"When it comes to sex ed, it’s never too late to go back to school."

“When it comes to sex ed, it’s never too late to go back to school.” Photo: Stocksy

It’s a tale that, alas, is likely familiar to many women: throughout the course of my sex life, male partners had insisted things like, “You’ll like this”, “Women love this move”, and “You have to let me ‘ground’ your vagina after sex”. By the time that final doozy was dropped on me late last year, I realised that if I were to answer the question, “What do you, you know, like?” my reaction would be something like this GIF.

Feeling glum about it all, I resigned myself to a period of soul-searching solitude with a soupçon of self-loathing: at 32, surely I should have one clue about what made me tick? But after a year that had included some baaaad sex and a diagnosis of chronic vaginal thrush, the concept of “pleasure” was far from my mind.

So, when I ran into Vanessa Muradian, an old comrade from the feminist protest scene who works as a sexologist and was now running a course dedicated to female pleasure, it seemed like fate. The course would entail practical education about sex and wellness, followed by a sensual yoga flow and guided meditation – perfect, since of late all three things had fallen off my to-do list.

Having signed up for ‘Pleasure Month’, I was suddenly beset by yet more questions – “What is a ‘sensual yoga flow’?” “Is this going to end up like in Sex & The City where the guy at the sex workshop spoofs on Charlotte?” “What if the last time I did a guided meditation I saw Viggo Mortensen’s face and heard atmospheric sounds from World Of Warcraft?” – but felt resolved to undo years of Cosmo-inspired notions about sex and pleasure.

My SATC-inspired spoof-related concern was unfounded as the class was all women. What struck me immediately, however, was the palpable sense of relief in the room: that regardless of sexual preference, age, marital or parental status, we were learning things about our bodies that nobody had told us.

For example, that lower back strain could adversely affect the ability to orgasm (guess whose year of “I’m just not really feeling it, sorry” sex coincided with an undiagnosed acute lower back injury??), or that the clitoris is far bigger than any dimwitted “it’s about the size of a pea” ’69 Sex Tips’ article might have mistakenly informed you (it’s estimated to be around 12cm long).

Could we have found these things out during a Google frenzy with a glass of shiraz? Sure, but there was something telling about the fact that we hadn’t. Instead, like me not having any reason to put two and two together about my back injury and bummer sex life, we had just resigned ourselves to the “reality” that sex was just okay, orgasms were alright, I guess, and such is life.

More than anything, through the educational segments of the course I kept thinking about how little sex ed had focused on female pleasure – which is to say, it didn’t at all. Sex in a “P in V” context (which is of course what the bulk of sex ed focuses on) was primarily about making men climax, the terrible things that would happen when they did, and that was about it.

I asked Vanessa about this after class one week. “As women we give so much to those around us, we forget the importance of empowering ourselves and our energy stores; pleasure and indulging in it is a huge part of this,” she said. “It’s also important to note that from an early age we aren’t taught about how to pleasure ourselves [or] even about our capabilities as women and as sexual beings. Of course if you don’t know what you are capable of and how to receive pleasure it’s harder to find!”

The fascinated “ohh!”s and gobsmacked faces during our education reflected this (particularly during the segment about female ejaculation). But as the course also illustrated, “pleasure” doesn’t have to mean going hell for leather with the vibe: it could be sitting in the sun while reading, or eating a kilo of cherries, or whatever, provided it was private and personal.

Somewhere in the middle of the yoga flow during my last Pleasure Month class, sweating profusely and wobbling through the least serene sun salute in history, the reality of years’ worth of pleasureless sex hit me. I was overcome by a profound sense of emotion – equal parts rage, disappointment and optimism – that emerged in a sort of strangled burp before I collapsed onto the mat.

When I left the course I wasn’t much better at meditating (cf. Viggo Mortensen’s face), and my yoga form was still more crabby than sensual, but I had a renewed sense of hopefulness about my ability to experience pleasure in all its forms (and a new confidence in my ability to say “Could you not” the next time a dude claimed to know exactly what I’d like).

Had you asked me whether I’d attend a “sex yoga” course a year or so ago, I probably would have laughed and said something almost convincing about how I had a great sex life (about as convincing as Sally Albright having great sex with Shel Gordon, I’d say) and didn’t need to attend a course about it.

As it turns out, when it comes to sex ed, it’s never too late to go back to school.


Henry Sapiecha

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