Sex

Welcome To The Sex Bus

Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t have a positive experience of sex education in school. Either from it lacking any real information or because it ignores key issues such as consent, and LGBT+ issues. This is largely due to sex education not being part of the national curriculum and schools being left to decide how much they want to teach, if anything at all. Sex is still a taboo subject and our desire to keep young ears and minds protected is harming young people as they enter into adult life unprepared.

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However, not all sex education has to be like this. It can be a positive and inclusive experience, as we have seen this week, which actually does what it says it’s going to do – I was very fortunate that this was my experience.

My sex education lessons started aged 9 and continued throughout my time in school until the age of 16, getting more in-depth as we got older. We covered a wide range of topics; from the usual how to put condoms on, to the signs of an unhealthy (and healthy) relationship. Whilst these lessons did largely take place in the classroom, I don’t think I’ll ever forget walking into physics to instead be greeted by a room full of penises – we also had some more unorthodox locations…welcome to the Sex Bus.

The Sex Bus is a bright purple double-decker bus adorned with condoms, various leaflets on STIs, pregnancy, birth control, and relationships. Alongside this are sat the professionals; school nurses, family planning experts, health visitors and district nurses. Together this was the Sex Bus, and it travelled around schools across Somerset. The aim of the Sex Bus was to engage pupils with sex education and as a result increase their knowledge of sexual health issues, raise the profile of health services in the local area so that young people would know where to turn should they ever need to, to enable young people to make more positive choices concerning their sexual health and to explore gender roles, myths and expectations in relationships. All of which I think are imperative to learn at a young age, and also why I think I found it so informative and engaging.

The Sex Bus was about teaching everyone good habits and behaviour, not about shaming people who do have sex at a young age, or at any other time in their life. As mentioned, there was also information available on, and people to discuss gender roles and myths with, such as whether women can orgasm/will orgasm like you see in the movies. I think education such as this is important because it helps to demystify sex and relationships for both men and women and also demonstrates that women can enjoy sex, and not just be a participant.

However, I’m not saying my sex education was perfect, I think it still had further to go. There should have and could have been more information on LGBT+ relationships – yes there were leaflets available and it was discussed, but it was more a passing comment rather than a real discussion. Additionally, the issue of consent; again whilst talked about and discussed it was never in-depth and the real bare bones facts were never laid out clearly (although we do now have the tea video). Overall though, it was largely a comprehensive and informative education and one I believe sets an example to other schools/counties with what they can do. It shows that it is possible, and all without scarring children for life.

Words: Eleanor Manley
Image/Videos: 20th Century Fox/The Simpsons, BBC Two/Miranda, Paramount Pictures/Mean Girls.

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TV, Film & Sex Education

TV & Film have always been part of our sex education, and now in 2018 some writers are realising their responsibility and the power they have to change the narrative.

On the rare occasion that society discusses sex education, and the papers are full of opinion pieces, the word that always gets thrown around is ‘pornography’; specifically the dangers of its accessibility. The government, teachers and parents are so terrified of what their children are seeing online, that a debate on sex education in parliament will usually turn into a debate on pornography. While this is an important debate to be had, and we are in a unique time when people are using the internet for everything from banking to dating, in all these debates and articles I can’t help but think that society is missing a big part of the puzzle.

To access porn, you have to know where to look, you have to google and browse and be an active user, you are alone in a room. On the other hand, media within the entertainment industry will always be a communal event. You sit down with family to watch the new Sunday night drama or go with friends to see the latest film release. What always follows is conversation between family, friends, and the wider audience, which thanks to social media is more expansive and immediate.

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Porn is not where people go to find great plot devices, the end goal is very simple, and sex is viewed in the abstract. Whereas TV and film in its nature use sex as a plot device and even when a sex scene is clearly put in for titillation (take Game of Thrones for example), the writers will still argue its relevance. In the last seven years or so I have seen a shift in the stories being told; from Lena Dunham’s Girls to Pheobe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag, there is a need for the narrative around sex to change and for women to control the story.

