HOW SEXUAL SHAME IS REINFORCED BY EDUCATION

By H.T.

 

You probably wouldn’t be shocked to hear that I’ve found more time to read while social distancing during this global pandemic. So recently, while reading a wonderful book, Maggy Van Eijk’s Remember This When You’re Sad (a book I absolutely recommend- thanks for the gift mum), I came across a passage which really resonated with me: “Women often get made to feel like their body is the enemy […] When I was growing up, I blamed my big ass for street harassment and catcalling[…]. But my body never deserved that loathing- other people who are unable to respect the female body are to blame (p.97).” The idea that women are to be used as a method of male gratification and pleasure is well founded and regularly commented on. However, what is much less openly discussed is that women can and do enjoy finding pleasure on their own. In an article conducted by the company TENGA, it was found that women were significantly more likely to never talk about masturbation than their male counterparts (53% as opposed to 39%). This got me thinking about the sex education system as a whole, and about women’s pleasure education in particular. It also had me thinking about education regarding the various genders and sexualities, as they are frequently completely disregarded, which I can’t imagine must feel like. 

At school, we are mostly taught about the dangers of sex (specifically heterosexual sex), suggesting that it is something to be feared and not enjoyed. Those of other sexualities often don’t even receive information about safe practices. As women especially, we have been mostly taught about how to use condoms, which, don’t get me wrong, is fundamental for learning about safe sex. However, it negates the idea that sexual pleasure for women alone is important, and that people with vulvas do have sex with eachother. 

In my earliest sex education memories (it’s been a while I’m not going to lie), I recall being separated by gender when it was time to learn about both the female reproductive system (specifically periods), as if discussion of female sexuality was something to be ashamed of and therefore should be hidden. Even in my latter school years I remember the disparities between the level of education that people received, some classes had significantly much more sex education than others. As I am from England, this may be different from the experience in other countries (although subpar sex education seems to be found across the world). Thankfully, I was lucky enough to have a mother who was happy to educate me about sex, but I recognize that not everyone has this privilege, and therefore need to rely on the school system, their peers, and the media for information, which so rapidly can reinforce sexual shame and unsafe practices. 

It’s so clearly portrayed in the media and in so many women I know, that we so often fall into patterns of shame about having sex (with others or alone) for the purpose of pleasure. This is not only toxic for our own interpersonal narration of the self, but also holds us back from creating empowering sexual relationships both with ourselves and our partners. As is said in The Breakfast Club, “if you haven’t, you’re a prude, if you have, you’re a slut, it’s a trap”, women have continuously been judged either for enjoying sex, or for choosing not to have it. This quote is incredibly accurate, even if it is 30 years since the epic film’s release. Thank you for reminding us that it’s time for women to regain our rights for pleasure! No matter your gender or sexuality, whether you are in a relationship or single, it is your personal choice whether to have sex or not, and how much sex you have. You shouldn’t allow others to dictate your sex life (whether you choose to find pleasure in others or on your own), and you shouldn’t judge others for how much (or little) sex they choose to have. Our bodies belong only to ourselves! 

Here at Intamo Pleasurables, our values are rooted in sex education, as we know how empowering and sexy accessible learning is! A portion of all Intamo sales goes towards offering free sex education, because although a human right, we recognize that not everyone is privileged enough to experience comprehensive sex education. You can find accessible education and information about our events both on our website and on our social media platforms. Have you got a question or are interested in learning about something in particular? Send us an email and our Sex Educator will be happy to get in touch with you!

 

 

Citations:

Maggy Van Eijk, Remember this When You’re Sad (London, Lagom (Bonnier Publishing), 2018). P.97.

TENGA, 2019 Self- Pleasure Report <http://www.feelmore.global/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/ TENGA-BCW-2019-Global-Survey-US-Report-5.10.19.pdf>.P.43. [Accessed:25/04/2020).

The Breakfast Club, Dir.by John Hughes (1985).