Birds, Bees, and Bullshit: How Female Anatomy & Orgasm are Ignored in Sex Ed

U.S. Sex Ed is harmful, according to the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. Essential information is omitted and often, students are told outright lies. Indeed, so much is left untaught and so many falsehoods perpetuated that one blog post cannot begin to cover them all. Thus, this is the second in a series of posts about this topic.


The first post in the series focused on telling students that intercourse before marriage will lead to all kinds of woes and problems. This blog is on how U.S. Sex Ed contributes to women commonly having difficulty orgasming and to the consistent research finding that women have way fewer orgasm than men (i.e., the orgasm gap). Hopefully, it will also correct the omissions and falsehoods that you may have learned and expose the truth about women’s pleasure.


Most of the Sex Ed provided in the U.S. currently is about the dangers of such, such as STIs and unwanted pregnancy. Sexual pleasure, especially female pleasure, is omitted. Indeed, even comprehensive sex education classes generally cover only the uterus, vaginal canal, and ovaries—or in other words, women’s internal genital anatomy. Sex Ed fails to cover women's external genital anatomy (which is called the vulva). As stated by the, author of Girls and Sex (Peggy Orenstein), "It's as if the vulva and labia, let alone the clitoris, doesn't exist."


Along similar lines, in many Sex Ed classes, the girls and boys are separated (which is also hugely problematic for those that don’t identify with the gender binary). The boys learn about wet dreams, erections and ejaculation and the girls learn about periods. These are NOT the same. The boys are discussing their sexual organs and sexual pleasure and the girls do not learn about their full anatomy and hear nothing about sexual pleasure.


So, how do women generally experience sexual pleasure? External genital stimulation! Indeed as presented in Becoming Cliterate, when I anonymously poll my women students here is what thousands upon thousands of say when asked, "What is your most reliable route to orgasm?"


If you eliminate those who don’t orgasm, what is clear is that 96 percent of women need clitoral stimulation to orgasm. That’s right—they require stimulation of an organ they NEVER hear about in Sex Ed. All they learn is that sex involves the vaginal canal (i.e., sex = intercourse). It's no surprise, then, that countless women think they’re abnormal or broken when they can't orgasm from intercourse. This helps explain why 70 percent of women fake orgasm during intercourse, with a main reason being to avoid appearing abnormal.


These aren't just percentages. There is angst behind these statistics; Feeling alone and abnormal is painful. We could prevent this pain with basic information about the vulva being covered in Sex Ed.



Of course, many might say that we should not teach youth about sexual pleasure because it will encourage them to have sex. The data do not support this! Several studies find that Sex Ed programs that tell teens to abstain from intercourse until marriage don't work. Teens do so anyway but without protection. I've had several young people tell me, "I was told contraception was wrong, so I didn't use it." For some, the sad result has been an STI or unplanned pregnancy, the very problems that Sex Ed tries to prevent.


The Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine and the United Nations both support the idea that sex education should include information on both the possible dangers of sexual activity AND how to have sex more safely (i.e., covering contraception). Still, even this is not sufficient to solve women's problems with orgasm and to close the orgasm gap. To do this, we need to teach information on sexual response, sexual pleasure, orgasm, sexual communication; and indeed, the clitoris. The clitoris is not something to be kept secret from youth. Instead, it's the only human organ whose sole purpose is pleasure. It’s an essential part of female genital anatomy.


Let's stop keeping such essential information out of Sex Ed. Let's teach about the birds and bees but without the bullshit.