Pheobe Waller-Bridge has said in many interviews that she wrote the original play Fleabag because she wanted to talk about sex. In 2012 when Lena Dunham’s new show Girls aired in the US and the UK, all people could talk about was the awkward sex scenes. Many journalists described them as explicit and awkward, however, there had been more explicit scenes depicted on TV before Girls appeared on our screens. Game of Thrones was being commissioned for its third season, a show in which it was normal to see at least four sex scenes in one episode and seemingly, an actress couldn’t get through an episode without at least once walking into a room of men, having forgotten to have got dressed. The sex scenes in Girls were new and interesting because Lena Dunham was showing her own experiences of sex and many women responded to this with glee because it allowed them to have the conversations that society deemed taboo.

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Caitlin Moran says in her book How To Be a Woman, “the sexual imagery of teenage years is the most potent you’ll ever have. It dictates desires for the rest of your life. One flash of a belly being kissed now is worth a thousand hard-core fisting scenes in your thirties”. Up to a certain age, and I am aware that age is getting younger, parents can control what their children see on the internet and to a certain extent what they see on their TV screens thanks to the 9pm watershed, however, we can’t control everything.

Remember the time when you were younger, on the brink of adolescence, and woke up past your bed to go to the toilet? On your way back to bed you heard the noise of the TV and the chatter of adults, and intrigue led you down the stairs. You poked your head over the bannister and saw your parents and their friends glued to the telly, then you looked up to the screen to see an image that you knew not to be looking at. Laying in bed, your mind boggles and so many questions arise, but you don’t know who to ask. It feels like being on the last word of a crossword puzzle and knowing on seeing the answer it will make sense, but at that moment you feel lost. Instead of talking to your parents and friends out of embarrassment, you seek out the same image in books and films. It takes you years to finally have those conversations with friends and eventually partners when sex has become a reality. Only then do you start to question the scenes you watched and the depictions of sex in your favourite films.

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Now, in 2018, we are having those conversations, whether that be the writers of The Affair making sure every sex scene pushes the narrative along, or Rachel Weisz discussing the importance of the sex between the two female protagonists in her new film Disobedience. I truly think that one of the many reasons famous actresses who have the money and the platform are turning to producing is so they can control the narratives they are telling about female sexuality. Sex is still a taboo subject, and we still cut off conversations with the excuse of being British, but we can’t shut down conversation and then worry about the lack of sex education children are receiving, or what they are seeing when they turn on the TV.

In the wake of the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements, the industry is trying to be more inclusive and give everyone a voice. People are asking for the narrative to change and the choice of stories to grow. The conversations about sex in the last year have revolved around power and abuse and what we want the next generation of women to know and experience. If we want to carry on making change for the better, and the film and TV industry wants to take responsibility, it needs to take sex seriously.

Just as we need diversity in the stories we tell, we need diversity in sex scenes and the relationships we see. Teenage girls and boys should see LGBTQ+ stories more than just once a year, and be shown different relationships and the multiple reasons people choose to have sex with each other. Our government, parents, teachers and most importantly our storytellers can’t be scared of answering questions and giving children the power of information and choice.  

 

Words: Lara Scott
Images: BBC/Two Brothers Ltd, Jessica Miglio/HBO, Sky Atlantic

 

UT-WHY?

Thanks to people like Caitlin Moran, I knew about cystitis long before it turned up to put a dampener (as it were) on my day. She talked about it in public, in columns in The Times. There’s a lengthy passage in How To Build a Girl where the character Johanna locks herself in the bathroom, sits in a hot bath for two days and demands cranberry juice. If it wasn’t for old Caitlin, a whole generation of girls wouldn’t know why, sometimes, it appeared that their urethra was on fire.

For those who might still be unaware, A urinary tract infection (or UTI) is basically an infection in any part of your urinary tract, including your bladder, urethra and kidneys.

They began to plague me and my life about a year ago. I once moved the entire set for a play whilst feeling like I needed to piss every other minute and I consider it my greatest achievement.

