“Don’t have sex, because you will get pregnant and die! Don’t have sex in the missionary position, don’t have sex standing up, just don’t do it, OK, promise?”
Sex education can be one of the few sources of reliable information on sexuality and sexual health for young people. Hundreds of studies have shown that well-designed and well-implemented sex education can reduce risk behaviour and support positive sexual health outcomes among teens, which will influence actions in later life, such as reducing unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection rates. But aside from the anatomical, biological and basic stuff, what about the nitty gritty, the good stuff? Relationship advice, communication issues, porn, masturbation...
As we bumble from our teenage years to adulting like proper grown-ups, the haphazard navigation of our sexual journeys are peppered with mishaps and mistakes, myths and lies, a few failures, a whole lot of guesswork and questions, so many burning questions, many of which could have been alleviated somewhat by a different approach to the sex ed cirriculum we sat through cringing in high school.
One of our team recounted a toe-curling anecdote of an awkward sex ed session in which the class was invited to anonymously ask questions via the ‘write it down and the teacher picks it out of the hat method’, (basically asking for totes innapropes questions). So, after the usual ‘When will I get my period’, ‘What’s the wrost STI’ the teacher picked out the last question. Her face went from red to purple with rage, her lips got tighter and tighter, steam coming from her ears. Everyone was on the edge of their seats as to what outrageously hideous smut was written on the piece of paper to cause this reaction. She knew though. She knew exactly what was written there, because she wrote it. It said ‘What is a dildo?’
However, she never did find out that afternoon, because Miss lost her shit and that was the end of that. The topic of Dildos were off limits, apparently. But why should they be?
Here’s the stuff we wish we were taught.
LUBE IS MAGICAL
No, its not just for ‘bumming’ as the tittering teenage boys would tell you. Nor is it only used by deviants or freaks and can only be bought from dingy adult stores in the red light district. You can stick it in the Tesco shop with your groceries. Oh and literally no one cares that you’re buying it, so take off your dark shades and baseball cap, and own it. Using lube can be an essential part of any relationship, and is especially useful for certain times of the month or a fluctuation in hormones that causes vaginal dryness, even if you’re super horny. So many factors can affect your dryness - it’s no different from erectile disfunction.
always pee after sex!
By weeing both before and after and sex, your urine stream cleanses and flushes any bacteria that may have entered the urethra during sex. This fact is something that shouldn’t go unmentioned; the school system currently uses the scare tactic of shock STI photos but what about other non-STI related genitalia health concerns, like bacterial vaginosis, UTIs and thrush? Everyone should be taught the importance of wiping from front to back, how to wash yourself properly and what sorts of products to use down there.
75% of women do not climax from penetration alone. We need to be taught that ‘outercourse’- kissing, massaging, using vibrators and touching erogenous zones can be a safe way of being intimate without doing the deed itself. It’s not all about penis-in-vagina, safe oral sex is equally important too as a fun way to explore each other if you’re not ready to go all the way. Oh, nipple play is highly erotic? Tell me more! Instead of talking about ‘sex’, let’s talk about ‘pleasure’. What makes us feel good? After all, that’s what sex is all about.
What we see in porn isn’t real life, and we know now from experience that a lot more guys should be taught this important fact from a young age. For impressionable teenagers porn would have us believe that normal stuff like wobbly bits, uneven boobs, stretch marks and hairy bits don’t exist! Managing these expectations from a young as is essential. Awareness of what kind of porn you’re watching- is it safe or consensual? How mainstream porn portrays sex is not realistic - it’s choreographed by professionals. Not every guy has a twelve inch penis, and most women need more than a few rubs before they scream with pleasure and ejaculate (yes, female ejaculation is totally a thing!).
Also see you guide to ethical/feminist porn!
