Anatomy Class

Writer: Alice Wright
Artist: Emilia Bajer

When it comes to sex, we all know what feels good. What belongs where for things to *happen*, however we want it done. But is that all we know when it comes to our sexual organs, or our bodies in general? 

Australia is finally playing catch-up on sex education in schools, and we’re starting to learn the ins and outs of our bodies and minds. But I’ve finished school, and a while ago now. I definitely wasn’t taught a lot about my anatomy then — so how and why should I learn it now?

Recently, I came to the realisation that if I, a cisgender woman, were set the task of labelling the female reproductive system, I would miserably fail. That’s not to mention the male reproductive system. But if we’re growing up with all of these expectations of our bodies when it comes to sex, why do we also have such little knowledge of our anatomy itself?

In turn, I’ve set a goal to get to know my body. 

What better place to begin than Chantelle Otten’s Instagram (@chantelle_otten_sexologist)? I’ve been a big fan of Chantelle for a while now. She is a qualified sexologist and, on the side, is also an influencer, author and podcaster, with Sex Stories. My favourite thing about her Instagram is how comfortable she makes conversations that sometimes seem awkward. Whether it be how to check my breasts correctly to detect cancer or if cranberry juice does actually cure UTIs, I’ve been able to learn more about our sexual organs just from scrolling through her feed than I ever could in a classroom. 

Let’s not forget that we don’t need a book, the internet, a podcast or anything else to familiarise ourselves with our bodies. Why not just have a look yourself? There is absolutely no shame in grabbing a mirror and getting a closer understanding of what exactly is down there. 

All this exploration makes me curious: why is this so important? 

Reflecting on past events in my life helps me understand why. It can be far more important than you may believe, because knowing your body can help detect diseases early. 

My dad was able to recognise a few years ago that he was frequently urinating. That may sound a bit silly, but he was aware that this was unusual, especially for his age which at the time was over 50. Dad went to the doctor and was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Following this, my mum noticed that she had vaginal bleeding after menopause. With her education of the stages of menopause, she knew this was not normal; after a few tests, she was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. 

With their awareness of how their reproductive systems should efficiently function, my parents thankfully had early detections. As I’m sure you’d understand, this helps the process of battling cancer a huge amount. 

Beyond health reasons, knowing your body can help you love your body. And loving your body can increase your overall quality of life. Sex is a very vulnerable thing for many. Entering this experience without confidence can be scary and off-putting. So, learn to love yourself. Understand that no two bodies look the same, and that’s the reason why there truly isn’t a single definition of beauty. 

If you are a person with female anatomy, search up the ‘Labia Library’. It’s a website with photos of many different-looking labias — and as the website likes to remind us, if you don’t see one that looks like yours, that’s okay because we are all different (and for those who don’t quite know, your labia is the folds of skin that sit either side of your vaginal opening)! All labias are beautiful, so please take the time to love yours. 

To all penis owners reading this, I did try to find the equivalent website for you, but unfortunately was unable to find anything appropriate or efficient enough for what you deserve. But I want you to know that your reproductive system also comes in all shapes, sizes and colours, and they are all completely fine just the way they are.

I’ve come to the conclusion that what is most important in all of this, is to continue the conversation. 

Talking about our anatomy and why we love our bodies for what they can do is the only way we can all finally understand that the fact that we all look different and function differently is a good thing. 

Being unique is one of the most valuable things the world has gifted us, and we take it for granted far too often. 

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