What “Sex Education” Should Really Mean

Hey guys, guess what? I’m thinking about sex! I know, you are so totally surprised. Don’t worry, hugs will be distributed at the door.

What I’m really thinking about is virginity. The brilliant ladies of The Sexist and Tiger Beatdown did a great chat about virginity on Friday. And yesterday, I missed a rethinking virginity event right here in Cambridge! Which had drinkable water, unlike my office in Boston! This is like a double-decker sammich of disappointment that I was not able to attend! So man, I am thinking about virginity like nobody’s business at this point.

Rumor has it, I once had a virginity of my very own. These were in the dark days, when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Since then, I’ve frolicked with all kinds of genitals belonging to all sorts of people and Lo, It Has Been Good. Not all of it, of course. In fact, I went through YEARS of considering sex to be something akin to a chore–“I mean gosh, this boy is my boyfriend and I guess since we did that thing with the sexytimes once, I’m pretty much obligated to just keep on going.” So, you know, I kept on going.

And here’s the thing–there is so totally nothing wrong with that. For a while, I had my share of anger toward that fellow, let us call him My First Boyfriend (for that is what he was), but that’s misdirected anger. The dude was just doing what he thought he was supposed to do, and I was doing what I thought I was supposed to do, and it’s not like either of us legitimately had any clue what our penises and vaginas should do when working in tandem, or really what they could do. I mean, we had watched porn he downloaded off the internet, and we used condoms, so I guess we weren’t doing too badly, but that’s really about it. I had no concept of the fact that I could enjoy sex or what that might mean, and I certainly had no concept that at any point I could have said, “Hey, you know, it turns out that I thought I was ready for sex, but I’m actually not. I think we need to stop having it and go back to waiting.”

This is not a sob fest–like I said, I’m not upset at him, and I’ve forgiven my adolescent self for being a bit silly. What I’m upset about is the lack of proper sex ed.

Sex ed isn’t just about knowing to put a pretty wacky dunce hat on the dude’s peenor before you start waggling it where the sun don’t shine. If you’re super lucky, someone will mention lube. The clitoris might be discussed in a purely anatomical sense (“This here body part doesn’t actually serve any purpose, kind of like your tonsils. Also like the tonsils, your girlfriend will make some really neat noises if you poke her there!”). And dudes? I’m sorry, but you don’t even get a nod to your erogenous zones.

But beyond the concept of the clinically sexy parts of sexytimes, sex ed should be covering the emotional side of sex. Abstinence is actually a great fucking idea when the idea is wait until you are ready. For some people, that’s marriage. For some people, that’s in the back of a Ford Taurus on the first date. For most people, it’s somewhere between those two extremes. But the point is, when you’re having sex as a fully consenting, entirely ready, emotionally prepared individual who understands what’s involved then you’re going to have safe, healthy sex (for the most part. Ain’t nothin’ perfect in this world).

So that’s what I mean when I say that I didn’t understand that I could’ve had any sway over my early sexual encounters.

Sady puts it brilliantly in the chat:

I had been taught “don’t have sex,” and I had been taught about the importance of putting a little rubber outfit on his apparatus if I ever DID have sex. But what I had NEVER been taught, apparently, was how to respect what I wanted, and to ask for it, and how to say “no” if I did NOT want something he wanted. I mean, I didn’t even know how to say “ow” or “yikes.” My impression was that one could Have Sex or Not Have Sex, and so my first few experiences were like, “oh, so apparently sex is AWFUL? It seems weird that people are so into it! But, OK! I am Having Sex!”

As rational, sexually literate adults at this point in our lives, it’s easy to look at that and go “Pfft! Everyone knows that they can say ‘ow ‘ or ‘yikes’ or that actually, they’re NOT ready for sex. I mean, c’mon!” And then I think about it for a little while, and I think about how nervous I can even get with new partners NOW, let alone a decade ago, and it occurs to me that no, I couldn’t have said any of those things. I didn’t grasp that “ow” was a variable in sex–I figured that if it was hurting, it was because there was something wrong with me, and I didn’t think that we could fix it. Even if it could be fixed, I didn’t know how (and poor First Boyfriend didn’t know either). These days I know that if I go “ow!” I probably need to move my hips to adjust the angle, or grab a little lube or something.

