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St. John ’ s Counselling Service Well-Being Series. Sex and the Teenage Brain: “ Do We Really Have to Talk About This Now? ”. Dr. Mark L. Gandolfi, PhD, MSc, MS Executive Director – St. John ’ s Counselling Service. Disclaimer . . .

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st john s counselling service well being series

St. John’s Counselling ServiceWell-Being Series

Sex and the Teenage Brain:

“Do We Really Have to Talk About This Now?”

Dr. Mark L. Gandolfi, PhD, MSc, MS

Executive Director – St. John’s Counselling Service

Disclaimer . . .

Tonight’s presentation on sexuality is by no means ever intended to offend, disrespect, replace and/or disregard the religious, spiritual, cultural and/or family values you may have on this subject matter.

The intent is to share with you one view point among many about a topic that affects us all: sexuality. The myths, the misunderstandings, the bad science, the ineffective health care policies, the lack of accurate information and engaging resources are many challenges we face in educating our children on sexuality.

We hope tonight’s presentation answers a few questions, increases your clarity in guidance and further strengthens the health and happiness of your child.

what we will not discuss tonight
What we will not discuss tonight . . .
  • Laws of Attraction (multiple theories: instinctual, preferred and learned)
  • Sexual Orientation (heterosexual, gay-lesbian, bisexual, asexual, transgender)
  • Date Rape – Sexual Harassment – Sexual Discrimination
  • Birth Control for Teens (male AND female)
  • Teen Pregnancy, Abortions and Miscarriages
the elevator music 1960 s
The elevator music: 1960’s . . .

The Song: I’m Saving Myself for Marriage

The Whisper: only a “slut” would have sex before marriage

Sex and Education?: can you repeat the question again? It simply did not happen in most education environments

Sex and the Media: except for the rare “underground blue movies” that were hard to find, beyond the passionate kiss in a love scene outside a bedroom, you did not see a bra strap, or for that matter, a breast

Sex and Teenage Pregnancy: the highest rates for teenage pregnancy were seen in the 1960’s, typically the time period researchers use to benchmark/compare teenage birthrates and abortions over the subsequent decades

Sex and Promiscuity: research sporadic, best estimate 15% of teens had sexual intercourse

the elevator music 1970 s
The elevator music: 1970’s . . .

The Song: If You Can’t Be With The One You Love, Love The One You’re With

The Whisper: “nice” girls also have sex

Sex and Education?: can you repeat the question again? It still did not happen in most education environments. Educators, politicians and others still believed that sex education would make our teenagers horny, out-of-control and partaking in Roman orgies

Sex and the Media: known as the “Sexual Revolution” period, birth control, sex before marriage, mini-skirts, foul language in movies and more relaxation with nudity in movies forever changed America’s (and eventually other countries) landscape

Sex and Teenage Pregnancy: 13 – 15 y/o’s still remained at high rates whereas other teen age groups starting to decline.

Sex and Promiscuity: Number started to grow, high as 40%

the elevator music 1980 s 1990 s
The elevator music: 1980’s- 1990’s . . .

The Song: Abstain, Abstain for Anything Else Will Cause Pain

The Whisper: are you on the “pill?”

Sex and Education?: to appease those who believed sex education was “normal” and not harmful, Sex Education 101 was basically anatomy and physiology, Sex Education 102 was abstain, abstain

Sex and the Media: known as the “Safe Sex” period, STD’s and AID’s were the focus followed by the various feminist movements that gave women more say and control over their bodies

Sex and Teenage Pregnancy: pregnancy trends became replaced with STD and HIV trends. The fear of getting pregnant because of sex before marriage was now replaced with “since you are going to do it anyway before marriage, please take precautions!”

Sex and Promiscuity: The numbers of teenagers having sexual intercourse climbed closer to 49%

the elevator music the digital era
The elevator music: The Digital Era . . .

The Song: Sext Me Up Baby Like A Love Song Baby

The Whisper: do you want to hook-up?

Sex and Education?: Not only do we need to better understand what to teach in sex education, but more importantly, how

Sex and the Media: It’s everywhere . . .

Sex and Teenage Pregnancy: Continues to drop each year for many reasons, birth control and sex education being main causes. “Combating” teenage pregnancy is on of 6 top activities for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Sex and Promiscuity: the growing concern is that 40% of teens felt pressured, coerced and/or under the influence of drugs or alcohol when they had their first intercourse

sexuality and the internet
Sexuality and the internet . . .

