Growing up, my mother spoke to me about “the birds and the bees” once my menstrual cycle began. Thereafter, she didn’t delve into how sexual experiences unfold or should be enjoyed. Throughout my teens, my thoughts about sexual pleasure came from the grown books my friends and I used to read like The Coldest Winter Ever and the classic, Friends And Lovers.
It wasn’t until I began college that my mother spoke to me about the different foreplay tactics men use to arouse women in order to get to third base. The conversation was awkward and a bit complex for me, being the late bloomer that I was, but I appreciated the conversations as I transitioned into womanhood. When young people are taught about pleasure, they are able to understand what their bodies like and how consent plays into their sexual desires. Last week, VICE writer Hayley Gleeson wrote about the orgasm gap between men and women. Her piece also focused on a controversial topic: sexual pleasure and why it should be taught in sex education classes. For most people sex isn’t just about reproduction, it’s also about pleasure, and if the basic factors of pleasure and consent were taught, it would go along way in helping teens and adolescents understand both the positive and negative consequences of engaging in sexual activity and the fact that consent is non-negotiable. This would not only be a progressive step toward self-discovery but also in dismantling rape culture in our society and doing so early on.
As Gleeson noted in her piece, many of us were only taught about the negative repercussions of sex. Many lesson plans are centered on how painful sexual intercourse can be for women or how it only leads to STDs or pregnancies. This causes students to develop negative perceptions about their natural sexual desires and subsequent choices. “We learned nothing about gender and sexual diversity, and only the basics of how to navigate consent, Gleeson wrote. “Past being proficient at putting a condom on a banana, I fumbled my way through adolescence feeling a deep sense of shame about my sexuality. Thank God I had Cosmopolitan magazine to tell me that all men really wanted was for women to eat donuts off their d-cks.”
When I asked people what they about this issue, one of my friends said he believes teaching pleasure is a slippery slope. He also noted it can be counter-intuitive to the way sex education is structured in this country. Most important, he feels teaching pleasure would lead to students learning about fetishes that shouldn’t be explored in school settings. Another friend who works in the sex education nonprofit sector countered that when sex ed is comprehensive, young people are able to make better decisions concerning their sex lives and health. Not teaching students about pleasure, gives way for unnecessary blunders or negative attitudes about sex. Women usually discuss the latter because of what Gleeson calls the orgasm gap, which mainly happens between heterosexual women and men. Research claims men orgasm two or three times during sex with women, whereas women greatly lag behind, causing them to feel they haven’t achieved their pleasure goals. The orgasm gap continues to be perpetuated when men are taught unrealistic sexual expectations through banter and pornography. By not having a healthy understanding about sex, some may even operate in ways that are deemed violent.
If sexual pleasure is not mandated in schools, there is no way to ensure young people know how to communicate consent or and the law operates around such sexual matters. If left up to parental discretion, there is no guarantee every young person will know how to navigate their needs without being harmful to prospective partners. What do you think is the better solution?