feminist

The Importance Of Body Image In Sex Education

This August, my sister and I were lucky enough to spend a few days at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. When making a list of all the shows we had seen, I realised that we had both sought out shows exploring body image and body confidence. It was only after leaving the Edinburgh bubble that I realised the importance of including body image in the conversation on sexuality because these two things usually go hand in hand.

All the women in these shows talked about their body confidence, or in some instances, their lack of body confidence, and how it had stopped them feeling desirable. In one show, a woman discussed being teased and belittled by a group of men on a night out because of her size, and on another occasion, she described how a man had asked her boyfriend why he was with her.

This type of harassment is both specific to plus size women and a continuation of the harassment women receive on a daily basis; from catcalls to men asking us to smile on cue. In our society, women’s bodies are seen to be offered up to the public for judgement and affirmation. Many of the shows I saw in Edinburgh this summer combatted this idea by encouraging women to reclaim their bodies for themselves. 

In one particularly brilliant show, Hotter by Sweaty Theatre, Mary Higgins and Ell Potter use personal experiences, interviews and verbatim theatre to explore body image, sex and sexuality. In a Guardian interview, their show is described as an “interrogation of the female body, its fluids, desires and changes”. In a voice-over, women say what makes them feel sexy, what makes them feel heat, what an orgasm feels like and what their favourite song to dance to is.

As I was watching the show, I felt accepted, laughing in acknowledgement of awkward anecdotes, and taking joy in the stories being shared, however halfway through I felt a deep sadness and I couldn’t understand it. It was only when I was thinking about what to write for this’s year’s sex education week that this sadness made sense, and I knew what I wanted to talk about. I felt sad that for the first time, at the tender age of twenty-six, because I wanted to apologize to my body and look after it in the same way I try to look after my mind.

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I was taken back to being fifteen, sat in a geography classroom having the allotted hour-long sex education lesson before lunchtime. I thought how different my sexual experiences would be if this show had been part of my sex education, how I would have treated my body over the past ten years if I had made the connection between my own relationship with my body and my sexuality sooner.

As with most sex education, girls’ and boys’ bodies are represented as biological machines, going through the motions that we call puberty. I learned about body hair, periods, the sperm and the egg, and for split second, contraception. I was not taught how to respect the other person’s body and their boundaries, let alone my own. We were all asked to write down all the words we knew for penis, vagina and breasts but not what we thought of our own body parts. I was taught what sex was but not how my body would respond to arousal and how I could feel desirable or what I might find desirable in another person. As I got older, I never thought about the sex education I had received unless it was to realise how lacking it was; I wasn’t able to use it as a road map.

In my teenage years, I felt as if I had been left out in the wild looking for signposts. Books and films were used as a way to see where my desires lay. However, I was still acting as if this desire was something my mind was creating; the thought of my body being a factor embarrassed me, I didn’t want to pay attention to it. I also knew that all the questions I had about my body were making me feel isolated and confused. It was only when I discovered feminism in the form of Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman a few years later, that my body started to make sense to me.

A unique selling point of the show Hotter was that Mary and Ell were best friends who had been a couple. Throughout the show, the audience caught glimpses of this intimate relationship as a result of its many iterations. One of the most moving moments in the show was when Mary and Ell read out letters they had written to themselves, thanking their bodies and promising to love them as best they can. At a point in Ell’s letter, she addressed Mary directly, thanking her for loving and desiring her body, making Ell love her body more in the process; ‘you always loved my tummy, in a way I never could’.

At the end of the show, both women admitted that they were trying to appreciate their bodies more. They wished they could get to the end of the hour and tell the audience they loved every inch of themselves, but like all the women in the room, they knew this was a big ask. Instead, they ended the show with a promise, to treat their bodies better, asking the audience to do the same and inviting us on stage for a final dance.

As for many women, my relationship with my body has been not been easy, I spent early teenage years ignoring it and my late teens/early twenties learning about it and starting to take pride in it. After watching Hotter, I thought about what I might say to my body in my letter and again I went back to being fifteen and feeling confused about the body I was growing into.

