The Desexualisation of Sex Education

It’s in our nature to take many things in life for granted without even realising it. Privilege, is a concept that is rarely recognised until it has been taken away from you. Privilege is applied to many situations in life – but the most common reference to the notion of privilege would be the concern surrounding male privilege; the ‘battle’ between patriarchy and feminism. I’ve talked extensively about that in previous articles, so we’ll be skipping that topic today.

Today’s article will serves as a follow up from my previous article on Intellectual Disability & Sex, I’d like to explore the discourses of sex and sexual privilege outside the realm of heteronormativity, and able-bodiedness. There were parts of my previous article which concerned Intellectual Disability that deeply resonated with me. Since that article, I had explored and thought about my approaches to sex and sexuality and ultimately, I was placed in a position of questioning; both in terms of my own experiences and life, but also when taking into consideration the experiences that others go through.

Most notably, when it comes to sexual health and education, there is a strong emphasis on assumed knowledge and assumptions concerning sex and sexual activity. These assumptions have led people with I.D to be labelled as asexual, or perceived to not have any form of sexual desire and/or arousal. Where does this stem from though and why are we in a constant state of desexualisation and hyper sexualisation? Today we will explore these assumptions and this article is going to look at sexual privilege how it entwines between sex, sexuality, and gender, as well as how it manoeuvres through disabilities.

From the moment that our genitalia has been identified our privilege is assumed. If we are a woman, it is assumed that we will grow up and bear children, and if we are a male it is expected that we will produce children. It is worth noting that this is partly why so many people have issues with same sex relationships – because that kind of relationship bypasses the supposed biological ‘need’ to procreate. Indeed, in the past, any lack of ability in producing children was frowned upon, with barrenness being a condition which would result in isolation and/or disownment. It is these gendered expectations that defines our formative years, and it is implicitly, or explicitly reinforced as we traverse through sexual education during schooling.

Sexual Health and Education focuses on the biology of sex that being; penis in Vagina intercourse results in ejaculation releasing sperm which travels up the tube to fertilise the egg. Nine months later a baby is born. In most cases, that is the basic level of knowledge given to children and teenagers, though it should be noted that there are a lot of teenagers and indeed, even adults that lack this basic information. From there, knowledge may be given in regards to the prevention of STI’s, or the prevention of pregnancy through contraception. Sexual Education rarely accounts for discourses surrounding sexual pleasure or even the social and emotional reasons for sex.

 

Sex Education Twitter Image
Image: Sex Education Twitter Quote

 

Masturbation as a form of pleasure is also rarely discussed resulting in a failure to explore the interpersonal meanings of intercourse and sexual activity which can often manifest itself into feelings of guilt, embarrassment, and awkwardness. Sexual activity is simply referred to as a biological function for the purpose of reproduction devoid of any sentiment, pleasure, and enjoyment. Is it little wonder then that both males, and females, during their adolescent years can experience such anxiety as a result of the confusion surrounding the changes occurring to and in their bodies, the development of feelings and emotions, and combating hormones. Why? They’re taught that sex has a function, they’re not taught that sex can be a recreational activity.

Throughout their upbringing their sex and sexuality has at all times been both reinforced and assumed through popular culture, media, everyday discussions and a lack of sex positivity in their micro worlds. For someone that fits into mainstream society, for an individual that identifies as being heterosexual and cis-gendered – then all the assumptions that have been made in regards to your identity and sexuality have contributed to your understanding of the world. Your privilege in this identification has resulted in far less confusion. Now, pause to consider someone who does not fit into the above mainstream spectrum; someone who may identify as homosexual, asexual, or even someone with disabilities where their sexuality and sexual needs have been infantalised into non-existence. Straightness is ‘inherent’, heterosexual sex is assumed and taught- with homosexual sex being ignored.

I have never been in a classroom (excepting a sexual health centre) which would recognise the value of oral, or anal sex or non-penetrative sex. With this in mind we can begin to see the confusion;  not only do they have all the normal ‘teenager’ things that they have to deal with, but they now have to deal with these things in a context which doesn’t necessarily apply to how they feel, or how they behave.  It can be particularly troubling for where people exist in an odd contradiction – where society has desexualised them. For example, people with Intellectual disabilities which we discussed last week, and also the desexualisation of people with physical disabilities.

Young women especially are often taught that the value of being female lies within their sexual attractiveness; if you have a condition which challenges the idea of attractiveness, where does that leave you? For many people it results in sacrificing a part of themselves obsessively chasing something seemingly unattainable – resulting in often risky sexual behaviour in an attempt to please their partners. ‘Love’ in this instance can become a warped, and self destructive behaviour where one participant is continually seeking affection and reassurance and not particularly achieving that. People will often compensate by making themselves into something that they are not, and they do this to cover their own insecurities, the issue is that this makes you feel worse on the inside as you recognise that you’re not being true to yourself.

The issue behind the majority of this is the way that we approach the teaching of sex, and sexuality. Schools shift it to parents, and few parents want to discuss it and shift it back. What results is a medical and biological explanation of sex, which is all well and good, and indeed necessary, but it bypasses the emotional aspects of sex and sexuality, it skips the reasoning’s behind sex and results in a clinical stripped back variation and mentality. Sex is an important aspect of life, and the way it is being taught to youth now is detrimental to the general well being of today’s youth.

 

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