Putting Pleasure into Sex Education

My younger patients, twenty and under, are often confused and seem a little uncomfortable when I ask them about their “Desire” for sex.  Their answers include: “fine,” or “ok.”  I will then try and make them more comfortable and normalize the idea that sexual desire is a normal and healthy part of life. Many women need that verbal confirmation that sexual desire is not only “normal,” but “healthy.” Conversely a lack of sexual desire is actually “not normal.”  

Peggy Orenstein’s new book Girls and Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape, addresses the issue of teaching girls that sex is supposed to be pleasurable, and encouraging them that they can achieve sexual pleasure.  She writes: “When kids go into puberty education classes, they learn that boys have erections and ejaculations and girls have periods and unwanted pregnancies. Many parents are equally guilty of this kind of framing, whether out of moral concern or simple embarrassment. 

Pleasure should be a crucial part of sex education. So much of sex education is about what NOT to do, that there is often little room for the positive parts of sexuality. By not talking about pleasure when we talk about sex with young women, we are perpetuating the notion that sex is bad or shameful, something to fear, and something to do for others instead of something we enjoy ourselves.  

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