If I could add anything to the sex ed curriculum, it would be to ask teenage girls to write a letter to themselves.  I would ask them to write about what they love about their bodies, who they desire and what desire feels like for them. If girls are in control of what they think about their bodies from a young age, maybe they can find the joy in their bodies and sexuality sooner, therefore having a better chance of happy and safe sexual experiences. We need to teach girls how to drive their own body before they allow another person to take the wheels.

Words by Lara Scott for September Sex Education Week 2019 on Anthem Online.
Image by Izzy Romilly via The Guardian/Ell Potter and Mary Higgins.

The Manley Guide To Female Authors: Body Positivity

Body image is something which has plagued women for as long as our worth has been associated with how we looked, so forever basically, but in an age of social media where we count the likes we get on pictures of ourselves, our feeds are full of people’s ‘perfect’ lives and ‘perfect’ bodies, and all angles are exploited in order for someone’s waist to look as small as possible whilst also somehow making their bum look like Beyonce’s or Kim Kardashians. It’s no wonder that we’re all lacking a little bit in the way of body positivity, so for September Sex Education Week this year I have had a hunt through my bookshelves to find women who are, like all of us, lacking in confidence and over analysing every little thing, and also women who celebrate, or who are learning to celebrate, every part of them.

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Girl Up
, Laura Bates

Within the first few pages, Girl Up simultaneously made me cry and want to shout hell yeah! Throughout this book, Laura Bates is pressing a giant bullshit button (or sexist bullshit klaxon), calling time on the old adages; “worrying about our bodies is a trap. It’s a great big, ugly trick that keeps girls quiet and under-confident”. Everything she talks about I agree with but also know I am guilty of feeling the way the adverts want me to feel, I am guilty of wanting to lose weight and look different, I am guilty of feeling inadequate in my body, but I am also agreeing with her that I shouldn’t feel that way. I think this book more than any other shows the trap that I and many other women are in. We’re constantly trying to be more body positive and embrace every aspect but that doesn’t mean that we suddenly become invincible to the pressures from the outside world and our own minds.


Irie in White Teeth, Zadie Smith

White Teeth, by Zadie Smith, is not about bodies, or indeed teeth. The story follows three families over the course of the 20th century and how their lives become intertwined with each other and the paths they follow as a result of various events.

One of the characters, Irie, is a 15-year-old girl growing up in the 90s in North London, trying to find her place in the world. She struggles with her weight, her identity as a mixed race woman, and with unrequited love. Much of Irie’s focus, during her chapter, is on how she can gain the attention of Millat; lose weight, relax her hair, subsequently burn it all off. As we get to know Irie more we realise that a lot of this has very little to do with Millat but with her own insecurities. She hates her curly hair, she wants “straight straight long black sleek flickable tossable shakeable touchable finger-through-able wind-blowable hair. With a fringe”. She sees weight loss adverts on the way home from school and fantasises over ‘Before’ and ‘After’ pictures, waiting “for her transformation from Jamaican hourglass heavy…to English Rose… a slender delicate thing”.

Irie’s chapter is both devastating and hugely relatable, I know that I have stood in front of a mirror or seen a photo and hated what was staring back at me. I know I have, as Irie does, placed my hand on my stomach reminding myself not to be bloated after lunch or whilst on my period; remember to suck in – this dress wasn’t made for big meals, thank goodness I wore a baggy top etc. I also know that since reading White Teeth, Irie has crept into my subconscious in a positive way. I saw my internal monologue written down and cried, and now when I remember, I try to fight back, I try to relax a little after lunch or dinner, and remind myself that it’s fine to be human.


Phenomenal Woman
, Maya Angelou

This poem exudes confidence, it is a celebration of her and her body. Phenomenal Woman is a confident, sassy celebration of self that we should all try to embrace as much as we can. All I can say now is to listen to the woman herself and take a little bit of Angelou away with you today.


