Why are we not educating about the external female genitals including the clitoris?


So yesterday I read this article “Clitoris- most awkward discussion ever” tweeted by @thefworduk and this repsonse tweeted by @Cllr_Rania_Khan,  I realised that as a science teacher whose degree was a large part of reproductive physiology, then this wasn’t something that had ever been missed out of my sessions covering the male and female reproductive tracts.  However it worries me that actually the teaching about the external female genitals including clitoris is not happening in many secondary school classrooms as part of science (or PSHE education).

Now sessions covering the reproductive tract can be covered in both PSHE and Science sessions. In my experience they tend to be covered more in the science lessons and less so in PSHE sessions as anatomy is obviously more the sciencey bit.

I suspect that it maybe argued that the external female genitals don’t have such an important role in the science of reproduction that is why they are omitted from teaching of the topic, however given that I have spoken to grown women who still think they urinate out of their vagina- I do think it is so important that the external genitals are covered to clarify that there are three openings involved- urethra, vagina and anus (and no dear misguided Y7 boy – babies do not come out of your bum). For science teachers wanting to include it in their lessons then here is a simple diagram that you could use (thought I would save you having to navigate  safe searches etc!)

I actually think teachers are so squeamish about including the external female genitals is because diagrams includes the clitoris *gasp* and why are we so squeamish about mentioning the clitoris specifically? After all its a body part like any other?

I know that this is because of the following “THE SOLE (recognised) FUNCTION OF THE CLITORIS IS PLEASURE, IT HAS NO OTHER PURPOSE”.  (for more information and facts about the clitoris than you could ever wish for- check out the wiki page on it, oh and did you know the clitoris has double the number of nerve endings than those found in the penis?)

We are very hung up about talking about sexual pleasure, especially to young people under the age of 16 for obvious reasons.  Therefore we avoid mentioning anything to do with pleasure, but by doing that we are also not teaching women basic anatomy about themselves.  This results in many females I speak to being ashamed to touch themselves to find out what their own pleasure feels like or even to look at their genitals using a handmirror.  😦

“Ladies- It’s your body- you own it and you can explore it however you see fit!”

I think we often don’t talk about female sexual pleasure as it is seen as something to be ashamed of (which is reflected in a culture of slut shaming/stud celebrating) and I do think it really is high time this was started to be addressed.

In a small way this needs to start by bringing back the diagrams of the external female genitals back into the classroom.

If you are a science/PSHE teacher please get in touch if your science/PSHE department has good resources on the external female genitals particularly if they are national ones.  I want to hear examples of good practice.  I am actually tempted to start a bit of a campaign on this one .   If you don’t want to post here I have also started a thread on the TES forums for you here.

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “Why are we not educating about the external female genitals including the clitoris?

  1. Hate to point out the obvious – and will send details of our textbooks once I’ve checked them – but have you not thought that the reason most male teachers don’t include it on diagrams is that they don’t know where it is? 😉

    • 🙂 I didn’t like to cast aspersions on the male population but yes that and just general embarrassment maybe about talking about intimate body parts of the opposite sex! But clearly if male science teachers don’t know where it is then they weren’t taught properly in their science lessons and so this cycle continues! Sigh.

  2. As I’ve said, I make damn sure that any conversation about the female reproductive system includes mention of the clitoris. My students are all over the age of consent, so while I still have to watch out for safeguarding issues, we do at least get to have a more frank discussion about sex than perhaps my colleagues in schools do (the joys of FE?).

    I was horrified to discover that female students of mine, aged in most cases over 18, were unaware that there were three openings (I think I was probably about 11-12 when it occurred to me to get the mirror out and have a good look – no teacher ever suggested that it would be useful to do so). But then I thought about it and realised most of these girls were north African (some British born and raised, some immigrant or refugees). And that it was a possibility that due to FGM some of them may only have had two openings – a combined urethra/vaginal opening and the anus.

    And of course, with the exception of the “milder” cutting, all FGM seems to involve the removal of the clitoris. So there’s a potential minefield with even my relaxed, informative attitude to it – it’s not even a case of embarrassment, but some of my students may not have the conventional arrangement of external genitals that we take for granted.

    As for Ian’s comment – a female mature student known for her lack of tact and tendency towards inappropriate behaviour commented as the AS biologists were visiting the Sexual Nature exhibit at the NHM that she’d be very surprised if any of the lads in the group knew what a clitoris was, much less knew where to find it or what to do with it. Few things have been as satisfying in my career so far as being able to tell her that actually I’d spent a good half hour discussing just that with the AS students.

  3. I’d even go so far as saying girls and boys in secondary school should be shown photographs of real vaginas to convey that they come in all different shapes and sizes.

    Just discovered your blog – look forward to your posts.

    Heather 🙂

  4. Pingback: A note on #Vaginagate | SexEdUKation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s