A recent publication, “The New Puberty” by journalist/author Amanda Dunn, asserts it is as if “talking about….burgeoning sexuality and reproductive capability….is shameful and a bit dirty”. Dunn claims “sexuality education happens on an ad-hoc basis, and flares into controversy more often than is necessary. Governments tread warily and so do schools. There is a strange cultural reticence behind this… and it’s high time we acknowledged how damaging that is and changed our approach…”

At the same time, many social and psychological experts decry the naked selfies texted by teenage girls and boys to each other and the deluge of ‘dicks’, size included, on diverse websites, especially Tinder. A plethora of porn is pervasive online with millions of viewers worldwide. Sex, the want, need and indulgence of it, now seemingly a fact of life in our modern social milieu.

The contradiction of sex being shameful and sought after online seems obvious, if not also problematic, as Dunn highlights how apparently earlier onset puberty for girls has “implications for their physical, social and emotional wellbeing,” with these implications not clearly understood, even acknowledged. If sex education is still shrouded in shame to be silenced, simultaneously as porn is embraced online, how can young people even hope to develop an intelligent and mature comprehension not just of their bodily changes, but their sexual feelings too?

As an adolescent 50 years ago, sex was indeed a ‘dirty’ word, and it is alarming that purportedly, little or no progress has occurred to shift social attitudes and educational programs to ensure young people today fully comprehend what is happening to them. This necessitates schooling in scientific knowledge and emotional intelligence so that young people understand the possible negative repercussions of naked portraits online among other things.

The apparent contradiction subsumes social norms still repress sexuality at the same time as so many people seem obsessed by it. The irrationality and nonsensical nature of this contradiction invokes a realistic challenge to resolve it.

If men are advertising their appendages online as claimed by psychology researcher at Federation University Australia, Dr Evita March: “Give men freedom to send photos to a woman and often it isn’t long before they send her a photo of their penis”, what does this behaviour say about men? Is dating a woman all about sexual engagement? And what of women’s response? In one perspective, it seems positive that sex is ‘out in the open’ but this openness seems proscribed by sexual mores that sully sex in so many ways.

Moreover, the release of the AHRC survey into sexual assault and harassment across all 39 universities with 30,000 students found “Overwhelmingly, men were the perpetrators of both sexual assault and sexual harassment.” This outcome suggests that men, married single or otherwise, are unable to control their sexual urges and lust as similarly appears with the sexual abuse by the clergy, among others.

These realities highlight sexual behaviour that is aberrant, harmful and hurtful, only reinforcing Dunn’s belief that we need to change our approach to sex for young people to enable them to mature responsibly and respectfully, as much to others as to themselves. Furthermore, an approach that embraces sex as other than shameful and dirty could eradicate much of the sexual malpractice in our society by so-called adults. The need for social discourse about sex seems imperative.

However, over five decades of my life as a heterosexual woman, I have rarely engaged conversationally about sex, certainly with more men than women, and unsurprisingly I never discussed my sexual desires or lustful longings with my parents as a teenager, likewise my sisters, girlfriends or boyfriends either. There was no sex education at school and no online porn, gleaning information from books, movies and TV shows to muddle through adolescence as unscathed as I could. Experience later taught me where people had failed.

A confusing and complex scenario about sex seems entrenched in our midst; so much blatant bravado yet also shameful if Dunn is right. There appears a lack of balance, even humanity, about the subject and if young people cannot talk about it within an empathic and understanding environment, how can they grow up to accept their feelings to mature into well-adjusted and sensible adults?

Social attitudes may now seemingly accept sex as part of the technological revolution but behind the screens are crass ignorance, arrant assumptions and juvenile naivety, common sense undermined by lascivious and lustful carnality that can only confuse. It is one thing to post pix of a dick or a boob, but it would be far more practicable and pertinent to initiate discussions about sex without controversy and conflicts.

Conversation is the challenge in our homes, schools and at play to elucidate our emotions and enrich our intelligence to engender a more sane, safe and sensible society for us all.