Is It Just Me?
, Miranda Hart

Miranda Hart is best known for her sitcom Miranda but since then she has spoken out about a lot of personal issues on Instagram and in her book Is it Just Me?, an apt and relatable title that we’ve definitely all thought at some point or another. The fabulous thing about this book is, firstly, it’s not just you, we really are all in this together *cue music* but also the way she gets straight to the point, whilst also making you laugh; “most of us wouldn’t mind looking a bit more like him or her from Men’s Health or Grazia magazine, and a little bit less like, well, a sackful of ham”. The book is written as if in conversation with her younger self, and particularly for the chapter on bodies, it’s a good way of calling out the insecurities our younger selves have that as we get older we will hopefully move past.

She also calls out the fact that the idea of being “taken seriously as a woman” is to have glamorous hair, a designer handbag and a full face of makeup, and lists the pros and cons of being a tall woman (something I will never experience, being vertically challenged myself) including occasionally being mistaken for a man (pro: skip the long queue for the ladies, con: you’re more likely to have to help people lift heavy things).

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Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and Other Lies
, Scarlett Curtis

Feminist Don’t Wear Pink and Other Lies (FDWP) is a collection of essays by women on what feminism means to them, curated by Scarlett Curtis. It is a fantastic read and one I recommend to all of you (duh, that’s why it’s in this list). I love the variety of topics covered in this anthology, it is educational, eye-opening and extremely relatable. Body positivity isn’t really spoken about explicitly in the book, at least not in the way we imagine it. Dolly Alderton lists it in her essay ‘Dismantling and Destroying Internalised Misogyny: To-Do List’; “Remember that when you stand in front of the mirror naked and examine every opalescent stretchmark and knobbly toe and undulation of flesh of your body (every night) and feel a deep, sour hum of self-hatred, it’s probably not because you’re hideous”.

I think that body positivity is spoken about in broader terms, whether it is in the power of our bodies during childbirth, claiming ownership over our bodies as a result of the #MeToo movement, buying empowering pants or seeing representation in the media of people who look like you, FDWP offers up a whole variety of body positivity for you to enjoy and hopefully find at least one essay that speaks to you.


Evelyn in Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Fannie Flagg

Fried Green Tomatoes is one of my favourite books and quite possibly my favourite film. It is both incredibly poignant and funny. The story charts the lives of Idgie and Ruth and deals with issues such as racism, domestic violence, female friendship, grief and love. Set across two different timelines, we learn about Idgie and Ruth via the stories told by Ninny to Evelyn during Evelyn’s trips to the local nursing home. Whilst I could talk endlessly about Idgie and Ruth and the many other fantastic characters in this book, it is Evelyn’s journey that I want to focus on for this piece (but please do go and read/watch this, you won’t regret it).

Evelyn is a 1980s housewife struggling with the idea of growing older; her weight, the menopause, and her stale marriage. Every time we meet Evelyn she is trying a new crash diet, skipping meals or wrapping herself in clingfilm, however, over time as she learns more about Idgie and Ruth’s lives we begin to see changes in Evelyn. She becomes empowered by the tales she’s told, and is more confident and sure of herself and even creates an alter ego by the name of Towanda. Towanda gives her that extra boost when she needs it, for example, if someone steals her space and she needs to ram their car out the way to make room for her own – we’ve all been there. By the end of the book, she embraces herself for all that she is and starts making choices that benefit her and make her feel good about herself whilst still carrying Idgie, Ruth and Ninny with her.


Words and Images by Eleanor Manley for September Sex Education Week 2019 on Anthem Online.

We Need To Talk About Vaginismus

There are so many sprawling aspects of women’s lives that the patriarchy impacts every day, and that it continues to impact in complicated and fractured ways. One of the most important of these, to me anyway, is the sex lives of women. It’s one of the reasons that I love that Anthem does this sex education week every year.

We’re not told so many things, and there are so many things not discussed, and our voices have been silenced for so long, that it is hard to break the cycle and to begin these conversations.

One of those conversations is vaginismus.

