I didn’t received a sex education. Not in school, not at home, not from teen magazines or library books. This might be surprising to hear from a female who grew up in the nineties and not the fifties, but there it is. Don’t get me wrong, I learned about reproduction and the mechanics of heterosexual sex, but I didn’t receive any sex education that was useful for a lesbian. It was both an alienating experience and one which could easily have been so much more helpful!! Ideally, what I needed as a lesbian teen was sex education from an actual lesbian, preferably one who could discuss butch/femme sexual dynamics. But alas, that wasn’t in the curriculum, or in teen magazines, or even in the few lesbian magazines I could find. I didn’t read my first Diva until I was 18 and even then it was pretty useless. Nevertheless, before I hit my twenties, I was having sex with my butch girlfriend.
Where did I find out about sex? Fanfiction on the internet which I read on the family computer in secret when my parents weren’t home. That was it. But that was more than most lesbians, I was lucky to have access to the internet and parents who both worked so I had home alone time. I got some good info and some bad info, but enough to know that the sex that I wanted to have was sex with another female. That it is what turned me on, what I thought about at night under the covers, what I dreamed of being able to experience in real life. I had that knowledge at a relatively young age. Sexual desire for lesbians, even before we are old enough to have consensual sex, is so far removed from what we are taught at school, home and in the media, that we are left feeling rather bewildered. As a teen, I had questions I wanted answered. Firstly, if heterosexual sex driven by biological reproductive urges is what sex is, then do lesbians even have sex? If I have homosexual rather than heterosexual desires, which are “normal” and “natural”, then “What the hell am I?” “Why am I?” “What do these very non-heterosexual feelings mean?”. I didn’t ask, for how could I? I only had straight people to talk to.
What has led me to think on the topic of lesbian sex education, or lack thereof, is a
recent brouhaha on twitter that started with the publication in Teen Vogue of an article about anal sex. This upset many of the feminists (mostly radfems) on twitter and their ire found its way into my feed. Now, I agree with them that the article was poorly done. It kowtowed to trans activists’ insistence that genitals be disconnected from the terms “male” and “female”, which is completely idiotic; and it also left the clitoris, my all time favourite body part, out of its diagram of the female (sorry, non-prostate havers) anatomy. However, it wasn’t JUST that which was at issue. A number of feminists argued that it was inappropriate to educate teenage girls about anal sex. Now, I firstly want to state that this conversation was not about underage sex, it was assumed that anybody actually engaging in sex is of a legal age to consent. We all come from the position that the article was crap, I was very clear on my opinion regarding that. But, as soon as I said that I believed that teens should have a sex education that included anal sex, I was hit with a barrage of comments and linked articles pointing to a porn fed culture of coercion and the potential health risks of having anal sex. My response was to point out that if teen males are coercing teen females into having anal sex, wouldn’t that make anal sex education even more vital? I also argued that anal sex education would enable a young woman to know exactly what she was or wasn’t consenting to in advance of the act, and if she does consent, it would enable her to know how to do it safely.
Surely that would be a good thing, right?
However, they argued that education “legitimises” and “normalises” anal sex, which is a “new thing” (WHAT??) perpetuated by porn culture, and that no woman would want to consent to anal sex anyway because it is not at all pleasurable for females.
I explained that humans have been having anal sex for millenia, that anal sex/play can be enjoyed in many and varied ways that don’t involve penile penetration, and that it can be very pleasurable for females as well as males (perhaps they need some education as well as the teens!!). That didn’t go down well, and I was told that females don’t need to have anal sex because they have a vagina designed for penile penetration i.e. that vagina/penis is the only way people should be having sex. It was then that I realised that I was conversing with people who had a very narrow view of what exactly sex is and how it should/shouldn’t be done. It confirmed my suspicions that they had a blatantly heteronormative view of what constitutes legitimate sex. it also led me to believe I was right in thinking there was homophobia lurking not too far under the surface. While this was firmly denied on their part, it was clear that the cultural association of anal sex with gay men equated the activity in their minds with perversion i.e. abnormal and illegitimate sexual behaviour.
How does this connect to Lesbians you may ask? Well, I’m not saying that all lesbians like anal sex; some do, some don’t. What I am saying is that the heteronormative and yes, homophobic, thinking behind these people’s abhorrence at anal sex education is the same thinking that led, and still leads to, the lack of comprehensive sex education that includes both heterosexual and homosexual sex. Heteronormative sex education; whether it be in schools, magazines, tv, literature, or within our own family units, leads homosexual teens to experience feeling of confusion, alienation, self loathing (ie seeing ones self as being a freak/perv/deviant/abnormal) and “gender” dysphoria.
You want to be a good ally? Support comprehensive sex education for ALL teens.