The conflict between Youtuber Zoe Sugg and the GCSE exam board raises bigger questions about UK sex education. If you didn’t hear, Zoe Sugg was in the news for being removed from GCSE English Language exams after promoting sex toys on her social media. First of all, for the exam board to think 14–16-year-olds would not know by proxy about sex toys, is incredibly naïve. If they’re not being taught about it at school, they are being taught about it somewhere – by making it part of standardised education schools and parents would actually have much more control over the information their children are receiving than they do by leaving it up to chance and the internet.
By making female pleasure a taboo for the 15-year-old girls who take those GCSE exams the school system is perpetuating the institutionalised notion that female pleasure does not matter. By not allowing teenagers to talk about or think about sex as pleasure women are being impacted well their twenties. It’s common knowledge that we’re all in the same storm but not in the same boat, we’re all having sex, but women have orgasms far less – fear about sex toys and fear about teaching teenagers about sex toys is not helping that.
In my primary school we were all taught about male masturbation, I remember a rather perplexing video of a teenage boy staring wistfully at a poster of Jennifer Aniston, but we were never taught about female masturbation, or female sexual pleasure. And the consequences of this mis-education is directly seen in things like the orgasm gap later in life. In fact, a YouGov poll 59% of men and 45% of women could not accurately label a vagina – a statistic which accurately depicts how profoundly UK sex education has failed people with vaginas.
Dr Naomi Sutton revealed to Cosmopolitan magazine ‘I meet women in my clinic who would never dream of touching themselves or looking at their own genitals. They almost have a revulsion of that part of their body, yet they allow their partner to put their penis inside them. This can only be a taught response which arises from a lack of education and a general shaming of this part of a woman’s anatomy.’
In her public response to the episode on her Instagram, Zoe Sugg said that her company is about having those ‘taboo’ conversations in order to break stigmas and inform ignorance. She went on to say: ‘it worries me that they think 16-year-olds aren’t exploring their own bodies, doing this with someone else or know what a sex toy is … these media articles are just perpetuating the fact that female pleasure is something that we should feel ashamed of.’ And points out that this is ‘certainly the start of a much bigger conversation and clearly shows there is still a long way to go.’
This Zoe Sugg incident reveals wider prejudice within the Patriarchy that we live in. Willingly or not, the exam boards are contributing to a repression of sexuality which is affecting how women see themselves well into their later life, which is something we should all be challenging – especially on International Woman’s day.
Featured Image: Pittstone on Wikimedia Commons