I had a weird thought the other day when I had lunch with Miss Stella from YourSparQ.com.
We were talking about sex education, and I had mentioned a tweet I’d seen from Sarah Sloane (one of the best sex educators out there) calling out the need for good cisgender male sex educators. I’ve heard other friends in the sex ed field, from Heather Corinna to Shanna Katz to Megan Andelloux echo the call: Where are the straight men teaching sex ed? Hell, even Rutgers writes about it.
As someone who has somewhat inadvertently been identified as a straight-presenting cisgender male occasionally thrust into sex-ed situations, I listen to them with a bit of an eyebrow raised. Because in spite of my offering to do more, there really aren’t a lot of organizations beating down my door, asking me to talk about sex. Rope, kink, social media, poly, sure…but usually not sex.
But at the lunch, a thought occurred to me. I thought about how a lot of the sexuality educators out there – primarily women or queer educators (such as Dan Savage) came out of oppressed and under-represented groups. Women claimed their sexuality; “We’re here, we’re queer!” came out of the closet and began to examine in the bright light all the myths and stereotypes and more. The focus was on pleasure, how to get it, how you are responsible for your own orgasm, how you needed to not be ashamed of your desires, etc.
These are great things. They are ripping the lid off the lies that were told to all of us for so many years:
- At about age 8, my father first mentioned the word “penis” in reference to that part of my anatomy. I thought he’d said “peanuts” and it was years before I learned otherwise.
- As a reader of scriptures, I found that strange word womb mentioned over and over. It was something about babies coming out of bellies…then I had it! REmembering the story of Eve coming from Adam’s rib, I triumphantly told my parents: “I get it! They’re called wo-men because they came from the womb of man!” My parents laughed nervously, told me I was wrong, and never explained why.
- In 6th grade, when the boys & girls had separate assemblies to learn about bodies changing and the production of sperm and such, one big part was left out. My best friend Huey dared ask the question: “Um, how, exactly, does the sperm get to the egg?” Amidst gales of laughter (which I joined in, even though I didn’t know either) the educator – a white-haired cisgender male in a suit – glanced at the other teachers and said “Any way it can.” More gales of laughter. But not much education.
- Driving with my dad, he asked me if I understood how babies were made. “Sure,” I said, “We learned about sperm and eggs and all that stuff in school.” He nodded, looking relieved, and didn’t bother to ask for details. Which was good, because I didn’t actually know any.
- My stepmother finally laid it out for me as we drove the car into the driveway one day. “It’s nothing like what you see in the movies like James Bond,” she said. “It’s actually no fun for the woman at all. It only lasts about five minutes, and the man can only do it once a night.” I nodded. At that point, I had lost my virginity a few months before to a well-educated young woman with a sex-positive mother, and I knew that everything my step-mother was telling me was a lie.
That was my sex education. That was the sex education of a cisgender male of privilege. And that’s the thought that came to me that day at lunch: there has been this assumption, I think, that the dominant class – the straight cisgender male – has had all the focus on their sex, and so book after book and show after show from these great sex educators have been focused on getting the real story out, about women’s bodies and queer desires no longer being shameful or secret or ignored (such as the many, many anatomical diagrams young women were shown with no mention of the clitoris). In fact, often these books have been dismissive of male sexual pleasure (The Clitoral Truth was downright offensive, in my opinion).
The thing is, while yes, the focus has been on male heterosexual pleasure, it has been a false focus. It hasn’t been about the realities of sexual pleasure, such as the joys of prostate play, or the different kinds of orgasm, or the realities of erectile dysfunction, or the fact that submission can be a masculine sex trait. No, instead we have games and scores and “donkey punches” and chuckling socks-in-the-arm that resemble a Monty Python sketch.
In other words, the same cisgender masculine stereotypes that kept women’s and queer sexuality in the dark for so long kept the cisgender het males in the dark too.
That, I think, is why there’s such a need for male sex educators. We’re behind in the sex-positive enlightenment.
That’s not to say “poor oppressed us.” For one thing, I’m not really part of that us, because I’m queer. I just don’t look it, and I’m ok with people making their assumptions because my queerness isn’t any of their business.
For another thing, it’s ok to be behind, because we now have the examples of the great sex educators listed above to follow (resisting the urge to add “And besides, ladies first, right?”). It is a good thing for a privileged group to realize they’re behind the curve, under-represented, and that their actual identities and health issues and pleasure have been falsely perceived and presented for centuries. Builds character, wot?
But at the same time…like I said, there aren’t exactly a horde of people knocking at my door.
5 thoughts on “Sex Ed for the Needy Privileged”
I’m a cisgendered straight dude who has taught a lot of pleasure-centric sex ed over the years. What we need even more than male sex educators is for cisgendered dudes to come out for sex education. (Perhaps the former might inspire the latter.) Almost no matter what I teach (“Sex toys for gay boys” being the obvious exception) I look out at a sea of women. There are some pretty obvious cultural stereotypes at play in the difference, but I find it disappointing every time.
I couldn’t agree more. Don’t you love it when you see the articles in Cosmo: “Ten Sex Tips You Wish Your Man Knew!” I want to yell “Why don’t you just tell him!!”
Thanks for speaking up. I believe I’m going to start a links page of male sexuality educators as a resource; I’ll link Venus Envy (and, with your permission, your bio) on the page.
Thank you, Graydancer, for this post. I agree that it’s important that we educate our men, too. They have been just as much victims as women and queers of the sex-negative culture in this country. Why is it that we expect them to know what to do and how to do it? Why do we shame them for stuff they don’t understand, when we’re not willing to teach them? Let us know when you’ve got the links page up…I’ll pass it along!
I’d often thought about that too. I had that very thought in mind when I wrote several of the e-books on my website, in particular “The Great Voyeur, observations on my sexual history.”
Readers of both genders do seem drawn to the learning curves inherent in someone else’s sexual memoir, failures and all. It doesn’t feel pedagogical that way. It takes some of the stigma out of learning from a ‘teacher’ or admitting any lack of knowledge about sex, which is all supposed to be inborn, right? Plus I try to keep the tone entertaining rather than preachy, since I know what I know through a closely examined life, not from a sanctioned degree on the subject.
Just because one is in the allegedly dominant social group doesn’t mean one is in any way dominant/super heroic in one’s own sex life. Yet the assumption continues out there… Especially painful for those of us who were shy or grew up near domineering feminists.
I have also tackled many other het male issues of relationship, sex and sexual fantasy through my fiction e-books, plays and novel…
I agree that sexual education in general needs to be improved in this country, though one of the most important improvements I can think of would simply be in providing models for open, honest communication about sexual preferences and limits, not just disease risk.
I appreciate that there is an expectation of before scene/play/sexy fun time negotiation and that questions such as “What do you want to do?” and “What are your limits?” are asked as a matter of course. However, prior to my exposure to the kink community, I can think of a couple of times these questions were not covered thoroughly enough, to ill effect (e.g. having a partner just try something without preamble or discussion can backfire spectacularly).
In the formal sex ed that I experienced in high school and college, communication and mutual respect for boundaries were only discussed in the context of relationships and abuse avoidance, nowhere near the topic of sex itself, which is mostly boiled down to, “Don’t do it, but if you do, use protection”.