Mansplainin’ in the Sex Ed Realm (Even When the Main Focus is on Vulva-Owners)

 

Happy Fried Day! Today’s post is to address briefly what it is that I do (for those who don’t know), and to address my approach, as well as my target audiences. I am also addressing something that has now occurred enough times as to be slightly more than off-putting, given what it is that I actually do, and how I respond when it occurs.

I am a sex educator. I have two advanced degrees and am a few months from finishing my third. I hold an MBA in HR management, a doctorate’s degree in management/organizational leadership, and am presently finishing a law degree (non-bar pathway). My career background is predominantly in health care, and my organizational focus within WSE is sex education for parents. I educate parents of children of all ages and genders, but my primary, targeted focus is parents of teen and young adult daughters. The reasons for this focus have to do with the statistical realities connected with women between the ages of 15-24 years being the highest demographic adversely affected by STI transmission.

That said, yes, I am a firm believe in all-inclusive, comprehensive sex education for all people, irrespective of gender, sexual orientation, life stage, religious influence, et cetera. I am an advocate of enthusiastic consent and pleasure-based education. Within the specific frame of Weird Sex Ed, I am continuing to research for the purpose of publishing materials for parents, as well as other population groups, based on the specific needs of those groups.

Outside of the WSE context, I am a sex education concierge for adults, and my workshops and classes include several different subjects in the realm of sex, pleasure, and prevention. These two endeavors are similar, but with very specific differences, which is why I do not generally link them together. WSE is a nonprofit research and education organization, and my role in it is, specifically, researcher, educator, consultant, and writer. As a concierge, my role is educator, consultant, and gatekeeper of pleasure information (hence the term “concierge”).

The overwhelming majority of my clientele are vulva-owners (and I state it that way purposefully, out of respect for gender-inclusivity). While I am educated about all genders (and am continuing to learn from others with greater knowledge than I have)… while I consult with parents and other adults regardless of their genitalia… while I possess above-average knowledge and understanding of the penis/testes/etc… my main focus is not penis-owners. Nothing against them…I happen to adore many penis-owners (I’m partnered with one, and am the mother of two of them, and have several who are respected friends and colleagues). They’re just not my primary focus in my research and consulting…and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon. I am here for them should they have certain questions that I am capable of answering (if I can, I do; if I can’t, I direct them to someone who can answer more completely than I am able).

So when I receive messages from certain penis-owners (and here, I’m speaking specifically of cis-gendered men), I try to ensure that they are first aware of who my target audience is before engaging whatever it is they are messaging me about. Usually, that is sufficient. Sometimes, though…

Today, I received a message from a young man (mid-20s) who is a zealous intactivist and a proponent of foreskin restoration. This is not the first time I have been contacted by someone who happens to be an intactivist (I happen to share a very similar personal view with respect to routine male infant circumcision, as it happens), nor is it the first time I’ve been approached and asked if I know about foreskin restoration. The previous times it has occurred, the outcomes have been mixed. The end of the “worst” encounter, the person called me a “cunt” after I finally reached a point of stating that, “no…I’m not going to focus on this subject because it is not my area of expertise.” Another time, rather than have a repeat occurrence of having to block someone, I simply thanked them for their information and quietly disengaged. Today’s encounter was mild compared with the worst one…but I had to be a bit firm with the young man, because he could not really seem to grasp that he was mansplaining to me.

Now…let me pause here for a moment and clarify something. I detest most mansplaining, but I am reasonable enough to come right out and say that there ARE some topics that, really, only penis-owners can explain in terms of lived experience. A penis-owner’s lived experience is something I -really and truly- don’t mind a bit of mansplaining about, because I do not own a penis. I do not have the lived experience of what that is like, and I have (more than once) asked different penis-owners I know (my partner, my adult son, trusted friends) for information based on their actual lived experiences that I cannot possibly ever speak to from a first-person perspective. Are we clear about that?

THAT said, after a few clarifying questions, I was able to discern a few things (as well as correct a few things he was asserting), and AFTER I explained what it is that I do…the fact of the majority of my clientele being vulva-owners…and that I was happy for him that foreskin restoral is something that is working out for him — AFTER all that, he continued to provide a novella of explanations about foreskin nerve endings, expressed “sorrow” for my partner having been circumcised as a child, told me what I “will” be surprised by in the sense of how many health professionals “don’t know” about foreskin, told me what “will” happen to my partner in a few years, and asserted that I “need” to watch some documentary about circumcision…this huge laundry list of things (that did, in fact, tap into what was MRA territory, which I have exactly zero patience for on a good day)…AFTER all that, he denied that he was *pushing* his preferred agenda onto me…that he “just want people to be educated on this subject that’s all.”

That…even AFTER I provided him a fully substantiated rebuttal to his inaccurate statistics, his incorrect assertion of “no medical need” (like, ever), his statement that “98% of Europeans are intact” (I’m partnered with a European man, and I’m up to speed on which specific countries in Europe actually have that specific statistic, but it’s not the entirety of Europe by far – since Europe isn’t a monolith any more than any other continent)…AFTER I provided the actual information and statistics (American and global)…AFTER that, he said he wasn’t pushing and just trying to provide education.

To a sex educator.

In the end, my response was rather curt, because I was tired of it, and it was turning into a time suck, as I had actual work that needed to be done. Make no mistake, I love being a sex educator, and I am happy to work with people of all genders. I can do without people insistent on mansplaining to me, though, unless I actually ask for a man-specific point of view. Further, when I smell MRA mode (which I didn’t address because I did not feel like getting sucked into that quagmire), I tend to shy away. So I’m going to put this here, just for future reference…

Yes, I am a quiet intactivist…on a very personal level. Where this connects with WSE has to do with educating parents, and more specifically pregnant people carrying a fetus that will eventually be a penis-owning person, along with parents of uncircumcised penis-owning little people. Hygiene is one of the foundations of comprehensive sex education, so knowledge about foreskin care IS most certainly part of what I educate about. I am highly critical of the routine practice of male infant circumcision without an actual medical condition necessitating the procedure. This is my personal stance, and not something I write a lot about.

However, when we step into the area of foreskin restoring (something I know a bit about, am supportive of for penis-owners who wish to pursue that), that is not something I am quite as interested in…and it’s nothing whatsoever to do with “men’s rights” or somehow placing penile health in a “lesser than” category. Far from it. When I have some random dude in my WSE inbox, though, preaching to me about how important their foreskin is, I can’t help but wish to point out that the VAST majority of medical literature is man-centric in the first place, when discussing anything connected with sex and reproduction. Further, an average, healthy circumcised penis-owner generally experiences penile pleasure, regardless of the lack of a foreskin.

MEANWHILE, the number of vulva-owners who do not know the scope of their own pleasure potential is mind-boggling. The overwhelming majority of vulva-owners do not know that their clitorises are not merely the external “button” — but an entire (and rather large) organ that exists solely for pleasure. Furthermore, there are hundreds of thousands of vulva-owners who experience issues related to their pelvic floor that they have NO idea how to resolve…but I’m going to be told by a penis-owner that I “need” to talk more about foreskins?! Yeah…no. That’s not why I’m here.

So I’m putting this up for the sake of the …ahem… gentlemen among us (well-meaning or otherwise) who would like for me to focus more (or solely) on them and their needs…to which my answer is simply NO.

With that, have a wonderful weekend!

Cheers,
~dw

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