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sex education shouldn't be taboo!



I recently started seeing people online expressing that sex education in Japan is very lacking and behind. Thinking back on how I learned about information related to sex, I realized that most of my knowledge on it came from the internet and books and that I don’t remember being taught much about it in school.


There is a Netflix original series called Sex Education. The main character is Otis, a high school boy. Because his mother is a sex therapist, he has a lot of knowledge about sex although he has never experienced it. One day, he was invited by his crush Maeve to start a “sex consultation clinic” to give advice to their schoolmates… That’s the premise of the series. It’s a lot of fun to see Otis solve his classmates' problems even though he’s not the most social or popular person at school. It shows problems people have with sex in an unfiltered way, but the series itself is so comedic that makes it easy to watch. There’s a lot to learn from this series. What’s great about this series is that it does not just focus on teenage sex, but also focuses on deeper content such as parental pressure, homosexuality, and abortion.


In this article, instead of reviewing the series Sex Education, I’m going to be writing about sex education. While watching the series, I thought that it would have been nice if I had access to someone like a sex therapist when I was a student. When I was a junior high school student and had sex education classes, I didn't learn much probably because discussing sex was taboo. I think the classes only touched on the topic a little bit. As an adult, there are many things I wish I learned at that time. I’ll share those things with you today!



About Sex

When did I learn this word? As far as I can remember, I think it was in sixth grade. At that time, cell phone novels* of the romance genre such as Threads of Destiny and Sky of Love: A Sad Love Story were popular, which contained content that was quite sexual for us at that time. Everyone was secretly passing it around and reading it. When I became a junior high school student, I gradually started to understand the meaning of the word “sex", and came to understand that sex is when a man and woman “have relations”. I only understood that sex isn’t only between a man and woman, and can happen with those of the same sex in high school. Since no one had a smartphone in junior high school, we got information to do with sex came from romance novels, a friend with an older sister or brother who had a little more knowledge than others. I have no memory of ever properly learning about it in classes at school. “The sperm and egg meet...” was as far as it went. We were never taught what makes the sperm and egg meet, what is sexual contact, or if a sperm and egg can meet from kissing. Thinking back on it, it's weird we were having sex education without even knowing the meaning of sexual contact. How were we supposed to understand without using the word "sex" or “sexual intercourse”?

*cell phone novel = “A cell phone novel, or 携帯小説 (Romaji: keitai syousetsu) is a literary medium originating from Japan in the mid-late nineties. As the name suggests, it is written on a cell phone, often sent to others via SMS text or email subscription lists.”


First of all, I think sex education needs to start with explaining what sex is. And that it doesn’t require partners of the opposite sex and can happen with partners of the same sex. I think it’s also important to mention that sex isn’t only for making a baby, and that it can be a part of communication. On top of that I would have liked to learn in-depth information about contraception, the existence of plan B pills, abortions, orgasms and masturbation. In my case, I learned most of the above from the internet, on TV, and talking with friends. I feel that it is information that should be properly taught in school, as a place to educate students. If sex is something many students are going to experience some day, it is as important as Japanese and mathematics classes. I think it’s critical that everyone learns about sex so that they can respond to any sexual situations without feeling rushed or unsure.



The Importance of the Vagina

One of the books I read last year is "A Place to Feel", written by Atsuko Morita. The book details the need for knowledge of the vaginal and how to care for it. When I was a student, I never really thought about my vagina, but after I started working and got a yeast infection from stress, I became interested in my vagina. During that time, I realized for the first time that there were quite a lot of opportunities where I touch my vagina or the surrounding area in my everyday life. For example, when I insert a tampon or medicine for my yeast infection, during sex, when I shave my pubic hair, and when I take a bath. I wondered why I didn't think about my vagina for a long time even though I touch it in many situations. I read this book and reflected on myself. I learned that the vagina is a very important part of the body, and that it can have various issues if not taken care of.


