Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. Feminism
23 September 2016

How to educate girls on the joy of sex

Adding a more human element to the sexual education syllabus could stop teens turning to porn.

By Eleanor Margolis

What part of “French 3D printed educational clitoris” do you not understand, Justine Greening? While the Education Secretary considers making sex education mandatory in schools, France has innovated its way to “demystifying” the female orgasm, by introducing schoolchildren to a model of a clitoris. What tends to be thought of as a sneaky little button has been brought to life – by the French – as a quite big pink wishbone.

When I did secondary school sex education, more than ten years ago, the clitoris was mentioned in passing, while the penis practically dressed up as Barbra Streisand and sang show tunes for an entire double period. The climax of the penises’ performance was a literal climax (a live action cock filled the screen of one of those wheelie televisions you only get in schools). Everyone screamed. Especially the boys.

Sex education — in its current non-mandatory, irrelevant and uninteresting state – badly needs to start letting girls know, with or without the help of 3D printed clitorises, that sex is for them. After all, what is it about the female orgasm that has nurtured such a cult of mystery and elusiveness? Please can we get a grip and accept that the Loch Ness Monster is three seals, and the female orgasm is, in turn, about as esoteric as a Boots meal deal. For starters, the clitoris (if the starting point of all reproductive anatomy must be a penis) is a massive tiny dick that’s very easy to locate. One of my favourite things about sleeping with women is the fact they take this for granted. Which is actually something of a miracle seeing as even my generation was brought up to believe sex is what girls get through for the sake of their boyfriends. It will hurt. He won’t go down on you. An, eww, why would you want that anyway?

I genuinely believe that, had I been told otherwise in sex education, my first time a) wouldn’t have been a Gobi Desert dry nightmare and b) may not have even been with a boy (I was instructed that this was the Done Thing). It’s essential, of course, that girls are told that, as well as having orgasms they’re allowed to sleep with other girls. The LGBT component of sex education is still optional (for schools that choose to teach it in the first place). But with this, and a mandatory focus on consent, sex education has the power to properly tackle the too often gruesome, mechanical and joyless dynamic of sex. A dynamic in which the penis takes centre stage like a howling diamante frankfurter.

In the grand scheme of things, it probably shouldn’t take a 3D printed clitoris to explain that the female orgasm is a thing. Plus, without a clitoris emoji and Snapchat filter to boot, its impact may be muted. But, the more effort made to break down the weird taboo surrounding female sexuality, the closer we may well come to making the bedroom a more equal and altogether less dull place for teenagers. Stigma cannot be eradicated by diagram after diagram of the uterus, accompanied by stale narratives about babies.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Not, of course, that the mechanics and contraception side of things isn’t hugely important. But without a more human element to the syllabus, young people can and will look to porn for all the sex education they need.

Content from our partners
The shrinking road to net zero
The tree-planting misconception
Is your business ready for corporate climate reporting?

When I was about eight, I found a deck of pornographic playing cards in my then 18-year-old sister’s room. Each card depicted a man with an abnormally large schlong, looking pleased with himself. As an introduction to the world of Adult Situations, this was both mystifying and daunting.