Sasza Lohrey: Dr. Logan Levkuff encourages honest conversations about sexuality and the role that it plays in our culture as she works to create an environment where people not only feel comfortable asking but getting answers to their most personal questions. Dr. Logan encourages and empowers children, adolescents, parents and adults to challenge the impractical and often unhealthy messages that were too often exposed to. In the second episode of our two part series with Dr. Logan, we discuss different ways to understand as well as teach consent and developmental phases going into adolescent sexuality. Many of the questions from this episode were again, inspired by my own conversations and questions I’ve received from the definition of consent, how it should be taught to whether or not we should force children to give family members for example, a hug or a kiss if they don’t want to, and what that might subconsciously be teaching them about their own rights over their own bodies early on. As far as consent goes, it was also inspired by my own belief that if consent is only being taught in the landscape of sex, then it’s far too late. I often wonder if practicing saying no to uncomfortable situations early on, perhaps something as simple as saying no to playdates you don’t want to have instead of saying yes, just because you don’t want to hurt somebody’s feelings as a child, if those could provide formative skills that might translate later on into feeling comfortable saying no to things like drinks with a creepy coworker, for example, not to mention countless other examples in situations.
Sasza Lohrey: A lot of times, the funny stuff, as you mentioned, or overcoming the awkwardness, or not even becoming awkward, but having those other things in there kind of is what makes it perfect. You mentioned consent, and how it’s so important, but unfortunately, is like besides STDs and not getting pregnant, kind of the only basis of sex education in its current state. One of the things that I feel is important too, though, is it seems like even with consent, we teach it in context, we teach it in the context of sex.
Dr. Logan Levkuff: Huge mistake.
Sasza Lohrey: And so for me, I just don’t understand that if people haven’t been taught consent, and don’t know how to say, you know, later on, no to going out to drinks with, you know, their boss, when they know, it’s not just a meeting or no to all these other things, or as a kid practicing saying, “Oh, you don’t have to go over to a playdate at your friend’s house, you can say no, you don’t have to go just because you feel bad.”
Sasza Lohrey: Right? It’s funny you say that. Because when I do parent talks, I say quite often that our biggest mistake is that we make consent only about sexual behaviors. Instead of focusing on how many times are young people are using the language of consent all the time. So at school, I’ll ask my students, “how did you ask for consent today?” And they’ll say, “I asked if I could go get some water at the fountain?” I said “exactly.” You said, “may I go get a glass of water?” And you hear the answer? And the answer is either gonna be yes or no. And you have to deal with whatever the answer is, you know, in in our home, you know, if my daughter is using my son’s Xbox, also, you know, “did you get his permission first?” And if the answer is, “yes,” awesome, if the answer is “no,” she has to say, you know, “may I use your Xbox?” and hear the hear and understand and be okay with the answer. So we practice it all of the time, and also about bodies, right? That if I, you know, I’m getting a hug or someone is, you know, if my kid is like, hitting me on the butt, I’ll say, “you know, did you ask me for my permission?” And it there was one moment where my daughter must have been, she must have been three, and my husband came home. And, you know, she was walking around in her underwear, and he like, pinched her on the toosh. And she looked back and said, “Daddy, you did not ask me for my permission to squeeze by toosh.” And I like I had this like breakthrough moment. Oh, my God, the language is there. Right? And he said to her, “you know what, honey, I am so sorry. You are absolutely right. May I please squeeze your toosh? “And she looked at him and said, “Yes, you may.” And it was what was so important about it was not just that she was using the language, but that when we mess up or do something that we shouldn’t do, we take responsibility right away, you know, apologize. And, and obviously, you know, squeezing your daughter’s toosh a lot different than, you know, a sexual act. That’s that’s, you know, coerced or pressured in some way. So I’m not suggesting those equivalencies. But but saying I, you know, I’m sorry, I did something wrong, I want to fix it and do it the right way. It’s really powerful. Because again, it goes back to our first conversation, right, which is modeling for young people how things should be done so that they have this encyclopedia in their head of “Oh, this is how I this is how I give a meaningful apology, or this is how I ask.”
