Growing up in a relatively typical Chinese family in Singapore, I received very little sexuality education. Let me give you the context: I did not know that what I had “down there” was called the vulva even though I had the “bits.” I did not attempt to pronounce the word penis until I was 26, and as if that by itself was not awkward enough, I was then told that I said it wrong!
Here are nine things that I wish I had learned in sex-ed as a teenager:
1. The correct anatomical names for the genitals. Without knowing what is ‘down there’ and resorting to using pet names or blushing every time we refer to our private parts, just how comfortable can one be with one’s sexuality, much less sexual expression? Being able to give the correct anatomical names to your genitals is part of healthy sexuality.
2. Adults do not talk to you about sex because they are afraid of being responsible for telling you the wrong things about sex, but mostly it is because they are uncomfortable talking about sex themselves. Forgive them for never being able to give you a straight answer or dismissing you because they still see you as a child. Let that go.
3. Do not believe everything you hear from your friends, family, or anybody else for that matter about sex. Most of the time, they are just passing on what they heard from somebody, who heard it from somebody else.
4. It is ok to seek out information about sex and sexuality. It does not make you any less of a person, but instead better prepared to make the right sexual decisions for YOU. The more you actually do know about sex and sexuality, the more comfortable you will be in owning and expressing your sexuality. Sex is not dirty, but rather completely natural and normal.
5. Sexuality education does not encourage the early start of sexual intercourse, the frequency of intercourse, or even an increase in the number of sexual partners among the young. Instead, understanding sexuality can actually delay the onset of intercourse, reduce the frequency of intercourse, reduce the number of sexual partners, and increase condom or contraceptive use.
6. Sexuality education has very little to do with the sexual act, but is actually a lifelong process of acquiring information and forming attitudes, beliefs, and values of one’s sexuality. It encompasses sexual development, sexual and reproductive health, interpersonal relationships, affection, intimacy, body image, and gender roles.
7. Our desire for sex is natural, but the act of sex itself is learned. Like much of everything we know, we acquire the knowledge, practice through trial and error, and perfect it so that it becomes a skill which we ‘own.’ Hence, the phrase: ‘sexual skill.’ Sex is a skill. You may still benefit from attending sexual workshops when you grow up.
8. Though it can be for some people, sex is not just a physical act. Sex is usually a physical, emotional, mental, and even spiritual act. Your intention has everything to do with what sex is like for you.
9. Your skin is your biggest sex organ, and your brain is your most powerful sex organ. Use both, and let go of any guilt! Enjoy your body, enjoy being alive, and breathe! Give yourself permission to use your sexual imagination. Your sexual fantasies, desires, and dreams are valuable and integral parts of your sexuality.
What else should be on this list? We will unveil the rest over the next three weeks!
Dr Martha Lee is Founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching in Singapore. She is a certified sexuality educator with AASECT (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists), as well as certified sexologist with ACS (American College of Sexologists). She holds a Doctorate in Human Sexuality from Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality as well as certificates in practical counselling, life coaching and sex therapy. She is available to provide sexuality and intimacy coaching for individuals and couples, conduct sexual education workshops and speak at public events in Asia and beyond. For more, visit www.ErosCoaching.com.
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