Sexplanations: Getting Cliterate and The Importance of Pleasure Education

The school year has begun with a 20-year-old sexual health curriculum. A curriculum which does not discuss consent, diversity in relationships, gender identity, sexting, social media or pleasure — yes pleasure. The 2015 curriculum didn’t do a good job at discussing pleasure either, but it did at least mention the clitoris and masturbation.

For some reason we think that talking about pleasure is an adult topic, when in actuality, children and teens know what pleasure is, even if we haven’t given them the language. Do young children not touch their genitals? They do this for many reasons, but it is often because it feels good; it gives them pleasure. 

We know that fear-based, abstinence-only sex education does not work. Research has proven this time and time again, and yet we continue to focus solely on sex for reproduction. The focus on negative consequences such as STIs, unwanted pregnancy and non-consensual sex, leaves out the enjoyable, pleasurable aspects of sexual activity, while also promoting abstinence, without the option of masturbation.

And why do we do this? Are we scared young people will have a good time, get to know their bodies in a positive way, feel connected to another person, or have an orgasm? Maybe we are scared they will enjoy sex more than us, or never feel the shame and guilt we did for touching ourselves or sneaking off to experiment with another.

We know there are positive physical and mental health benefits to orgasms, arousal, connection to another, feeling good about our bodies, understanding how our bodies work. And yet, here we are, denying this information to an entire generation, in order to what? Protect them, save their innocence? 

I was recently at an event run by LSPIRG called, “Get Cliterate” where Karly Rath discussed the results of her master’s thesis about the clitoris. The left out of discussions, poorly understood, not given any credit, clitoris. Although pleasure is rarely discussed with young people, when it is, it focusses on the penis and the penis ejaculating. The clit is rarely mentioned because the clit has one purpose – pleasure. It is not involved in reproduction, or urination or child birth. It is 8,000 nerve endings ready to make you feel good. 

But wait — this is just the tip. The majority of the clitoris is hidden under the skin. It has the same amount of erectile tissue as the penis, it engorges with blood just like the penis, it becomes erect just like the penis! But who knew? Very few of us because this is not part of our sex education. We live in a world focussed on the penis and those who have them. 

Could this be why we do not discuss pleasure with young people? Are we worried we will have to discuss the clitoris?

Young people are not going to stop being curious about their bodies and sex. But they can stop feeling guilt and shame about it if we let them. I implore you to talk about and explore pleasure — and the clitoris!

Stacey Jacobs is the sexual health educational manager at SHORE.