10 Lessons We Need to Start Teaching Children About Sex
If sex ed in American schools were truly comprehensive in the way that such an education in a rich, first-world nation should be, then maybe the U.S. would place somewhere in the top 12 "sexually satisfied" countries in the world, and more than 48% of Americans would be content with their sex lives.
But we are far, far from any version of a sexual utopia.
Instead, Americans' formal introduction to sex, which primarily happens in the classroom, hinges on matter-of-fact anatomy lessons, and in many cases, ineffective abstinence-only lessons that dangerously conflate fact with fiction. What's more, a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that most teenagers receive sex ed after they've already begun having sex, which means they're experiencing sex completely ill-informed.
Why does that matter?
"Knowledge is power, and we can promote a healthier relationship with sex by encouraging a more open dialogue," Mic's Julianne Ross wrote.
Here's what sex ed should really be teaching children:
1. Sex is for pleasure, too.
While it's true that the human race depends on sex for procreation, sex is also about pleasure. How else do you explain the sole purpose of the clitoris, which is providing sexual pleasure? And beyond the orgasm factor, intimacy is fun in other ways: It's communicative, it allows you to explore your sexuality and your body and can help build emotional awareness.
2. Consent is sexy.
Nothing is sexier than a partner who makes it a point to affirm consent before having sex. It opens pathways of trust and communication and reifies your value as an autonomous individual. Besides, talking about sex can be fun foreplay.
3. Sex is so much more than penis in vagina.
Not all sex involves penises and vaginas, and teaching that only reinforces heteronormative understandings of sex and denies the experiences of LGBT partners. Even within heterosexual encounters, sex can have different meanings, including oral, anal and digital. Regardless of which type of sex you're having, protection is key.
4. Condoms are your best friend.
Despite the downright lies that some sex ed classes eschew, condoms are your first line of defense against STIs, HIV and pregnancy, if worn correctly. An added benefit? Better sex. If you aren't preoccupied and worried about being protected, you can focus your energy on you and your partner's pleasure. Plus, condoms come with fun features, including ribbed (for her pleasure) and even vibrators.
5. So is masturbation.
Masturbation isn't just for the lonely. It's a safe, fun way to explore your body with multiple benefits. As Planned Parenthood points out, "Learning about what feels good to you can increase your chance of feeling sexual pleasure with sex partners. When you know what you like when it comes to sex, your comfort with sex increases. And when your confidence and comfort level are high, it is easier to let your partner know what you like."
And no, it won't cause your palms to grow hair or make you go blind.
6. You can have (good!) sex on your period.
It's true. Sex on your period can be pretty great — but no pressure if you aren't comfortable doing it. Sexy times can help relieve cramps and other physical discomforts that accompany your monthly flow. Concerned you'll bleed everywhere? Chances are you won't, but if you're worried, just lay down a towel.
7. Women can ejaculate.
Despite popular misconceptions, men aren't the only ones who ejaculate.
"According to the National Institutes of Health, female ejaculation has been on the records for some 2,000 years. However, female ejaculation is not what pornography belies it to be; the 'squirting' phenomenon is actually the expulsion of diluted fluid from the urinary bladder, whereas true female ejaculation is the release of a thick, whitish fluid, biochemically similar to men's ejaculate."
8. Sex doesn't have to be boring.
Never mind the dozens of positions you can try — there are many, many different types of kink, fetishes and roleplaying scenarios that can spice up your sex life — so long as everyone involved is on the same page and consents.
9. Not all women are born with vaginas.
Nor are all men born with penises. Understanding early on that not everyone is cisgender — meaning one's gender identity matches one's assigned sex at birth — is key to promoting tolerance and understanding the spectrum of sexuality.
10. All body types are beautiful.
While this might not technically fall under the sex ed umbrella, it should. Body positivity is a key component of sex positivity, and impressionable young men and women should understand that there is no one body type that defines beauty. All bodies — regardless of color, shape and weight — are beautiful and deserve respect.