Vagina. I remember how awkward the word felt rolling off my tongue the first time I said it aloud. It was high school and the boys on the drumline would throw it around boldly and frequently throughout rehearsals, taking delight in the physical discomfort it caused others.
I decided I didn’t want to be one of those people, someone who flinched at the thought of anatomy that made me great. So I went home one night, sat in front of my mirror, and said the word over and over again. At first it was awkward and uncomfortable, vaaaginnnaaa? But ten minutes in, it had become the most natural thing, vaginavaginavaginaVAginavaGina, it was like a chant that empowered. And a chant that became useful while working in violence prevention and the Vagina Monologues throughout college.
But here’s the thing, not everyone feels empowered to sit in front of their mirrors and chant to themselves about vaginas, penises, STDs, masturbation, sexual health, birth control, orgasms, exams. It’s the Mrs. Rochester of conversation, shut away in an attic far from the other inhabitants of everyday society (Jane Eyre analogy in a sex ed post, yeah I went there!).
This needs to change. If we can’t even say the words describing sexual health, how can we carry on in-depth conversations with each other about having healthy, enjoyable, respectful, pleasurable, and consensual sexual relationships?
If there is one thing I could change right now, it would be the sexual education classes taught in high schools. Lets be honest, they’re a joke. The football coach setting up the projector that flips through slides portraying an old car-sex metaphor, followed by a disclaimer:
This class is the chance for kids to learn what healthy relationships look like, what dating abuse looks like, learn how to use it and where to find contraception, and understand the importance of consistent sexual health exams. But the more we talk about sex and sexual health, the easier it becomes to talk about these topics.
So the lesson here is, go sit in front of your mirror and chant vagina until it annoys your mum enough that she walks in and asks you to stop because she can’t hear the latest episode of Downton Abbey. Then read the Vagina Monologues, start falling in love with your entire lady self, and plan your next sexual health exam. Trust me, it’s much less uncomfortable and daunting than you envision it to be.
While I can’t provide every high school with a new sex education teacher, I can provide this list of amazing sex education channels on YouTube. These women inspire me everyday to be bold, brave, and stand up in the face of sexual violence and body negativity. If you’re ready to have your pants blow off, continue below:
Sexplanations — A show run by Dr. Doe, a sexologist, that teaches lessons on sexual history and answers every sex question you’ve ever been too embarrassed to ask.
Laci Green — This woman is my personal hero. Green created the show Sex Plus in order to have open, honest conversations about sex, sexual violence, feminism, sexual health, and body positivity. Last year, she rallied the YouTube community to ban sexually harassing pranks from the platform and ostracize creators who had used their fame to take advantage of female fans.
Hannah Witton — This little British sass ball is not afraid to talk about sex and is set on breaking taboos in the most refreshing, charming way.