There's a good chance you walked away from a sex ed class as kid believing sex always leads to pregnancy or diseases, and the best way to enjoy it is to not do it at all. If you turned to movies or porn to fill in the rest, you'd have gotten the message that sex is actually perfect and beautiful and always leads to orgasm.
We know for a fact that abstinence-only education doesn't work well. In fact, based on research from the University of Georgia, it may backfire. We also know that taking your sex tips from pop culture or porn doesn't always yield positive results, either.
Even though a lot of us began experimenting in high school, most of us didn't know exactly what we were doing or if we were doing it right. So Mic asked the Tumblr-verse what they wished they had been taught to them in high school that they instead had to find out on their own.
1. Sex can be awkward, especially your first time.
"It's never as suave as in the movies. There will be bumps and occasional awkwardness. And that's fine! Have a sense of humor and have fun." — realcleverscience
Sex is a lot of fumbling and feeling around, literally and figuratively. The first time you're intimate with someone in any way, there's a learning curve. Studies have shown the lack of physical satisfaction doesn't necessarily mean it wasn't satisfying in other ways. Luckily, despite what some researchers have said, bad first-time sex doesn't condemn you to a lifetime of bad sex.
2. "Virginity" doesn't really exist.
"Virginity is a social construct meant to tie a woman's worth to her sexuality and having or not having sex does not define who you are — this goes for all genders, including men." — urlsfordays
"I was told the only way to be attractive to your future husband was to be a virgin." — kyos-cock
Yes, someone can raise their hand and identify as a person who has had penis-in-vagina sex. But "virginity" as a concrete status is largely a myth, seeing as not having p-in-v sex doesn't make you pure, hymens can be broken on their own and not everyone has sex with penises anyway.
3. The female anatomy is worth understanding, including this amazing thing called the clitoris.
"Every single thing about the female reproductive system outside of 'it bleeds.'" — capriciousnerd
"How vaginas work. We all learned about penises, but no one ever told me how my parts work or how to care for them." — la-clamentina
"All about the clit!!" — viitsima
Female anatomy, the female orgasm, menstruation: All these things seemed taboo in sex education courses. But these things are so integral for young women to understand about their bodies, as well as for young men, who may, you know, eventually have sex with them.
Most notably absent? Conversations about the clitoris, often treated like a dirty word to the point that people aren't really sure what it is (besides a "tiny penis"). But considering it's the key to so many women's orgasms, we'd say it's worth talking about.
4. Gender identity isn't the same as sexual identity.
"I feel that sex ed needs to talk about gender identity and LGBT relationships as well as cis or heterosexual ones. I think kids are afraid of thinking about the possibility of being anything but cis and hetero [...] those things are never discussed in school and when they are they're talked about likes it's some dirty secret that shouldn't be discussed." — keeprunningandneverlookback
"Asexuality exists and it's normal. Multisexuals (bi, pan, omni, etc) are real. How to help someone transition from binary to nonbinary. How to come out." — satanichorse
"You're not broken if you're LGBTQIA or kinky." — shistosomula
There is so much confusion about sexuality and gender that it's important to create spaces where people can learn about who they are and who they're attracted to without shame or judgment. Whether someone is dealing with confusion, curiosity or simply wanting to be a better ally, we could all use to have more honest conversations about these topics at an earlier age — and to keep on having them.
5. In fact, sex doesn't always require a penis and a vagina.
Sex isn't just about penetration. Oral sex is just as intimate — even a hand can be." — miranda-danda-panda
"Anal sex is Goooooood!" — morpheusjr
Oral sex is still sexual activity, and for some people it is incredibly personal, perhaps even more so than p-in-v. Plus there's more than just oral sex — really, more options than a young teen mind would even realize. The point is that "sex" doesn't have to mean one thing, nor does everyone have to enjoy the same acts. That's information we usually find out way later, possibly after years of less-than-enjoyable sex.
6. Same-sex partners need to be safe too.
"We were never taught about anything other than hetero sex. Which left a young bisexual me VERY confused and unprepared for STD protection. Learning how to place a condom is great, useful, but teaching must be inclusive not exclusive." — deadwicked
"All safe sex options, not just for straight people. I think kids need to be better informed on STDs." — sweet-ladykisses
Creating sex education programs that can address all aspects of sexuality, particularly for young gay and bisexual men who are at an increased risk for certain sexually transmitted infections, is crucial. Between 2008 and 2010, there was a 22% increase in HIV infections among gay and bisexual men. Those numbers might be combatted, in part, with better knowledge from a younger age about being safe.
7. There are condoms out there for both for men and women.
"Female Condoms, rarely do teachers ever talk about them. They scrape the surface at the very least." — notoriouslyunnoticed
Many of us didn't even know female condoms existed until at least high school, at which point they often get treated like an urban legend or something to avoid. But it's important to teach young women about what they can do to protect themselves and have agency over their own bodies. And for those who are still confused, Planned Parenthood made an instructional video.
