At the ripe age of 20, I am just now beginning to get a grasp on my sexuality and what it means to be a sexual being – and a woman, at that. This is a sad, sad state of affairs. After all, I supposedly began sex-ed in the 7th grade at age 13. All that I remember from my middle school days was learning about the male and female reproductive organs: labeling diagrams of man-parts and lady-parts. And that was about it. Sex-ed in high school was even less informative. Our health teacher instructed us to read through the chapter on sex on our own. There was no discussion, no time to ask questions – not even a video. That was that. I graduated from high school with scarcely more knowledge of my body than I had in the 7th grade.
Many people complain, rightfully so, that abstinence-only sex education is ineffective and leaves out crucial information. But my sex education didn’t even go there, because it didn’t actually teach anything. I was prepared to receive the whole abstinence spiel, going to school in the Bible Belt. It turns out that all I got was a lack of any kind of sex education at all.
What’s a girl to do? I had to rely upon gossip from friends and eventually experiences with partners to obtain information about sex. I learned the most through doing, which is certainly effective but not the safest method. I’m lucky that I haven’t been traumatized by a sexual experience – many women aren’t so fortunate. I did manage to learn some from each of my relationships, such as what I like & don’t like.
Only very recently, however, did I stop to consider myself as a sexual being. I realized that I did not know this person. I never actually looked at my vagina. I considered it separate from the rest of my body, even when a guy was jamming his fingers into it. I didn’t know what it even looked like, much less what would bring it pleasure. Hell, I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t even know where my own clitoris was. It became clear to me that I was completely uncomfortable and unfamiliar with my own sexuality.
As a feminist, I knew that taking ownership of my body and familiarizing myself with its needs was critical. So I read the Vagina Monologues and I masturbated for the first time. I looked at my naked body in the mirror. And all of this was intensely liberating. While it is true that I learned from partners, I learned more valuable information through my own self-discovery.
I’ve also found some great resources that have helped me get to know my sexy self, such as Rookie Mag, Melissa Fabello’s vlog, and Laci Green’s Sex+ (all of which I recommend checking out). There are actually some really great internet sex educators out there that provide easily accessible information. By the looks of it, public schools aren’t going such a great job educating teens about sex, so it’s awesome that there are other resources available. I would certainly encourage everyone, especially teens, to do research on your own and get to know your body better.
Women most of all: we need to stop letting men dictate our needs and our desires. We’re taught to suppress our sexuality and only give in for the pleasure of a man, ignoring our own needs or ranking them second in importance. Sexual liberation is refusing to follow this script and investigating our own desires. My belief is that if you never experiment you will never know what these desires are. Discover what you like and what makes you feel good, and never accept anything less.
Despite the public school system’s failure to provide me with adequate information, I have managed to learn quite a lot. I’ve learned that virginity is not a thing and that masturbation can get you to orgasm. I’ve learned that you don’t need a penis to have sex and that non-hetero people have sex lives that are often fuller & richer than the straight population could ever imagine. I’ve learned that there is no “right way” to do it, because everyone has their own preferences. I’ve learned that I’m not comfortable giving blow jobs, especially when I’m pressured. Most of all, I have learned that my pleasure is just as important as my partner’s. I deserve to feel good, physically and emotionally, and I have a duty to myself to take care of me & my needs.