Let me set the scene. You’re in your seventh-grade health class. They’ve separated the boys and girls and the teacher is now explaining the concept of sex. When she says the word, you and your friends stifle a giggle. You learn about penises and vaginas, sperm and eggs, birth control and condoms. You spend a whole class discussing STDs, even looking at pictures of some. But what you don’t discuss is the primary reason most people have sex in the first place: pleasure. You may argue that twelve-year-olds don’t really need to be introduced to sex for any reason beyond making babies, and while I do agree to some extent, I also feel that if we are teaching them about the act in the first place, we need to educate them about all aspects of sex.
If you’re anything like me, you probably received an abstinence-only education. It was very basic: we discussed basic anatomy, birth control and STDs. And while I wasn’t particularly interested in having sex in middle and high school, I was still left with so many questions and misconceptions that weren’t straightened out until I started reading the Cosmo Snapchat stories. I had no idea what a clitoris was, and had never even heard the word before until I saw it in a novel in college. I had to Google it, which is embarrassing considering it’s literally a part of my own body. My brief public school sex education has failed me in every single way, and I know many of my friends feel the same way. But do not fret; I’ve done the research so that you don’t have to.
Courtesy: Hello Clue
First and foremost, let’s discuss anatomy. You hopefully already know most of this, but just to refresh your memory, I made a list.
Vulva: Although we generally refer to what’s down there as a vagina, vulva is actually the correct term for the entire area.
Vagina: While the term vagina is usually used to describe the entire area, the vagina itself is just the hole where tampons, among other things, are inserted.
Labia: This is the outer part of the vagina, often referred to as the “lips,” which I think is a disgusting comparison. However, I don’t make the rules. You have a labia majora, which is the outer area usually covered in pubic hair, and a labia minora, the inner area.
Clitoris: The tip of the clitoris is located at the top of the vulva, where the labia minora meet. “It extends inside your body, back and down both sides of your vagina,” which I learned on the Planned Parenthood site while researching. It’s one and only purpose: pleasure. Fun fact, penises don’t have any areas like that. Maybe that’s why men can never find it.
Urethra: The pee hole. Hopefully you already know this.
Courtesy: Planned Parenthood
Glans: AKA the head. This is where the urethra is, where pee and semen come out of, and it is often the most sensitive part of the penis.
Shaft: The long part. It extends from the head to where it connects to the body. It looks like a worm.
Foreskin: If the penis is uncircumcised, this is the skin that protects the head.
Frenulum: This is a fun new term I learned. The frenulum is where the foreskin meets the underside of the penis. According to Planned Parenthood, “it looks like a small V just below the head.” Part of it usually remains after circumcision and it is often very sensitive.
Scrotum: I would like to have words with whoever named this, because gross. Anyway, the scrotum, also known as the ballsack, contains the testicles and keeps them at the right temperature. Basically, it’s an air conditioning unit for the penis, I guess. It is very sensitive, which can often cause pain, but some people like having their scrotum touched (gently) during sex.
This is about to get fun. Pleasure is always a tough subject, especially when discussing female pleasure because much more work goes into it than for anyone with a penis. For them, all you have to do is look at them and all of a sudden they’ve got a boner, but for anyone with a vagina, it’s not so easy.
Recently I watched a movie on Netflix called Sleeping With Other People, which includes a scene where Jake (Jason Sudekis) teaches Lainey (Alison Brie) how to masturbate. I wanted to find the clip online so that I didn’t have to explain it myself, but since I was unsuccessful and don’t know how to (or rather don’t want to) talk about pleasure in my own words, I will simply summarize the scene. The scene starts with Jake picking up a green tea bottle which will soon serve as a stand-in for Lainey’s vagina. He begins by telling her about the G-spot, which he says can be found if you were to slide your pointer finger a few inches inside the vagina and tap the roof, making a “come hither” motion with your finger. Many women don’t find stimulation of the G-spot pleasurable, and it is harder to reach with a penis than it is with a finger, which is why most women don’t orgasm from penetration alone. Next, Jake tells Lainey about the clitoris and a move he calls “the Dirty DJ,” which I will not describe because you have an imagination of your own and can surely figure it out. He says that men often have the misconception that they’re “too nice” to the clitoris, that is if they can find it. If they can’t, show them! The trick, Jake says, is to “be a little rude” to it. Honestly, I recommend watching the scene because it does a much better job of explaining it than I do. These tips are helpful whether you’re doing it yourself or having a partner do it for you. If you choose the latter, teaching your partner what feels good for you is the most important part.
Now on to male pleasure. As much as I want to just not say anything because it’s so much easier for someone with a penis, I would not be a good teacher if I didn’t talk about it at all. In the anatomy section, I noted the most sensitive part of the penis, the head, as well as the frenulum on the underside of the head. These two parts of the penis, the head mostly, play a key role in terms of male pleasure, so if you find yourself face to face with a penis, I guess just pay extra attention to those areas. Or better yet, ask your partner what they like.
Birth Control and Lube
We all know what condoms are. And for anyone who has been to a gynecologist, I’m sure you’ve had the discussion about The Pill, so I won’t go into too much detail about that. The main thing I want to talk about regarding birth control is lube. Many condoms come lubricated and vaginas produce some natural lubrication when aroused, but sometimes you just need a little bit more help in that department. But what many people don’t know is that you can’t use an oil-based lube with a condom because it can break down the latex, potentially causing the condom to break. This means no Vaseline, cooking oils, coconut oil, baby oil, or lotions unless you are using a polyurethane condom. Personally, I don’t think any of these items should ever go anywhere near a vagina in the first place, but that’s just me. The good news is, you can use water and silicone-based lube with latex and non-latex condoms, and there are many options to choose from. Silicone-based lubes typically last longer than water-based, but ultimately it’s up to your personal preference.
There are many different options when it comes to birth control, including pills, shots and IUDs. None of these options protect from STDs and STIs though, so if you’re worried about those, or even just as an extra precaution against pregnancy, use a condom. If you’re on The Pill, you may experience a variety of side effects, since it alters your hormone levels. Birth control pills also affect your melatonin levels. When used in addition to melatonin supplements as a sleeping aid, your melatonin levels may become too high. The combination of the two may decrease the effectiveness of your birth control, which is good to know now since I pop melatonin like candy. If you’re worried about your birth control failing due to melatonin, consider talking to your doctor about alternative sleep aids or just use a condom as an extra precaution.
With all that being said, hopefully this article was educational in some way, whether for yourself or for a partner that never knew where your clitoris was.