As a senior at Great Neck North High School (GNNHS), I am accustomed to hearing about hookups.
I am accustomed to my male classmates walking into a class and asking, “Guess who I hooked up with last night?” (To which one teacher once genuinely responded, “Who?”) Or them saying, “I hooked up with six girls the other night—how many did you hook up with?”
The term “hookup” has different definitions for different people, but a survey I conducted of 94 heterosexual GNNHS students who hook up revealed that hookups are not always reciprocal: 23.4 percent of those surveyed reported that their typical hookups include oral sex performed by a female on a male, compared to a much smaller 12.8 percent who said their hookups include oral sex performed by a male on a female.
After four years at GNN, I was still bemused as to why young women choose to participate in a one-sided and seemingly unpleasant experience. In my search for the answer, I revisited my sex education through the years.
When I was in fifth grade at John F. Kennedy Elementary School, there was one day when the girls and boys were separated to learn about puberty. I remember feeling very shy as we learned about menstruation. After the program, when the girls and boys ate lunch together in the cafeteria, I was too shy to look at the boys, but I would later hear about what they had learned. While our presentation had been motherhood oriented, theirs had been pleasure oriented, encompassing erections and wet dreams.
To this day, Great Neck’s district-wide fifth-grade sex education program teaches boys about nocturnal emissions, but in the girls’ class it is not discussed, even though 85 percent of women reported experiencing nocturnal orgasm by age 21 in a study published in 1986 in the Journal of Sex Research by Barbara Wells. Great Neck’s elementary schools succumb to the taboo surrounding female sexuality, leaving girls feeling like it’s their job to satisfy their male peers’ desires.
My discovery didn’t stop at the elementary level. When I looked back at my notes from 11th-grade health class, I found that they, too, presented the male and female sexual experiences very differently. Our teacher had taught us that the penis is the “primary sex organ” and the vagina is a “muscular passageway leading to the outside of the body, also known as the birth canal, because it is the passageway the baby uses to leave the mother’s body during the birth process.”
We learned irrelevant trivia about erections, but no fun facts about female sexuality. Once again, the male genitalia was defined in terms of pleasure and thus absolved from its role in creating life, whereas the female genitalia was defined in terms of motherhood and thus denied its sexuality.
Combined with messages students receive from politicians, pornography and everything in between, the sex education curricula suggest that females exist solely for childrearing and for males’ sexual gratification. Girls and young women deserve sex education that reflects the facts that parenthood is a joint responsibility they may not even want to undertake and that women are entitled to mutual relationships in which their sexuality is honored.