Few things make me as anxious as getting an e-mail from kid or young teen asking specific questions about sex. Usually the questions aren't direct. The first e-mail typically reads: "Can I ask you a personal question?" "Personal" almost always means "sexual."
Kids have the right to honest answers about sex, but I'd be crazy to be the one to provide those answers in an e-mail, especially when I have no idea whether the person writing to me is an eleven-year-old boy in Milwaukee or an FBI agent in Manhattan. (Paranoid? You bet!)
In general I don't answer e-mailed questions about sex. Sometimes I've responded in brief with my views about how young is too young to have a sexual relationship. And on occasion I've provided links to web sites for teens that include information about the importance of responsible and safe sexual behavior. But it's not like I haven't written about sex.
I wrote a whole chapter on the subject in my book for teens What If Someone I Know is Gay? So for all those teens who have written to me with their questions and weren't happy with my less-than-forthcoming response, here's the question about sex that I'm asked most frequently and the answer from my book.
How do gay and lesbian people have sex? What do they do?
This is often the question that many young people (and adults, too!) are most curious to have answered. One twelve-year-old girl recently e-mailed me asking if gay people try to have sex. I thought for a moment about what she was asking and realized that given what she knew from her fourth grade sexual reproduction class, sex between two men or two women just didn't seem to make sense. Without a penis and vagina, she wondered, how could gay and lesbian couples have sex? Well, if you think of sex only as penis-in-vagina sexual intercourse, then gay and lesbian couples don't have sex. However, this is not the only way to define sex.
There are many things that gay and lesbian couples do to give each other sexual pleasure. Depending upon what the couple likes to do and what makes them feel good, they may choose to: kiss and cuddle, caress each other's body, touch each other's genitals, and engage in oral or anal sex. Female couples may use a dildo--an object that's shaped like a penis--to penetrate each other, or they may touch each other's genitals with their hands and mouths.
Of course, there are important responsibilities for people to consider even before they begin a sexual relationship. Caring and responsible people take steps to reduce the risk of getting or passing along HIV or another sexually transmitted disease (more on that later in this chapter). And if the couple includes a man and a woman, it's extremely important to know about birth control and to do what's necessary to avoid an unplanned pregnancy.
For teens--both straight and gay--who are looking for far more information about sex and sexuality than the above, I highly recommend Doing It Right by Bronwen Pardes.