Do We Understand Sex?

Five-year-old me, ‘Where did I come from?’

Isn’t it strange, the answer is sex? You see any person walking down the street—bam, someone had sex and that is how they got here. As humans we all want love, friendships, relationships and to belong to a community. So why does the word sex send an awkward tingle down my back? Why have we created a culture and an education system that might leave out some key elements for understanding sex? Should it still be taught at university?

I don’t think it’s a secret that sex-ed isn’t the easiest topic to teach, but when I went to school (gosh darn, I feel so old writing that) it was viewed as a bit of a taboo topic. I’m not sure what everyone’s experience was like in sex-ed during schooling, but I wasn’t too impressed. Even though the curriculum communicated important facts: STI’s are bad. It seemed to lack depth into sexuality, identity, the way we construct culture around sex, and especially pleasure. There has been a transition over time about how we understand sex. The focus now seems to be how to prevent STI’s and promote healthy relationships. The idea is great (not convinced on the execution of it in the education system), but the next step may be to not just teach how to prevent poor relationships and STI’s, but how to understand sexual pleasure and achievie the best consensual sexual experience.

  • So … let’s talk about some erogenous zones! Erogenous zones are parts of the body with a tonne of nerves that make you feel aroused when stimulated. The areas with the most nerve endings are generally genital areas: the vulva, clitoris, labia, vagina, penis, scrotum, perineum, prostate, and anus. Some other common areas include the breasts, nipples, thighs, bottom, mouth, ears, neck, and feet. These areas are generally how you can best stimulate people. However, we’re all different! So it’s whatever works for individuals. There really isn’t any set rule.
  • The sexual response cycle: This, in my opinion, is much like a film or a book. It is the dramatic structure of your sexual experience. It starts with desire, or the set-up. Your brain forms sexually arousing thoughts, stimulating your body. Your heart rate increases, your muscles tense, and blood flow is increased to the genitals. Then comes the plateau stage. This stage is when this sexual arousal is stimulated (or the plot thickens). At the end of the plateau phase, individuals reach orgasm (the climax). The muscle tension created in your body is released in a series of ‘feel good’ muscle spasms, while your body releases endorphins, ‘the happy relaxed hormones’. Your body does not always go through all phases of the cycle, and you can stop at anytime. Once you stop at a point in the cycle you will eventually reach the resolution phase, when your body is back to its original state before sexual arousal (source).

Some Fun Facts: Because sex and love and the brain are actually really interesting (source):

  • Having sex has repeatedly been associated with improved moods and psychological and physiological relaxation.
  • Higher levels of oxytocin can make us feel more relaxed. Studies have shown oxytocin, ‘the happy hormone’, can combat stress.
  • Not only can oxytocin make us calmer, but it also dampens our sense of pain.
  • Endorphins can relieve pain caused from cluster headaches.
  • Sex can sometimes cause post-sex sadness and negative moods. It’s not just all good news.
  • Studies have shown sex can lead to a better night’s rest.

So what do you think about all this? Do you feel you understand sex enough? Is the education system missing something? Or does it stack up? How can we promote a better culture around sex? There has obviously been an essential push to educate around consent and communication in relationships, but is it enough? Would educating individuals about sexual pleasure create more consensual, communicative relationships? I don’t have the answers, but I am sure that discussion and collaboration can help us all to challenge each other’s views and refine our ideas to better understand sex and how to best teach people about it. So never be afraid or self-conscious to get talking about sex.

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