I’m sure many women are grateful people know where the clitoris is. And did you ever find that knowing where your fallopian tubes were improved your relationships? Or your ovaries? Because I know that for me, that has done almost nothing…
A: [laughter] No…
Q: And I don’t know about you lot, but I learnt that stuff in biology as well, so… And what about working out when to have sex? Whether you should have it? Or whether to say no? And how to say no?
A: [this one varies a bit] Well, we were told to always say no. I went to a Catholic school./Well, we were told we should always respect it if someone said ‘no’./Well, we were told we could say ‘no’ if we didn’t want to have sex, but not really how, or how to know when.
[That last one, I usually probe a bit more, to get into the complexity of consent, by saying something like: 'And anything about working out whether you really did want to have sex? Or how to say 'no' without just yelling 'no!' in someone's face? Because it can be a bit hard, if, say, the person you're with, who you really care about, wants to have sex, and you're not sure, and you kinda want to please them, and you're not positive you don't want to have sex. And then it slips too easily into not wanting to be rude and 'would it be so bad to really give them what they want,' where you're not really thinking about what you want, just about whether you're sure enough that you don't want it to yell 'no!' at someone. Which obviously, can lead to the bad, especially for women. So any of that covered?' Generally, the answer is 'No'.]
I was thinking the other day about how little of my sex-ed experiences (these included: formal welcome-to-puberty sex ed in sixth grade; year ten biology; smatterings of weird, chastity-focused instruction in religious context at school; family conversations; informal conversations in (my liberal, Uniting Church) church friend groups; a couple of bible studies at uni and maybe the odd mention in other religious contexts; a lot of college chatter; and two formal presentations by a sexual health educator at college. Add to that a handful of sex-ed books and the Life & Style section of the Sydney Morning Herald, but exclude the blogosphere for the purposes of this argument) dealt with anything other than how to say *no* to *first time* sex.
One of my great frustrations with my church groups is that we were all very happy and liberal and mostly accepting of pre-marital sex (a reasonable chunk of the group were personally abstinent, I believe, but it was rarely touted as the Only Choice), but all the conversations centred around whether you COULD - I don't remember having any conversations with anyone about how to decide, granted that premarital sex wasn't going to send you to hell, *when* to have any. "If you're in love" is an AWFULLY VAGUE AND UNHELPFUL DESCRIPTION. Also, given that in church circles many people in love are *not* having sex, it's also not a logical justification.
We also talked about it pretty much exclusively in terms of the *first* person one might sleep with. I know quite a few of my camp friends were serial monogamists from their teens - and a small number weren't monogamous at all. But I suppose I assumed that someone who was *having* sex knew what they were doing, because questions like how do you decide when or if to sleep with a new partner, how do you negotiate church-circles dating if you're not a virgin... that never came up.
That aside... all my formal and informal sex ed seemed to be directed toward how to say no to first time sex - if not how to say no to ALL premarital sex, then how to say no to sex before one reaches an unspecified state of "ready", or how and how long to delay sex with a new partner.
Topics rarely covered:
* How to say yes
* Why you might say yes
* How and why you might say no to sex on particular occasions or in particular circumstances with someone you're already sleeping with, up to and including sex acts and so on that you may normally enjoy.
The notable exception to this was in the National Christian Youth Convention convention handbooks - there was a ten-point list of things to consider before having sex at camp, regardless of your marital status. It included things like "is this encounter affirming for both participants and our relationship", which is... still vague. But a whole damn lot less vague than most things. I wish I'd memorised that list, now.
In short: sex ed. Needs more que[e]rying. Go read Hoyden's post!