Remember that part about how we watched porn from the internet? Dude, they don’t even use lube for BUTTSEX in porn. It’s just all “TA DA! Magical penis penetrates willing (and eerily hairless and colorless) ass and then everyone is MOANING and then HOLY SHIT MOTHERFUCKING MAYONNAISE EVERYWHERE!”

Did this confuse the hell out of me? Of course! Did I have anyone or anywhere to go to sort out this confusion and my fears? Most assuredly no!

The internet was fledgling in those days and I was mostly using it to play text-based roleplaying games and sometimes to read slashfic (which also doesn’t use lube for buttsex, in case you were wondering). My parents were not accessible sources of sexual information (though my dad took me to get birth control), and I was the first sexually active person in my social group so I didn’t have friends to turn to.

Later in life, I discovered women’s health forums online, I began reading books–both fiction and non–that broached the subject of female sexuality and female sexual pleasure, and I started to accumulate self-esteem. Almost six years after I had been having sex, I finally had my first orgasm alone, and that really changed things.

I’m not saying this is the experience everyone has, or that there’s necessarily a brilliant simple fix. However, reading the chat between Amanda and Sady was comforting–apparently, I am not the only one out there! Other people have weird and bizarre and sometimes unpleasant sexual experiences courtesy of the Big Hubbub surrounding virginity and the lack of really actually useful sex ed.

As Sady mentions, useful sex ed would not have changed who she (or I) decided to first sleep with. It probably wouldn’t have changed any number of Less Than Stellar And Brilliant mate selections I’ve made in my life. But it might’ve changed how I had sex with these people, and my ability to know what I wanted, that I could want something, and how to say no (or even “ow” or “yikes”).

Sex: It’s Really Not That Big Of A Deal.

So can we accept that, move on, and just do what we can to make sure that our kids and little siblings and younger friends and nieces and nephews and all those strangers out there in the world are not getting any more messed up over it? There are just such better things to be spazzing out over.

Like good looking people being in our proximity. As if sun, water, and the air trying to give us cancer wasn’t bad enough, now it’s official–the pretty people are trying to kill us all.

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05/04/2010. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized.

2 Comments

  1. Tasty replied:

    Man, after I got over the INTENSE shame of getting to the party late, I gotta say there were some advantages to gettin’ busy later on than most of my peers – namely, not having to deal with a lot of awkwardness initially.

    I had pretty decent sex ed in school, but I went to godless-heathen public school in the inner-city, where we gave condoms to 5th graders because, hey, they were going to do it anyway and they might as well not get pregnant until at least junior high.

    I’ve really got to thank the tiny, sort-of profeminist book store down the street from my favorite pizza place for stocking “The Joy of Sex” on a rack in the back and out of the line of sight from the store owner. A little knowledge can do some dangerous things to a young mind. Even though I was an intensely frustrated dude for a long time, when I finally had the chance with a partner, I had some ideas of how she worked. Reading is fun!

    Now, the question is why can’t our society get over its squicked-ness about women having sex drives and just straight up teach kids about ALL of the aspects of sex – including the fun parts. It was probably not ideal that I learned about sex by furtively hiding in the back of a bookstore next to a pizza joint at age 15. If someone had told me what the clitoris was in school, or in some other community setting, I wouldn’t have had to do that.

  2. H replied:

    The problem is guys don’t seem to understand “no”, so if you say “no”, no matter how politely, they get offended and assume THEY did something wrong, resulting in them never speaking to you again. I’ve had to take the “saying no” route multiple times and each time I was pressured immensely into changing my mind, and when I wouldn’t submit, it ALWAYS resulted in the dude never speaking to me again. I will never know if it’s because I somehow offended them or if it’s because they were just looking for an easy catch. Either way, I don’t regret saying “no to real sex” continuously until I was 23, when I ended up giving up my virginity up to the guy I later agreed to marry.

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