Which of the following four options best describes the first time you had sex with a partner? James Akre on doing what comes naturally …
Notwithstanding conventional carnal canons framed in Hollywood storytelling, Harlequin romance novels and bodice-ripper fiction, which of the following four options best describes the first time you had sex with a partner?
- Exquisite! The earth moved magically for both of us; we were instantly attuned to meeting each other’s every need; and we were totally fulfilled by the experience!
- It was okay but we quickly realized that we still had a lot to learn. So, we promptly resolved to do two things: educate ourselves—and keep doing it until we got it right!
- Frankly disappointing. I remember thinking: Is this all there is?! Too big an investment for too small a gain, really. I might try it again one day, but there’s obviously no hurry.
- I found the whole experience disgusting and degrading! I decided, then and there, that flying solo was the way for me. Today, I achieve my pleasure by artificial means only.
Perhaps we need a reference book about ignorance, including a chapter especially devoted to the generic implications of not knowing what we don’t know. What I have in mind is reflected in the all-purpose lament:
“I didn’t think it was going to be this difficult!”—whether “it” refers to riding a bike, having sex … or breastfeeding.
Is it the flawed perception that breastfeeding is so utterly intuitive that leads many observers to assume a no-instructions-required attitude in this regard, and then to be surprised that it’s “so difficult”? This remarkably common premise—and sure-fire recipe for disappointment and failure—is especially ironic if you consider how lacking in positive breastfeeding role models so much of popular culture is today.
We may in fact be more aware of the challenge of learning to ride a bike or having sex—and more confident in our ability to do both well—than we are of breastfeeding. All three are just as surely natural acts as they are learned behaviors; and even if each is not especially difficult, we still need to know the basics and apply ourselves—until we get it right.
James Akre is an author and commentator whose focus is on the sociocultural dimension of the universal biological norm for nurturing and nourishing infants and young children, and on identifying pathways for ensuring that breastfeeding and breast-milk feeding are routine once more everywhere.
His international public health and development career spans five decades, including more than 30 years with agencies of the United Nations system (International Labour Office, United Nations Children’s Fund, and the World Health Organization where he was the liaison officer (1990–2004) for LLLI), and seven years working in Turkey, Cameroon and Haiti.
He is a member of the editorial board and reviewer for the International Breastfeeding Journal, and he is also a reviewer for Pediatrics and Maternal & Child Nutrition. He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of LLL France and a past member (2004–2010) of the Board of Directors of the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE). James lives in Geneva, Switzerland.
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