5 Things I wish I had known about sex while I was growing up
Growing up I barely heard the word sex. The times I did hear it was in a secretive way or in one of the two three-hour-long sex education “courses” that I took during my teenage years at school. Pretty much everything I learned up to the first time I had a sexual experience was through the uncomfortable talks I had with my mom, occasional Cosmopolitan articles, and giggly conversations I had with my girlfriends.
As you might have guessed, that didn’t properly prepare me to live my sexuality comfortably and in a healthy manner. When I first encounter sex in my life I did it in an environment of secrecy, shame, and doubt. There were so many things I didn’t know how to do and a bunch of others that I was too embarrassed about. I felt confused and had a feeling that I was making things wrong.
Sure, I could have talked about it with my friends but I was scared that they would judge me and online I couldn’t find a proper explanation to what I was feeling. Eventually, through a combination of experience, self-love, feminist literature, and supportive friends, I managed to break away from some preconceived ideas I had about sex and began to step into an enjoyable sexuality. This process is still ongoing but for now, there are a few things that I would have liked my younger self to know. Maybe someone out there needs to hear them too.
1. There’s more to sex than just penetration
During my very few encounters with sex ed, I don’t remember hearing about any other type of sex but penetrative. The type of sex ed I had was mostly based on the biological and reproduction aspects of sex. I learned the parts of the human genitalia and how conception happens, but very few times I heard of other types of sex beyond penetration. The result was that whenever I thought about sex and pleasure was only in this form, which was very disappointing when I realized that it wasn’t as enjoyable as I heard it would be. In fact I remember the first time I thought, “Is that really it? I don’t know why people make sucha big deal about it”. Once I was able to remove penetration from the center stage of sexuality and explored other forms of sex, I discovered a wide array of experiences that changed the way I approached sexual pleasure.
2. You shouldn’t feel ashamed about masturbating
Together with not learning about different types of sex, was masturbation. I only encountered the idea of masturbation as an act of healthy self-pleasure and exploration until I turned twenty. Even though I had heard the word before, the times I heard it in my social circles were usually done with a “dirty” and “shameful” connotation. While this is in part due to the cultural and religious beliefs of the community where I grew up, I’ve learned that women from other parts of the world felt this way at some point. So, if you feel this way, please know that there’s nothing immoral about masturbation and that you’re not alone in this feeling. Talk about it with people you trust or reach out to a health professional, the more you discuss it, the more you’ll be able to normalize it.
P.s: Also, don’t forget to read our other article about the benefits of masturbation.
3. Sex is not like what you see on the screen
This is something that I wish I had been explicitly told before I started exploring sex. With Hollywood-style films being my only reference to sex, I expected real life to be the same. Thus, when I started having sex not only was I expecting things to go like in the movies but also felt disappointed when the experience was totally different. Beyond the fact that in reality taking off one’s clothes is barely as smooth as they portray it, one of the main problems with sex scenes in meticulously produced movies is that they fail to show the ‘imperfect’ details that are part of a real sexual experience. You barely see someone struggling to take off their pants, or the head bumps, or the challenges that arise when trying different positions, or the giggles that follow right after. In the beginning, realizing this was something that made me feel like I wasn’t doing things right. For a while, I tried to replicate what I saw on the screen with the hopes that I would obtain the same pleasure and satisfaction that they seemed to be having. But once I let go of those expectations and realized that it is all of those little things that are not shown on screens what can make sex so fun, pleasurable and intimate, I began enjoying my sexuality much more.
4. It’s okay to talk about what you dislike/like in bed with your partner
One of the things that I struggled with early in my sex life was communication. I felt embarrassed to tell my partner that I was not enjoying something or that there was something else that I liked. I would think of things like ‘what if they get offended?’ or ‘what if they think that’s weird?’. I felt like I had to just kind of accept it and hope that the other person would figure it out on their own. The reality, I found out after years of not saying much, is that communication in bed is just as important as in any other area of life. It took me a while to realize that my partner cannot read my mind and that part of having a healthy and enjoyable sex life is talking about what each person likes or dislikes. Believe me, it’s a game-changer.
5. You should not be embarrassed about bringing up contraception
Another thing I had a hard time with was discussing contraceptive methods with others, both with my parent and my partner. I’ve been very lucky in that my mom has always been open and willing to discuss sex with me but it was a challenging feat to tell her that I wanted to go to the gynecologist and begin taking the pill. While not everyone might have an understanding parent with whom to talk about sex, there are several health professionals and online health services where you can learn about the various options and best methods for you. Similarly, I learned that talking about this early in an encounter/relationship is a healthy and necessary thing that we must continue to normalize.
On one last note, please also remember that becoming comfortable with sexuality is a process that might look different for you. The points discussed above are based on my experience. Your process might diverge from mine and that's okay. But regardless of where you are, I would encourage you to talk about it with people that you trust and to look for reliable sources.
Find more around this month's topic on Sexs and Reproduction here.