“Well are you weeing after sex?” a friend asked me when I went to meet her on the way to uni, moaning about my urinary tract once more.

“In a way, every wee is a wee after sex now.” I answered.

“You get UTI’s if you don’t wee after sex.”

You… you what? You get them if you don’t… but then…

WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME THIS! WHY HAVE I BEEN DOWNING GALLONS OF WATER AND CRYING ON THE TOILET WHEN THE CURE WAS THIS SIMPLE?!

I looked on the NHS website. It’s true. Pee as soon as possible after sex (and also wear loose cotton underwear but that’s for another article about how women’s clothes aren’t really built for women). I’m not a complete idiot. I went to the doctors. I did a urine sample, but then wasn’t really sure of the protocol so had to sit in the waiting room holding a warm cup of my own piss for an uncomfortable amount of time. She gave me antibiotics, I took them, few weeks later, I was UTI-ed up once more. I assumed this would be my life now.

I was never taught about this at school; like I said I gleaned what I could from Caitlin Moran, but not every 15 year old is reading The Times on a Saturday afternoon. I don’t want to exaggerate here but learning that I should wee after sex if I don’t want to piss fire for the next three days was one of the most important life lessons I’ve ever learnt so WHY DID IT TAKE ME SO LONG TO LEARN IT? My sex education focused so much on me not getting pregnant, and the intricacies of every STI under the sun that keeping my vagina healthy and unhappy went rather neglected. You’d think the sex ed teacher, faced with 27 teenage girls, on the cusp of their sexual adventures and ready to face the world vagina first, might have thought to mention it.

“Pee after sex so you don’t get a UTI.” It takes 2.5 seconds to say. I just checked.

Ways to not get a UTI:

  • WEE AFTER SEX
  • It’s bad to use perfumed bubble bath or soap on your lovely lady garden (your vag has a delicate pH balance)
  • Nylon pants aren’t good
  • If you need to wee, don’t hold it in, FREE THE WEE

 

Words: Sian Brett
For September Sex Education Week 2018 on Anthem

How YouTubers Are Helping LGBT+ Sex Education

LGBT+ sex education in schools is limited at best, and most times non-existent. Despite the growing argument for more equal sex ed to be taught in schools, there is still a gap in the quality of information provided and the resources available for LGBT+ students.

I remember a PSHE lesson in high school, where we were handed out leaflets on safe sex. The first half of the page concerned sex between a man and a woman, whilst the other half was about safe sex between two men. I flipped over the page for the final section about lesbian sex only to find there wasn’t one. I stared blankly for a moment. Teenage me was angry at the fact that sexual relations between two women weren’t even acknowledged. Teenage me also had a mild panic because wHaT dO LeSbIAnS DO? I had so many questions at this age and I’d hoped to find out at least a little bit of info. Frequent googling and reading stuff about scissoring didn’t prove too helpful.

Fast forward ten years and luckily I’m a long way from high school. As a society, we’re now even more submerged in the digital revolution, and the YouTube era is well underway. Just a quick search brings up so much content on sex ed and, finally, content on sex ed that’s not heteronormative. Personally, I can be quite critical of social media, usually arguing it can cause more harm than good, and with the rapid development of social influencers and advertising through YouTube and other socials, I’m still wary of it. However, a lot of creators are posting really helpful content on the subject of sexual health, education and identity, and I find myself wishing I had some of these resources available as a kid. For Sex Ed September, I’ve made a quick rundown of a few of the users and their videos that give really helpful sex ed tips for the Lesbian/Bi community:

Stevie Boebi

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Stevie uses her own experiences to give advice and share personal stories, creating an open discussion surrounding sexual education/health. She’s also collaborated with health professionals. Some of the videos I found myself wishing I could have seen as a teenager include the Lesbian Sex 101 series, which talks about both pleasure and enjoyment of sex. She also does some myth-busting videos about sexual anatomy and ‘facts’ about lesbian sex. On her channel, Stevie also reflects on issues surrounding mental health, including a video about sex after trauma. Content such as this goes miles in taking away the stigma of talking about difficult issues. she also does Q&As answering viewers’ questions, therefore setting up a platform for people to learn from as well as the opportunity to ask things viewers otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to.

