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'Zoella Is Right – Teenage Girls Need To Be Taught About Sex Toys And Masturbation'

'Zoella Is Right – Teenage Girls Need To Be Taught About Sex Toys And Masturbation'

In news we didn't expect to be reading this week, Zoella has been dropped from the GCSE Media Studies syllabus after it emerged that her website featured reviews for sex toys.

The 30-year-old's lifestyle site listed a number of risqué products, including a 'pulsating tongue-mimicking machine' and 'vibrating underwear' among other electronic items.

The reviews sparked complaints from parents and resulted in the popular vlogger being removed from exams as her content was not deemed "suitable" for GCSE students.

A recent post on Zoella's lifestyle site featured reviews of sex toys (Credit: Zoella.co.uk)
A recent post on Zoella's lifestyle site featured reviews of sex toys (Credit: Zoella.co.uk)
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Sandra Allan, AQA's Head of Curriculum for Creative Arts, told Yahoo in a statement: "GCSE Media Studies includes the analysis of online and social media and we added Zoella in 2017.

"At the time, all her content was appropriate for teaching, but some of Zoella's recent content is aimed specifically at an adult audience and isn't suitable for GCSE students.

"As a result, we've removed the section on Zoella from the course, and we've contacted our schools and colleges to let them know."

Just a reminder for anyone who was in doubt that, yes, this is happening in 2021.

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Zoella has been popular amongst young girls and teens (Credit: PA Images)
Zoella has been popular amongst young girls and teens (Credit: PA Images)

But to blacklist a teen icon like Zoella for speaking openly about a women's sexual pleasure is a regressive act that only propels the notion that girls should be kept in the dark about intercourse and their own gratification.

Sex education in the UK is generally considered to be sub-par - a survey by the Terrance Higgins Trust revealed that one in seven 16-24 year olds had not received any sex education during their time at school, with two-thirds of those given lessons a maximum of once a year.

Myself and my peers were taught about sex only in perfunctory terms - that it was something that happened between a man and a woman, and its primary purpose was to make babies.

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And if you don't want to have a baby, for God's sake, wear a condom. It wasn't unlike that now infamous Mean Girls skit, where Coach Carr tells his students: "Don't have sex. Or you will get pregnant and die."

Female pleasure is still considered 'taboo' (Credit: Unsplash)
Female pleasure is still considered 'taboo' (Credit: Unsplash)

LGBT+ sex wasn't given a look in, one night stands were unheard of and a thoughtful and detailed discussion about consent was nowhere to be seen.

With sex being held up as a being between a man and a woman "who love each other very much", it's little wonder my friends and I decided to do our own research, which mainly involved being dared to run into the over 18 section at Ann Summers to catch a glimpse at a dildo, and watching grainy celebrity sex-tapes and dead-eyed porn - all of which most likely gave us a highly distorted perception of what sex was when we all eventually came round to having it.

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Zoella - who has never once claimed to be an educator, by the way - was not too happy at the news. She replied on Instagram: "For those who aren't aware, the Zoella website is not just me reviewing things. It's a passionate team of women writing about things that women are interested in and we've worked hard to include more women's health, conversational articles, and basically just more grown-up content as our main demographic is 25-35-year-old females. NOT 16-year-olds.

"However if the curriculum had done their research before just going 'Oh Zoella, her audience are just teens, right?' they probably would have discovered countless posts about periods, masturbation, sex, fertility alongside the newer post they're referring to."

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She continued: "I actually disagree that teens shouldn't be learning about this stuff. Maybe not in their [exam curriculum] but how else are teenage girls going to find out more about being a woman? I wish I had a website like Zoella when I was growing up.

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"Instead I had a Mizz magazine problem page!! Are you trying to tell me your 16-year-old daughter doesn't know what a sex toy is or that she's not explored her body at all?

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"It's reasons like this that we feel it's important to write about these things on the website! And we will continue to do so. But just to clear up the narrative.

"No. I did not review vibrators. As a team we wrote about the most popular ones and guess what? It was our most clicked on article, most swiped up and most ordered items through links ever because women masturbate and if that makes you feel uncomfortable, that's society for you."

Frankly, Zoella is right. The very notion that women may get pleasure from anywhere other than a man is almost still taboo in the UK.

Girls need to be better educated to know what is acceptable and healthy (Credit: Pexels)
Girls need to be better educated to know what is acceptable and healthy (Credit: Pexels)

If anything, we need more sex education on the syllabus than we ever had before, thanks to the numerous new mediums which can have stacks of sexual content on them - with teens now having instant access to sexually explicit pictures and videos on Snapchat, TikTok and OnlyFans.

Teens are also out having sex and exploring themselves, as most teenagers do - a survey by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) found 30 per cent of teens under 16 are sexually active, and perhaps even more shockingly, 14 per cent of those surveyed "rarely" or "never" used contraception.

Global pandemic or otherwise, as they are fuelled by bodies now flooded by hormones, curious teenagers are going to explore. You are completely naïve if you think otherwise.

As adults, we have the choice: we can either arm teenagers with the education to have sex safely and enjoyably, or leave them to guess their way through - often with disastrous and potentially life-altering consequences.

Zoe believes girls should be better educated when it comes to sex (Credit: Instagram - ZoeSugg)
Zoe believes girls should be better educated when it comes to sex (Credit: Instagram - ZoeSugg)

In short, sex between young people happens - and girls are often left in the dark about what it means for them beyond the possibility of pregnancy.

Zoella has never claimed to be an authority on sex toys, sex or pleasure, but with an entire exam board deeming her "unsuitable" to be studied, it sends out the message that the female perspective of sex and sexual pleasure is wrong.

It further fuels the myth that men are the sexual ones, men are the ones that masturbate, while women aren't, getting through each encounter lying back and thinking of England. This outdated perception couldn't be further from the truth, but this is the narrative we're always keen to enhance.

Yes, talking about sex with teens can lead to awkward silences and bright red faces, but your visible discomfort won't stop teens trying to seek out information somewhere else that could turn out to be less reliable.

By hiding female pleasure on the syllabus, you are making girls feel ashamed of something that is natural (Credit: Unsplash)
By hiding female pleasure on the syllabus, you are making girls feel ashamed of something that is natural (Credit: Unsplash)

Sex education is essential in finding out exactly what our bodies are going through, and what behaviour is appropriate. The 2017 #MeToo movement may have been a sexual revolution where those who had faced sexual violence could speak out without shame but there's still a long way to go before we reach equality.

Despite a generally more sex-positive attitude in society and more awareness than previous generations, there is still a stigma attached to women who are open about sex and their enjoyment in the act, with slut-shaming on social media still prevalent.

Tying to expunge anything vaguely related to female pleasure from the syllabus will only lead to girls feeling more ashamed about something entirely natural - and will promote more negative connotations in already toxic misconceptions about female sexuality.

Just because Zoella's website won't be on your daughter's exam paper, it doesn't mean sex questions won't be prevalent in her search history.

Featured Image Credit: YouTube - ZoeSugg

Topics: UK News, News, Dating, Sex & Relationships

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Kimberley Bond

Kim is a journalist at Tyla, and has previously worked at the Evening Standard, Radio Times as well as several national newspapers. A showbiz obsessive and a television fanatic, Kim is particularly interested in celebrity gossip, A-list events and the latest releases on either the big or small screen. Contact her at [email protected]