Why Sex Education Needs to Start Focusing on Pleasure

Unless you were blessed with a wonderful teacher dedicated to inspiring a healthy attitude towards sex in young people, your sexual education experience was probably a lot like mine.

Photo credit: Anna Sastre.

Photo credit: Anna Sastre.

It started with a video about how our bodies would change during puberty.

Then we chatted about periods (with the boys in a separate room, of course). Then as we got older, the education turn into all the different ways sex would get us pregnant, give us a serious infection or disease, and likely kill us.

Sex, declared these lessons, was a dangerous thing to be afraid of. The best thing to do was to avoid it entirely, just to stay safe.

While safe sex, contraception, and the inner workings of the reproductive system were mentioned, one thing wasn’t: the concept of pleasure.

Throughout sex education, there really wasn’t any indication that people might be having sex because they enjoy it.

There was the lack of mention of the clitoris (no wonder so many people can’t find it). Male orgasms were discussed, but only because they play a part in making a baby – the only reason people have sex, our education system appears to imply. Foreplay, oral, the very idea that sex could be delightful – nothing.

And that’s a problem.

When we’re not told about pleasure, sex educators contribute to a whole host of damaging attitudes around sex.

Our belief that sex is supposed to be painful – we’re told losing our virginity will be excruciating – isn’t refuted. So we believe that painful sex is normal, accepting pain as it happens and wincing in anticipation.

Painful sex isn’t something to just be accepted, to be clear. It’s not something women just have to put up with. It’s a sign that something is wrong, whether it’s that you’re too tense, not wet enough, there hasn’t been enough buildup, or there’s a physical issue.

If we don’t introduce the idea of pleasurable sex, painful, unsatisfying sex is allowed to be seen as the norm.

The other rubbish norm that’s being maintained? That sex isn’t something women are supposed to enjoy.

The TV wife who rations out sex and paws away their sex-crazed husband, accompanied by zero mention of pleasure in sex ed, creates the idea that women don’t, or can’t, take joy in sex.

That causes issues for everyone.

Women accept unsatisfying sex, because they think that’s just a part of relationships. Their partners don’t make the effort to satisfy their partners, because they don’t think women’s pleasure is important.

Over time, we figure it out. We learn that sex can be brilliant and that women deserve pleasure.

But the lack of pleasure-focused sex education means we have to learn these lessons alone – through years of rubbish, disappointing sex.

Alex Phillips, SRE policy lead at Terrence Higgins Trust, told metro.co.uk: ‘Our research shows that nine out of ten (89%) young people are not taught about sex in relation to pleasure – instead, what’s being taught is usually focused on the biological basics, how to avoid pregnancies and so on.

It is so important that young people hear the message that sex is supposed to be pleasurable and consensual.'


Read the full opinion piece by Ellen Scott via Metro

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