Here’s everything girls should have been taught about their bodies in school
There’s so much more to being a woman than what you learn in class
Disclaimer: I am a straight, cis-gender woman. This article is going to come from that perspective. There are countless ways the education system has failed LGBTQ individuals, and I am aware that my perspective will not cover all possible ground or be relatable to everyone.
It’s not exactly news that most of us had God awful sex education. But beyond the patriarchal, heteronormative, cis-centric lesson plans, one of the things that I’ve always struggled with is how the female body itself simply gets pushed to the back burner.
In school, there’s very little girls learn beyond our reproductive abilities, and even those are treated with the bare minimum. I’m pretty sure I was just given a sanitary pad and told that cold water gets blood stains out.
Do you know what I wasn’t told? That only 13% of women actually experience a 28-day cycle, and other time frames are totally healthy. This is just one of countless examples of the many ways I and so many other girls were let down when it came to learning about our own bodies.
Fun fact: the female body is AMAZING. But that’s something I’ve had to find out on my own. The real miracle of childbirth is not the baby. Actually, it’s the fact that a vagina can heal itself and return to its previous size after pushing 3 and a half kilograms out. Here is list of everything else I wish I was taught about my body long before I eventually found out on my own.
Let’s talk about being “fat”
One of the sad realities of being a woman is that at some point or another in your life, you will probably have body image issues of one kind or another. A large part of these body image issues is the overarching theme: fat is bad, skinny is good. However, weight is so much more nuanced and varied than these categories make it seem.
For one, not once did someone enlighten me to the fact that weight is constantly changing. I always thought that I would hit a certain age, reach an ideal weight, and then if I gained more, I was “getting fat” or “putting weight on.” That is some BULLSHIT. Weight, especially in women is constantly changing. We gain and lose weight depending on season, point in the cycle, and even how much we’ve eaten in one day. There I was, in the dead of winter and bloated from my period, thinking that I had “gotten fat.” No hun, it’s -2 degrees outside and your body is trying to keep you from getting hypothermia.
Also, we’re taught to shame and remove of all kinds of fat within our body – even if it’s supposed to be there. There’s a reason why women naturally have more fat than men. I’ll give you a hint: it has to do with that reproductive thing I was talking about earlier.
Did you know the reason why we have lower belly fat is because our uterus requires a cushion? We’re constantly fed the idea of detoxes and lower belly fat blasts, yet it’s physically unnatural for us to try to get rid of it. Even cellulite has its baby purposes. Cellulite helps to store omega-3s and healthy fats, which are key for brain development. So, when we have babies, we can give the baby these fats and oils through breastfeeding because we’ve stored them up.
The real marker of health is not how you look or even (shock) your BMI. Health is eating good food, exercising regularly, and taking care of your mental health. So, the next time you’re feeling insecure about your tummy fat or cellulite, remind yourself that you are a literal badass, human growing machine.
Women are taught to be ashamed about a lot of things, and very high up on that list is our vaginas.
There are so many expectations placed on our poor genitals. It has to look nice (what does that even mean?), be hairless but not too hairless and smell like a fresh load of laundry. And, yeah, we know periods happen, but could you maybe not talk about them so much?
I was never taught just what an incredible entity the vagina is. It has its own cycle of cleaning and can solve most problems on its own. Vagina-holders out there: you know those random stains that end up on every pair of underwear you own no matter how much you clean them? Fun fact: your vaginal discharge is so acidic that over time it bleaches your underwear. Not gross – amazing!
We’re barely taught how our vaginas can take care of themselves, and more than that, that its processes are totally normal and healthy. You will encounter a lot of discharge and a lot of smells. They’re not gross – it’s the body’s way of cleaning. So, please don’t waste your money on PH balancing products and PLEASE PLEASE don’t douche. And overall, don’t be afraid of it – it’s your own vagina!
This is the big one. It’s the part of sex education that, in my opinion, that has done the most damage to everyone. We as a culture don’t like acknowledging that women both have and enjoy sex, especially when we do it with men. But the idea that women just lie there and take is so outdated that it’s laughable. So, we might as well start teaching sex accurately to ensure better sex and better safety for everyone.
One of the most amazing things about women’s bodies that I did not learn until very recently is that women’s bodies were literally built for pleasure. The clitoris has one function: pleasure. That’s it. There is nothing else evolutionarily beneficial about that body part. Did you know that women are capable of having at least seven different kinds of orgasms? I’ll go ahead and list some of them for you: clitoral, vaginal, cervical (CERVICAL), anal, nipple, g-spot, and, (this is one hundred percent true, I am not making this up) energy. We can manifest an orgasm through rhythmic breathing. Really, you would think this would make things easier for our partners.
Extra fun fact: when women orgasm, their cervix dips to collect sperm that may be left in the vaginal canal. Basically, I don’t want to hear anything about the female orgasm being nonessential again.
However, when I was growing up, I barely knew that a woman could orgasm. When I realised, I believed that it was so much work it pretty much wasn’t worth it. Think about how much more comfortable girls and their partners could be if this had been debunked earlier in life for us.
I also want to address something about hymens. It is a possibility that the first time a woman has sex her hymen breaks, she bleeds, and then she never bleeds again. However, that is so not the case for a large number of women. There are so many myths about hymens breaking and virginity…
For one, the hymen can break doing so many things, and sometimes it doesn’t break during sex. Some women break their hymen the first time they put in a tampon, whereas others don’t break it until their fifth or sixth time having penetrative sex. Virginity is a state of mind – it is not a physical reality.
Girls are taught that the first time they have sex it will be uncomfortable and maybe hurt and then things will be totally fine, and sex will feel great!
Not so much. You could be sexually active for years and still hurt occasionally. If a person with a vagina is not adequately stimulated or emotionally comfortable, penetrative sex is not a fun time. On top of that, many women have medical conditions that make sex painful. The danger of not teaching people this is that fewer people think comfort in sex is a priority. So, I went through school not knowing that I needed to feel safe and comfortable, but thank God I could put a condom on a banana!
There is one final thing I would like to say about sex that makes me want to scream. Vaginas DO NOT loosen with sex. A girl that has a lot of penetrative sex will not have a bigger vagina. If a woman can push an aforementioned four kilogram baby out of her vagina and have it return to its previous size, do you really think your average-on-the-small-side penis that’s in there for about four minutes is going to make a huge difference?
Don’t think so. If a girl’s vagina seems “loose”, it’s because she’s comfortable. And surely that’s what everyone wants? To enjoy themselves?
Stop apologising for your body!
Women are taught to hold such shame about our bodies, and we constantly feel like we have to improve things for others or apologise. “Sorry, I haven’t shaved my legs”; “Sorry, watch out, there’s a tampon in my bag”; and “Sorry, that actually doesn’t feel very good”, are all things that I have heard other women say and even said myself. When we start educating properly, people of all genders will be able to celebrate their bodies and the magnificent things they’re capable of.