Vaginismus is a condition that affects 1 in 500 women in the UK. It is an involuntary tightening or contraction of the vaginal muscles around the opening of the vagina. It can make sex, or putting a tampon in, painful, difficult, or even impossible.

How painful women often find sex has only recently become an issue of public discourse, but even these conversations are limited. There are so many reasons that this might be the case, and even within vaginismus, there are layered and multiple reasons.

The complicated part of the condition is that it is psychological. Feeling anxious about sex can cause it to occur, but once it has occurred once, the nerves that it will occur also play a part until you’re nervous about feeling nervous about feeling nervous.

It can also occur randomly. You could have years of painless sex before it happens. Or alternatively, you might suddenly stop experiencing it. It can occur for a multitude of reasons, some including;

  • You have a bad sexual experience or medical examination
  • You feel bad about sex
  • You have fears and worries about your body
  • You have a painful medical condition

There are a few different options in getting treatment or help. Some focus on your body, i.e. your actual vagina, and getting it used to having things inside it, and some focus on your mind, and your feelings around sex.

As ever, the NHS website has plenty of advice, and you can always go to your GP. But, from one gals personal experience, the way I thought and felt about sex was transformed by a very kind and caring partner, who just wanted to make sex fun (and sometimes funny) for me, and who has such a healthy attitude towards sex that it influenced the way I think, feel, and talk about it.

I’m still learning, but it feels like the conversation is starting. At last.

You can find out more on the NHS website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaginismus/ 

Words by Sian Brett for September Sex Education Week 2019 on Anthem Online.

My Journey To Body Acceptance

My body and I have been through a lot. As a trauma and self-harm survivor, my body has really been put through the mill over the years. I have punished my body and it has been punished by others.

As a teenager exposed to The Sun, I saw the Page 3 models and felt ashamed of my flat chest and seeming lack of ‘curves’. I was surrounded by girls at school who had developed breasts much sooner than me, and I had an A cup until I was 16. The girls in the magazines all had thigh gaps, so I became obsessed with how my thighs touched. There were no images of scars, stretch marks or spots in the media. We had no talk at school about how our bodies would change over time. All of the women on the telly had similar body shapes and types. There was no one telling me that my body was okay.

The older I get, the more I decide to push back at the beauty standards placed upon women by a patriarchal society, the media, and diet culture. I’ve largely stopped giving a shit what other people think about my body. I have stopped putting on a face of make-up every day, which I only ever did to look ‘presentable’ for others. I shave when I want to and not because I feel I should. I wear clothes I like and feel good in. I wear a bra if and when I want to. I eat when I want and need to, without thinking about how my body will look as a consequence. If I’m at home I’m naked 99% of the time, which now feels so empowering and freeing to me.

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I convinced myself a long time ago that I was on a journey to self-love, but actually, it has become more about body acceptance and neutrality. Sometimes it is hard to love our bodies; they often let us down and don’t do what we want them to do. Seeing my body for what it is, what it has done for me and what it continues to do for me, enables me to feel at peace and acceptance with my body. My body has defended me against harm in multiple ways, has seen me through ridiculous gym routines and a restrictive diet, lets me know when I have not eaten enough or had enough water, lets me know when I am tired. Our bodies do so much for us in just one day. Learning to appreciate that has really allowed me to see my body for what it is: a vessel of life. My body is not here to be looked at or enjoyed by other people.

I feel that social media has been pivotal in my journey to body acceptance. The influx of social media ‘influencers’ who are unapologetic about the appearance of their bodies has not only allowed for more representation on our feeds but there is also more discussion about how harmful the beauty ideals placed on us are, which inspires us to let go of them. Seeing images of so many different types of bodies helps us to realise that we are all perfectly normal, no matter how we look. Hopefully, this can lead to us letting go of shame surrounding our bodies.

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If like me, you are striving to be at peace with your body, there are so many wonderful resources right at your fingertips. I can’t list them all, but here are just a few of my favourite Instagram accounts who help me feel like I’m okay:

@selfloveliv
@wheelchair_rapunzel
@kenziebrenna
@meg.boggs
@bodyposipanda
@bodyimage_therapist

I want to acknowledge that as a white, slim, able-bodied woman, I fit into eurocentric ideals of beauty. I realise that this also means I can see people represented in the media who look like me. As someone relatively free from physical illness, my body allows me to move as I want, which is not the case for people with chronic and physical illness.

