dollyoctober2013Dolly Doctor and Oral Sex: is advice to girls clear?

Melinda Tankard Reist

Dolly Doctor this issue deals with oral sex. Parents with younger Dolly readers in the family may want to be aware of that and be prepared to talk about it with them (Dolly has featured’ Readers of the month’ who are 11). Also, although the age of consent is 16, the article opens with 15-year-old Sarah who is considering it. Consent and possible legal considerations are not mentioned.

Dolly says “even though you’re not having penetrative sex, there are still serious consequences when it comes to oral sex.” Now I’m no sexologist, but I’m not sure Dolly has got this right. Perhaps the writer means you’re not having sexual intercourse as typically understood? In the practice of fellatio, I’m pretty sure something goes into a mouth. And in male to female oral sex, a vagina can be penetrated also. I checked with Susan McLean, former policewoman of over 20 years standing and specialist on cybersafety, young people and legal issues. She responded:

Oral Sex is sex just the same as vaginal (penis/vagina) and digital (finger/vagina) and ALL are covered by age of consent laws. You can be charged with rape for example in any of the above cases. Sexual penetration laws also cover all the above plus more, anal sex and use of implements to penetrate. Consent needs to be explained as you cannot give consent under age, cannot give consent when under the influence of drugs/alcohol, cannot give consent if fearful, coerced etc

Girls are warned that they can still contract STI’s from oral sex. Emotional issues are raised. Tegan, 16, felt vulnerable even though it was with her boyfriend. “Even though I knew he cared about me, I started feeling resentment towards him. It made me realise I hadn’t done it for me and I wasn’t ready,” she said. Psychologist Gemma Cribb says: “Becoming sexual before one person is ready can damage the bond in your relationship. This is why you need to keep up communication.” Girls are told they can be comfortable with saying no. “You’ll know it’s too early if you find yourself getting anxious about the prospect of sexual intimacy, or you try avoiding one-on-one time together,” says Cribb. Readers are also reminded they can change their mind at any time.

Girls are offered 5 points to help them consider if they are ‘ready’ to “transition from kissing”. The assumption, given the subject of the piece, could be that this means from kissing to oral. Aren’t there lots of other things in between kissing and oral? In another section ‘Your Biggest Questions Answered’, given the level of pressure girls are under to provide sexual acts, (as mentioned in my previous review of Girlfriend ) the last is significant: “What if I don’t want to do it and he doesn’t want to be with me?” The response is: “It’s your body so NEVER do anything you’re not totally comfortable with. Lots of girls rush into things because they want to please their partner or think they’ll be called a prude if they wait,” says Cribb. “Linking your self-worth to sexual acts is not OK. If they’re not willing to go at your pace, they’re not worthy of you!”

This advice is very much needed. But there remains confusion around what constitutes penetration, consent and legal status.

‘Feelings Gone Wild: The ultimate guide to checking yourself before wrecking yourself – no matter the situation’ aims to help girls deal with fights, arguments and upsetting emotional experiences – to get a hold of their feelings before they spiral out of control. Girls are reminded that the frontal lobe, responsible for deciding what is and isn’t a good idea, isn’t full connected, therefore contributing to more rapid, not well thought out responses to situations. Girls are encouraged to stop, breathe, take in what’s really going on. They are reminded it is OK to feel sad and often that is an appropriate reaction. But if it starts to take over and you are feeling sad most of the time, it might be time to seek help. Getting enough sleep, practicing gratitude and scheduling some silent time to disconnect, sit and breath, are also advised.

