When I was in middle and high school, sex education was short, uncomfortable, and hardly comprehensive. I remember sitting in a classroom with about 30 other students my senior year (a little late, if you ask me…) watching my PE teacher squirm in front of us, pausing intermittently.
“So, I mean, what you all really need to know is, uh, so when the, uh, when the, um, the penis…” Queue giggles.
Poor Coach Collins. It’s hard to talk about vaginas and condoms and Sexually Transmitted Infections in front of a room full of smirking teenagers. Luckily for him, that’s pretty much where the conversation ended. Imagine if our curriculum included things like lube, foreplay, sex toys, or, heaven forbid, orgasms!
It’s nothing personal, Coach Collins, but I really think it should have. In the radical world of my dreams, sex education in all schools centers the right to pleasure as a starting point from which all other conversations about safe sex, sexuality, and sexual expression branch out.
All people deserve a happy and pleasurable sex life but for many young people there isn’t really a distinction between good sex and any sex at all. A lot of us feel like as long as we’re grinding different body parts together and at least one person (usually a man) comes we’ve done sex right. It’s almost as if sex is a race and getting a penis to orgasm is the finish line. The only sex ed that most young people get that has anything to do with “pleasure” comes from exaggerated, unrealistic, and stylized porn found on the internet. It’s no wonder that when they start putting that training into action the pleasure stuff takes the back seat to a performance.
Why do people actually have sex? Sure, sometimes it’s to make a baby. But most of the time people have sex because they want to feel good, they want to relax, they want to bond with a partner, they want an orgasm. All that heteronormative sex education focused on the what that goes where and the baby that comes out 9 months later is barely the tip of the iceberg.
I’m envisioning a world where sex education teaches students about sexuality, masturbation, orgasms, oral sex, and how to do and explore it all safely. A world where no students feels out of place for their sexuality and where every student learns how to be safe while having the kind of sex that they actually want. A world where sex and desire and pleasure aren’t seen as shameful but as joyful and wonderful parts of being alive.
Image taken from the most wonderful sex comic on the Internet, Oh Joy Sex Toy! What a great example of pleasure-positive sex education. Check it out!