Sasza Lohrey: And I think that a question maybe a lot of people would have is that because kind of cultivating intimacy is that combination of an emotional aspect that mixed with the physical aspect. An example would be like hugs, when you know, you want to a grandparent, for example, when you say, you know,
Dr. Logan Levkuff: Oh yes–
Sasza Lohrey: kiss or a hug. But the thing is, or with the parents, if, you know, you kind of need that in the early years, the touch and the physical closeness to be able to cultivate intimacy. But if you have a child who maybe just says no, because they feel like it or, you know, you also want to make sure you’re giving your kids the opportunity to feel that closeness, so it’ll be reinforced later on. So it is, I don’t want to mix up my words.
Sasza Lohrey: Yeah, no. It is the most complicated caregiving parenting issue, which is, really you want your kids to have some advocacy for themselves and to speak up and if they you know, and not force them, or pressure them into giving someone a hug or kiss, right. Because if we keep falling prey to doing something, because someone’s asked, we become teenagers, and then adults who you know, avoid the discomfort and just do things, right, which we don’t want. And sometimes it means telling your parents that you are teaching your kids to advocate for themselves, and they may not necessarily want to give you a hug, and they have to be okay with that. And that is a really hard thing for a lot of people to do. I try and do it now I have a almost two year old nephew. And sometimes I’ll want to run up and say, give me your kiss, you know, and I’ll stop myself now and say, “I would love a kiss, but you don’t have to give me one if you don’t want.”
Sasza Lohrey: Right.
Dr. Logan Levkuff: You know, and sometimes he won’t. And I’m really cool with that, because it’s his call and and he should know that it’s always going to be his call.
Sasza Lohrey: And so from young, very young age, yeah.
Dr. Logan Levkuff: But you have to be the type of person who doesn’t take it personally, if the kid doesn’t want to hug you. And it doesn’t mean they don’t love you and adore you. It just means that right now they don’t feel like hugging.
Sasza Lohrey: Yeah, right.
Dr. Logan Levkuff: And that’s a hard thing.
Sasza Lohrey: Like going to bed because then it’s people have to you know, you’re asking all the time, and then not wanting to create barriers, where it’s like, the only time we can touch is if there’s this like step first.
Dr. Logan Levkuff: Yeah, but we can say before bed, “would you like a kiss Good night?” Yeah, you like a hug, right? And they’ll be very clear, and especially at bedtime. Most kids want that. Right?
Sasza Lohrey: If you haven’t seen somebody at the airport, like being able to run up and not.
Dr. Logan Levkuff: And it’s also about reading body language cues, right. And that’s the problem is that we have a really hard time reading cues, I’ll in my classes-
Sasza Lohrey: and then if verbal is only taught but not non verbal, right, let’s be real, all of sexes make a lot of it is nonverbal a lot.
Dr. Logan Levkuff: And it is really, it is really, it’s certainly important than nonverbal communication. But especially if you’re starting young people on a path to to practice asking them the verbal becomes really important, because I’ll do this thing where I’ll stand in front of someone. And we’ll use holding hands, as you know, as an example, and I’ll pretend like I’m holding someone’s hand. I’ll stand in the front of the room, and I’ll like, stick my hand out. And I’ll make this like, very, like crazy, like half smile, half terrified face. And I’ll say someone just grabbed someone just grabbed my hand. “What’s my face for?”
Sasza Lohrey: Mm hmm.
Dr. Logan Levkuff: And they’ll say you absolutely don’t want your handheld. I said, That’s possibility what else they’ll say? You’re super excited about holding hands with someone I said, also a possibility. And someone will say you really like this person, but you’re sort of terrified because you don’t know what to do next. Like that’s also a possibility. I said, so now you have three possibilities from one face, right? And there could be plenty more. And you start to see really how very complicated it is to solely rely on body language and nonverbal cues. And again, you know, look, you know, there’s there’s obviously tremendous diversity to all people. So some people can’t verbally speak, right. So, but we have to make sure we can come up with tools that that make the nonverbal cues really clear. Right and understood by the other person.
Sasza Lohrey: Yeah, a lot of people have been mentioning the TV shows sex education on Netflix and the mother who is a sex therapist. And kind of I think a lot of people watch that and think, well, I wouldn’t have had so many problems.” Um, so I guess if you have any, any thoughts on that show or beyond that, to the ways in which media I’ve even noticed in some of these movies, and a lot of these, like New Age Romcoms, where it shows the high school, and it’s like, the cool teacher using gender pronouns and talking about sex. And I’m like, “is that a thing now?” I don’t know if that’s in real life. But also, I didn’t go to that high school, and it would have been, it would have been helpful for even somebody to just say that word sex. Um, so yeah, maybe some of the ways that media is kind of coming out with this new wave and trying to be a more positive resource?