What we do know:

  • 14 – 17 y/o females are the fastest and largest growing internet porn user groups and internet addicted groups
  • Teenage males who watch violent porn have a greater than 70% chance of acting out those scenes with their girlfriends
  • Random samplings of internet porn show females being the victims of aggression (spanking, gagging, slapping) over 85% of the time
  • Teenage males who experience over-exposure to “hard core” porn and masturbate are at a greater risk for sexual dysfunctionality issues as adults
  • And more . . .
sexuality and the smart phone
Sexuality and the “smart” phone . . .
  • One out of seven teens have either sent or received a sexually explicit text message or photo on their cell phone
  • If a person sends a naked picture of an underage male or female he or she can be arrested and placed on a Sex Offenders Register in certain countries (Australia has a law where you can go to jail for 15 years)
  • Females who commit sexting are at a 40% risk of developing risky sexual behavior, mood and anxiety disorders, STD’s, . . .
  • Kids and teens who commit sexting also run a risk of having their pictures uploaded to the internet, being blackmailed or being the subject of online stalking (forever lasting digital footprint)
  • And more . . .
sex drugs and rock n roll
Sex, drugs and rock-n-roll . . .
  • Male teens who use drugs (alcohol IS A DRUG) have a 40% greater chance of being sexually active, for girls it is DOUBLE the risk (in other words if your daughter drinks or smokes pot there is a 80% chance she is/was/maybe sexually active!!!)
  • Drugs (alcohol the primary drug) is the trigger for 30% of teenage pregnancy and 90% of the reason why teens have multiple sex partners
  • Doing drugs causes over 75% of teens to “forget” to use condoms or birth control when having sex
  • Drugs is the primary cause/trigger for date rape and sexual violence in the teen world
  • And more . . .
quick note
Quick note . . .

Teen Drug Use:

Marijuana use up 80% since 2008

1 out of 10 teens smoke pot 10 times a month

Teen Drug Addiction: 8%

Focus in this age group now is on drugs and alcohol , it is only a matter of time the digital issue will cross over

The largest age group for drug abuse and drug addiction is the 13 – 17 age bracket – not the unemployed adult!

Internet abuse and internet addiction is rapidly taking over as the “drug of choice” for many teen brains around the world.

East Yorkshire has a 8 year old boy in care for regular heroin use

First Drug Use (number of initiates)

Hospital in Lancashire recently had two infants (24 months old) admitted for alcohol intoxication





Older Adult

myths and realities
Myths and Realities . . .

Sex education may be a good idea in the schools, but I don't believe the kids should be given homework.

Bill Cosby

You cannot have sex education without saying that sex is natural and that most people find it pleasurable.

Bruno Bettelheim

Abstaining . . .
  • Total Abstinence: refrain from all sexual activity (holding hands, hugging, cuddling, kissing, fondling, masturbation, oral sex, intercourse and other acts . . .)
  • Intercourse Abstinence: maintain one’s virginity at all costs but go ahead and be sexual in other ways (holding hands, hugging, cuddling, kissing, fondling, self- masturbation, oral sex, and other acts . . .)

Study released by the U.S. Department of Health showed abstinence programs were ineffective, non-empowering and counter-productive for teens

risk taking
Risk-taking . . .
  • The mantra’s have changed over the years that sexuality is a “disease and social health issue” by way of teenage pregnancy then Sexually Transmittable Diseases (STD’s) then HIV and now HPV
  • Trying to convince teens sexuality is all about risk-taking instills fear, does not spend enough time on healthy sexual practices, and avoids the topic that sexuality is normal and pleasurable

It is a normal teenage developmental process for the first crush, the first date, the first kiss, the first puppy love, and yes . . . . the first time trying sex.

