I have to be honest and admit I don’t remember all that much about sex education from high school. I don’t think we took it very seriously. Actually, I think many of us were intrigued, but were trying to play it cool in front of everyone else in the class. And, of course, it was awkward having a delightful, but very square, male teacher point out the clitoris on a diagram than didn’t much resemble the wonderland in my own knickers.
Mostly, sex ed was about mechanics, seeing a condom being pulled over a banana and watching a tampon expand in a jar of water, and zealous proclamations about the dangers of herpes and teen pregnancy. There was a little about wet dreams and masturbation being normal and natural, to Mr S’s credit. But overall, I can safely say that the hours spent in sex ed did little to prepare me for my own sexual adventures.
Here are a few things I think we should have learned.
There’s more to sex than mechanics and biology. You can look at all the x-ray-esque diagrams in the world and talk about STIs and pregnancy until you’re blue in the balls face, but when comes to actually doing the deed, those diagrams and slightly scary sperm cartoons really aren’t going to prove all that helpful.
The emotional and psychological aspects of the sexual experience are just as important as the, ahem, ins and outs. People screw for a huge range of reasons – most of which have nothing to do with biology. For pleasure, for love, for lust, for revenge. Out of boredom, pity or curiosity. To feel better, to feel validated, to feel connected. Just for funzies. And that’s okay.
Sex should be pleasurable. I’m not sure why this get’s glossed over, because it’s such an important lesson. In fact – it’s probably one of the most important you can learn. You should discover and understand what brings you pleasure. And you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for what you want when you’re playing with a partner.
Most porn is not a reliable indicator of what sex will be like. You probably won’t shatter into the sweet agony of orgasm the moment your partner touches you.
Sexual orientation is a spectrum, which you’re likely to slide up and down throughout your lifetime. You don’t have to categorize yourself. It’s all natural and wonderful.
Virginity is not just about penis/vagina sex, although most discussions about sex allude to just that. Virginity is really just a social construct. Yes, girls have a hymen and sometimes it’s broken the first time they have penetrative intercourse. But if you’re a girl having sex with girls, your sexual experience is just as valid as anyone else’s. Sex looks like a lot of different things to different people.
Enjoying and wanting lots of sex does not make you a slut or morally loose. You can choose to experiment with numerous partners, or have ravenous sexual marathons with just one. Neither makes you a bad person, stupid or skanky.
Not wanting to have sex doesn’t make you frigid, or abnormal. Even though it might feel as though everyone else is having way more sex than you are. Everyone’s drive is different, and there are lots of factors that can affect your desire – from hormones and stress to sexual and emotional chemistry.
To further drive home the above two points – sex is not a reflection of your worth as a person. Having sex shouldn’t be seen as a badge of honor or shame.
Practice makes perfect. Just because you have one ho-hum sexual encounter doesn’t mean you’re forever doomed to be bad in bed. Sex is like any experience – the more you do it and figure it out, the better you’ll get. Very few people get it right the first time. Try, try and try again.
Don’t take it too seriously. Yes, sex is serious business and it’s vitally important to protect yourself – but you should be able to laugh and have fun; otherwise, what’s the point?
Sex isn’t all rainbows and yogic contortionism and orgasms. Sometimes sex is messy and gross and embarrassing. Sometimes there might be strange noises, painful legs cramps, unexpected visits from Aunt Flow, and awkward post-coital cleanups. Whatever. You can’t bake a cake without cracking a few eggs, right?
What do you wish you learned in Sex Ed?