Dr. Logan Levkuff: Yes, absolutely. So I have not watched the full season of sex education, though, I have to say there are elements of it that I really love, which is, you know, young people acknowledging that they’re sexual beings, that pleasure is absolutely a part of sex, that there is a great diversity and how we identify and express ourselves and who were attracted to. That is super exciting for me. And also to recognize that adolescent sexuality isn’t just about seeking pleasure, it’s also about seeking emotional intimacy to that you see an entire spectrum of why and how people are engaging in any, any and all type of sex, which is how it is in real life, right? I mean, we’re not just seeking one thing. And depending on who our partners are, we might be seeking multiple things weren’t, or nothing at all, and all of it is okay, right, if everyone is on the same page, so that’s a really positive, I think, positive change for how we see adolescence, I also am obsessed with big mouth as just this insane, animated look at kids in puberty. And, you know, it is it is certainly explicit and graphic. But I think it’s a really, I’ll give you an example in this in the second episode, the third one of the she’s 12. And she gets her a period and a pair of white shorts that her mother made her were on a field trip to the Statue of Liberty. And you see this girl and her white shorts, and you see the red stain at the back of the shorts, and it’s all animated. But we’ve had those experiences, but you never actually see them. And she, you know, she actually winds up confiding in a boy in her grade to help her find like something that she could use as a pad. And it’s this super raw, but you feel for the two of them, you understand what that experience is like, and I loved that she had to have a male help her out. And that he could be a sounding board, even if he was confused and like shocked by the whole thing.
Sasza Lohrey: And have the emotional, intellectual maturity to like, what a magical world.
Dr. Logan Levkuff: Yeah, I mean, I mean, granted, he like did bring her I want to say it was like a 9/11 towel, like a commemorative towel. You know?
Sasza Lohrey: I mean, it’s like South Park.
Dr. Logan Levkuff: Yes, it is greatly comedic, right. But there are elements of it that I think–
Sasza Lohrey: That would help reinforce how so you know, we can we could–[crosstalk]
Dr. Logan Levkuff: You know, we certainly could use in, in in doses. But I love the idea that our media is pushing the boundaries and representing diversity and sexuality and gender. Because it’s important, and that’s what our world looks like. So our media really should reflect that representation matters, right? Whether it’s racial, or ethnic, or sexual, or religious. You know, we all exist here on this planet. So our experiences should be represented to.
Sasza Lohrey: So you touched on how it’s more that adolescent age. And so as we’ve talked kind of about the the younger years, there’s at some point, this transition to adolescent sexuality or emotional education and intimacy, education, and kind of at what point does that happen and how to navigate that which I’m sure might be different for different people, depending on their maturity, and whatnot. But there’s a struggle between so many themes. You know, stuff goes from not being as big of a deal to becoming a really big deal in the way that you talk about in the themes you’re dealing with. But also, for example, like even the balance between how to talk about sex as making sure people understand it’s a big deal, but then also not making a huge deal about it.
