The stand-out moments from my time in sex education classes include seventh graders screeching at a video of a live birth and Mr. Miller making the class try to recite a list of “embarrassing” sexual anatomy without laughing. A lot of things were skimmed over, and that’s something to be ashamed of.
Though California has been regarded as one of the more progressive states on the topic of sex education, we still have quite a ways to go. Though I’ve taken several semesters devoted to learning about health and sex, I still feel as though my generation lacks the information they need on a topic so pertinent to their immediate life and culture.
Foothill was lucky enough to have the spunky Nurse Mary come in to answer some of the unspeakable questions, but lots of things were still too taboo to even be asked. This is why young adults, especially women, are stepping onto the sexual scene dangerously uninformed and embarrassed about what’s happening to their bodies. The knowledge I have today is credited to the internet, and after reading this article, some of yours may be too.
First of all, the anatomy itself is continuously confused. It’s taught in class, but without the proper focus. Not knowing the landscape itself is what leads to uncertainty within other circles, especially for women, who have a more complex sexual anatomy and are oftentimes more at risk in the sexual world.
There are things that need to be talked about that aren’t, and starting with the male anatomy, young people should grow up knowing more than “the vas deferens transfers the sperm.” They should know that uncircumcised penises are not dirty. They should know that “blue balls” are not fatal and are in no way a woman’s responsibility.
Women’s anatomy is where things really get frustrating. First of all, women have three orifices. Menstrual blood, uterine lining, discharge, and babies all exit from the vagina, while urine exits through the urethra, just like in men. Women do not urinate from the vagina. Many people I know, male and female, didn’t know that when I told them.
And not only that, but the vagina itself is not what’s most sensitive to sexual stimulation, it’s actually the clitoris, which is a bundle of nerves hidden in plain sight between between the mons pubis and the labia minora. It’s the enigma of the female body, and since it so often goes unacknowledged, many women are subjected to sex without proper lubrication, which hurts a lot of people.
A stigma has grown around the fact that it’s “supposed to hurt” for the woman, especially the first time, this being because a man is allegedly supposed to “pop a cherry,” or break a woman’s hymen.
This isn’t necessarily true. A hymen is just a thin sheath of skin across the vaginal opening that wears away over time. It has small holes in it called hymenal orifices that vary from woman to woman. During puberty, menstrual fluid, discharge, sexual activity, and general activity like running and biking stretch and wear away the hymen over time. It’s presence isn’t a sign of virginity. If present, the hymen is usually just stretched the first time a woman has vaginal intercourse.
The hymen tearing and causing bleeding can be a sign of improper lubrication, which stems from being tense, afraid, or unwilling, though some women with thicker hymens or smaller hymenal orifices can’t avoid this. Regardless, making you partner bleed shouldn’t be expected and shouldn’t be the goal of any sex partner.
Something else that I find important which was never debunked in school is the fact that a loose vagina does not signify promiscuity and tight vagina has nothing to do with purity. The vagina is a muscle that can contract, so when you’re tense or anxious, it tightens up. When you are relaxed and aroused, the vagina loosens. A woman’s pelvic floor muscles actually expands to accommodate penetration. Being “loose” means a girl is completely relaxed and prepared for sex, which is nothing to be ashamed of.
Schools in California are required to teach students about other forms of birth control besides abstinence, but I feel as though there’s still a lot to learn, like where our Planned Parenthood even is (5400 Ralston Street). Like the fact that the morning after pill isn’t an “abortion pill” but just an emergency form of birth control. Like resources on getting an OBGYN and how necessary this is. Short for obstetrician/gynecologist, an OBGYN specializes in delivering babies and the female reproductive system. Women should start getting check-ups when they become sexually active.
Young adults and kids definitely should know more about abortion. For a while, I didn’t know that there was a difference between medical and surgical abortions. During earlier stages of pregnancy, abortions can be done through medication that is taken or injected into a woman, causing termination to a pregnancy similar to a miscarriage.
Surgical abortions can be done past the first trimester and involve dilation of the cervix followed by the emptying of the contents of the uterus with either a vacuum or a manual curette like tool, though with rapidly advancing technology in the medical field, manual procedures are becoming less common.
Lastly, sex education should cover the fact that sex isn’t always between a man and a woman. Maybe not everyone in a classroom stands by this, but I believe the difference between biological sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation should be taught in schools not only for people who are curious about their own identity, but for the masses who are unaware of how sensitive labels like this are.
I’m not sure how many of the things I covered actually were taught in school, but I know a lot of people still don’t know these things. I myself didn’t know a lot of this when I wish I did. So let’s change sex education for future generations by emphasizing what’s important. Sex education needs to be about more than slide shows of horrific STD pictures, because the idea of scaring kids out of sex is far behind us.
Illustration Credit: Jenny Chang / The Foothill Dragon Press