My parenting book When Good Kids Have Sex will be free starting Wednesday May 7, 2013 for five days. So sex is on my mind. Sex on your mind is arousing. Sometimes that is good, but sometimes it is unacceptable.
One of my homework assignments when teaching adolescent behavior at Columbia University was to tell my students to become voyeurs. Peeping Thomas and a Thomasinas. The actual assignment was to watch a couple making out in real life. Not hard to do in New York City and to be prepared next class to report the incident and you felt watching it.
“Disgusted.” “Annoyed.” “Wanted to tell them to get a room.” “Lonely.”
Very few connected that with the thought that watching someone make-out sexually aroused them. Feelings are tricky and desire is a feeling. But it is. For most people getting turned on in public by seeing others making out is unacceptable. I eventually dubbed such arousals Unacceptable Sexual Arousal or USA for short.
The admen know all about USAs. Why else do sexual images appear so often in advertisements The theory is the sexual images arouse, and create desire, not just for sex, but for the object being sold.
My human behavior guru Jerome Kagan, retired researcher and Harvard professor, notes that uncertainty blamed on someone else creates anger. He also notes that one of the major sources of uncertainty resides in situations that make us doubt our self worth. USAs create any number of uncertainties.
Think Burkas, honor killings, rape victims thought to have “Asked for it.” Think of a father’s anger at a daughter for dressing like a “slut.” Think of religions that make thoughts of sex mortal sins while venerating celibacy and virginity. Then think of impotent men not able to act on arousals. Think of men finding themselves a bit aroused by another man.
And woman are not exempt. Uncertainty about personal sexual desirability finds many women joining men in the all of the above blame games.
Lessor slings and arrows are part of the response to USAs, think of the gossip attached to prom queens by wall flowers. Think of those driven to suicide by being taunted publicly for having had sex or being gay or not being gay, but being called gay. Uncertainty about the self is often the roots of such behaviors of taunters.
EMotional fitness tips
Tip one: Properly naming feelings is key to not being bossed by them. Most of the people above are not aware of how USA is driving their behavior.
Think of the pornography hunters. They feel righteously indignant. Not that I favor pornography, but it dangers are over rated. Mental health professionals label hard core pornography pursuers as just as interested porno as those who watch it for their own pleasure. The mechanism at work in the chasers is called reaction formation. You want something, it is forbidden to have it, so you find a way to get it that is acceptable.
Tip two: Decode and do a reality check whenever you feel righteously indignant.
Tip three: Also decode unexpected angers, out of control urges to eat comfort food or indulge in spending sprees. Ask yourself if USA might be part of the picture.
Tip four: A satisfying sexual life makes you less likely to be aroused unexpectedly or unacceptably.
Tip five: Cold showers, warm baths, moving your body vigorously also dampen sexual arousals.
Tip six: Stop focusing on the unacceptable part of USAs. Nature wants us aroused, nature wants us to have joyous sex. What nature wants, however, is not what most of us act on. Behaviors are unacceptable, not arousals.
This one is for parents. The blossoming of sexual desire creates mega doses of uncertainty. Think of the embarrassment a boy might feel getting an erection that others might see. Or think of how girls fear their period might become public knowledge.
USA is one of the reasons, teens need to distance from parents. Hugs that were once enjoyable have become dangerous. Love and lust have not been sorted out, so a parent’s hug or kiss might arouse and that is USA at work.
For more advice and help with a teen’s emerging sexual desires my When Good Kids Have Sex is free on kindle starting Wednesday, May 8th and running for five days. You do not need a kindle to read it, you can use’s Amazon Kindle app to down load it to your computer or cell phone.
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Finally for all you do to support me and to bring kindness to our world. thank you.
The first and most important: Emotional Fitness Training is a self-help, knowledge sharing, coaching program. It is not therapy. Nor does it replace therapy when therapy is needed. If the exercises and support provided here do not help you gain control of negative feelings, is needed. Support groups, coaching, and therapy are other paths to emotional fitness.
Anyone with suicidal thoughts, thoughts of harming other people, or who engage in dangerous out-of-control behaviors needs professional help. Anyone with serious suicidal or homicidal plans need an immediate psychiatric evaluation. Call a suicide hot line if you are unsure of where or how to get help. Suicidal hotlines USA. Life can be better.
The second: I have dysgraphia, a learning disability that peppers my writing with mis-spelling and punctuation errors. All my books are professionally edited. Not so my blog post. Although I use all the grammar and spelling checks, mistakes slip by. If they bother you, seek another source of support for life’s less savory moments. Life is too short to let problems you can avoid irritate you.