This past month I had 3 orgasm coaching sessions with women who had never experienced an orgasm before. One of the women expressed frustration at being “robbed of this education” saying “I’ve basically lost ten or more years of this because of it.” By “this” she meant pleasure. She went on to explain that growing up her sex education consisted of no education at all. Raised Catholic she was taught nothing about basic sexual anatomy, sex or pleasure. When she began menstruating her mom gave her pads to use but didn’t explain where the blood came from or how to use a tampon. It was almost like she wasn’t even supposed to know she had a vagina. She could recall no memories of positive or negative words being spoken about her genitals and because of this, grew up completely disconnected to this part of her body.
You might read this and think it’s horrible and sad but in my experience it isn’t at all uncommon. While we openly talk with our children about other parts of their body and name these parts using accurate terminology, we often avoid teaching our children about their sexual anatomy or using the correct terms when we do. Instead of saying vulva, penis, testicles, and clitoris parents often use dumbed down terms like “front bum” “back bum” and “pee pee.” While we may think this makes it easier for children to understand, I think it actually does the opposite. Do we change the language for any other body part? If a child can understand that legs are called legs, and eye brows called eye brows, then why can’t they understand that a vulva is called a vulva? By avoiding these terms we pass our own sexual shame on to our children.
Children are great receivers but not great interpreters. They readily and easily receive information from everything and everyone around them — parents, teachers, friends and the media. Their interpretation of the information they receive however, is often not accurate. When parents fight they may think it’s their fault. If we make a disgusted face while changing their diaper, they may think that they are disgusting. When we cover our naked bodies they may think there’s something shameful about being naked. And when we avoid or dumb down talks about their sexual anatomy they might interpret those parts as being bad or dirty. In fact what we don’t say to our children teaches them much more than what we do say.
Even though I use the title “Orgasm Coach” for the work I do, in some cases I think a more accurate term would be “pleasure” or “self awareness” Coach.” The women I work with often speak of a complete disconnect between their self and their genitals. When a woman has grown up with little to no understanding of her sexual anatomy, has never masturbated and only learned about her “expected” role during sex from porn, she may have have absolutely no baseline or knowledge of pleasure. This same women may be (and often is )married and having sex in a variety of positions with her husband several times a week. Just because she has had sex doesn’t mean that she has ever experienced pleasure or can even begin to know what that would look or feel like. I can tell you that learning to let go and trust enough to experience pleasure for the FIRST time as an adult is not easy at all.
You may wonder what we can do as parents to support and educate our children to be sexually healthy as adults. First and foremost we can teach them by modelling ourselves what it means to be a sexually healthy adult. What that means to you may be different than what it means to me but I think it begins with using the correct terminology when teaching them about their sexual anatomy and not wincing when we do so. If you have difficulty saying the word clitoris out loud then your child will interpret something from that. If you can’t look at your own genitals without disgust and shame your child will likely not be able to either. What about conversations regarding masturbation? Encouraging natural self exploration will give them a base of knowledge about pleasure and connection for their rest of their lives — especially if it’s not met with shame. We can talk to them not only about boundaries but about pleasure, self care and ENTHUSIASTIC consent. When we feel healthy sexually ourselves, we can speak confidently and matter of factly — giving them the message that sex is a normal part of living a healthy life just like exercise and eating healthy is. We can tell them age appropriate stories about our past sexual experiences — from childhood masturbation, our own sexual shame, to teenage sex or the sex we wish we had had — so that they know we’re safe and have been there too.
As parents we need to push past our own learned sexual shame. Let’s give our children the education they need to live a healthy, pleasure filled life as an adult, so that that in 20 years time they don’t need to come to me to learn where their clitoris is or how to feel pleasure. Educate,educate,educate. <3