Why might we be misinformed about human sexuality?


Quick summary: Why might we be misinformed about human sexuality? I will isolate some themes to help people to understand why our at times distorted view of sexuality is actually quite understandable given the circumstances. 

We talk more about interesting story lines – I go skiing quite often and I have some stories that my friends have probably heard a few times… it seems that the stories I tell most often were either the really bad days – “I got way out of bounds and had to hitch hike back to the mountain”… “I tore apart my left shoulder” etc. the other stories are the really good days … “I hiked up in the middle of the night and had a fresh powder run under a full moon”… “Vail pass was closed and I had the whole day with zero people from the Front Range and two feet of powder” etc.

–         It is normal human behavior to tell stories that are abnormalso the sex stories that you hear from your friends, family, or from the media are probably more often the awesomely good or the particularly bad stories – we therefore don’t get to hear about everything in-between – which can distort our perspectives about what sex is like most of the time.

Education is very limited considering the frequency of the Activity – How many hours did you spend reading and sitting in class learning about chemistry or history or calculus?… now how many hours in a month are you involved with any of those subjects? How many hours have you spent reading and sitting in a class concerning human sexuality? How many hours a month are you involved with that subject?

–         Where are we getting out knowledge about human sexuality from… is it a trusted source?

–         What is our reference point for deducing whether or not what we hear in the media is accurate? It is easy for many of us to point out a flaw when a subject is being presented that we know something about (ex. if you watch a movie and your profession you can generally say if the actor is doing something that is not normal), it is more difficult if you do not have a good reference point.

Porn –though we don’t talk about sexuality – many people are watching porn. Porn is not always bad in relation to human sexuality – there is a degree of benefit at it relates to technique (though much of the technique is adjusted for the camera), experimentation, and exploring different types of arousal etc – but if the only sexual education that is widespread in our country is coming from pornography then we are missing the emotional and spiritual components of the activity (the medium can also have a negative effect on how women are viewed and treated). 

Cultural constructs or rules – in many cultures it is inappropriate to talk openly about human sexuality or human anatomy in general. – This can make it hard and/or inappropriate to share important information.

If no one talks about something then it can be awkward to talk about – would you be comfortable saying words such as vulva, vagina, scrotum, or penis in a classroom filled with your peers? Even if you were comfortable, how many people in the classroom would feel a bit awkward?

There seems to be a belief that if you don’t talk about sex then our youth will not engage in the behavior – withholding sexual education and promoting abstinence practices (without sexual education) – can actually increase risky sexual behavior and unwanted pregnancy (if the youth do not understand human reproduction it makes sense that they will be less able to avoid it. This practice also creates an unwanted consequence being a teenager believing that –“it is not safe for me to talk with my parents or to adults about certain subjects so I will get my information from my friends”).

Liability issues and the few ruining it for the masses – unfortunately child abuse, sexual harassment, and sexual abuse are real problems in this country.  The unintended effects of protecting our communities from perpetrators is that we can be hyper suspicious of those who are not perpetrators. Because of this many people have no interest is offering education on human sexuality as doing so can pose a huge liability issue.

Institutionalized Sexism – Much of the early science on human sexuality was distorted in that the work was done solely by males – many of whom had a fairly overt bias. Justice and equality for females in something that we are still striving for in this country… it was not that long ago in our history that woman began to have a greater influence on the literature pertaining to human sexuality – as such there is still a whole lot that the scientific community does not know.

The nature or nurture (biology or learned) issue concerning human sexuality is indeed confusing – it is hard to arrive at what aspects of our sexuality are related to learned behavior and agreed upon social beliefs – and what aspects are more related to our biology.


William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.
William Hambleton Bishop
William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

8 thoughts on “Why might we be misinformed about human sexuality?

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