Puberty . . .
  • Long-held myth is that boy’s are the late bloomers but the first ejaculation of sperm (spermarche) can actually start as early as infancy and penis fondling as early 2 – 3 years old. Too early of maturation causes a greater risk of assertiveness and risk-taking
  • Girls start puberty earlier than boys is a long held myth but their first menstrual cycle (menarche) isn’t until usually the age of 8 or later, pregnancy is biologically possible but the ovulation and menstrual cycle can be irregular for years. Too early of maturation causes a greater risk of mood-anxiety issues and body image-self esteem themes

Not only does puberty start earlier with each generation (some studies show by 2 weeks with each generation), we must also understand that a body may be fully mature by the age of 18, the psycho-social development of a person does not stop until 23 -25 years of age

battle of the sexes
Battle of the sexes . . .
  • “Raging hormones” stories over generations implies boys just want sex then a relationship, hence parents need to “rein in” their lustful sons
  • “Raging hormones” stories about girls implies females just want to fall in love then sex, hence parents need to “protect” their dreamy daughters

There are far more similarities than differences between the male and female brains. Many argue that the differences we do see in sexuality is more of a learned behavior than an instinctual one

the lingering question
The lingering question . . .

We now know more about the human brain (especially the teen brain) in the last 5 years than the past 2,000 years combined,

We find the money and keep spending (more) money on health care education and prevention each year (sometimes as much as 15% of a country’s GDP) and we now have a new profession dedicated to this called health psychology,

Yet we highlight each year how almost universally 40% of teenage males don’t use condoms, 79% of females don’t use birth control, 25%of teenage females will experience an STD, 8,000 female teens contract HIV each year, and less than 40% of teens ever get tested for STD’s,

so why are we not winning this war? Why?

case by case answers are
Case by case answers are . . .
  • No universal standard on sex education, NONE
  • Just because you can “make a kid” doesn’t mean you can teach about it (sex)
  • Conflict between religion, society, family values and the individual
  • Media has it overtly or subliminally in over 80% of TV shows, the web, books and movies
  • It’s everywhere on the web, EVERYWHERE
  • We make kids learn more at an earlier age in academics, it was only a matter of time before they learned (usually without parents) about sex earlier as well
  • Tremendous challenge to tell someone to not do something or stop doing something when it feels good, FOLKS SEX DOES FEEL GOOD TO THE TEEN BRAIN
  • And more . . .
universal number 1 answer is
Universal number 1 answer is . . .

We educate way too late

  • Start at age 8 BEFORE sexuality (and drugs) become an issue
  • Parents receive training FIRST before they educate their kids

We stop educating way too soon!

  • Once a year talk with a guest visitor is NEVER enough
  • Sex education should be a regular and standard part of a child’s education
universal number 1 answer is1
Universal number 1 answer is . . .

We educate way too late

  • Start at age 8 BEFORE sexuality and drugs become an issue
  • Parents/schools receive training FIRST before they educate their kids
  • Web sites are endless that falsely promote “how to use drugs and do sex safely”
  • Over 60% of kids who we see in counselling say they learned about sex first from the web or friends, not their parents
  • Need to learn at an early age not only how to say no (boundaries), but also how to inform and talk with parents openly on these issues
universal number 1 answer is2
Universal number 1 answer is . . .

We stop educating way too soon!

  • Once a year talk with a guest visitor is NEVER enough
  • Absence of symptoms (STD’s, pregnancy, boyfriend) does NOT mean you let your guard down
  • Scaring kids doesn’t work (e.g. nobody will marry you if you’re not a virgin - kids will usually say “nobody is a virgin anymore, guess no one is getting married”)
  • Educate kids with the facts about ALL areas of sexuality at an age relevant curriculum
  • Sitting in a classroom is not enough, field trips and guest speakers can create an impact (we hope a lasting one!)
Disclaimer . . .

I have never thought about my sexuality being right or wrong. To me it has always been a case of finding the right person.George Michael

Sex education has to do with what's in people's head.Donna Shalala

all this talk about sex has me well confused
All this talk about sex has me, well, confused . . .

