Sexual Miseducation: Masturbation, Orgasms and Everything In-between

Sexual Miseducation: Masturbation, Orgasms and Everything In-between

Wanking. 

 In my final year of primary school, at aged 11, I became familiar with this word. After an outbreak of female horror, disgust and fear at secretly learning that our male counter halves had begun to enshrine their manhood with pleasure by touching themselves, my school decided it was time to hold a formal intervention. The girls and boys amongst year 6 were divided by their respective genders to attempt to bring a degree of normality to this newly discovered sexuality. 

 This was not our first experience of sex education. Two years prior, when I was 9, my school introduced the birds and the bees. In the form of a cartoon animation, two blobs were shown running around a bed, before dashing under the sheets, giggling profusely and jiggling under the bedding. Just like that, a baby is made! (sorry, just like what?). But this occasion at the end of primary education was seemingly different, and I hoped it would shed some light on the grey areas of the adult concept of sex.  

 Amongst my female peers, the female teachers gathered us round, to discuss the female element of sexuality, and let us know what was in store. However, whereas the group of boys discussed this new discovery of ‘wanking’ (wanking is completely normal, but probably best to call it masturbation!), with thorough assurances that masturbation was a natural part of masculine life, my group of girls were taught about periods. Bearing in mind this intervention came at aged 11, where several unfortunate souls had already seen their first period with no prior education on them, this ‘sex’ education seemed a somewhat time-fill to justify the normalisation of masturbation amongst my male peers.  

 In retrospect, this disparity between the subjects of these educational interventions, in accordance with respective genders, came to signify the essence of my education about sex, both informally and via formal educational institutions. Essentially, that year 6 class with separate genders taught me that a womans experience of sex is defined by her ability, and responsibility, to reproduce; whereas a mans is characterised by autonomy and the ability to achieve natural pleasure. From the age of 11, it was engrained in me that sex was not about my pleasure and does not belong to me.  

 In 1949, Simone de Beauvoir described how women, from childhood, are made to conceive of themselves as the other, whereas man is thought of as the self. 70 years on, and The Second Sex remains worryingly poignant with regards to the sexual education of children. This precedent continued throughout my teenage years; whereas groups of boys were advised how to apply condoms correctly, attention towards the girls in education concerned stages of pregnancy. Although thankfully classes were no longer split in accordance of gender, I still cannot recall any education I received which assured me that sex was for both parties.  

 This, unsurprisingly, had a massive detriment to how I conceived my sexuality and body during my pubescent years. From having the notion of virginity as something sacred fundamentally engrained into my consciousness since childhood, the prospect of sex was something to fear and would result in my inherent corruption. When I eventually lost my virginity, the first questions my friends asked were “How was it? Did it hurt?”. This is a question asked over and over again, and it reflects the entrenched teachings that sex is not meant to be comfortable for girls, because it is not for them.  

 The prospect of a ‘popped cherry’ remained an urban myth whispered amongst virginal teens, where educational institutions failed to outline the existence of the hymen. This meant that throughout secondary schools, it wasn’t uncommon to hear groups of boys usher disgust at stories of girls losing their virginity and bleeding on bedsheets. Similarly, girls to respectively have a fear struck into them at the prospect of releasing blood, from unknown sources, onto their first ever sexual partner. Once again, this failure to give adequate education about female anatomy and the natural elements of sex meant women were taught to feel shame around their bodies during sex, and thus come to fear it.  

 Even more daunting however, is the continual taboo of female masturbation. Whereas my male peers were assured that touching themselves was a completely normal aspect of puberty and male sexuality, female masturbation was absolutely never mentioned throughout my education. This not only resulted in the persecution of girls in primary school who were said to have been seen putting their hands ‘down there’, but this taboo also permeated well into my late teens. In fact, I don’t think I ever had a conversation with another person about masturbation until I was in university, and the discussion of female masturbation was still treated as a question of whether it was normal. Do girls masturbate? Do they use toys? Do they watch porn? Is it still a bit gross? These insecurities just serve to alienate women from their own body and rely on men to provide sexual gratification.  

 Here we reach the problem of the female orgasm. Up to 40% of women struggle to orgasm, or never have. This, coupled with the fact that many women aren’t aware of the anatomy of their own vagina, demonstrates how the void in education around the female experience of sex is having a major detriment to how women perceive and enjoy sex. This ambiguity around women and sex in education merely perpetuates the notion that sex is for men, with heterosexual sex so commonly reduced to penetration. In a recent YouGov poll, only 55% of women and 41% of men could identify where the vagina is on a diagram. No wonder so few women are enjoying sex, when nobody, including themselves, know anything about female anatomy! 

 Furthermore, sex education is alarmingly hetero-normative. The majority of formal sex education works on the assumption that one party is male, and one is female. With LGBTQ+ education itself coming under public scrutiny and religious and conservative groups arguing ‘gay is not ok’, knowledge around homosexual sex remains outside of the education system. Recently, a gay woman told me she didn’t know it was possible for her to catch STIs. The taboo surrounding gay sex, shaped by the heteronormative narrative of education institutions, is thus not just inhibiting the normalisation of homosexuality, but is actively putting young people at risk by failing to educate properly about safe sex amongst LGBT groups.  

Sex education is failing young people. Rather, the absence of sex education is failing young people, as sex education is dominated by the biological changes which occur during puberty and the male experience of sexuality. The absence of any real discussion about what sex is actually like is resulting in ideas of sex to be shaped by hushed anecdotes in the playground, awkward questions to parents, and worst of all, porn. This teaches girls that their body and their sexuality is not their own, creates a male centred experience of sex, and excludes LGBTQ+ groups from the conversation. It is not that sex could be more enjoyable for women, but that institutionally, gender inequalities are perpetuated via sexual relations and minority groups are further marginalised. If inequalities between men and women are to be diminished, syllabuses surrounding sex education in schools need drastic reforms.  

Science is Not Privy to Taboo, Say the Men Who Have No Idea

Science is Not Privy to Taboo, Say the Men Who Have No Idea

How to Stay Body Positive this Summer

How to Stay Body Positive this Summer