19 Things You Should Have Learned In Sex Ed But Didn’t – BuzzFeed News

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Where was the lecture on clitorises or lube or

For most people, sex ed wasn’t exactly

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Paramount Pictures

Mine, for instance, hailed abstinence as the
only option and attempted to scare us away from
sex with photos of untreated STIs (which,
ironically, was not paired with any information
about actually reducing your risk of STIs). The
final project involved carrying around an egg
“baby” for a week without cracking it — an
exercise in the hardships of parenthood,

So if your sex ed was also lacking, here are a
few things you might have missed, courtesy of
sexual health experts.

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1. Sex
isn’t just penetration.

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Sex ed probably taught you that sex =
penetration. If something is going into
something else, it’s sex! But this “intercourse
discourse” is pretty limiting and stigmatizing
for anyone who either doesn’t have sex that way
or doesn’t orgasm that way, sex therapist Ian
Kerner, PhD, founder of Good In Bed,
tells BuzzFeed Health.

Since a lot of sex ed focuses on penetrative
sex (usually in the context of reproduction),
it’s worth noting that your own sex life may
look nothing like that.

“Most people don’t necessarily fit into that
one model of what counts as sex,” sex educator
Levkoff, PhD, tells BuzzFeed Health. “There
a lot of ways to get pleasure and feel intimate
and be satisfied, whether or not it falls into
some silly old idea of what sex is supposed to

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2. There
are a lot of random factors that can screw with
arousal and orgasm.

There are a lot of random factors that can screw with arousal and orgasm.

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“Arousal has a physical and psychological
component,” sex therapist Dr. Madeleine
Castellanos, author of
Wanting To Want, tells BuzzFeed
Health. And both of those typically need to
work together for everything to go well.

So if you’re too tired, too stressed, or too
drunk, it might be harder to get aroused or
have an orgasm. Other factors that can play a
role are certain drugs (like antidepressants,
antihistamines, or opioids) and certain health

Get this framed cross stitch set on


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3. Birth
control is not one-size-fits all.

Birth control is not one-size-fits all.

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the male condom,
the female condom,
the IUD,
the implant,
the ring,
the shot,
the patch, literally dozens of
birth control pills. Basically, you have
options. It’s up to you and your doctor to
determine which one works best for you, and it
may take a little trial and error.

As with all medications, there’s a risk of side
effects when starting birth control, so be sure
to tell your doctor if anything feels off so
they can help you find a method that actually
makes life easier.

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4. STI
testing is necessary and not weird at all.

STI testing is necessary and not weird at all.

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It’s actually just part of being a responsible,
sexual adult, says Levkoff. What you should get
tested for — and how often — will depend on
your age, your anatomy, and your sexual habits.

Here are some general guidelines, but for
personalized recommendations it’s best to go to
your doctor or a sexual health clinic.

Most STIs can be spread through oral, anal, and
vaginal sex, and some can even be spread
through skin-to-skin genital contact. So just
because someone says they “haven’t had sex,” it
doesn’t mean they’ve never been exposed to
STIs. Getting tested is the only way to know
for sure.

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5. You
won’t always know when someone has an STI (even
if it’s you).

You won't always know when someone has an STI (even if it's you).

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If you were shown some fear-mongering photos of
chlamydia and genital warts, you’re probably
under the impression that STIs are glaringly
obvious. That’s not the case. Most STIs come
with no symptoms at all, and the only way
you’ll know you have one is by getting tested.

On that note, there’s also no way to tell if
your partner is STI-free either, even if their
genitals look pretty damn amazing. So get
tested regularly, and ask your partner to get
tested, too.
Here’s everything you need to know about
getting tested.

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Masturbation is not embarrassing, regardless of
your gender.

Masturbation is not embarrassing, regardless of your gender.

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Pretty much every mention of masturbation in
sex ed and pop culture is about men and/or
penises. It’s as if the mere thought of someone
with a vagina masturbating is too ridiculous a
concept to entertain.

