall of the uterus, marking the start of a pregnancy. If the released egg does not get fertilized, however, the lining begins to shed itself. The falling hormone levels lead to changes in the blood vessels of the lining – and the cellular debris is then discarded along with some blood, through the vagina. That is what menstruation is all about and, far from being dirty; it is a mark of womanhood and signifies a woman’s capacity to become a mother.
KISSING MAKES A GIRL PREGNANT
A 15-year-old girl was quite unnerved when a boy she was just beginning to like kissed her. Her parents had instilled in her that “associating with a boy in that way” could make her pregnant. When she coincidentally missed her periods (perhaps due to the tension), she got so paranoid she even considered suicide.
The fact is that kissing never made anyone pregnant – if it did, we’d have had a population explosion on our hands some centuries ago. Artificial insemination apart, the only way a man can make a woman pregnant is through sexual intercourse without contraception (or without fool-proof contraception).
A DEEP FRIENDSHIP WITH A PERSON OF THE SAME SEX MAKES YOU A HOMOSEXUAL
During adolescence there is a tendency to ‘gang up’ with friends of the same sex before entering into a healthy heterosexual relationship. At this time teenagers also develop a greater trust and sense of belonging with the peer group than with parents and elders in the family – it’s a natural assertion of an emerging self-identity. Many teenagers may then single out one person (of the same sex) whom they identify with – this is a healthy step in the progress to heterosexuality. In most cases, it is a passing phase. Of course, if this interest and closeness does not eventually transfer itself to the opposite sex, and if it is accompanied by aroused sexual feelings toward the friend, it calls for professional counselling.