Dr. Logan Levkuff: Yes, adolescence is complicated because we have a tendency once people look like they’re sexual beings, once they’ve experienced puberty, whether or not they finished it or not, we, as adults do this weird thing where we start to treat them differently. And we assume that just because someone has breasts or pubic hair, like they’re grown up, right? And you start to see it, in particular, with girls, and what happens, especially with adults, especially adult males, and their life for all of a sudden, they’ll stop hugging, because they’re afraid, like breasts are gonna get in the way, right, which is really so sad, because girls really do need those male role models and those adults not to treat them differently, not to make them feel worse about the fact that people are looking at them differently. So that that’s a part of it. The other thing is, and I get this question all of the time, “about at what age should we do whatever it is?” And the answer is always, age has never been the sole determinant of someone’s ability to make a good decision about any type of sexual behavior. Yeah, I mean, there are teenagers who make amazing, beautiful, thoughtful decisions about sex and relationships. And there are some adults that do a really shitty job, right? So it is certainly not solely about age, the only difference is, the younger you are the harder is to manage the responsibilities that come with exploring, you know, certain sex behaviors, and not necessarily just the, you know, the most obvious ones, like, you know, a potential for pregnancy or STI. But the things about the changing dynamics of relationship when you shared your body with someone, right, how other people perceive you, how do you navigate that transition in a relationship, like those are the tougher things that we often don’t, don’t talk about. But the transition is different for for all, for all people, but it is an important transition. And I’m afraid that we forgotten how, how important and positive understanding your sexuality is, for teenagers, it is such a huge part of growing up, I have very fond and overwhelming memories of all of the times I thought I fell in love. And maybe it was lust in that I had all these things that I wanted to do. And I didn’t know what to do with all of these, you know, burgeoning feelings. And our young people are doing that, too, they have the same things. But sometimes it’s been so long for us, we forget how raw and emotional that stuff is. And what we do often in an attempt to sort of like, tamp down all of those, like big feelings is, we say like these really silly things like, oh, there are plenty of fish in the sea, and you’ll get over it, and you weren’t gonna wind up with this person in the long run. And, you know, it may be with the best of intentions, but it doesn’t really acknowledge how overwhelming all of those feelings really are.
Sasza Lohrey: That’s such a good point. And that the difference in like the capacity to do to deal with come to consensus is so, so different. And I think there’s so much time spent on like the preparation for you know, whether it’s puberty or becoming sexually active or whatnot. And then it just goes up until that point versus how to get through a breakup or as human right, that amazing point of how relationships change when you you’ve shared your body with somebody. And yeah.
Dr. Logan Levkuff: And also just the the, and it sort of gets back to sexuality education, or more formal sex ed, which is this. It drives me crazy when we focus so much on teaching people how to say no to something, which I find is a really silly skill to have, unless you’re going to teach people how and when to say yes to something, the idea that we only talk about the no without acknowledging that at some point, people are going to want to make the decision to say yes, that will be the right decision. And they have to think about how, how that happens. How to say yes, in a way that’s understood. And also when to like, at what point in a relationship? What should that dynamic look like? What should what qualities should you and a partner have? As opposed to just assuming that the answer is always going to be no until some arbitrary like magical age or you know, state or stage in life? Which is silly.
Sasza Lohrey: For some reason, you just reminded me of when people ask, how do you know if you’ve had an orgasm? There are all these things where unless you teach, also the positive like, this is what it feels like when you want to say yes, if you just teach the no and there’s no context of the other side you’re like, but I don’t want to say no, but does that just mean that say yes, then versus and this is what yes, feels like and this is what an orgasm also feels like so you know, when you actually do when you have one.
Dr. Logan Levkuff: Right? I mean, to be one sided, is is really just unhelpful, right? Because at some point, people do make decisions. At some point someone has an experience and they, they should know what those things and you, you know, you’ll never really be able to explain to someone what an orgasm feels like to them. But, you know, you, you should know that there is a lead up. And there are things that are going to happen in your body. And this is what that’s leading to.
Sasza Lohrey: Yeah.
Dr. Logan Levkuff: But oftentimes, sexual response is often missing from sex ed, which is really interesting, because we really have no problem talking about it when it has to do with assigned male puberty and we talk about erections and wet dreams and ejaculation, right? Whereas if we’re talking, I mean, let’s just acknowledge that the the idea of being intersex is often omitted entirely from conversations about puberty and growing up. So that’s, you know, a huge issue that I think and an equity that’s, that we should do a better job at. But also the idea that when we talk about, you know, assigned female puberty, it is really and specifically about one’s reproductive potential, as opposed to talking about the clitoris and masturbation and the erectile tissue that’s in the interest and the clitoral bulbs, and that actually bodies aren’t really that different. They might look a little different, but actually, they work fairly similarly.
Sasza Lohrey: That was one of the most fascinating things I learned when it it’s like, it’s all the same.
Dr. Logan Levkuff: Yeah!
Sasza Lohrey: Really the same with a different setup.
