Learning about sex the hard way

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March 21, 2008

4:34 PM

I’m not positive, but I’m going to hazard a guess that the majority of the College has had some sort of sexual-health education. As a student in the Fairfax County Public School system, I had a unit of it once a year from fourth grade until I graduated from high school. These classes covered material from penises to pap smears, chlamydia to childbearing, but I have to say now that as a sexually active woman, they didn’t exactly prepare me for the sexual world. I’m sure many of you feel the same way. Despite all of the boring hours spent learning about fallopian tubes and nocturnal emissions, many young Americans still seem to be clueless about sex.
American society has many taboos, especially when it regarding gettin’ down. This means that there are a lot of hush-hush conversations in locker rooms and at sleepovers.

p. Despite their overt objections to such gossip mongering, teachers and parents need the help of peers to educate their children about sex. Information that would normally be considered awkward coming from an adult may seem more appropriate from someone of the same age. The problem, of course, is that the information children get from their peers is often flawed. Health class and family discussion can alleviate misinformation only to a certain point. From there, questions end up being answered through the internet or not at all.

p. A prime example of this is information about anal sex: People tend to feel that this topic is extraordinarily taboo and many avoid discussing it altogether. If it is mentioned, it’s in passing, as a deviant sexual behavior. But something tells me more people are interested in it than they let on. And if they are, they ought to know a little bit about it.

p. For one, it is essential to change condoms when switching between types of intercourse (e.g. from vaginal to anal). The reason behind this is pretty logical: You don’t want cross-contamination — it can cause infections. Luckily, safety tips such as the aforementioned can be found online. But more subtle information deceives us. Such as, at what point in a relationship, if ever, is it okay to bring up the topic of anal? During a one night stand, how can this act be initiated? Social customs are not usually learned in a classroom but rather from our friends. But if our friends won’t discuss something, then we’re left to fend for ourselves, and sometimes to struggle through faux pas after faux pas until we get it right.

p. Another topic considered off-limits is hygiene. Our society takes cleanliness pretty seriously. So seriously, in fact, that it seems maladroit to bring it up in conversation. Your parents generally teach you how to keep yourself clean, but I’m not sure many parents are comfortable talking about sexual hygiene. First of all, everyone smells down there. Second, we all urinate and have bowel movements — the outlets of which fall right around our genitalia. Third, anywhere with folds of skin constantly kept under clothing tends to accumulate sweat and dirt. This means that we should all be washing our bits and pieces just as we would the rest of our body. Be cautious, though, this is a sensitive area. Do not go overboard; a little odor or discharge is perfectly normal.

p. The treatment of pubic hair is a more debatable hygienic question. I would say our generation takes this issue to heart. No doubt, dingleberries are not a turn-on. However, that doesn’t mean that pubic hair is necessarily all bad. If you decide shaving or waxing are not for you, you should at least periodically check to make sure there is nothing stuck in your pubic hair.

p. Another solution would be to keep the hair trimmed, giving it a neat appearance. For those of you who opt to shave it all off, remember that this needent be an all-or-nothing deal — you can shave a little and leave a little. In fact, patterns can be quite fun. Go Edward Scissorhands on that bush! But beware of itchiness, dry skin and razor burn. Little red bumps surrounding your pudendum tend to be a no-no.
These are just a few tidbits of information that were probably left out of your sex ed classroom. There are many other topics floating around in our sexual culture that are rarely addressed. It’s important that we get them out into the open; by leaving them unsaid, we create a situation in which nobody’s comfortable. It’s okay that sometimes your hooch is a little funky or that you’re nervous — but excited — at the idea of “playing in the mud.” Maybe if these subjects came up more often in everyday conversation, you would feel comfortable breaching the subject in bed. An added benefit of keeping things out in the open is that people learn what is popular and what choices they have. Isn’t that what sexual exploration is all about anyway?

__Maya Horowitz is the sex columnist. She recommends a dino-shaped trim for your hair down there.__

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