Illustrations by Megan Le Brocq
Sexual relations are an inherent part of human nature. While this doesn’t mean everyone has identical experiences – everyone develops at different times, with different interests, and different outlooks – there nevertheless continue to be overwhelming commonalities. Since it is intrinsic to human nature, it is thus an issue which deserves an urgent place in education and societal discussion. Educating people about their peers and fundamental features of growing up is imperative to living in today’s society.
Soma Sara’s ‘Everyone’s invited’ has proven what a lot of us already knew: rape culture, unhealthy sexual ideas, and misinformation is inherent and widespread in our society. Little things like basic respect are often absent in heterosexual sexual experiences, with many of my friends (myself included) praising a boy for asking if he needs to wear a condom, ensuring consent is involved, and messaging the next day – or even sending an add on Facebook.
It can start with individuals, and calling out their behaviour, but it must be looked at in its wider context.
We are sent to school from the age of five for the next 11-13 years of our life to be educated – but on what exactly? I genuinely believed I would require Pythagoras’ theorem, the Henry VIII’s wives’ rhyme, and the difference between igneous and sedimentary rocks to survive in life. If the goal of education is to prepare us for life, then why are we not taught about something so instrumental and inherent to human existence?
Some argue that it “encourages” sexual behaviour. I agree that there are risks that come from engaging in sex. But there are also risks in refusing to talk about it. Moreover, there is a tendency to discourage female sexual behaviour, as though it is abnormal, and encourage male sexual desire, seeing this as natural and therefore, acceptable. Female sexuality has continued to be demonised.
Many of my friends only recently found out where the clitoris was located, reflecting the differing prioritising of the female orgasm, versus the male orgasm. This is reflected in heterosexual sex; something which often ends when the male orgasms, even if the woman hasn’t. If male sexuality is normal, then, it is expected to be up to the woman to resist these urges.
Moreover, while information about sex is seen as a “rite of passage” for boys, for girls it is actively discouraged and hushed up. By not speaking about it in schools, we are allowing the main sources of sex education to be porn (often a warped reality which instead perpetuates male fantasies), older siblings or friends – all these informants having gotten their information from older siblings or friends, and so on.
Porn has distorted expectations of sex. It has not only oversexualised naked bodies and created unrealistic presumptions about what sex should involve, but further, it gives those who watch it an entitlement to see naked bodies, whenever, wherever.
Lack of information is a form of control; by not teaching it in schools we are enabling misinformation and distorted ideas of “normal” behaviour to be widespread and accepted. This is not just about teaching sexual anatomy in biology – a lesson which alone leaves much to be desired. For example, I have spoken to one boy who, on leaving school, genuinely believed that a woman got her period for twenty minutes, monthly, in which eggs – similar to frogspawn – would be released.
Ultimately, the realm of sex can be different for everyone, but it also impacts the majority of people. The combination of not encouraging open and honest conversation with the lack of systemic teaching of facts has led to dangerous misconceptions, misinformation and distorted views of acceptable versus unacceptable behaviour. Education is about shaping and forming the future generations. It is not enough to blame individuals and deplore them for their past actions. If you were told something was ok, backed up by friends, never been confronted about it, it seems unsurprising that these beliefs and actions have persisted. If we want a future world where healthy relationships, tolerance and acceptance come naturally, it is imperative that we encourage open and honest conversation between and amongst all people: everyone must engage.