‘The procrastinator’s guide to getting an A’ helps girls to change the ‘I’ll do it later’ approach to getting things done. Different reasons are given for procrastination (prioritising pleasure, not wanting to do things you don’t want to do, being a perfectionist). Girls are encouraged to make a clean start by tidying their room or desk daily (clean surroundings help the brain to be clear – I should try that myself!); have a plan of attack with a ‘to do’ list at the start of the week, assigning each task a realistic time estimate, creating a daily schedule and allocating time for rewards; to set the scene – create the kind of environment that is conducive to work and minimising distractions, and have all you need with you; get your head in the game – apps are recommended to block social media – and tell someone your goal to make you accountable. Finally – just do it! Think about the last time you left something to the last moment, then think about how you will feel when you get the job done without the stress. “Calm, proud of yourself, and relaxed. Which feelings do you want?” Yes I’d like those ones too thanks.

‘Do you play compliment tennis?’ helps girls to learn how to accept a compliment and not hit it away. Dolly advises “When you don’t accept a compliment, you’re basically arguing with someone who’s just trying to be nice. “The person may feel shut down and believe that what they have to say doesn’t matter”, says counsellor and Diane McGeachy. Girls are given examples of compliments and appropriate ways to respond. Related is ’12 things happy people do differently’ which includes not holding grudges (letting go of resentment), taking action to address a difficult situation rather than complaining about it, accepting what can’t be changed, treasuring health, focussing on others, finding a passion, loving the present, nurturing relationships and dreaming big dreams. My only difficulty here was the ‘choose happiness’ mantra. I like the idea of it, who doesn’t? But given the epidemic of anxiety and depression in our girls, sometimes, try as hard as they can, that is too hard for them. Individualising the issue makes it even more difficult when a supportive community approach and sometimes professional help is needed.

‘Future you’ helps girls write a ‘killer cover letter’ to go with their CV to get the job they want. I passed it on to my 17-year-old daughter who is applying for after school/holiday work at present because it contained really helpful advice.

‘Liar Liar’ helps girls whose friends are chronic fibbers. Readers are told it can be a sign of low self-esteem, insecurity, lack of confidence, a desire to impress or a symptom of anxiety. Sometimes it can be a cry for help. Girls are given advice on how to help their friend acknowledge the façade. If nothing changes, tough decisions might be called for.

A group of girls bravely share about their experiences of bullying. The biggest lesson they’ve learned? Molly, 15: “If you don’t fight back, they’ll go away. All the mean girls are after is a response, so let it go, even if it hurts”; Tayla, 16:“I think it’s all about confidence. Even if it affects you, show it doesn’t!”; Bethany, 16: If you have a lot of anger towards them, it’s best not to tell your friends – that makes you the bully. Write it down in a diary. Girls being mean always says more about them than you in the end.” Good advice. I would have also liked to see: tell a trusted adult – bullying is illegal and schools need to deal with it. Again, the issue shouldn’t become something only the individual girl has to deal with in isolation.

Parents will appreciate the ’16 fun ways to spend time with your fam’ article. It gives ideas for doing things with mum and dad (though a little stereotyped – go to the footy, chuck a snag on the barbie or get under the hood of the car with dad while scrapbooking, go to a day spa or enrol in a baking class with mum. But mum might like the footy too, and dad might like to bake!). This extends to engaging in activities with grandparents and siblings.

Personal stories include Kayleigh, 14, who is part of the Women’s Artistic Gymnastic International Development Program and has represented NSW at the Australian Gymnastics Championships and Sasi, 14, who tells how her best friend helps her cope with her autoimmune disease. Bekky is also ill, they met online through Livewire and their desire to meet was granted through the Starlight Foundation. Lucinda shares how she volunteered for a charity called Kids Haven for street children in South Africa. “Working with kids that were so much less fortunate than me was sometimes hard and heartbreaking but I’m so much more aware that not everyone in the world lives somewhere safe and warm with a loving family. I want to go back because there’s still so much that can be done to change people’s lives,” she says. Lucinda races cars at 130km/h, Mary Jo, 14, is learning to live with only one eye after losing it to cancer and has received support through Canteen, and 17-year-old Hannah writes about losing her father to an ant bite. “All I can say is, don’t take life for granted. Spend every minute with your loved ones because you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow or the next day.” Wise words for all Dolly readers from Hannah.