Sexuality in adolescents

Sexuality is a dimension of the human being that comes standard. We are born sexed. From the first days of life we ​​begin to explore our body, and progressively we build increasingly complex aspects in relation to conceptions and beliefs.

At each stage of our development, sexuality has different manifestations. However, it is curious that something so fundamental and pleasant for people in general, can often become a major source of frustration. The reason for this is the lack of proper sexual education.

Preliminary clarifications on sexuality

  • The sex are the physical and biological characteristics (organs, hormones, chromosomes …) defining living organisms (humans, animals or plants) as “female” or “male”. There are also different intermediate conditions, intersex (formerly called hermaphrodites or pseudohermaphrodites).
  • The genre , however, are the socio-cultural aspects of sexuality, that is, if you feel male or female. It has to do with behaviors, thoughts, attitudes, values ​​and roles associated with each sex in a given society. It is created between 2 and 5 years.
  • The sexuality, however, is a much broader term that has to do with factors biological, psychological, socioeconomic, cultural, ethical and religious / spiritual . It includes various aspects, as we will see later: gender, sex and gender identities, sexual orientation, eroticism, affective bonding, and love and reproduction.
  • Eroticism is the way in which all of the above is expressed, what we are and what we live. It is the way of acting, feeling, communicating, giving and receiving, the way in which people, as sexed beings, relate to themselves and to others (caresses, kisses, words, etc.).

Other concepts you should know about sexuality

The sexuality is not a (white / black) dichotomous issue in any of its dimensions. Therefore, all the terms that we will discuss below have to do with continuums between two extremes that include many shades of gray in between.


Gender identity

It is how the person feels on the male-female continuum, how his mind interprets who he is. It has nothing to do with biological sex. In the central part of the continuum would be genderqueer or non-binary gender, which would include people:

  • Agender : does not identify with any gender. It is considered null gender identity.
  • Biggender : he identifies himself as a man and a woman, altering his gender to adapt to different circumstances.
  • Trigender : he identifies himself as a man, as a woman and as a third gender (neither: it can be null gender, male-female combination or others) to adapt to different circumstances.
  • Fluid gender : It can be identified with any of the previous identities, but it oscillates in different periods of time.
  • Panggender : identity in which all identities come together, although in a fixed and non-variable way as in fluid gender.
  • Sexual identity : judgment of one’s body figure (man / woman) based on biological and aesthetic characteristics. Sex and gender are not always aligned.
    • Cisgender: biological sex and gender match.
    • Transgender : biological sex and gender are different.

    Gender expression

    It is the way in which the gender is shown, eg how the person dresses or behaves. It is based on traditional forms of gender. At one end would be the feminine, at the other end the masculine and in the middle the androgynous.

    Sexual orientation

    Define who you are attracted to (physically, emotionally, spiritually, and romantically) and the intensity of that attraction. The continuum includes several options:

    • Heterosexual : you are attracted to people of the opposite sex.
    • Bisexual : you are attracted to women and men alike.
    • Asexual : does not feel sexual attraction to any sex or gender.
    • Pansexual : You are attracted to people, regardless of their sex or gender.
    • Homosexual : is attracted to people of the same sex.

    It should also be noted the difference between behavior and sexual orientation. E.g. a person can be bisexual but only have sex with the opposite sex due to social conventions.
    Thus, as mentioned, the options are several within each of the dimensions discussed, but the possibilities in sexuality are even greater if we combine the different dimensions. We call this sexual diversity . The options are endless and that variability is precisely what gives our species richness. For example, a person can be born biologically male, but feel like a woman and therefore be transsexual, but at the same time have a masculine expression and be attracted to women.

    What is the OBJETIVE?

    The most important thing is to promote sexual health . This is not just the absence of dysfunction or disease. It has to do with the free and responsible expression of sexuality to generate personal and social well-being . For it to happen, it is necessary to recognize and guarantee people’s sexual rights.

    What can parents do about adolescent sexuality?

    Adolescence, as a transition between childhood and adulthood, is a period of particular personal vulnerability since the own identity is being built. It seeks to be the same (to belong) but at the same time to be different. This is the time when parents must trust their children to put into practice the learnings they have been taught so far and use them, along with new learning, to solve the challenges of their age. What can be done as parents?

    • A healthy sexuality is based on a healthy affectivity . It is important to establish the foundations for a good attachment and to promote assertiveness.
    • Talk about sex from children, in a way adjusted to each age. Normalize and leave taboos aside.
    • Note that any orientation, identity or expression is just as valid. Show your child, above all else, an attitude of respect and unconditional acceptance. Put aside prejudices .
    • Always use inclusive language, not stigmatizing.
    • Listen . Stop making monologues and encourage dialogue. Be receptive to solving any questions or guide the person who can do it. Opening.
    • Anticipate possible difficulties and teach to face difficult situations.
    • Dismantle myths or false beliefs.
    • Do not approach sexuality as something immovable . There may be changes in both preferences and intensity.
    • Do not attempt against the privacy of your child . It is important that the questions are open and that they lead to comfortable situations, provided there is a healthy and responsible sexuality.
    • Reinforce that you have your own criteria , that you differentiate what you want, and that you mark limits, that you do not do anything you do not want to do. Having your own personality implies not being carried away by the peer group or by fashions.
    • Make sure that social media and internet use is appropriate for their age. There are new forms of harassment through technology (sexting, grooming, etc.) or spreading false or sexist information that could destabilize the adolescent.

What you should know…

  • The most important thing is to promote sexual health. This is not just the absence of dysfunction or disease. It has to do with the free and responsible expression of sexuality to generate personal and social well-being.
  • A healthy sexuality is based on a healthy affectivity. It is important to establish the foundations for a good attachment and to promote assertiveness.
  • As parents, we must show our child, above all else, an attitude of unconditional respect and acceptance. Put aside prejudices.

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