TMI: People Tell Us What They Wish They Had Learned in Sex Ed
We asked readers to tell us the sex lessons they had to learn the hard way.
Welcome to TMI, a monthly series that crowdsources awkward details and uncomfortable moments that come with occupying our bodies.
Sex and sexuality education is sorely lacking, leaving the youth to figure out many of the confounding details for themselves. Who do they turn to when schools and homes are unable, or unwilling, to address the countless questions on their minds about sex? Their peers, their partners, and of course, the Internet. In the absence of adequate sex ed, we asked people what they came to learn about sex only through experience – be it revelatory mishaps or experiments gone wrong. Here’s what they had to say.
A case for personal hygiene
“Personal hygiene is something I learned the hard way. After the first couple of times of having sex, I would wash my genitals off just on a surface level. Soon, I started developing allergies on my penis. It started hurting when I would pee, there was a burning sensation, excess friction and rashes. Then I started reading up online and began cleaning myself with soap post sex. Initially, I was scared that you don’t apply soap after pulling down the foreskin, but I realized that you should be cleaning it regularly. That is something I learned only after I underwent the consequences of poor personal hygiene and general discomfort.”
“I’m averse to eating spicy food whereas my partner enjoys spice which is not for the faint of heart. Deep into our time together, I felt a tingling sensation while my partner’s hands were in my pants and my mind did a mental somersault, over the shock of realizing THERE ARE A PAIR OF SPICY FINGERS DOWN MY PANTS AND ALL OVER MY GENITALS! Needless to say, I was awake all night nursing the burn, and resorted to icing myself to take away the pain – only to wake up in the morning to find out I had gotten a urinary tract infection. After a week of antibiotics, swearing off foreplay, and frustrated days in bed, I learned one very grave lesson – always make sure you and your partner wash your hands!”
“That you don’t just go to sleep afterwards, like movies show. You gotta clean up.”
“One thing that I definitely learned through experience was not to involve anything with sugar in it during sex. Stories and porn make it look really fun to use something like ice cream on your partner’s body, but I learned the hard way that ice cream, especially on genitals, is a sure shot way of getting an awful yeast infection. It’s funny when I think about it now, and it was extremely fun in the moment, but not something I’ll ever be doing again.”
“Shower sex is very inconvenient and a hazard. And not every bathroom is equipped for it. And standing sex in the bathroom is the worst combination. Standing missionary is not a thing so you need to put your foot somewhere. And metal soapdish attachments are very fragile. And if the water is on, it’s coverage is not enough for two people.”
The real awakening
“Things were getting heated up and that’s when she pulled out her vibrator. I told her I’m sure we didn’t need that and I had all the necessary equipment for our situation. She asked me to give it a chance and it blew my mind to see what that thing was capable of doing. It was humbling to say the least. And as someone who prefers to finish after their partner, I decided that instead of taking an ego hit from the toy, I’d learn to use it well and save us both the time and energy. The experience reminded me that sex is about mutually fulfilled pleasure and the more ego takes a backseat, the more you can open yourself up to learn and understand how to best engage with your partner.”
“It’s not a byproduct of love.”
“As a relatively self-aware cis-heterosexual man constantly questioning the normative bounds of power and privileges have unlearned (I think) to appreciate that sex isn’t just about my pleasure but equally also about pleasuring my partner in a way she enjoys a co-shared, deeply consensual and intimately participatory fun *carework.* Also, cunnilingus is a joyous and ecstatic art. Super hard to master but also super fun to learn by actively listening to your partner in a completely nonjudgmental manner. Sex is awesome if done right!”
“How pleasingly awkward it is.”
“That it is EXTREMELY tiring.”
Lessons in anatomy (and bodily fluids)
“That sex does not only mean vaginal penetration.”
“Jizz is not completely water soluble and doesn’t wash out of clothes like a blood stain. Gotta try a bit harder. If you plan to do a ‘walk of shame’ outfit, make sure you keep it away from where you are having sex. My pants had to be washed and then he sat there with a blow dryer at 5 am working to make them wearable so that I could leave.”
“That the pee hole and sex hole are different.”
“Hickies don’t completely go away with a cold spoon. Some people bruise more easily than others. So if you like neck stuff and are just dating around, don’t schedule two dates on consecutive days: spread your dates out with at least 3 days in the middle so your hickies can heal.”
“That there is an erection involved.”
“That orgasms don’t happen through penetration like in the movies.”
“The importance of lube!”
Ananya Singh is a Senior Staff Writer at TheSwaddle. She has previously worked as a journalist, researcher and copy editor. Her work explores the intersection of environment, gender and health, with a focus on social and climate justice.