* 膣委縮…加齢とともに女性ホルモンのエストロゲンが減少することで、内部が乾燥して硬くなり、膣壁も弾力を失って薄くなっていく状態

** 性交痛…性交前、性交中、性交後のいずれの時期かに生じる局所の痛みのこと

I was particularly surprised to learn that dryness causes trouble in the vagina and the genitals in general. The reason for dryness doesn’t just come from a lack of care; it can also be a result of a decrease in estrogen, a female sex hormone. (This hormone starts to be secreted by the ovaries around age eight or nine, and aids in the development of a “feminine” looking body.) If the vagina gets dry, the mucus becomes insufficient, leading to vaginal atrophy* and dyspareunia**, which reduces immunity and increases the risk of infection. In addition, people suffering from vaginal dryness can suffer from chills and swelling due to infertility and hormonal imbalance, and their menstrual pain becomes severe. I've spent all this time without knowing this important information, but I think many women around me don't know this either. I think it is important to know as it is such an important part of my body, and I want to make sure that adolescents, especially those who will start menstruating, know about it.

* vaginal atrophy = “thinning, drying and inflammation of the vaginal walls that may occur when your body has less estrogen.”

** dyspareunia = persistent or recurrent genital pain that occurs just before, during or after penis-in-vagina sex.


Talking about vaginas, let’s discuss menstruation. Many of the boys around me associated menstruation with irritability. Certainly, I do get irritable. But this isn’t the only thing that comes with menstruation. Some people get cramps, back pain, headaches, and emotional instability. It is important to understand that the symptoms are different for each person, and that some people really suffer from these symptoms. My lover found out for the first time that menstruation isn’t just bleeding when they saw me suffering from PMS. Menstruation is by no means dirty and it is a very function for a body. So I think it's important that everyone understands each other and that nobody gets criticized for not being able to do something when they are menstruating. (Of course, it is also important for cis-women to understand cis-men's bodies too!)



The Existence of Sexual Minorities

This phrase seems to be used a lot more than before. When I was in high school, I found out about the existence of sexual minorities from a magazine called GOSSIPS, which deals with topics outside Japan, and from the American musical drama TV series, Glee. I have no memory of learning about it in junior high school or high school. It may be because it wasn’t common knowledge back then. At that time, I only knew four labels related to it: gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender. For the first time in college, I learned about the labels: questioning, queer, asexual, and pansexual. I had seniors who were gay, and there were lots of opportunities to discuss the subject in classes, so I was able to deepen my understanding of it.


I wonder how much junior high and high school students know about sexual minorities. How many understand that the world we live in is not divided into two genders: men and women -- that there are so many sexual minorities in this world, and that maybe the people around us may be having a difficult time with their gender. I think we should deepen our understanding so that children who are struggling with their sexuality do not close their hearts. If many people realize that everyone is different and everyone is special in their own way, terrible incidents and discrimination may not occur.


This time I wrote about sex, the vagina, and sexual minorities, but I think there are still many things to be discussed surrounding sex. I still have a lot to learn and I don't know if my knowledge is really correct. But with a certain amount of knowledge, I think that I would be able to deal with emergency situations without panicking. At this time, it is said that sex education in Japan is very behind. I am not sure what the current curriculum is, but the sex education I received in junior high school was severely lacking, looking back on it. However, if the sex education I received when I was a junior high school is still being taught to students nowadays, I think it is necessary to change it; even if it step by step. It is a time where junior high school students and even some elementary school students have smartphones. Anyone can easily look up information online, but online information can sometimes be wrong. I want schools to educate students with the right information before they see wrong information. I wish we could end this era where sex is taboo and learn about sex more openly.


性教育YouTuber - シオリーヌ

VERY - SHELLYさんと考える「日本の性教育が遅れている理由」

Courrier Japan - 『「性交」「避妊」がNGワード! じゃあ何を教えているの?日本の性教育は世界からこんなに遅れている

Unicharm - ソフィ「若者たちの性事情と世界の性教育

Images by Yumi

Edited by Kiara and Hikari