Frothing at the Brain

Sex Education, or, What Boys Will Want From You

Posted on: 21st \2010f February, 2010

Today, I am angry. Today I am so furious that there are tears in my eyes and I can’t go one day longer without making a noise about this.

I am angry that the so-called “sex education” I was provided with was so incredibly inadequate. I find it hard to believe what I’m about to say, but I know it’s true, because I lived through it.

Nobody told me I had a clitoris.

Nobody told me I was capable of having orgasms.

For five years I was given “sex education”. It mostly consisted of periods and condoms. It didn’t talk about consent. It didn’t talk about the actual mechanics of sex, about arousal and lubrication and oscillation. It didn’t tell me a single thing about relationships and it didn’t tell me I had a clitoris.

I only know now because of the internet. Nobody entrusted with my care and education has ever told me that the female orgasm exists, or about the parts of my anatomy necessary for it.

I didn’t find my clitoris until I was eighteen, after six years of active sexuality.

That makes me angry. What makes me even angrier is the certainty that there are other girls like me, being “educated” in sex by their schools and their local health providers, and given so little information about their bodies that only luck and stubbornness will ever give them the ability to have orgasms.
That makes me furious.

Edit: This post has been getting a lot of attention in the past few days, and I want to clarify a few things.
1) I am not in the US. I am in England. I was educated in an English state school and sex ed was provided by the local NHS Trust. The history and current politics of sex ed in Britain are not that of the US and it would be unwise to assume that such movements as absitence-only have any relevance here.
2) “Active sexuality” meaning I experienced myself as a sexual being, not that I was having sex with other people. I felt and recognised arousal and desire and sought out the things that turned me on – which I would call being actively sexual. Unfortunately that becomes ambiguous when the common euphemism for “having sex with other people” is “sexually active”.

22 Responses to "Sex Education, or, What Boys Will Want From You"

Thank you for your comment on my blog to let me know about this post. Thank you also for voting for my IWHC Young Visionaries proposal to create Sex Education Everywhere.

You don’t need me to tell you this, but I think it’s worth saying this in a comment anyway: your anger is valid and justified. I’d be angry, too. Many young people are. This post reminds me of a lyric I think you’d enjoy:

If you’re not angry,
then you’re stupid,
or you don’t care.
How else can you react
when you know something’s
so unfair.

–Ani Difranco, “Out of Range”

Believe me (and I know you do) when I say that I understand what you’re angry about, but also believe me when I say it’s not worth your while to get too angry, unless you can make use of it constructively somehow.

I draw a lot of strength from anger, and I challenge the notion that
anger is inherently bad in the same way I challenge mainstream ideals that pain is inherently bad. Neither of those absolutist remarks are useful, and so I reject them.

But the fact remains that anger, when untempered by constructive use, results in destructive goals, and those inevitably lead to your own disempowerment.

Be angry. And then use it to find happiness for yourself, bring happiness to others, and change the world with me. :)

Damn right. For me, my brief addiction to girls’ magazines and *cough*fanficerotica*cough* helped me through. And feminist books and blogs.

But yes, sex ed is shite. In all honesty I think the first lesson should begin with “Don’t have sex with someone who doesn’t want to, and don’t have sex if you don’t want to. Don’t just wait for them to say no, make sure they’ve actually said ‘yes’. If they tell you to stop, stop right away. Don’t have sex with someone who can’t consent because they’re too young or are asleep or unconscious or very drunk.” (I’ve read a disturbing amount of stuff going on about how women need to “take responsibility” and not get drunk because apparently if you’re raped while unconscious or too drunk to resist it’s totally your fault. Not, you know, the fault of the one doing the raping)

But yes, school seemed more interested in preventing teenage pregnancy than considering what goes into an actual healthy relationship, as well as kids that might be suffering or have suffered sexual abuse. I don’t recall ever having a discussion about consent, which is surely the most important topic, and not exactly a difficult concept.

Although I perfectly understand the viewpoint of the original statement, I would like to add explicitely that quality of sex ed is no different for boys…

What do we learn anything about sexual relationships besides the most basic physiological facts? Do we learn anything about the relation of anatomy and pleasure?
In the end what we learn boils down to: “Penis goes in there…”

Of course, boys should learn about female anatomy and its relation to sexual response and a fulfilled sexual relationship. After all it doesn’t hurt if a boy knows where to find his partner’s clitoris.
And maybe boys could also be taught a few more things about their own sexuality. It’s not just the penis after all (which boy knows where to find his prostate and about the excitability of his nipples?)

So sex ed in general should be more detailed for everyone, so that everyone benefits from it.

Uh.. wow. I mean, really? Don’t get me wrong, I do believe you. It’s just that this is kind of hard for me to imagine. The sex education I have experienced here in Germany was pretty adequate, I think. We did learn about female and male bodyparts responsible for physical pleasure and so on. It was all rather scientific, but that was pretty much okay. On the other hand I am utterly convinced that each and every one of us knew what a clitoris is before a teacher pointed it out on a chart. It’s just something you pick up as you go. (Although I bet that most of the boys had no clue where it is and what it looks like.) As for myself – I knew pretty well where my clitoris is. It was just.. there. I could feel it. I was never afraid to explore my own body, so I knew from the start where everything was located and what it was there for.

Now comes the BUT.