Please be advised: Masturbation is not weird,
embarrassing, or shameful for anyone of any
gender. “The idea is that you understand what
feels good to your body … And that you know
your body is capable of pleasure on its own,”
says Levkoff.

Plus, it can benefit your health and sexual
functioning. “If you don’t know what feels or
looks like the norm for your body, it is near
impossible to identify when something is
unusual for your body.”

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7. The
clitoris and the penis are pretty damn similar.

The clitoris and the penis are pretty damn similar.

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Chances are you learned all about the
internal organs of a biological female,
like the vagina, ovaries, and uterus.
Meanwhile, the clitoris — basically the boss of
all the orgasms — was barely even mentioned.
“We like to equate vaginas and penises like
they’re the same, but it’s actually the
clitoris and the penis that are far more
similar,” says Levkoff.

So for anyone who missed that five seconds
where they talked about this in sex ed, the
clitoris is a small erectile structure located
just above the urethra and vaginal opening.
It’s packed with nerve endings, which is what
makes it so similar to the penis; plus it even
swells a bit during arousal, like an erection.
The part you can see is partially hidden under
a little piece of skin called the clitoral
hood, but the nerve endings of the clitoris
actually extend down the sides of the vulva —
so there’s more to it than you think, says

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8. For
someone with a vagina, it’s not unusual to
not orgasm during sex.

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Claudie Ossard Productions

“There are plenty of women who love penetration
and have an orgasm from penetration,” says
Castellanos. “But the vast majority of women
need some level of clitoral stimulation to
reach climax.”

The problem is, most sex positions don’t
stimulate the clitoris, says Kerner. Easy fix:
do more stuff and don’t just rely on
penetration! In fact,
research shows that women are more likely
to orgasm if you cycle through a variety of sex
acts (like vaginal sex + oral sex + manual

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Likewise, penises aren’t the end-all-be-all of
sexual performance either.

Likewise, penises aren't the end-all-be-all of sexual performance either.

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It should also be noted in sex ed books that
the biggest, hardest, longest-lasting erection
doesn’t necessarily equal the best sex ever.

“I can’t tell you how many young men I see who
have anxiety-induced erectile disorder,” says
Kerner. “Part of the pressure of that comes
from this intercourse-based model where men
feel they need to rely completely on their
penises for pleasure.” Quick reminder: there’s
a lot you can do with your hands, mouth, and

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10. Most
of those gender stereotypes around sex are
essentially bullshit.

Most of those gender stereotypes around sex are essentially bullshit.

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Men think about sex every six seconds and women
hate giving blowjobs, AMIRIGHT?

Sure, those statements might be true for some
people, but to generalize an entire gender like
that isn’t productive or helpful. Instead, it
can make someone feel confused or stigmatized
if they don’t fall into those categories — like
if a guy isn’t constantly ready for sex or if a
girl has a higher libido than her boyfriend.
There’s nothing wrong with you if that’s the
case; there’s just something wrong with the way
we’ve historically talked about sex.

While it’s true that physiological responses to
arousal and sex do differ depending on your
anatomy, when it comes to sexual preferences or
behaviors, it varies from person to person.

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Respect gender and sexual diversity — even if
you don’t fully understand it.

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There’s a difference between sex, sexual
orientation, gender identity, and gender
expression. And it’s important to remember that
any one of those things does not automatically
dictate another, says Levkoff.

While it’s helpful understand the various

non-binary identities and forms of sexual
expression, it’s even more important that you
are respectful and sensitive to this diversity,
regardless of how familiar you are with the
lingo. That might mean challenging
heteronormative/cisnormative assumptions when
you see them (like a list of sex tips for
“everyone” that’s actually just for cisgender
straight women) or asking someone what pronouns
they prefer.

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Condoms are the best protection against STIs
and HIV, regardless of what birth control you

Condoms are the best protection against STIs and HIV, regardless of what birth control you use.

