Culture TEDTalks

Beyond where babies come from: Talks for asking tough questions about sex

Sex educator Al Vernacchio gives us a new analogy for sex -- ordering a pizza. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Sex educator Al Vernacchio gives us a new analogy for sex — ordering a pizza. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Al Vernacchio: Sex needs a new metaphor. Here's one ... Al Vernacchio: Sex needs a new metaphor. Here's one ... Today’s talk, which posits a fascinating metaphor for sex beyond baseball, comes from a passionate and dedicated sexuality educator. Al Vernacchio teaches his students that it’s not just getting the facts right that counts, but understanding the nuances of human sexuality and its place in society. Inspired by the teaching philosophy that Vernacchio brings to the classroom, we’ve collected TED Talks that address some of our most challenging questions about sex.

How should we teach the complexities of sex?

When young children (or even not-so-young children) ask about sex, many adults draw a blank. How do you explain something so sensitive to a still-developing mind? But approaching this delicate discussion with openness is critical to building healthy channels of communication. Here are two talks that will encourage you to take a deep breath, face the facts of life, and overcome your awkwardness.

Julia Sweeney: It's time for "The Talk" Julia Sweeney: It's time for "The Talk"
Julia Sweeney has “The Talk”
In a hilarious talk from TED2010, Julia Sweeney shares her struggle to answer some very astute queries from her eight-year-old.
John Bohannon: Dance vs. powerpoint, a modest proposal John Bohannon: Dance vs. powerpoint, a modest proposal
John Bohannon and Black Label Movement: Let’s talk about sex
At TED2012, John Bohannon and Black Label Movement dance a powerful testament to our eternal curiosity about sex — and the dangers of suppressing it.

How do we define our gender and sexual identity?

Part of what makes human sexuality so varied is the natural diversity of humans themselves. There’s no limit to how differently we can each feel about ourselves and our bodies, and coming to terms with these feelings can be a lifelong process that’s sometimes at odds with labels like “male,” “female,” “straight” and “gay.” These three talks explore how the bodies we live in and the experiences we have can unite us in spite of our differences.

Eve Ensler: Happiness in body and soul Eve Ensler: Happiness in body and soul
Eve Ensler: Happiness in body and soul
At TED2004, Eve Ensler offers insights from the portrait of womankind that her research for The Vagina Monologues revealed.
iO Tillett Wright: Fifty shades of gay iO Tillett Wright: Fifty shades of gay
iO Tillett Wright: Fifty shades of gay
iO Tillett Wright provides an eye-opening look at the infinite spectrum of sexual orientation at TEDxWomen 2012.
Alice Dreger: Is anatomy destiny? Alice Dreger: Is anatomy destiny?
Alice Dreger: Is anatomy destiny?
At TEDxNorthwesternU, Alice Dreger implores us to see a world beyond male and female, and to take action to make that world real.

How do we fully appreciate sex?

But even with all the ways that sexuality can be confusing, sometimes the toughest question of all is: How can we take the most wonderful, beautiful things about sex and hold on to them for a long, long time? So many people find their own desire to be an unsolvable mystery, but this last wise and witty talk celebrates the singular phenomenon that is sex.

Esther Perel: The secret to desire in a long-term relationship Esther Perel: The secret to desire in a long-term relationship
Esther Perel: The secret to desire in a long-term relationship
Esther Perel explores the inner workings of love, sex and human desire in long-term relationships, in this fascinating talk from TED@250.