The Vagenda

Ladies Come First: Why Every Secondary School Needs a Lesson on the Clitoris



The other day I was reading a Telegraph article about the recent failed sex education reforms, when I saw something (put forward by a very sensible bloke from Durham University) that really stood out:

“From Shakespeare’s sonnets to episodes of Eastenders, and from Rihanna’s latest single to a Tchaikovsky symphony, we are more rounded, fully realised people when we are able to engage with sexuality in a mature and sophisticated manner.”

Quite so, Dr McCormack (for it was he who spake thus). This reasonable statement certainly adds a note of gravitas needed by the screeching feminist harpies who have been campaigning for better sex ed for some time now. I could not have put it more reasonably myself.

It was looking like it might be a lovely day, but then this sentence happened:

‘Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust, said: ‘The advocates of lessons in sexual pleasure have not thought through the implications of pursuing a hedonistic lifestyle for the future happiness of young people…if we are interested in promoting secure marriages, stable families and strong communities, sexual pleasure should never be promoted as a ‘right’ or as an end in itself.’”

Wow. Just: wow. No wonder the proposals were condemned to the Big Society wastepaper basket of doom. Sexual pleasure for it’s own sake? PLEASE LORD NO.

It stopped me dead in my idealistic tracks. As the co-founder of Ladies Come First, a social, sexual responsibility campaign focusing on female pleasure, had I got it wrong? Could my belief that orgasms are important actually lead to the downfall of society?

For about a second I considered doing some serious soul-searching, until I remembered one vital piece of statistical magic, the AK47 in my arsenal. It is the context in which this entire debate about sex education is framed (here comes the science bit gals so you’d better read carefully).

Heterosexual men (like this Norman guy) are almost 100% likely to experience the orgasmic pinnacle of sexual pleasure from ‘having sexual intercourse’ as taught by the sex education curriculum.

Heterosexual women, however (that includes unfortunate creatures like myself, my sister and co-campaigner, maybe this Norman guy’s wife, and quite a large proportion of the human race) stand only a 30% chance of enjoying that same experience*

(P.S. This statistic obviously does not apply to LGBT women, who totes don’t put up with this shit.)


In light of this, I think it’s fair to make a couple of teensy little edits to old Norm’s quotation for the Telegraph:

“The advocates of lessons in sexual pleasure have not thought through the implications FOR MEN of pursuing an EQUALISTIC lifestyle for the future happiness of young people. If we are interested in promoting secure marriages, stable families and strong communities, sexual pleasure should never be promoted as a ‘right’ for HETEROSEXUAL WOMEN or as an end in itself, EXCEPT MAYBE FOR MEN.”

Not even within marriage Norm? Ouch.

Thankfully one thing that the ‘advocates of lessons in sexual pleasure’ are taking into consideration, is that annoying little goody two shoes known as the truth. When I did psychology at A-level, (serious stuff) we were told that humans, unlike rabbits, don’t even do altruism except for pleasure, which basically stops it counting as pure altruism (can I get a ‘Helper’s Hiiiigh’!) My basic understanding of this interplay is that nature is using pleasure to trick us into reproducing. Even stable families gotta give something back to be sustainable (maybe thats why they’re so frickin rare). In other world: pleasure is important for many reasons, not least because it perpetuates our existence as a species.

It’s not just in the classroom that the truth of pleasure is denied us inadequate womenfolk. Long before there even was such a thing as sex education, good old Uncle Freud was urging women to just grow up and get over the clitoral orgasm. Mature ladies, he said, would find the vaginal orgasm much more to their tastes, despite it basically not existing (apparently it’s most likely to be the wrappy-roundy, insid-y tips of the clitoris you’re feeling, before you get all ‘but I totally vaginally orgasm’ with me). It’s too late for Freud, he’s forever consigned to the canon of famous unresponsive male lovers, but it’s not too late for future generations. We could defos teach them that the clitoris exists.

The clitoris is an actual scientific fact. Some very clever, lovely people, have, like, 3D mapped it and stuff, already (what a great job, seriously). It can make an orgasm in a woman, the way thrusting a penis in a vagina can make an orgasm in a man. But you have to treat it right, get to know it a little. I would at this point caution that most of the “getting to know” part cannot be legally or appropriately handled in a classroom scenario, but we do the future of relationships a disservice if we don’t at least hand out some clues.

Those poor, vulnerable, developing masculinities are being abandoned on the playing field, with all the wrong tools in their boxes. They know girls can orgasm; girls in porn orgasm, girls in 70s feminist literature orgasm, girls on their own orgasm. So how will their fragile self-esteems react when the thing they’ve been told to do, doesn’t do it?

When I see articles about women being regularly harassed, abused, raped, spiked and raped, invited to parties where they are spiked and raped, or spiked, raped and then disbelieved by friends family and the police, the female experience of pleasure is starkly obvious in its absence. This is a violent sexuality where women are barely conscious, let alone equal partakers. The ideology that we pass on to young boys and girls must not be one of female passivity.

