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For many young people, sex is an uncomfortable subject. Though our schools are teaching sex ed, students can often feel awkward asking questions – and so they don’t. One high school teacher, Al Vernacchio, is looking to change that.

He has a box at the back of his classroom with some scraps of paper beside it and some pencils. This is the question box. This is the place where students can ask any question they can think of about human sexuality. Vernacchio answers these questions both during his class and on a blog that he writes for the school.

Below are some of the questions he has been asked, by real students, and a synopsis of his very real answers. **

1.Why is sex so good?

This question has a two-part answer. As far as biology goes, sex feels good for an evolutionary reason. If it didn’t feel good, people wouldn’t do it, and our species would soon die off. There are other areas of our bodies – other than genital regions – that also respond to sexual stimulation. These are called erogenous zones. Knowing yours and your partner’s erogenous zones can lead to more satisfying sexual experiences. The mechanics of sexual pleasure deal with the flow of blood through your body and tensing of your muscles.

The second answer to this question is relational. Humans have an incredible capacity for emotional connections like love, intimacy, and passion. These emotions expand and intensify feelings of sexual pleasure. While sex can still ‘feel good’ without these emotions, it is far more powerful when they are present.

2.When is someone ready for sex?

There is no catch-all answer for this. Every person is unique, as is each relationship. Before a couple decides to become intimate, a level of commitment and passion should be established. As well, both parties should hold relatively equal similar feelings for each other. These things take time to develop, and so sexual activity on the first date, or early in the relationship is a bad idea.

It is also important that you can have open communication with your partner. You should be able to have a serious conversation, talk about safer sex practices, contraception (if needed), and possible positive/negative experiences. You need to be able to accept your partner’s responses and be willing to share your emotional reactions as well. If you can’t look your partner in the eye and talk about sex with them, then you shouldn’t be having sex with them.

If any of these things are out of place, it is quite possible that you aren’t ready.

3.Can you use a balloon as a condom?

In a direct quote from Vernacchio himself, “ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! UNSAFE! UNHEALTHY! DANGER! DANGER!”

Condoms were designed for their specific purpose, and balloon for theirs. No matter that they share material components. Just because a pencil eraser is made of rubber, doesn’t mean you’d use it to as a spare tire. Condoms, with correct usage, are an important tool which reduces the risk of pregnancy or STIs. They work well because that’s what they were made for. Any other DIY method will not provide near the same amount of protection.

Another thing to consider, if you aren’t comfortable enough to procure your own condoms, then maybe you shouldn’t be having sex.

4.How can you tell if a guy likes you?

Unfortunately, people aren’t universally readable, and different people react in different ways when they like someone. The best way to figure out if someone likes you is to ask them! It might feel awkward, but it’s also the clearest way to get a straight answer.

A gentle way to ease into the question is to describe the situation, say what you feel, then ask the question. For example:

“It’s difficult for me to figure out if someone likes me or not. It would make me a lot less anxious if I knew for sure. So I was just wondering… do you like me?”

Asking that question can be very intimidating. Just remember that the worst thing they can do is say no, and you are strong enough to hear that and move on. Believe it! And don’t be afraid to ask.

**This article was based on an excerpt from Al Vernacchio’s book ‘For Goodness Sex: Changing the Way We Talk to Teens About Sexuality, Values, and Health