I was never afraid to get to know myself BECAUSE I was told it was a good thing… or rather: essential! thing to do. I was told so by my teachers, by education in general, by “Bravo” – an extraordinary german magazine for kids and youths. I firmly believe it is a vital part of german sex education. They feature articles about sexuality, especially for youths, teaching them about their bodies, sex, relationships and, which is extremely important: Ethics, responsibility and consent. Of course there’s also the “advice” section and everything. All that is provided in a very responsible, open-minded and straight to the point way. About 95% of all german kids read that magazine.

All this makes it hard for me to believe that someone can actually grow up without knowing this wonderful little fact about themselves. But I do believe you. And it makes me mad, because I know what you’ve missed out on. It makes me furious.

A little while after I started my blog I wrote an almost-throwaway post and almost titled it “how to find someone’s clitoris.” Except that seemed so obvious the title became “how to find someone’s clitoris (if you don’t already know.)” But it’s been the consistent, overwhelmingly most-searched-for post since almost that first day. There’s a reason for that and I think sex ed, or the lack thereof, in purity-ball culture has a lot to do with it.

Cool post, Froth.

Also, very wicked cool advent science posts. Glad I found your blog.

figleaf

This is awesome, and I agree with you. I would also like to add that it should be made clear that not everyone is heterosexual, and PIV sex is not the only “real” sex.

@ Rena

Things are much different in the United States. The religious fanatics have taken over sex education.

The funny thing is: I even went to a catholic school.

Pretty much the exact same thing happened to me. Sex education (everywhere) has declined, from what I’ve seen. I’ve watched documentaries from the 70′s that demonstrated how sex was taught to the mentally disabled. It was far more cohesive than anything I was ever taught in the 90′s and 00′s.

That makes me really curious as to what happens in special schools now, actually. I’ve known adults with learning disabilities go on ‘relationship courses’ but don’t know what the initial sex education is like. That said, a lot of the adults i know with learning disabilities went to school in the seventies…

This is awesome, and I agree with you. I would also like to add that it should be made clear that not everyone is heterosexual, and PIV sex is not the only “real” sex.

I was educated in England, and my sex ed was brilliant. Your LEA was to blame, not the whole country.

NotOT: I suggest you reread. The only reference I made to England was to explain that I was not in America. I clearly state who my sex ed was provided by.

Well im currently taking sex-ed and they are teaching us about healthy relationships.They dont tell us or desribe what our body does. I’m a very curios person and I try to ask my family but my sister doesnt know how to explain the questions I ask. The first thing they tell us is to use a condom then they talk about birth control and dieases. Its like they want to scare us out of having sex.
I’m a virgin but my body ois starting to tingle and Iokow ow to with it, so I just stay away from boys.I too just recently learned i have a clitoris. I’m not even sure abot all that my body can do.
The only resouce i have for answers are the internet, and books. I have a hard time imaganing why they dont teach us these things.
I live in the United States and i’m not saying every state is like this, but I do wish they’d teach us more. By the by I’m only 15.

Ugh, this makes me so mad. I’m in Australia, and I had a really similar experience. What I remember of my sex education is mainly periods and condoms and diseases. We did have discussions about date rape, but they were brief and definitely not the main focus. There was NOTHING about non-heterosexual sex in the actual curriculum. I remember in Year 7 someone in my class asked the teacher how lesbians have sex, and she told us they use strap-ons. Argh.

I think they might have mentioned the word clitoris (about once) when they showed us diagrams of the reproductive systems. I had no idea what it did. (I was probably naive, but STILL.) I too didn’t know where my own clitoris was until I was 18.

It’s so ridiculous.

[...] Sex Education, or, What Boys Will Want From You « Frothing at the Brain (via rebeccam, sexisnottheenemy) [...]

Thank you for this article and blog.I also think that sex education is very important.Here, in Turkey, girls are only taught about the periods and nothing else about sex.Sex is still considered as a taboo for most of the people.It causes very painful consequences.I think that we should change.

My sex-ed teacher was also my art teacher, I doubt she was fully qualified and I know she did not teach me anything useful. I wasn’t even taught about condoms until high school. Education is the answer, its fine if you want to teach kids to abstain but they need to be prepared should they decide not to. It angers me all the significant information that I missed out on because no one had the guts to tell me that I will enjoy sex! Hell, I had to ask my mom what a boner was because in 8th grade, I still did not know. Sure I may have been sheltered but don’t you think a boner might come up in our discussions about how people have sex?

[...] Do You Stand? (Or, What Gracie’s Been Reading) 1. This is exactly what U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders was addressing when she replied to a question [...]

I am a member of a queer/trans collective in Montreal and about to begin a sexology degree. Would it be all right with you if I translated this piece into French and shared it non-commercially, with attribution to your screen name, blog, and URL?

I just read this on a Tumblr blog. On behalf of my fellow science teachers, I apologize.

In our defense, here in the bible belt, our hands are tied. We tried to get a sex ed class (boys and girls separated) with parents would opt in. Parents wanted it but a small and very vocal group threatened the school board. Anything that did not start and stop with abstinence (and nothing in the middle) would lead to the total destruction of civilization.

All things you talked about – yea, we wanted that. How to say no. The fact that you could say no. How to actually use a condom.

To all you pissed off ladies (and men) remember this when you have kids. Get vocal or your kids will be left in the dark, too.

Thanks for letting me vent.

[...] (Source) (via) 2. “Although most boys figure out how to bring themselves to orgasm by age thirteen, [...]

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