Why are we still teaching girls they always need to say no to sex?
Teachers made us feel like we were always being pressured never to say ‘yes’ if we wanted to
The female experience of sexual education, I can only imagine, is somewhat different to our male compatriots. We are all taught the importance of saying no to drugs, no to excessive drinking and, of course, no to sex. But in doing this, they prevented us from feeling that we could say yes if we wanted to. They made us feel like we had to say no, that if we said yes it was merely because we were weak and had given in to peer pressure.
Such an attitude adopted by educators creates the idea that casual sex isn’t okay, and that we have to be in a serious relationship to even consider enjoying sex. It’s a cliche to say “it’s 2016”, but it is, and we should be over this by now. Yes, we have to feel that we are able to say no. No one should ever be pressured into sex and this is the most important lesson that both genders should be taught in sex ed. However, this doesn’t mean that we should taught only to say no.
There is a sense of ignorance surrounding female sexuality. Teachers and parents want to believe that their daughters don’t want to have sex ever. Sorry, we do. Enabling women the choice to say yes to sex allows us to have a sexual identity, and gives us a feeling of authority that is not possible when we have to be cautious of sex the whole time. Most girls will even instigate sex at some point in their lives, quel horreur!
Girls who say yes to sex are often victim to slut shaming, an outrageous and humiliating experience that no one should have to endure. If children are taught in sex ed that both genders have sexual agency, and that it isn’t bad for a girl to want sex, then slut shaming would diminish. Men are very rarely shamed for being ‘slutty’, but why is their virginity or ‘magic number’ of less significance than that of women? It is essential that these views are altered at a young age in order to improve the sexual confidence of the next generation.
I spoke to Doireann, who works for a domestic abuse prevention charity, Tender. Tender works with schools and youth groups around London teaching children and young people about the importance of healthy relationships. Doireann explained that often teachers and parents are afraid that these conversations are too advanced, but Tender ensures that the lessons are age appropriate, meanwhile conveying an important message that must be taught as early as possible.
A primary school teacher who has worked with Tender to improve the quality of sexual education told Doireann: “Many young people are embarrassed to talk about relationships with adults if they’re not given an easy access point into these discussions. They may feel that adults don’t take their relationships seriously (which may be the case) or that they’ll be told they’re too young to worry about these things.
“For young people who have questions about sex but nobody to ask, they are likely to try and find answers through watching pornography which is a private way for them to find out about what happens during sex. Unfortunately, a lot of the porn they access may be unrealistic, portraying really problematic gender roles or be violent and show non-consensual sexual acts as normal.”
If more schools adopt this kind of approach to sex education, then young people will be able to learn about sex and healthy relationships in a way that refutes gender bias and enables women to have sexual agency in a consensual and non-judgemental environment.
Only when such change has occurred will be be able to move past the culture of slut shaming and enable people of all genders to feel safe in sexual liberation.