So after yesterday’s post I thought I’d offer the following suggestions parents can talk to their adolescents about as strategies they can use when they notice they are experiencing sexual arousal.
- Notice. Huh…I’m noticing I’m having an arousal response… (this might happen in either an intellectual, emotional or physical way — from a fantasy thought in your mind, to a feeling of interest for the person you are attracted to, to a penile erection for males or vaginal lubrication for females, to faster heart rate as just a few possible options).
- Normalize. I know that sexual arousal is usually a part of being a human being. Sexual arousal is a normal response to certain people I will encounter in my life. Sometimes this arousal might lead to deeper attraction and relational desires/possibilities. Other times it will be just something that might happen in a fleeting, casual way with people I have no attachment to. Thoughts are just thoughts. They come and go and I don’t need to give them more power than they deserve by worrying unnecessarily about them.
- Be non-judgmental of self and other. Isn’t that interesting that I would have had that response? My body/mind is responding to environmental stimuli… I don’t have to feel bad about that… I don’t need to worry about whether or not the other person is dressed “appropriately” or not… We may not share the same standards/values/ideas around that particular topic anyway… And it’s not my job to judge or worry about that…
- Action? Do I want to pay attention to this arousal? Do I want to pursue a relationship? Do I want to dismiss it altogether (might already be in a relationship I care about, or not interested in pursuing anything, or not realistic, etc.) Do I want to self-stimulate (masturbate) to enjoy and release any sexual energy I might be feeling?
- Explore values. It’s great that I can normalize arousal, and develop healthy values about sexuality and relationships. Like, I can feel okay and even enjoy the fact that my body/mind responds sensually, and not believe in objectifying or judging another person or myself. I can be respectful to all people, even when arousal is present (appreciate their beauty and energy instead of making an inappropriate or demeaning comment, ogling, or looking down on them or me). I can think about things that really matter in relationships like consent, friendship, respect, acceptance, etc.
- Move on. I have a lot of great and interesting things going on in my life. Once I’ve learned to normalize these types of feelings, this line of thought can just take a few seconds and I’m ready to focus on other things.
Natasha Helfer Parker, LCMFT, CST can be reached at natashaparker.org. She authors the Mormon Therapist Blog, hosts the Mormon Mental Health and Mormon Sex Info Podcasts, writes a regular column for Sunstone Magazine and is the current president of the Mormon Mental Health Association. She has 20 years of experience working with primarily an LDS/Mormon clientele.