Dr. Logan Levkuff: Yes, except for the fact that with one particular sex, we say, like, your entire existence is based on whether or not you use your uterus, you know, and the other is like, well, you can masturbate and white stuff comes out, like, that’s great. But it’s, it’s a really, it’s certainly not an equitable way of looking at a sexual development. And also, like, look, some people are not going to want to get pregnant, some people are not going to want to have biological children, some people don’t have the ability to. So if at 9,10,11, we’re telling, you know, a pretty large percent of the population. No, actually, this is, this is yours, and you own reproductive potential. I don’t know, it just it never really felt right to me.
Sasza Lohrey: Yeah. And I wonder then to if men, boys would then feel more empowered to own kind of reproductive, reproductive potential or identify more with like, the process that goes into it not seeing that as like, and the woman decides if we will have babies or not.
Dr. Logan Levkuff: Right. Yeah, that is that it’s just about well, it goes back to that whole, like, you’re supposed to, you know, sow your wild oats seed everywhere, and like, you know, shut your legs until the right time. Yeah. Right. That’s, that just reinforces that really old, ugly double standard, which is really my reason for getting up every morning to to fight that. That’s, that’s really the only reason I get them.
Sasza Lohrey: Yeah. What are some of the other kind of the battles that we’re fighting in terms of?
Dr. Logan Levkuff: Yeah, yeah. It’s, it feels like there is, it feels like there’s so much certainly reproductive choice, sex ed, equity in the, you know, trans non binary, you know, the full LGBTQ rights. You know, we have some really great advances to which is, you know, states now making it an optional to have a non binary gender identification on birth certificates, like so we are making some steps, but it just seems like for all of those, we keep having some really old, ugly debates that are really based in I mean, just to be completely honest, lies, lies about how women’s bodies work lies about how when and why people choose to terminate a pregnancy as if these are arbitrary decisions that people with uteruses just randomly make, because we’re horrible people. I cannot even believe that it’s 2019. And we still have those conversations today.
Sasza Lohrey: Yeah. You going back earlier, for example, how relationships change after sharing your body. Some of these things that are probably a lot of people maybe don’t think about what would be some other examples of that. Or, for example, with adolescents, these kind of new conversations that maybe didn’t exist before about sexting.
Dr. Logan Levkuff: Oh, sexting. The one thing I will say, and I, I talked through this a lot with adults and parents and caregivers is because inevitably, they will ask that question like, what if they’re sexting now there are real potentially negative outcomes to sending digital pictures and images or videos of yourself or you know, someone else under age, you know, naked or sexual like for sure. Big legal implications. Because our laws have not caught up with technology yet, and also just problems in terms of social dynamics once things become public, for sure. But the why people do this is a really interesting thing. And one of the things I’ll say to adults who seem to think that we are all so beyond doing that, right, is I would like to remind you what we all did when we were at that age. So to be perfectly candid, when I was a teenager, we had those instead of not like the AOL chat rooms, but we had the chat phone lines, where we would call these like, they were definitely not 1800, they were absolutely like, $3 a minute, and you would get this crazy bill at the end of the month. And you’d have to tell your parents like some horrible thing that you did, on the phone, where all these people would be on a phone line, you had no idea who they were. And we would all use it to say like, my name is Daisy and I have 36, quadruple D bras, and I and we absolutely said all of the things right about our bodies, which were clear, I mean, if you you’re looking at me, that is clearly not a description of my body.
Sasza Lohrey: But I’m sure you sounded like a child.
Dr. Logan Levkuff: Well, maybe but so but so did everyone else, right? So no one really knew the difference. But it was our way of using the technology available to us to express our sexuality and test certain boundaries out without actually having to do something physical, right, which is really no different from wanting to use your phones for the same purpose. The only difference is, there is no anonymity. And the the long term impact is a lot more real. Whereas when you were calling this phone with, like 40 other teenagers, there was a sense of privacy, you know, no one was gonna come find you the only people there were like your girlfriend’s sitting next to you and doing this deal with you.
Sasza Lohrey: So it felt safe.
Dr. Logan Levkuff: It did that the perception was that it was safe. And and one of the things that I think that parents get wrong is that we assume that our kids A.) are smarter than they are. It’s not really the right word, because they are smart, but but they don’t necessarily understand the long term implications the way we do. And when someone says to me, “Well, I thought my kid knew better.” I said, and I’ll say, “Well, did you ever explicitly say you are not allowed to take pictures of you or your friends naked with your phone?” They’ll say to me, “No, I never said that.” I said, “Well, then how are they supposed to know what your expectations are? Because you weren’t clear with them.” Be clear. I mean, if we’re clear, then they’ll know. Right? But and that doesn’t mean they won’t try to push boundaries, because they will and they’re teenagers, but at least they’ll know what your expectations are.