Sexplanations

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Dr Doe of Sexplanations offers great sexual health advice no matter what your sexual/gender identity. There is all sorts of medical info on this channel. The videos cover subjects from painful sex and sexual definitions, to genital piercings and dealing with shame. Sexplanations has a dedicated LGBT playlist section including videos on vulva confidence, sexual identities and trans sex.

Melanie Murphy

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Murphy boasts a whole variety of videos on her channel ranging from lifestyle to pms to mental health. Whilst not exclusively a sex educator, this Youtuber’s sexuality playlist contains a whole bunch of information relating to bisexuality: answering questions and chats, as well as discussions on bi-erasure that I myself learnt A LOT from in 10 minutes. You can also, very importantly, find information on this channel about contraception and safe sex, alongside masturbation, orgasms, vibrators, and relationship advice too.

Ash Hardell

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I am including Ash here because even though they don’t discuss sex ed directly, the nature of the topics you can find here are extremely helpful to the overall discussion of sexual health, identity and gender identity. Ash is AFAB (assigned female at birth), and genderqueer/trans non-binary. As they say in their July Video Why I’m Not A Boy, “Looks don’t equal gender”. As someone who has been frequently misgendered since I cut my hair – and apparently when I wear jeans – I now find myself relating to this a lot more than I thought I ever would!

Their videos chronicling their relationship with their body and their life in general go along way in expanding the conversation, allowing our awareness and knowledge of both ourselves and others to grow. I found this particularly useful as a reminder that there are so many alternative ways of being yourself, and so much more than we get told about in mainstream education.

Ash has a video (and book!) called the ABC’s of LGBT on their other channel with lots more LGBT content made with their wife Grace.

There are many many more people I could have included here. As well as these examples, a quick search for LGBT+ Youtubers that talk about sex/relationships brings up some hundreds of users, most notably nowthisisliving,  Rose and Rosie, Ingrid Nilsen, Ari Fitz, Amber’s Closet, MyHarto, Rowan Ellis, As/Is and UnsolicitedProject. Many users share coming out stories as well as relationship advice, providing relatable and informative media for the wider community.

Whilst some of these content creators mentioned are not specifically aimed at sex ed, I’d argue that sexual identity is a big part of sexual health education. Especially when we are young and growing up, trying to make sense of the world. We all have questions we might be embarrassed about asking and some of us might not have anyone to turn to. But with all the video content in social media literally at our fingertips, that situation is in some ways becoming a thing of the past. YouTubers have suddenly created a new form of celebrity and those who have younger teenage fan bases are fast becoming role models to a wider digital community, with the most-watched users garnering hundreds of thousands of subscribers and Instagram followers.

So even when LGBT+ content isn’t specifically created as sexual education, general visibility of the queer community is greatly helped by Youtubers. There is a conversation that has been given more voices because of this platform, and it is a necessary and worthwhile one.

Having video content so readily available on topics that are equal parts important and sensitive means that information on protection, health (both physical and mental) and education is accessible to pretty much anyone who can use the internet, regardless of how conservative or restrictive your home or school life is. It is especially important for people who are not out but can equally be utilised by people who are just interested in getting more information. 

Hopefully, with the increasing conversation around sexual education, young people will grow up equipped with the info they need and will be much more clued up than the confused gay girl in a rather crap 2008 PSHE lesson.

 

Words: Lauren Barnard
Images: YouTube, Stevie Boebi, Sexplanations, Melanie Murphy and Ash Hardell.
For September Sex Education Week on Anthem Online

September Sex Education Week 2018: Welcome Back

For some reason, a proper sex education is something I’ve become very passionate about in past years. I did a short speech about it while at university, and ever since researching it and learning all the terrible statistics, I’ve become fixed on the subject.