In other words,

what is



one way teens describe sex
One way teens describe sex . . .
  • Outercourse: This involves two people either masturbating each other or rubbing against each other with at least some clothes on. The penis doesn't penetrate the vagina or anus. Outercourse carries little risk of pregnancy (it can still happen!) and only a negligible risk of disease.
  • Oral sex: This includes fellatio, where the penis is stimulated by the partner's mouth, and cunnilingus, where the vagina receives oral stimulation. Oral sex carries the risk of transmitting disease but not the risk of pregnancy (it can still happen). Some people don't consider "oral" as sex, but it is.
  • Anal sex: This occurs when the penis penetrates a partner's anus. Though there is no risk of pregnancy (it can still happen), anal sex carries a very high risk of disease transmission.
  • Intercourse: Intercourse is when a male puts his erect penis into a female's vagina. It carries the risk of both transmitting a disease and leading to an unintended pregnancy.
another way they describe sex
Another way they describe sex . . .
  • Hooking Up: to engage in any type of sexual activity, from kissing to intercourse
  • Fuck Buddy: a sexual partner with no emotional commitments
  • Double Rainbow: an orgasm
  • Friends with Benefits: friends by day, sexual participants at night
  • Scooping: fondling and touching underneath a person’s clothes all genital areas
  • Getting Georgia: refers he/she will have oral sex with someone
  • And thousands of others . . .
another way they talk about sex
Another way they talk about sex . . .

CIP – [Put Your] Cellphone In PantiesCU46 – See You For SexCULKN – Home AloneDL – Down Low (an African -American looking for homosexual sex)DUM – Do You Masturbate?

FWB – Friends With Benefits (casual sex)

GEN – Generous, i.e. someone who pays for sexGNOC – Get Naked On Cam

H4T – Hot For TeacherHHST – Horny High School Teacher

LRJO – Locker Room Masturbation

S4HW – Sex for Homework

And thousands of others . . .

what my hk kids have said to me
What my HK kids have said to me . . .

what is sex:


It says you are gay or straight

It has to do with my body

Sat virgin or not

It’s awesome and feels good

Only place I find human connection

It leads to a relationship

It keeps a relationship

It’s expected in a relationship

And so many more . . .

sex is
Sex is . . .
  • The gender of a person (the ultrasound it’s a says she’s a girl!)
  • An act of pleasure conducted either alone and/or with another person involving the penis, vagina, breast, and/or rectum with possibly more than one other parts of a body (hand, mouth, . . .)
  • A regular activity done in a relationship (marital, partnership, friendship, . . .)
  • A measurement tool for marital-relationship status
  • The natural way to make a baby (versus “test tube babies”)
  • Part of a person’s identity (priest is celibate, she is a virgin)
  • It’s a means to an end (orgasm)
  • It is a cognitive then physical and emotional brain activity
  • And others . . .
sexuality not sex is what we should be teaching
Sexuality, not sex, is what we should be teaching . . .

We have long too often focused on “sexual trends” and those societal factors that influence the trends, yet we have spent little time and effort understanding how to parent and educate an adolescent brain in areas of teenage sexuality within personality development.

Teenagers more than ever are being presented with sexual stimuli (societal-cultural norms, art, music, movies, books, Internet, etc) in their daily lives but receive little to no to inadequate preparation to behave responsibly in a sexual environment.










sexuality not sex is what we should be teaching1
Sexuality, not sex, is what we should be teaching . . .

Once values have been taught, we then proceed with teaching SELF-IMAGE (sense of sense and self-esteem) topics to further develop their sense of self-control and self-monitoring behaviors.

We must FIRST and foremost start with teaching kids about VALUES. When teaching kids about values we provide each and every one of them a sense of identity, purpose and guidance.










special topics of sexuality
Special topics of sexuality . . .

When teaching special topics within sexuality, one primary goal is to improve communication skills with the teenager and the caretakers of that teenager to enhance physical and mental well-being.

When teaching special topics within sexuality, another primary goal is to improve self-delaying gratification behaviors with the teenager and the caretakers of that teenager to enhance physical and mental well-being.

special topics for sexuality
Special topics for sexuality . . .

Adolescence is one of the most important personality development periods for the human brain, unfortunately, it is also a time where teens may experience gender confusion (which gender do they prefer sexually).

Adolescence is one of the most important personality development periods for the human brain, unfortunately, it is also a time where teens may experience bi-gender sexual experiences (kissing boys and girls).

the problem

Before one can properly address a problem, there must be a clear understanding of the puzzle. The puzzle in sexuality education is the person, the problem in sexuality education is lack of knowledge.

resources for parents
Resources for parents . . .
  • Advocates for Youth: Parents Sex Ed Center
  • Adolescent Health Working Group: Resources for Parents/Caregivers
  • American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children Website
  • Planned Parenthood Tools for Parents
thank you
Thank You