8. When it comes to contraception, you have options.
"Condoms aren't foolproof." — all-i-lacked-were-the-words
"I never learned about any type of protection until high school. I only discovered other types of protection, and their price, upkeep and failure rates my junior year of college. I definitely would have rather been inform [sic] of other option earlier." — freethebird10601
There was no-putting-rubbers-on-bananas when I was in sex ed — and judging from a lot of responses from Tumblr, plenty of us were left in the dark. According to one study, 41% of teens 18 to 19 knew "little or nothing about condoms" and as many as 75% knew nothing about the contraceptive pill. It's one thing to tell someone that they can use condoms or oral contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies — it's something else entirely to ensure we don't actually know how to use them.
9. Don't be ashamed of lube.
"There's no shame in using lube, sex shouldn't hurt and heterosexual girls should be on top for their first sexual encounter so that they can be in control of the pace and have more freedom to stop at any time." — roscoemcnally
Remember the scene in Superbad, where Jonah Hill proclaims lube is unnecessary since 18-year-old women aren't "dried-up old ladies"? But don't listen to Hill — sometimes even college-age women, not to mention older women, need it. Lubrication can not only help prevent vaginal tearing but making sex just feel better. As Mic's Kate Hakala wrote, citing a 2011 study, "Using lube was associated with higher pleasure and satisfaction during both masturbation and penile-vaginal sex for women as compared to lubeless activity." Go with it.
10. Yes, sex can get messy and weird.
"How come they never talked about queefs in sex ed?" — boktai50
"You don't have to politely giggle after a queef. You don't have to cover up your love handles post-coitus. You don't have to cringe when your two slapping bodies make that unignorable fart noise," Stephanie Georgopulos wrote for Cosmopolitan. "It might take years for you to accept this, but your body is not gross; it's a body just like every other body in the universe."
Sex is supposed to sexy, but that's tough when you're swapping bodily fluids, your naked bodies are making funny sounds and the sweat is flowing. The sooner you learn to go with it, the better.
11. Peeing after sex is definitely a good idea.
"That you need to pee after sex. So many painful UTIs could be avoided if this information was passed on in school. I definitely did not learn this in sex ed, and it definitely took a long time for me to figure it out. If teachers taught us to pee after having sex, I bet there would be a lot less painful urinary tract infections happening." — randomname89 via Reddit
This still baffles many adult women, seeing as it's information that tends to trickle down to us anecdotally. Well, Lissa Rankin has set the record straight: It's a good idea to head to the loo at some point after sex — and realistically, you probably will feel like you need to anyway.
12. Masturbation isn't only OK, it's a great way to get to know yourself.
"Women should be taught about masturbation and embracing their own body parts instead of being ashamed or scared of themselves. Female masturbation is never talked about." — ariadavison
"The importance of understanding your body ... I think it was this unspoken thing about DON'T FUCKING MASTURBATE and then when you get to making out and you're like 'hahahahaha I don't know what's going on down there???'" — reticentverbiage
This is another one of those things that women in particular seemed to be shamed for doing. In high school it seemed like it was a given boys would masturbate, but if girls did it, it was somehow gross or crass. But guess what? Masturbation is healthy, nothing to be embarrassed about and can even improve your mood and your sex life.
13. Consent isn't optional.
"The concept of consent and that it is completely necessary to state what the intention of the encounter is before starting anything. words are necessary." — becca-meow
"Explain consent and rape culture and our societies' subconscious views on sexual assault." — dreamingincolor613
"No one, not even your long-term partner, has the right to touch your body without your permission." — howdowejustmoveon
A lot of different things can happen in the bedroom, but consent must always be one of them. Unfortunately, that important conversation is often left out of sex ed, to the point where educators from the likes of Cambridge University and several University of California campuses have recommended consent education. Sex should never feel pressured, hurried or uncomfortable; by the same token, it can be unconventional (want to try kink? Go for it) — as long as both parties are consenting.
14. Sex is about pleasure.
"You shouldn't feel ashamed for having sex or for wanting to explore your sexuality. I think a lot of sex ed classes focus on scaring kids into not having sex by showing them pics of STDs and then shove abstinence down their throats. Sex is normal!" – pretty--dark
"That being a girl and having sex doesn't mean that you're a slut. And that girls are supposed to enjoy sex, instead of 'tolerating' it." — godsandmonsters21
So much of sex ed is about scare tactics and pain. But sex should be an enjoyable experience; what matters most is that all people involved feel safe and comfortable. It's time to ditch the shame that comes with exploring your sexuality — and not let kids fumble for years trying to figure out how to make sex fun.