If you’re after a frank, honest discussion on female sex education and pleasure, then hello! You’re in the right place. YouTuber, Zoe Sugg (best known as Zoella) was dropped from the UK exam board, AQA after posting a review that rated different sex toys. But what does this decision tell us about societal views on female pleasure today?
On January 13th, Zoe published an article, ‘The Best Sex Toys to Spice Up Your Life in 2021’ onto her website – but the uproar it would later cause was unbeknownst to her. AQA made the decision to remove Zoe from the GCSE syllabus as they deemed this content “unsuitable” for students. Does this not highlight the issue of how pleasure is entirely a taboo subject for women? Zoe publicly spoke out on Instagram to address her removal from the exam board and criticised the AQA for stigmatising female pleasure further. Zoe argued that censoring these taboo subjects only contributes to the belief that there’s something to be ashamed of in the first place.
Zoe told her 9 million followers that her Zoella website is led by “a team of women who all share a joint passion for other women”, and they post content to “talk about taboo subjects, have conversations with experts, ask those less heard to use their voice and try and have a really varied range of topics to help, inspire or make people feel less alone.” This whole issue however poses the bigger question of why female pleasure is so stigmatised? I can’t even begin to count the amount of times male pleasure or anatomy was discussed in school. Yet the female side was never discussed further than a crude drawing, briefly outlining the scientific functions of the vagina. The effects of this British awkwardness around women enjoying anything remotely sexual (without a man’s assistance) can lead to deep-rooted issues surrounding the body and its function.
Years of misguided ideologies about female pleasure can become extremely harmful to mental health. Boys can talk (even brag) about masturbation openly and loudly, yet if a girl does the same thing, it’s gross, or suggestive, something to be embarrassed about. Boys watch porn but it’s weird if girls do too. Guys have a lot of sex and they’re rewarded for it, but if girl’s do, then they’re labelled a slut. As a female, being ashamed of sex is something that’s forced into our head from a young age, and ultimately, results in girls judging other girls. Women in the sex industry are repeatedly looked down on – and not just by men but women too. What’s so wrong about being a pornstar if you enjoy it and no harm is being done to you or anyone else?
Emily Clarkson discussed on her Instagram how damaging society’s view of female pleasure is: “The world has no problem with female masturbation when it’s done for the male gaze. Porn sites are full of it. The problem arises when we close the door. Which means the problem isn’t the masturbating. It’s the power and that’s a bit distressing.”
I remember the first time I got my period at age 10. I was still in primary school and female anatomy isn’t “taught” until secondary – maybe because it would be far too terrifying to learn about our own bodies at this age *sarcasm intended*. I’ll set the scene for you. It was Easter Sunday, in 2009. I had just been to church with my mum and was heading home ready for an Easter egg hunt. I popped to the toilet quickly (we daren’t be late for the game!) but when I pulled down my pants, I froze. Staring in abject horror, I’d never seen so much blood in one place before – especially in my underwear. I started freaking out and crying, I wondered if this had something to do with going to church… maybe I’ve been cursed? I wondered if I was dying and if this was really the end for me?
I screamed for my mum, “MUM! COME HERE QUICKLY, PLEASE.” I sobbed, “I THINK I NEED TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL, THERE’S BLOOD. EVERYWHERE.” I heard her burst through the bathroom door to check on me but her concerned face very quickly turned into a laugh, and she started cackling at me by the door. From this reaction, I was obviously very upset and insisted that I must to go to the hospital. Mum then calmed me down and explained what had really happened. I got the cliche talk of how I’m “becoming a woman”, and it’s nothing to fear. Although I can’t help but wish this was explained to me earlier, I would have then been better prepared for starting my period – rather than frantically preparing myself for death.
This whole incident could have been avoided if there was a discussion and proper education in school from an early age. Even a few years later, I was still uninformed about my own body and the first time I tried to insert a tampon, I actually put it up my urethra (obviously I didn’t get very far!). But this just goes to show how girls are taught about their own bodies – deal with it on your own, and in private.
It’s so important for public figures like Zoe Sugg, who have a large following of young and impressionable girls, to use their platform to tackle these taboo conversations. Yes, women do masturbate (I know, this might come as a shock for some!) and we even enjoy sex, and there’s nothing wrong with any of this. It’s about time that women were able to not just speak about their sexuality, but express it too – without this fear of being judged or quite literally dropped by society for doing so.
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