It seems to be that the more you think about your own sex education and you talk to others about theirs, you realise you’ve learned almost everything the hard way – or haven’t even learned it yet! To be quite frank, that’s a load of rubbish.

I appreciate that it’s 2018; there’s a lot we’d like to be on the curriculum that currently isn’t, from issues of race and gender to politics and how to get a mortgage. A proper sex education deserves a spot on this list because, as I said last year when I began this project, a proper education allows people to make their own informed choices and to be safe and healthy and (god forbid!) to even have fun.

The project came to Anthem because we are all equally angry about the lack of knowledge we left school with about our own bodies, and I’m so excited to be introducing September Sex Education Week 2018. This is our second year, and as always, we want you to be involved and to feedback what you want to learn about and hear about. What do you wish you had learned?

With that thought in your mind, let’s begin. The first article will be going up tomorrow all about body image and we’ll have a series of fantastic articles coming up this week from the team here at Anthem. Make sure you’re following us on social here, here and here so you don’t miss an article! We can’t wait to share this years project with you.

Thank you for reading! We’ll be seeing you tomorrow…

Love, Briony!

 

Words: Briony Brake
For September Sex Education Week on Anthem Online

Sex Work: The Red Light District, Amsterdam

They’re either in your favourite painting, explored in your wildest fantasy, or paying the bills. That’s right, I’m going to be talking about sex workers.

Declaration:

  • I do not have personal experience with sex work, so I am writing this article from my perspective to attempt an introduction, and to unravel the taboo of sex work.
  • I believe that sex work should be legalised everywhere, and be included in sex education.
  • If you dislike sex work, that is your opinion. Do not purchase a session with a sex worker or attempt to harm a sex worker in any way. Double standards and violence are lame.
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Artist: Egon Schiele (1890-1918) who, like many other artists, hired sex workers as models.

I’ve recently returned from a beautiful weekend trip to Amsterdam, and when questioned about my experience, my top three responses have been:

  1. No one would speak Dutch to me.
  2. Their apple pies are amazing.
  3. The legalisation of sex work is a really good idea.

The Red Light District in Amsterdam is a big business and tourist attraction, if you ever travel to Amsterdam, I strongly recommended you visit the Museum of Prostitution: Red Light Secrets. The Red Light Secrets presents visitors with an educational, historic, witty, and immersive experience inside an inactive Brothel. Prostitution in the Netherlands was legalised in 2000 and is viewed as a normal profession; there are rules and regulations which need to be followed, the workers pay income tax, and €150 rent when using the brothels.

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‘The Ten Commandments of Prostitution’ from the Red Light Secrets museum, Amsterdam.

These commandments of prostitution act as rules and regulations of the profession, as well as shattering the taboos of sex work. Although sex work in the UK is legalised, brothels, pimps, and soliciting is illegal, meaning sex work is a vulnerable profession with little legal support.                                                                                                  

When doing some research on sex work in the UK I found the following statistic:

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If brothels were legalised in the UK, the income tax and rent sex workers have to pay would clearly boost our economy. Most importantly, sex workers would be safe in their profession, thus their clients would enjoy themselves further still. Everybody wins!

Now before I leave you, I must add that when I was walking around the Red Light District around 11pm one night, I witnessed a tourist breaking commandment number 1. The two workers responded to his actions by shaming him, and shouting “You fucking piece of shit!”, and I agree.

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Red Light District, Amsterdam.

Peace, love, and Cacti,
Courtney McMahon

 

 

Forms of Sex work:  http://prostitution.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=000096

Red Light District, Amsterdam: http://www.amsterdam.info/prostitution/

Museum of Prostitution: Red Light Secrets http://www.redlightsecrets.com

Support Anthem’s activism and deck out your wardrobe using discount code COURTNEY10 on Feminist Apparel’s site: www.feministapparel.com

Statistic source: www.import.io/post/how-much-does-prostitution-contribute-to-the-uk-economy

All other images/photographs courtesy of Courtney McMahon