This week, it’s all about masturbation.
While reading this week about Betty Dodson, the 85 year-old who is teaching women in the United States how to make themselves orgasm, it dawned on me that pleasure (female or male) played no part in the sex education that I received at my non-denominational international school in the mid-nineties. Certainly, from speaking to friends, it seems that even just by having any information about sex, my school was better than most. However, from what I recall, it was all about how to avoid getting pregnant and getting HIV/AIDS. Essentially, I guess, the point was to terrify us into not having sex (because, of course, that has been proven to be a really effective method!!). Sex was depicted as something dangerous and scary, with devastating consequences. I recall vividly a graphic showing a pyramid of people, illustrating how quickly HIV can spread, as well as a video of a live birth, exceedingly up close and personal. The words ‘pleasure,’ ‘masturbation,’ and ‘fun’ were entirely absent. When we were about 10 or 11, they split us up into boys and girls and they told us girls about periods. Perhaps the boys learned about their own pleasure then (guys – do any of you remember?) but female pleasure was certainly never mentioned. Is it any wonder, then, that many women have trouble reaching orgasm?
And it doesn’t seem that things have gotten much better in the last twenty years. The Australian news has recently been reporting on the need for an overhaul of the nation’s sex education curriculum as teenagers have revealed that the information they are receiving is insufficient. Two years ago, the Government of Bogotá received harsh criticism for publishing an illustration of a girl that implied that she was masturbating. And NGOs and inspiring individuals alike have been critiquing the absence of information about consent in sex education in the U.K.
Call me crazy but, as I see it, both pleasure AND consent are central to sex and, yet, if we still don’t teach kids how to understand their own bodies, how can they articulate what they like and don’t like – and what they consent and do not consent to do – with their sexual partners?
I’d love to hear about what sex ed (if any!) was like when & where you were growing up; positive or nightmarish approaches – all stories welcome!