Words and Images by Amber Berry for September Sex Education Week 2019 on Anthem Online.

The Lionesses

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I have been thrilled at how the World Cup has been received here in the UK. Record after record was broken, people were talking about it at work and at home and it felt like there was a real buzz in the air. Could this be it? Could this be the time we win? 

Unfortunately it was not to be, and after Tuesday’s heartbreak (and truly I have spent time mourning that loss), I think it is important to reflect on the impact that the Lionesses have made this past month. I wrote before about the Change The Game initiative launched by the BBC at the beginning of May and how excited I was by this prospect. But my expectations have already been exceeded and it’s only the beginning. 11.7 million people tuned in to watch the Semi-Final, just over 50% of the audience share and the most watched programme this year so far, what a result! 

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I have been far more emotionally invested in this World Cup than I thought I would be, but I think that’s because it has been a real watershed moment for women’s sport. When I was growing up (which wasn’t too long ago – I’m not that old), the only time you could see women’s sport on the TV was Wimbledon or the Olympics. Now, across the country there are little girls turning up to football training sessions wanting to be the next Lucy Bronze, Ellen White or Nikita Parris and that just shows that representation does matter. 

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My friends at work and I have been talking about it. Gearing up for every game. Talking about the one that was on the night before. I even got a wall chart (cool right?). I hope that enthusiasm continues not just over the summer but for years to come (anyone fancy going to watch the Euros in 2021 with me?!). The moment that really solidified what an impact this team have had on women’s sport came on Wednesday when I heard an interview on Radio 5 Live. A 17 year old boy called Abe had phoned in when they were talking about Tuesday night’s match, and he said that at the beginning of the World Cup he and his mates laughed at and mocked women’s football. But on Tuesday they were all down at the pub cheering them on, getting annoyed at VAR when the decision went against us and cheering VAR when it went our way. At the beginning of June, he knew nothing about the team, now he knows all their names and the teams they play for and he’s looking to watch the Women’s Super League come winter. Now isn’t that an achievement! They may not win the World Cup but they have changed people’s hearts and minds like you wouldn’t imagine and that’s arguably bigger than any trophy. Although I would still like to see them bring that bronze back!!

Catch the third place play off live on BBC One at 4pm!!

Radio 5 Live: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0006sq4 

Photo credit: @Lionesses (Twitter)

Feminism 101

Here’s the situation, for anyone who is unclear: if you don’t believe a person should be discriminated against because of the way they were born, and later how they wish to align on the spectrum of gender, then you are a feminist. I’m very sorry, the doctors did the best they could. If you think it kind of sucks that women are frequently treated as incapable of certain skills or jobs because they are women, then you are a feminist. If you think it sucks that men aren’t ‘allowed’ to like pink and talk about their feelings and hate sport, then damn, you’re a feminist.

I appreciate this seems basic, and feminism can become incredibly complex, and has developed so much in quite a short space of time, but ultimately the idea behind feminism is that people should not be discriminated against because of their sex and that people should have equal social, political and economic rights. So that’s where it’s simple. If you agree, then that’s that. Don’t say you believe men and women should be equal but that you’re not a feminist. Stop it. Just stop, it’s pants. Feminism is not extreme. It’s really quite sensible.

I think a lot of the confusion and urge to not identify as a feminist might come from the fact that discussions around it are always so academic and inaccessible for the average person. It’s partly why I started Anthem and I think it’s such a shame that we’re not taking more time to help people when we are able to. So I’ve written up a bit of a glossary for you to refer to when the conversations you want to be a part of aren’t making sense.