An open, positive conversation about exploring your own body and finding out what makes you tick is essential for young women. For so long female masturbation has been synonymous with shame. Teaching facts and squashing myths is what sex ed should be all about, and the subject of self love shouldn’t be a taboo any more. Can masturbating cause any health problems? Can it make you lose your virginity? We’re not calling for explicit demonstrations (absolutely not), but we need to tell young women it’s fine to ask questions, explore and talk openly about it. Between the ages of 18 and 60, somewhere between 54 to 72 percent of women, acknowledge masturbating regularly, according to the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB, 2009). Boys are already so open about it (remember it was almost like a competition-“I wanked 14 times at the weekend!”) So, enough with the rumours about how you’ll go blind if you do it too much, and lets get all the questions answered!
This is the foundation of any healthy relationship, and especially important with anyone you’re gonna get sexy with. Laying out your limits, talking openly about what you like and don’t like, eliminating any surprises. We need to be strong in sexual situations- and have our voices heard. Talking frankly about the practical stuff with partners like using condoms and birth control options, navigating consent and boundaries. When ‘no’ means ‘no’, and when even ‘yes’ can mean ‘no’- how you can change your mind about having an encounter, even in the middle of it. Relationships break down when we don’t communicate.
Young people’s transient relationships as we discover who we are and who we like to get intertwined with can be so tricky to navigate. Hormones play such a huge role in how deeply we feel about everything as teenagers. It would be great to have some good, solid relationship advice about how to treat each other as we experience everything for the first time. Is this love or lust? How to deal with heartbreak, how to let people down respectfully (stop ghosting! It’s rude!). How to recognise clingyness and other red flags, how cheating on your partner can be disastrous for sexual health. How when someone reassures you they’re clean, never trust them and always use a condom. How to recognise when you’re being taken advantage of. Online predators. Alcohol and sex. Drugs and sex. How substances compromise decision-making. It’s a bloody minefield out there!
A subject that is given a rather wide berth in school sex ed, yet many will feel the current sex ed is very hetero-centric and lacks any acknowlegment about how to have safe same-sex relationships. For LGBTQ youth to experience comparable health education to their peers, sex ed programs should be inclusive of all orientations. Everyone needs to understand LGBTQ issues, whether going through it personally or not. Heterosexual people should be taught to support the LGBTQ community so that less young people feel ostracised. Opening the conversation surrounding gender identity and sexual orientation can only be positive in 2019. Age-appropriate and medically accurate information, positive examples of LGBTQ individuals, romantic relationships and families; emphasising the need for protection during sex for people of all identities; and dispelling common myths and stereotypes about behaviour and identity.
We need judgement free, practical information. Of course unprotected sex is not ever ideal, but mistakes are made every day and truth is that many of us may find ourselves in this situation, so we need access to quick advice. Instead of saying ‘No, don’t do it’ (when has that ever worked for teenagers anyway?!) we need to know where to get the morning after pill, how much will it cost, all the different abortion options. Where can we get tested for STIs, what are the waiting periods in which the infection takes place, how is an STI even tested? (blood tests, swabs, smears, urine samples, genital examinations etc), Tell us all the types of different treatment methods, how to break the news your partner(s) about a positive result, and just generally what the f*ck to do!
For some people, sex ed is separated into two different classrooms for boys and girls. This is crazy! Sex ed should never be gendered. Boys need to know about periods, girls need to know about penises and testicles, and we all need to find out where the hell the clitoris is! As women, discovering all the weird ways of the opposite sex, which we’re both intrigued and sometimes repulsed by in equal measure, the ‘boy stuff’, can be pretty daunting. Hearing whispers on the playground from the unreliable and wildly inappropriate sources of teenage boys themselves is super misleading and can only lead to more confusion.
What’s circumcision? What’s a wet dream? What’s precum? What’s a ‘banjo string’ and why did Billy in year 11 snap his when he did anal with Jessica? What’s blue balls? Whats erectile disfunction? Why do boys get boners for no reason? All these mystical questions should be answered in an up-front, open conversation in a refreshing new style of sex ed which is more tailored to our needs as young poeple to have answers to questions we’re too embarrassed to ask. Dispelling myths about sex and ourselves as sexual beings is an important step on our journeys to self awareness.