Shocking: teens know sex feels good

Via Tracy Clark-Flory’s excellent takedown of yet more conservative fear-mongering, news of a sex education pamphlet published by the National Health Service of the United Kingdom titled “Pleasure.” The word doesn’t quite inspire hives for me, but for some, it sure seems to: conservatives are calling it “deplorable” and — wait for it — “nothing less than encouraging child abuse.” Because apparently safe, consensual experiences that make us feel good are somehow akin to abuse. From Clark-Flory at Salon’s Broadsheet:

Beyond having the audacity to suggest that educators tell students that sex can feel pleasurable, the booklet says that teenagers have “a right” to sexual satisfaction, so long as it is in a safe and consensual situation. It also advises honesty about masturbation being perfectly healthy — it winkingly says that “an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away,” which strikes me as a cheesy attempt to be cool — and that sex isn’t always about procreation.

The guide also celebrates enthusiastic consent. Instead of promoting sex as something that you must resist “giving up,” if you’re a girl, it’s framed as something that you do because it feels right and you actively want to — it isn’t a bargaining chip, an operatic act that is performed to keep a guy around. “Far from promoting teenage sex,” says Steve Slack, director of the Sheffield Centre for HIV and Sexual Health, which published the handout for NHS, “it is designed to encourage young people to delay losing their virginity until they are sure they will enjoy the experience.”

Promoting the idea that teens should respect their partners and enjoy sexual experiences? Just like adults?! I’M APALLED.

Young people are certainly not the only group whose bodies are subject to public scrutiny and moral debate, but this backlash against the use of appropriate protection and enthusiastic consent to seek pleasure is an almost laughable example of the “keep your legs closed, you silly youngsters!” mentality. Is there a magical button, somehow pressed when a person turns 18, that suddenly allows them to experience sexual desire, pleasure, and satisfaction? Of course not; you and I know this is a ridiculous idea. But conservatives are all caught up in it when they act as though teenagers are across-the-board immature and utterly devoid of agency.

It’s not a secret: we know — because we’re doing it — that sex feels good.

This makers of this pamphlet, in my humble opinion, should create a curriculum and get it taught in middle and high schools everywhere. I know it’s not easy to convince school boards to actually mention S-E-X in their sex education courses; for crying out loud, there’s no mandated sex ed — beyond a brief discussion of HIV/AIDS — for public schools in New York City. But I would love to see it happen.

Cross-posted at Women’s Glib.


Similar Posts (automatically generated):

This entry was posted in Health, Sex and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Shocking: teens know sex feels good

  1. FashionablyEvil says:

    Promoting the idea that teens should respect their partners and enjoy sexual experiences? Just like adults?

    Oh, I don’t think the people freaking out about this think adults should respect their partners or enjoy sex either. Sex is dirty and shameful, solely for procreation, and if you get knocked up, well, that’s your punishment, isn’t it?
    /snark

    Regardless, I am really impressed by the comment from Steve Slack that the information “is designed to encourage young people to delay losing their virginity until they are sure they will enjoy the experience.” No one ever says this aloud (see above about sex being dirty and shameful), but it definitely squares with my experience.

  2. R says:

    Just to let you know that the age of consent in the UK is 16. Not that it makes a great deal of difference to your post but it does mean that the UK technically condones children’s sexual activity as 18 is still the age of maturity. This means that it cannot be so easily compared to US sex education and policy.

  3. ACG says:

    Is there a magical button, somehow pressed when a person turns 18, that suddenly allows them to experience sexual desire, pleasure, and satisfaction? Of course not; you and I know this is a ridiculous idea.

    Ridiculous indeed. Everyone knows that sex should always be a chore and a woman is never supposed to experience actual sexual desire, pleasure, or satisfaction.

  4. Crystal says:

    This pamphlet sounds incredible. I love the fact that someone is finally standing up for the fact that sex is not only the polar opposite of dirty, but it is also healthy! I love the idea of educating children realistically and openly about sex. Why shouldn’t they know it feels good?

  5. squirrely says:

    There is a sex ed curriculum that teaches this. It’s called OWL: Our Whole Lives. The sex-ed-for-adults version of it was profiled in “O” magazine last month, but it has curricula starting in Kindergarten.

    The basic idea? Sexuality is a part of our lives from the day we are born until we die. Sexual relationships between people should be mutually pleasurable, consensual, non-exploitive and safe.

    Why this is even controversial, I’ll never know.

  6. Misspelled says:

    “it is designed to encourage young people to delay losing their virginity until they are sure they will enjoy the experience.”

    That actually makes me feel like an idiot. I’m nineteen, and in what feels like a thousand different conversations, sometimes on feminist sites but mostly with my sisters and my friends, we’ve tried to pinpoint the exact right-sounding, teenage-girl-friendly answer to “When should I lose my virginity?” And I’ve always wondered why answers like “when you’re ready” and “when it’s right for you” are so dissatisfying, when we all know they’re true, and helpful, and the alternatives are either “after you’re married!” or “as soon as someone, anyone, asks.”

    But phrased like that, it seems so obvious. When you will enjoy the experience. When it will make you happy. When you want to. When you feel good about it. That’s the point. It’s not a huge difference in phrasing, but it’s key. And I feel like an asshole for never having thought to put it that way, coming to the issue from what is supposed to be the healthier, more supportive viewpoint.

    It’s a great quote and it sounds like a great pamphlet. Over here, please!

  7. Misspelled,

    I don’t think that makes you an idiot, it just shows how difficult it is to find a way out of this mess (the whole mess that feminism points out I mean) if the ideas we’re brought up on and the language we hear (and therefor fall back onto using) is patriarchal, and in this case sex-shaming.

  8. who cares says:

    so what. you shouldnt be appalled sex does feel good. everyone knows this regardless of school. Im proud that the schools are saying the truth finally not lying and saying it hurts every time, or that every time you masturbate god kills a kitten ive heard them all.

    sex is not dirty and shameful, its about the conncetion and there is no shame, it takes confidence in ones appearance and mind to do it, if god wanted it to be called dirty and shameful then why did he make it feel so good to do, and then why would the result be a beautiful child? sex makes ones complexion better, hair stronger and shinyer, body more entergetic and alert. STD’S are a major downside that result from sex..you can also get std’s like crabs from sitting on a toilet…but that dosent stop people from peeing…is that shameful too then?

    no one uses sex to keep a guy around…if a guys gonna leave, he’s gonna leave whos gonna have sex with someone they dont want….??? mabye a prostitute…but hey prostitutes gotta eat and pay bills too…they do what it takes to stay alive and the world goes on.

  9. P says:

    R,
    Age of consent in the US varies by state (and occasionally by gender), but in the vast majority of places the acceptable age is 16, just like in the UK.

Comments are closed.