Let’s talk about sex, baby! More specifically, let’s talk about the importance of sexual education. Students have sex-ed classes when they are in middle or high school: this is the opportunity for teenagers to learn about positive, safe sex, something they might not have access to otherwise. Indeed, some parents are very comfortable having ‘the talk’ while other families might not want to address the topic for various reasons (religious, awkwardness, refusal to see their child as potentially sexually active, etc…). The role school can play in our sexual education therefore becomes essential. Below are some of the things we wish we had learnt in sex-ed class, and that we want to keep encouraging schools to share.
Do not separate students during sex-ed
Not all schools have an open and inclusive discussion when it comes to sexuality. Certain schools in the US, for instance, teach sex-ed to girls and boys separately. In most cases when this happens, boys are encouraged to be sexually curious, while girls are often purposefully disgusted or made to fear sex. Separating them and not informing them the same way perpetuates the belief that male and female sexuality are inherently different. Male sexuality is portrayed as healthy and normal, and female sexuality as something shameful. To start off then, it is essential for all genders to have class together and to be taught the same things, like the fact that:
Female masturbation is perfectly normal
There is often a discrepancy between how male and female masturbation is perceived in society. The fact that boys masturbate is widely accepted, and boys often talk about it a lot with each other, without a hint of shame. On the other hand, female masturbation is still taboo, and girls do not necessarily feel comfortable talking to each other about it. Masturbating is normal regardless of your gender. If you want to do it, you should not feel like you are doing something wrong or gross. Discovering your own body and pleasure can be very empowering.
Learning about anatomy
In sex-ed we are shown diagrams of male and female genitalia, but there is a lot to be said about erogenous zones that are not mentioned. Although everyone’s body works differently, classes rarely mention the importance of the female clitoris in terms of arousal and pleasure. The female orgasm can sometimes be described as something really hard to attain: we bet whoever said this was unaware of the clitoris’ existence.
Sex is not only penetration
Defining sex as only being a penis going into a vagina is a heteronormative way to look at it. This definition excludes a lot of other forms of intercourse which are also sex, such as oral or anal sex. We need to speak out more about the different ways in which we can have sex, other than penetration.
Consent is key
The #Metoo movement brought to light the huge issue that is consent. Consent is agreeing that you want to have sex with your partner(s), whether that be by saying yes or letting them know that you want to. If at any point you no longer feel comfortable or want to continue having sex you do not have to apologize, feel sorry, or keep going for fear of hurting your partner’s feelings. You have the right to put a stop to it, and your partner should respect that. Sex without consent is rape, hence the importance of teaching young minds about it.
So is good contraception
Have protected sex, whether that be by using a condom, taking the pill, having an implant, etc… Having unprotected sex puts you at risk of catching an STD or being pregnant, which is why we need to teach teenagers about the different methods of birth control available, rather than only mention the pill and condom in sex-ed classes. There are lots of different existing forms of contraception, and you have a say in which one best fits your needs. Finding a birth control that works for you might take some time, but it is very much worth it.
Abortion is a choice
Depending on when you find out you are pregnant, and if you want to end your pregnancy there are different methods that exist. The morning after pill can be an option if you have had a condom problem, unprotected sex, forgotten your contraception, or made a mistake when taking your birth control. Some of them can be taken up to five days after the day of intercourse. After that five-day delay, you will have to go into a clinic to get an abortion.
Sex is not like porn
A lot of young people watch porn and base their sexual education on what they see in these videos. Yet, the sex you see in porn is not the same in real life: actors are rarely shown giving their consent or using lubricant for example. The way bodies are portrayed is also different: men never have erectile disfunctions, female labia are close to nonexistent, women are always waxed to perfection. Porn can perpetrate certain norms in terms of bodies, gender, race that are not realistic and we need to be aware of that.
Pee after sex
If you have female genitalia it is important to pee after having penetrative sex, to avoid having urinary tract infections (UTIs). During intercourse bacteria can be introduced into the urethra and travel up to your bladder provoking an infection. To lessen the chances of this happening, peeing is recommended, as it flushes out the bacteria introduced.
Sex does not have to hurt the first time
The myth that sex has to hurt the first time still needs to be debunked. Pain can be lessened or even nonexistent if your partner helps you feel comfortable and relaxed, if you trust the person you are with, and if you use lubricant.
Some schools, parents, or politicians try to scare kids about sex, highlighting the risk of catching an STD or getting pregnant, to keep them from having it. However, fear is rarely an effective method, since kids often end up having sex anyway, but being uninformed. This in turn leads to more unprotected sex and unwanted pregnancies. Having an open and positive discussion about sex, as something that is fun and a natural part of our lives, is the best way for people to have enjoyable sex while being responsible.
Article by Inès Huet