I can remember being taught what to do with a condom, being taught how babies are made, and born, being taught all about periods and wet dreams and erections.
But not once in my sexual education was there ever any talk about pleasure.
I don’t think much has changed in the 40-odd years since I first had the birds and the bees talk. Now we might be also be talking about pornography and homosexuality and respectful relationships, about consent and coercion, but is there any mention of the word “pleasure” in the syllabus?
Dr Elizabeth Oliver wrote an interesting piece during the week about how, as a GP, she treats many young women who are suffering through painful sex.
“For some women it eventually becomes impossible. Some of them don’t know what it feels like to be physically aroused, after three or four years of sexual activity,” she wrote.
“That is a tragedy. To those 22-year-olds, I say the following: It could be thrush, bladder irritability, pelvic muscle spasm, chlamydia, endometriosis. We will consider those things.
“But we must bear in mind that many young guys are watching porn sold to them by men who have a vested interest in dehumanising women. They're not exactly learning from the Sensei of Superlovers.”
So who do we learn sex from?
Dr Oliver quotes Professor Gail Dines, anti-pornographer scholar and activist, who says, "Men learn about sex from porn, and in porn nothing is too painful or degrading for women."
In their book Surviving Adolescents 2.0, (Penguin) Michael Carr-Gregg and Elly Robinson say according to a 2017 review of literature by the Australian Institute of Family Studies almost half of nine- to 16-year-olds experience regular exposure to sexual images. Boys are more likely to seek out pornography and do so more frequently compared to girls.
“Pornography is now one of the main sources of sex education for young people in the absence of other information,” they write
I used to read Dolly Doctor and now my children are on Pornhub. Something’s gone wrong somewhere.
So how are we supposed to teach our children about good sex? Not just safe sex. How do we teach them that sex between two consenting adults can be a fabulous, most pleasurable, thing? Even if you’ve just met that person at Mooseheads, or if you’ve been in a relationship with them for 30 years.
One of my favourite things of all time (I’m easily pleased, although some people might say otherwise) is the sex education scene in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. When John Cleese is teaching the boys all about foreplay and vaginal juices.
“Name two ways of getting them flowing, Watson,” he says.
“Rubbing the clitoris, sir,” says Watson, Eric Idle.
“What’s wrong with a kiss, boy?” Cleese says. “Why not start her off with a nice kiss?”
His class has it down pat, suck a nipple, stroke a thigh, nibble an earlobe, heaps of things before we go “stampeding” straight to the clitoris, Watson.
And then the bed drops out of the wall, his lovely wife Helen comes in, they talk about dinner plans, and they get about their lesson.
Sex education was never like this, but maybe it should have been.
And just maybe, as Carr-Gregg and Robinson suggest, “parents need to step up and be the providers of this information or our kids will go elsewhere”.
And maybe that’s the key for all future relationships, if our children feel comfortable talking about things from a young age, maybe they’ll feel comfortable talking about it with future partners. Be comfortable enough to say not only “no”, if the case may be, but also to say “yes, yes, yes” when something feels good.
Being able to tell a partner what feels good and what doesn’t, what your boundaries are, being to able to ask them what makes them feel good, what they’d like to do. Good conversation gets the vaginal juices flowing too.
I know we can’t ignore the porn factor. A few of my single friends, mature women all, have dared to venture into the pool of younger men. They don’t mind a fresh, tight body on occasion but the experiences sometimes leave them completely underwhelmed. It’s so obvious they’ve watched too much porn, they say, all they want to do is roll me over and pound me from behind. One friend, when she told her young lover to slow down, that she wanted to enjoy it, was met with an incredulous look, “it was like the first time he ever heard a woman ask to be pleasured”, she said.
We joke sometimes that perhaps there’s a business idea there, where, Mrs Robinson like, we could take these young men under our wings and teach them about pleasure, teach them how to pleasure a woman.
But is that taking sex education too far?