Let's Talk About Sex I: Female Pleasure
I've never had proper sex education before. My school in Hong Kong, DGS, was a conservative all-girls' Christian school, so abstinence was our mantra. We were told extremely little about sex and not even about basic ways of protection. Westminster was much better - I could ask for condoms from the nurse or get on the pill without my parents' consent, but I didn't receive any talks on consent or safe sex from the school either. This lack of education and discussion around sex is alarming.
While I was searching for images for "vagina" to put in this article, there were either photos of suggestive fruit such as the chunk of orange you see below, or disturbing screenshots from porn. This is a microcosm of how many of us receive sex education. Either you're told euphemisms about the "birds and bees" and don't have much idea how sex really works (see: orange), or you venture alone into the internet world and get Pornhub as your teacher. And let me say the obvious - porn isn't the best educator. The sex shown is glamourised and unrealistic, with a lot of violence and a strange amount of sex with stepsiblings thrown in. There are also scenes with dubious consent from typically the woman. This leads to warped expectations of pleasure and consent and can be really detrimental to sexual relationships in the future.
I find it particularly troubling how female sexual pleasure is rarely discussed. At Westminster, I've heard plenty of guys openly talk about "jacking off" (especially during No Nut November), but girls' masturbation was never discussed in the open. When girls did discuss sex, it was usually in dorms at night, away from any guys. I have fond memories of my girlfriends and I huddling furtively around a laptop joking about the sex scenes in Fifty Shades of Grey, and laughing hysterically while passing around my (new and unused) dildo. But the point is, guys in general don't have much of an understanding of what gives girls pleasure because it's taboo for us to discuss it openly with them. Most of them probably wouldn't know about the clitoris and G-spot, but this has to change.
Let's first start with the basics of sex. When we say "sex", we typically refer to heterosexual vaginal intercourse, where a penis is inserted into a vagina. However, there are so many other forms of sex. Oral sex is using one's mouth to stimulate a partner's sexual organs, while anal sex is the act of inserting a penis into an anus. Gay sex can include anal and oral sex, while lesbian sex can also include oral sex and manual stimulation of the sexual organs.
Moving on to female anatomy. The image below is the vulva. Basically, it shows the three openings women have - the urethral opening, vaginal opening and anus. The urethral opening is for urinating and the anus for feceating, while the vaginal opening is for vaginal sex and for menstrual blood to be discharged. The common misconception (after discussing this with my shockingly ignorant sister Helen) is that the opening for sex and urinating are the same, but they're not. The other important thing the image shows is the clitoris. It's at the top of the vulva, and is the "pleasure spot" for many women.
So what brings women pleasure? As mentioned above, the clitoris (at the top of the vulva) is the main pleasure spot for many women. Like the penis, the clit gets engorged and flushed with blood when a woman is aroused, and is many times more sensitive than even the tip of a penis. The most common ways of stimulating the clit are through fingering or oral sex, which are sometimes done simultaneously. Another pleasure spot for women is the G-spot, which is deep inside the vaginal opening and can be stimulated by vaginal intercourse, fingering or sex toys. Public opinion is divided over whether the G-spot actually exists. Some say it's a myth, but personal experience and anecdotes from many friends say otherwise. Other than manual stimulation of a woman's most sensitive parts, sex toys are also pleasurable for many women. The most common toys are vibrators and dildos. Vibrators, as the name suggests, use vibrations to stimulate the clit and vagina, while dildos are usually plastic models of penises that can be used for vaginal and anal penetration. Toys can be used for women to masturbate and also during sex with other partners to increase female pleasure.
We've got to break the taboo around female pleasure. I wonder how many women have had mediocre sex, just because their partners or even they themselves didn't know about sexual acts that would feel best for them. For this to happen, there are several things that have to change. First, schools have to adopt a more open stance on the discussion of taboo sexual topics. When I did a talk at Westminster titled Afraid of Female Pleasure: Pornography Laws in the UK, I was told by senior teachers that my poster had to be taken down because I listed a number of sex acts that the UK had banned, including "fisting" and "facesitting". After my talk, I was also told that some topics were a bit much and I should have been more mindful of the content. I understand there are certain topics that might be too taboo to discuss and I'm grateful I was allowed to give the talk at all, but if one of the most liberal schools in the country is frowning upon an academic discussion of sex and porn, I struggle to see how most students can learn about sex and female pleasure properly. Schools should tolerate any talk about sex, given the discussion is purely academic in nature - there's no reason not to. Second, we need to normalise girls talking about sex. We are sexual beings too, and have desires and fantasies just like guys. We should get more comfortable talking about it amongst ourselves, then become comfortable talking about it in front of guys. Third, guys (in heterosexual relationships) have got to be more proactive in learning about female pleasure, and we've got to tell them what feels good and what doesn't. Simple communication and trial-and-error will go quite far in dealing with this problem.
I don't claim to know a lot about sex, given limited personal experience, but I do hope that what I've said has been somewhat useful. I wish there was someone who told me that having sexual desires wasn't sinful when I hit puberty. I wish someone had told me more about female anatomy so I knew more about my own body. We have to break this taboo to empower young girls so they don't face the same problem in the future.
Stay tuned for Parts II and III of Let's Talk About Sex, where I'll be looking into porn and consent. And check out our podcast on https://www.mindmasks.com/ or search Mind Masks's newest episode on Spotify to hear Rachel, Annie and I discuss topics around sex! Now, off to clear my browser history - I'm hoping I don't get nasty targeted ads...