Sasza Lohrey: Right. And really just going back to what you had said before about the capacity to deal with the consequences, which you can’t build up until you’re aware of them. So obviously, there are people later ages, and it’s an activity that is like normalized later, or people at least know what the consequences is doesn’t mean they don’t want to send that content or don’t engage in it either. It’s more just making sure it’s under the right circumstances and that people are at least aware, aware of the consequences.
Dr. Logan Levkuff: And it’s about evaluating your partnerships. And yeah, because a good lesson for me, I I really believe that, especially as a, as a minor, no good partner asks you to take that big of a risk, right? I mean, the risks are just right, who, you know, this, if you loved me, you’d send me a naked photo. Like if you’re under age, that’s not someone who really respects you, and has your best interest in heart because the risks are too high, right? I mean, as adults, you can absolutely make those decisions. Right. But thinking about what kind of partner you have, how you trust that person? Is this someone who not only has your best interests at heart, but if for some reason your relationship breaks up? What do you do with that content? And how is that content used? And that’s the great unknown, right? It’s hard enough for adults to handle that. A 16 year old is, has has many a challenge, especially if the teenage culture is one where we slut shame and, you know, perpetuate the double standard. Yeah. And we don’t hold people accountable equally.
Sasza Lohrey: Yeah, I love that. Teaching these lessons through kind of recognizing trust in a way.
Dr. Logan Levkuff: Yeah, I mean it because all of those things either make sense, or they don’t make sense depending on the type of relationship that you have. And I always tell my teenage students you know, when I use the word relationship, I’m not talking about like capital, our long term monogamous, we’re getting married relationship, any interaction with someone, whether it’s for a night or a week, or, you know, whatever, that that’s a it’s a relationship. It is a connection between two people, whether there’s emotion attached or not. So, it’s important to know that in each of these situations, what are the things we need to be thinking about? And what are things that mean? May in reality be too risky with, you know, the partner that we’re, we’re with.
Sasza Lohrey: What would be, you know, either some some actionable advice or specific insight or behaviors that you would maybe share with some listeners who might be kind of in that young formative bit you know, middle school, but through college?
Dr. Logan Levkuff: Younger listeners, I would say, first, to think about who you are, what do you want out of your body out of a relationship out of a partnership and know that whatever that is, that’s okay. Right? It’s okay to not want a relationship capital are, it’s okay to want to experiment. It’s okay to want your body to feel certain things. But think about it first, right? What is it that we want? Because oftentimes, and it’s really a lesson for adults, too, we go into relationships. And at some point, we say, “Oh, this isn’t what I want.” But we actually never even knew what we wanted. Because we never gave up give up. We never gave ourselves the freedom to think about it in the first place. And then I think it’s okay. Also to, as I said earlier, only awkward, don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable or awkward, because that goes with the territory that’s part of growing up, even if you’ve been with someone hundreds of times, having conversations about sex and pleasure and sexual health and condoms and getting tested for STI is like, that doesn’t ever get not awkward, it just you just get used to the fact that it’s awkward, right? So I think that those are my my big, big actionable steps. And also, just to know that whoever you are is who you are supposed to be, and that you don’t have to fit into some unrealistic paradigm because that’s what you see. Right there. There is no way that we can ever be fulfilled if we’re trying to fit into someone else’s definition of what a sexy sexual person is.
Sasza Lohrey: But that was an amazing last point that you can’t look kind of to define yourself in somebody else or to define yourself by what you think somebody else is looking for. And thank you for joining us today and helping us learn how to embrace the awkward and the magic of the awkward the–
Dr. Logan Levkuff: Magic of the awkward. Yes, well, it was my pleasure. Thank you for interviewing me. Thank you for making this an important subject.
Sasza Lohrey: Thank you so much for tuning in to listen to the BBXX podcast. You can learn more on our website or on our social media at BBXX.world. And if you believe in what we’re doing, please do help spread the love by sharing this with someone you care about. Until next time.