Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sexing it Up in UK Schools

A sex-ed leaflet distributed by the National Health Service of Britain has scandalized much of the country by suggesting to high school students that "an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away".

This new educational campaign tells students about the pleasures of a healthy sex life, and the cardiovascular benefits to a good romp between the sheets, or regular masturbation. The authors of the pamphlet believe that teens in healthy relationships have as much a right to a pleasurable sex life as adults do.

Unsurprisingly many parents, family groups, and teachers are not happy with this particular approach to sexual education, arguing that with rising rates of teen pregnancy and the spread of STIs, this sort of education will only encourage students to have sex at a young age and does not provide any more assurance that they will use contraception to protect themselves. Advocates of the campaign, including author Steve Slack, a director of the Center for HIV and Sexual Health at NHS, argue that if students know the truth about sex, including the good parts, they will be more prepared to make an informed decision about when they are ready to become sexually active, and furthermore will be encouraged to wait until they are sure they will have an enjoyable experience.

Although I agree completely that it is important for teens to have comprehensive sex education and access to contraception, as well as information about the risks of having sex, I can't help but be amused by the idea of educating teens about the benefits of being sexual as well. In the United States you are lucky if you get any sex-education explaining the physiological mechanics of sex, but the physical and mental benefits of intercourse and masturbation? Forget about it! Why are we left in the dark to figure the pleasurable parts of sex out on our own?

Young women are particularly discouraged from exploring the pleasurable parts of sex. As young women, we are not encouraged to masturbate, not encouraged to explore what makes our bodies feel good or bad, and for many women not encouraged to orgasm on our own or during intercourse. Based on my experience, many young women are either too embarrassed, ashamed, or just clueless about thier own bodies to masturbate in high school. Maybe by educating women about how to enjoy sex and masturbation at a young age when the majority of them start to become sexually active would help to take the taboo out of female sexuality, and allow women to develop healthy, safe, and pleasurable sex lives.

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