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Mukhina1 / Via Getty Images

Condoms are pretty freaking magical. They’re up
to 98% effective at preventing pregnancy (when
used correctly and consistently), and they
protect against STIs and HIV. But according to
recent CDC report, only about 57% of
sexually active high schoolers used a condom
the last time they had sex.

One reason might be that more people are
relying on long-acting hormonal birth control
methods like the IUD or implant, says Levkoff.
That’s great! But since hormonal methods offer
zero protection against STIs and HIV, you still
need to use a condom with them. “Dual use is
your best option yet,” says Levkoff.

FYI: Condoms and dental dams can protect
against STIs during oral sex, too.

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Consent is a principle that’s relevant to every
aspect of our lives, but especially our sex

Consent is a principle that's relevant to every aspect of our lives, but especially our sex lives.

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From borrowing someone’s pencil to bailing on
dinner plans, consent comes into play when you
respect someone’s answer and their ability to
give it.

And while a big part of consent includes

the right to say no to sex (or some part of
sex), Levkoff stresses that it’s equally
important to consider under which circumstances
you would feel it’s right to say yes. Consent
is about setting and respecting boundaries,
trusting yourself, and keeping communication

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14. Porn
can be great, but it’s not meant to be a
realistic guide to sex.

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“I meet so many young people who tell me in the
absence of quality sex ed that porn is their
main way of learning about sex,” says Kerner.
That’s…not ideal.

It’s not that porn is bad or shameful; it can
be fun and liberating and sexy. “It exists
because it serves a purpose,” says Levkoff. But
it’s important to differentiate porn sex from
real sex and not let it lead to unrealistic
expectations — just like any other form of
media we consume.

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15. Never
be embarrassed to talk to your doctor about
sex. They definitely won’t be.

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Whether it’s a body thing (like wtf is this
bump/rash/smell?) or a sex thing (why does it
hurt when I have sex? Why am I not getting
wet/ejaculating/getting turned on?), your
doctor can probably answer it, says Levkoff.

If you really don’t feel comfortable
talking to your primary care doctor about sex,
ask to be referred to a gynecologist or
urologist. This kind of stuff is right smack in
their wheelhouse, so that might make it easier
to bring it up in their office.

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17. Talk
about sex. It’s fun and informative!

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Listen, you probably don’t enter into a
relationship assuming that the other person
already knows you love steak, hate sushi, drink
your coffee black, and have a peanut allergy.
So why would you expect them to know about your
sexual preferences without talking about it?

“[Many couples] don’t know how to talk about
what feels good, what doesn’t feel good or when
sex hurts,” says Kerner. “They don’t know how
to share a turn on or a fantasy or how to ask
their partner what they’re interested in
sexually. They don’t know how to insist that a
partner uses a condom during sex.”

So instead of viewing sex and sexual health as
topics that are too embarrassing or
inappropriate to talk about, let’s encourage
more open dialogue about this stuff.

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Critical thinking and decision making skills
are incredibly relevant to your sex life.

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Think about that one tip everyone is constantly
telling young people about sex: wait until
you’re ready. WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN? You
know what would have been a lot more helpful?
Learning how to know when you’re ready
and what to do when you are.

To figure out what those answers are for you
(because they’ll be different for everyone),
ask yourself questions like: Under what
circumstances will I feel comfortable and
excited about having sex with someone? What do
I want (or definitely not want) from my sex
life? What’s impacting the way I think about
sex and relationships? Etc.

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19. And
finally, there is no such thing as ~normal~.

And finally, there is no such thing as ~normal~.

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It’s the one question everyone wanted to know
going into sex ed — and the one they probably
still had when they left: Am I normal? Is what
I do or how I feel or how I’m built

“That’s representative of what a huge
opportunity we have to recognize that sexuality
is incredibly varied,” says Levkoff. “There is
no such thing as normal.”

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