Besides which, if we carry on solely teaching penis in vagina reproductive sex, we are giving all the scientific realness to something that ideally we actually don’t want to happen, i.e: teenagers reproducing. Allow me to demonstrate:

“Hi kids, the only way to have sex is this way, which all the boys and 30% of the girls will enjoy (at least for a while) and it can get you pregnant and diseased. Therefore, we suggest, that in total opposition to every adult in magazines, on TV and in the world, that you shouldn’t do it.”

As opposed to a hedonistic approach, which would be the following:

“One way to experience sexual pleasure, which is especially effective for women, is manual stimulation. Most people will orgasm this way if you listen carefully to feedback, and you are very unlikely to transmit diseases (as long as you wash) or get anyone pregnant, which are things that you might want to save for later in life”

And that is an example of how I think we should teach people about sex. But I am just a lowly pleasure-play accessories designer, not a policy maker and not a curriculum author. If only, I thought, my company could invent better sex education. We could call the initiative “Ladies Come First”, because that’s funny and often true. And maybe we could develop an awesome ‘Guide to the Female Orgasm’ that would put female stimulation back on the map. We could give it out at universities, at Fresher’s Fairs. It would be a-mazing. We’d talk about the four pillars of sexual exploration-:Territory, Pleasure, Boundaries and Communication.

We’d need a website.

But how are we going to pay for this amazing guide to female pleasure? Maybew e could do a crowd funding campaign and offer amazing Gigi Noir products to backers as payback?

Ok, done.

Who’s in?

- Alice Holloway


11 thoughts on “Ladies Come First: Why Every Secondary School Needs a Lesson on the Clitoris

  1. This NEEDS to happen.
    However, it’s more than just promoting safe sex practices and female pleasure. Traditional sex ed and the lack of discussion surrounding manual stimulation, is teaching young women that they should expect pleasure through ‘penis vagina sex’ and if they don’t then there’s something not right with your sexual experience. I can openly say that as someone who felt incredibly let down once becoming sexually active- even worse I felt like perhaps something was wrong with me. Obviously that changed as I got older but, if we can teach young boys early on that what they get pleasure from doesn’t cut it for 70% of the partners that they will have, then they will learn to look at the sexual experience differently.

    Let’s make this happen.

  2. Poor Mrs Norman. I suspect her marriage has been full of conversations like ‘Is anything wrong dear? You moved’.

    But hey, so long as Norms is getting his jollies! Although not too many of course. No no no. That would never do.

  3. I’ve been waiting for something like this to appear on the Vagenda for a couple years now. I believe this is extremely important. Saw an interesting exhibition on ‘cliteracy’ – you should google it!

  4. I teach at an all-boys school. Next time I’m called up to do a PSHE lesson, I’m totally sacking it off so I can do this instead. Since they all have smartphones and are all watching hardcore porn by the time they’re 14, they’re getting pretty much all their sex ed from porn. Worrying on so many levels, and not a promising sign for their future girlfriends. I’d start the lesson with a powerpoint slide saying ‘PORN SEX SUCKS (AND NOT IN A FUN WAY)’ and go from there.

  5. I teach sex and relationship education (amongst other things) in a secondary school and have really made a point of explaining what orgasms are for men and women as well as leaving them in no doubt to what and where the clitoris is! The earlier it becomes a normal part of sre discourse, the better.

  6. Education about the clitoris is extremely important, especially with emphasis on the fact that there’s more to it than shows on the surface. I live in a country with excellent sexual education, when I went to school we learned that this is where most women find their sexual pleasure comes from. However, much like in your article, I find that women who derive pleasure mostly/partly from the internal parts of the clitoris are dismissed. I consider this to be a rather backwards view, just like the “real women have curves” meme is shitty towards women who aren’t particularly curvy, dismissive statements like “before you get all ‘but I totally vaginally orgasm’ with me” is really shitty towards women who get orgasms from having the internal parts of the clitoris stimulated. Right now you’re throwing 30% of women under the bus , you’re excluding and dismissing our experiences in favor of your own. I see no reason why we can’t go with the far more accurate explanation of ‘the clitoris is an organ, partly internal and partly external, that is extremely important in the human female sexual anatomy’ instead of ‘we have now decided that women who orgasm vaginally are wrong, the external parts of the clitoris is where it’s at’.

  7. I think ‘Ladies Come First’ is a counter productive name for a campaign fighting for sexual equality :/ and I’m quite sure some women are as shit in bed as some men – our pleasure isn’t priority but male pleasure isn’t ours either.

    BUT I do agree sex should not be taught solely as a means to reproduce. I had no idea what a clit was until about 17 – AFTER I first had sex and I feel MAN and WOMAN would benefit from a lot more info on it. Disregarding it is basically ignoring the fact that women have a sexuality at all, reinforcing any guilt some women feel over orgasms and sexuality. Ignoring our pleasure intimates our purpose is merely reproduction and implies that women having sex for themselves is unnatural, wrong and ‘slutty’.

  8. Yes! So much this!

    As a former PHSE co-ordinator I always tried to create sex-ed lessons that were, well, a little more positive. One approach is to try and get sixth formers to run the lessons (with supervision) for years 7 and 8. I found females in Sixth Form were more willing to take part in such a scheme and this encouraged the males to be more equal…

    Okay, before I get all rant-y – it worked and we had more of the stuff in this article and less of Norm.