It took only one shared bottle of beer for my friend and I to embark on a #NSFW journey into the female form; and it was at this moment I realised I have been monumentally sexually uneducated.
I can’t really remember much of my sex education at secondary school; I can tell you that there was approximately one class throughout my time there, led by my then P.E. teacher who bore an unfortunate (yet striking) resemblance to Mrs Trunchbull. I vaguely remember raising my hand to ask whether women were only fertile while on their periods (imagine this with a sickening dose of smugness, disguised as uncertainty, because I absolutely believed I was right). Mrs H quipped how messy and inconvenient that would be, but I never really got a yes or no answer; so instead – perhaps as a result of the public classroom humiliation – I assumed it was impossible to get pregnant while on your period, until I was in my early-20s. It truly is a miracle that I have not birthed an army of infants.
Most sex-education we had was self-taught; if it wasn’t for the boys from the school next door, who had an unhealthy penchant for extremely graphic and grainy mobile videos, I might never have seen a woman shoot an American football from her nether-regions. I wonder if she ever did make it in the Independent Women’s Football League?
On finding out a sixth-former at our school had recently purchased a white BMW from her foray into the amateur porn industry, my friends and I partook in some group-bonding activities of our own: furiously searching for her videos online while at sleepovers, rotating between our positions as Chief Mouse Clicker, Key Word Researcher and Lookout for Wandering Mums. Now, I’m no expert on pornography (the return results for ‘Soulmates spoon intimately and discuss their monogamous future together while watching When Harry Met Sally’ are disappointingly low) – I find it difficult to enjoy watching the violation and degradation of women – but I can tell you from my limited experience that the camerawork was nothing short of shoddy, and the plot hard to follow; why was she sat on a spinning-office chair in someone’s garage, wearing a school uniform that definitely wasn’t sixth-form regulation?
I also have a strangely vivid recollection of believing that men had multiple penises; specifically, three. I can picture a book with a sketch mirroring Leonardo da Vinci’s The Renaissance Man, but instead of multiple arms and legs, it was just loads (like, loads) of male genitalia. You can only imagine my surprise and crushing disappointment on finding out this was but a figment of my imagination. Even more harrowing to know my dreams were not shattered until I was 25.
Aged-17, I moved to an all-boys school for the incredibly intelligent (and mildly autistic), with a small quota of girls in attendance for Sixth Form; and it was here I had my second ‘formal’ sex education. Along with my 20+ male peers, we were tasked with putting a condom on a banana (note: there was more than one banana). My only learnings from this practical were as follows: yes, women really are more mature then men, and yes, bananas really are delicious.
Embarrassingly, most men I know nowadays have a better understanding of the female reproductive system than I do; which makes me wonder three things: can porn be educational? Should I have paid more attention at school? And did boys have a more comprehensive sexual education than the girls? Which brings me back to the beer…
We were barely two-sips in before she, aged-30, asked me, aged-26, whether I knew what a cervix looked like. Sure, I knew there was a cervix – I even had the coil fitted there recently, shooing away cold-callers from the proverbial door – but no, I couldn’t tell you what it looked like (and up until a week before, nor could she). And so began the Googling: what is that? Do things go in there? Do things come out? Babies?! So that’s what dilates!
Worrying, isn’t it? The fact that two sexually-active, well-educated, adult women know so little about how their bodies function. And that’s not to say that we didn’t listen, but it does suggest that an hour’s worth of sex education from your P.E. teacher probably isn’t thorough enough. And yes, my mum tried to talk to me about sex and vaginas and stuff, but it was difficult to hear with my fingers in my ears, tunefully screaming “LA LA LA, I CAN’T HEAR YOU”.
And it’s with a gallery of unidentified cervixes on my phone that I vow to get to know my vagina and bits better. I can’t wait to talk about it at dinner parties (banana-split for dessert, obviously). If it wasn’t for my vital out-of-hours self-education, who knows where I’d be right now? Probably still believing a girl once lost 50p up there, and that a boy once sprayed so much deodorant onto his wotsit that it froze and fell off.
Images via Giphy.