As the school year ramps up again, we’re of course reminded of what a tough job teachers have. But even in the pantheon of roles in one of the world’s most thankless professions, we’ve got to hand it to the educators who will be in charge of teaching sex ed this year. We salute you, health teachers and reproduction educators — talking to a room full of giggling, blushing kids about sex and the human body will probably never not be weird. Godspeed.
In France this year, those educators will have one more tool in an arsenal of teaching supplies to help kids learn about the birds and the bees: a 3-D printed clitoris. And that’s actually really cool.
The file from whence perhaps hundreds of epoxy resin lady parts will be formed is the brainchild of a French sociomedical researcher named Odile Fillod, and schools all over France will download it and print it to show kids what their insides actually look like. It’s actually the first of its kind and pretty cool when you consider the entire process.
Video: Marie Docher/Vimeo
What will undoubtedly make some people uncomfortable about the concept is that the French start teaching sex ed early and keep it up through graduation. That doesn’t mean 6-year-olds will necessarily be learning all the nitty-gritty, but the clitoris is considered to be such a sexual organ that the idea of kids learning about it will almost certainly make a few people uneasy.
Except, duh, isn’t that the point? The clitoris is a sexual organ, and so is a penis, and so are the testicles, and so are the ovaries. Why has it been so completely left out until now? If kids were supposed to learn only about reproduction, why not limit the conversation entirely to uteruses and vas deferens? Even if you leave out the concept of sexuality entirely, the clitoris is a part of the body that about half the population has. Some adults don’t even know that it looks like that model up there. Some female adults. How would they? Even in sex ed classes, discussion of the clitoris is usually limited to a Xerox copy of an anatomical drawing, where the organ is represented as a little dot. That’s bonkers!
As long as sex ed is taught in schools, kids absolutely should get the whole picture, and that includes a little plastic clitoris to pass around. Most of us remember taking apart little anatomical models of the uterus and a set of plastic balls, and this isn’t that different. We shouldn’t ignore it just because it’s inside (hell, you know what your kidneys look like, right?) or because it doesn’t play an active role in reproduction. If anything, that’s more reason to include it.
It has made its way into French classrooms because, apparently, even French sex ed was found to be crazy lopsided and a little sexist, with the boys learning about physiology and anatomy and the girls learning about emotions. Both those things have a place when we’re talking to kids about their bodies, and tools like this one just make it possible to make sure they’re co-mingled. Girls shouldn’t feel shame that their bodies are capable of pleasure, and they sure as hell shouldn’t grow up not knowing what one of their coolest organs even looks like.