Words by Mish Forder Art by Bridget Melville
When we don’t understand something, we make assumptions.
Considering that sex isn’t appropriate to be talked about for many years of our youth, you end up with a lot of wild assumptions. The issue is sex education doesn’t always fix this. So many people fear that if you teach teens about sex, they’re more likely to do it. The same principle applies even more stringently to queer sex. Because of this, we end up with some wrong assumptions sticking around and damaging our relationship with sex.
One group hurt majorly by these assumptions is women; specifically cisgender women in sexual relationships with cisgender men. So many people think pain during sex is normal, that bleeding during your first time experiencing penetrative sex just happens, and other things that should be seen as signs of something wrong are often ignored. Women should not be in pain or suffer injury during penetration. Either she’s not been aroused and/or prepared enough, or she might need to see a doctor. Often when people talk about cis male and female sex they seem to forget that women should experience pleasure too. Female orgasms are often written off as too difficult to achieve, and the clitoris isn’t always taught about. This focus on male pleasure has women ignoring discomfort for the sake of men, because they’re taught that’s what should happen. This isn’t just about physical discomfort, often issues with consent can stem from these damaging assumptions about sex. Consent is often not discussed well and when coupled with the impression given that sex is all about male pleasure, it sends the message that even if you don’t want sex, women should just suffer through it because a man wants it. With the pleasure of women being erased from the narrative, so is the likeliness that they’ll put their own comfort first.
Another community who suffers due to assumptions and gaps in education, is the queer community. There are obvious overlaps within these groups, and a lot of what was stated before applies to queer people. But, there is an extra issue stemming from the dismissal of queer sex education in classrooms. Queer teens can often tune out of sex ed, when they feel like their existence doesn’t matter to the curriculum. They miss out on some of the things that overlap into all kinds of sex.
Condoms are often described as contraception, and so people forget that they also stop STIs. You end up with cis gay men not using them because they feel contraception isn’t an issue for them. Dental dams and gloves aren’t talked about, and while condoms are important tools for STI prevention, we need to be taught about what happens when the point of contact isn’t even a penis. Often it’s barely even brought up that STIs can travel through sexual contact that isn’t penetration; like oral sex. Another preventative measure skipped over is PrEP/PEP, both are HIV infection prevention drugs (pre & post exposure). Because HIV is seen as a ‘gay male’ disease, it’s barely discussed, while in reality, anyone can be infected by HIV.
Safe sex products aren’t the only factor here; the assumption that sex is a product of male satisfaction leads bisexual or lesbian cis women to question what actually counts as sex. Often people act confused at the thought of sex without a penis, anything that isn’t penetration is seen as just foreplay. This leads to the idea that lesbian relationships are somehow inherently lesser, illegitimate even.
Another aspect of ignorance that impacts the sex lives of queer people, specifically transgender individuals, is the assumption of genitals. People often associate a specific gender with specific genitals, to the point where some people act as if they will only ever come into contact with one kind, due to only being attracted to one gender. That’s forgetting trans people exist, and it happens a lot. So trans people often have to have that moment when they let their potential partner know they’re trans and what that means about their body, or run the risk of them not reacting well to being surprised later. So often trans people have to run a trans 101 while risking transphobic backlash just because people are so caught up in gendering genitals that they won’t even consider the possibility of something else being in your pants.
The general fact that female pleasure or comfort and queer sex aren’t generally included in sex education, sends a message that it should be ignored or there is something secret or wrong about it. These are important ideas that people should not be forced to seek out for themselves, often long after they started needing them.