Feminism: A movement aiming to achieve equality between the sexes

Misogyny: Hatred toward/prejudice against women 

Misandry: Hatred toward/prejudice against men

Misogynoir: Misogyny directed at black women in particular

Cisgender: If your gender matches the sex you were born at birth then you’re cisgender, or cis for short. I was born a female (sex) and identify as a female (gender). I’m cis.

Intersectional feminism: A movement that builds other issues such as racism, classism, transphobia, homophobia or ableism into it’s path to achieving the equality of the sexes. Intersectional feminism accepts that some struggle more than others on the way to equality, and are disadvantaged by our existing society for more reasons than just being a woman (i.e. it is harder to be a black, disabled woman or a trans woman than it is to be a cis white woman in our current society).

White feminism: This isn’t used to label all white feminists (confusingly), but to address a kind of feminism that only focuses on cis white feminist issues and tends to ignore issues faced by other races. In some cases, it has refused to accept that non-white women face greater struggles than white feminists. It’s sort of the opposite of intersectional feminism and has increasingly been used as a negative label in online discussions (for good reason).

#MeToo: Quite simply, a movement against sexual harassment and assault in all forms. Popularised by celebrities such as Rose McGowan and Natalie Portman, #MeToo began around this time last year and was started by Tarana Burke as a social media movement to show just how widespread the issues were in the world. In light of big Hollywood sexual harassment and assault cases, anybody could and can use #MeToo to express their own experiences and help others feel confident to share their stories. 

Time’s Up: Started on the back of #MeToo, the Time’s Up movement was founded at the beginning of 2018 to fight sexual harassment and assault. Time’s Up saw celebrities wearing all black to the Golden Globes and, as a movement, focuses largely on issues within studio and talent agencies as well as offering legal support to lower-income women who have faced sexual harassment or assault in the workplace. 

Gendered: If something is gendered, it relates to one specific gender. For example, gendered marketing means products might be marketed specifically to women or men (for absolutely no reason; go look up some traditionally feminine or masculine fragrance adverts and you’ll see what we mean). You can also have gendered occupations, which tend to be more female than male, such as waitress, barmaid, tea lady, lunch lady etc etc. 

Glass ceiling: A metaphor relating to the unseen barrier preventing certain groups of people climbing career ladders. Although most frequently referred to in discussions about women, it is also a barrier for people of different ethnicities, sexualities or with disabilities. It’s pretty bad for everyone (unless you are a cis white male).

Gender pay gap: The average difference between the money or wage paid to men and women, with women generally earning less than men (for the reason that they are women, which is sex-based discrimination and thus a LOAD OF RUBBISH).

Gendered stereotypes: Thinking back to stuff being gendered, gendered stereotypes suggest that people should be a certain way because of their gender. It’s where we think of things as typically masculine or feminine. For example, assuming girls like pink and boys like blue are stereotypes based on gender. These stereotypes can become harmful when they limit what men and women are able to do.

Toxic masculinity: An example of harmful gender stereotypes relating specifically to men and male behaviours. Most often it refers to the idea that men have to be these very masculine, dominant, alpha male type beings that can’t show emotion. It’s very damaging and has had a serious impact on male mental health. 

Feminazi: A derogatory slur used to refer to radical feminists, popular among conservatives and idiots who can’t be bothered to learn about feminism.

Hopefully, this helps you. You do not need to be able to use these words to have or to join a discussion about feminism but it will help just to understand what they mean and what people are talking about.

Unfortunately, feminism remains a difficult-to-access movement for many and it often gets caught up in moving forward, and not stopping to help people up on the way. Feminism is for everybody, and understanding a couple of words from the above list is huge. You can be a great support if you can stop people and say ‘hang on, that’s not right and here’s why’ because the more people that join in, the less of a problem sexism and other forms of discrimination become. 

Feminism and the politics surrounding discrimination continue to be a hot topic that the news love to sensationalise, so it is incredibly useful to know what these things mean. It’s not just about being able to support one cause, but also about learning to think for yourself. It is absolutely vital to be able to formulate your own opinions and ideas so that you can stand up for yourself and others, particularly in today’s slightly odd world.

 

Words by Briony Brake for Anthem Online.

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