Let’s Talk About Sexual Health Education, Baby

Let’s Talk About Sex, BB

'We want to talk about sex.

We want to talk about touch and desire.

We want to talk about relationality.

We want to talk about pleasure and taking care of our bodies.

We want to talk about how we learned to talk about sex.

About how we talk to our parents, our grandparents, our children,

our friends, our kin, our loves, our partners, our therapists about sex.

We want to talk about how we come to know ourselves through our bodies--and through each others’ bodies.

We want to talk about the sticky stuff.

About sex and bodies in all of their mess, euphoric and complicated glory.

We want to talk about talking before, during and after sex.

About consent.

About what comes after trauma.

About healing.

We want to talk about love, sensuality, intimacy, cruising, futurisms,

utopias, kinship, and all of their resurgent possibilities. 

We want to talk about all of these things.’

By Carina Magazzeni and Erin Sutherland

The work written above was introduced to me in the Let’s Talk About Sex, BB exhibit in the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. As they said, we want to talk about sex. We want to talk about desire, consent and taking care of our bodies. The discussion of sexuality should be ongoing and informative. Abstinence-only education doesn’t prepare for love, intimacy, sex, etc. As an individual who went to a Catholic high school, we were instead taught that abstinence is the answer to everything, sex doesn’t happen till wedding bells ring and that STIs (sexually transmitted infections) will most certainly kill you. Abstinence-only education doesn’t keep most people from engaging in sex. However, it does allow individuals to engage in sexual activity unprepared and without safe measures. Sexual health education should be more enforced to relieve theses misconceptions, pressures and judgements surrounding sexuality. 

The following views on sexuality have no malicious intent and isn’t stating that everyone is and should be engaging in sexual activity. It’s stating that individuals should take care of their sexual health in the same regard as any other aspect of their wellbeing. 

As defined by the World Health Organization, sexual health is “a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence”. Receiving the proper information for sexual health isn’t only wanted, it’s needed. No one should have their sexual health compromised due to a lack of education.

So, let’s talk about sexual health education, baby.

Yes Means Yes: CONSENT

Consent is an important aspect of sexual health--one of the most important. Consent is the permission for something to happen; an agreement to take part in an activity. Most importantly, consent is ongoing and can be taken back at any point. Communicate with your partner(s) and ensure that they are consenting and enjoying themselves. 

What exactly does consent look like? 

  • Willingly Given: no persuasion, force or abuse of power

  • Informed: aware of all risks and benefits of activities

  • Sober: intoxicated individuals legally can’t give consent

  • ENTHUSIASTIC: YES and nothing less. 

Source: Unsplash

Bases Are for Sports, Not People

Sex needs a new metaphor already. As Al Vernacchio said in his TED Talk, using baseball as a metaphor is problematic, sexist, heterosexist, goal-directed and competitive. It doesn’t result in healthy sexuality. Instead, it puts an unneeded pressure and a script to an individual’s sexual experience. 

Sex doesn’t have to be the same linear step by step process. You and your partner(s) decide which steps you are going to take, how many and at what pace you’ll go. Most importantly, not every sexual encounter HAS to end in intercourse--there are a lot of other fun activities you can do instead. Get creative!

Furthermore, you don’t have to ‘finish’ just because you started--sometimes a hot and heavy makeout session is it for the night. There should be no expectation that a kiss or a touch is going to lead any further than just that. Not to mention, putting pressure on an orgasm being a timed end goal can cause stress and disappointment if it’s not reached. Eliminate this pressure and just enjoy yourself and each other.

Source: Unsplash

There is Fluidity in Sex

Penetrative sex isn’t the only sex people participate in. Thinking of sex as only penetrative is limiting and stigmatizing for anyone who doesn’t have sex this way or can’t orgasm in that way. Sex can be done in a lot of different ways to receive pleasure, feel intimate with another and be satisfied. Sex looks different for all partners, relationships and individuals. 

Let’s start to break down the boundaries of what sex is. Not all sex is penetrative. Not all sex is done with a partner. Not all sex ends in an orgasm. Just enjoy without set conditions and embrace the intimacy of being with your partner(s). Furthermore, there are more to people than their intimate places, such as erogenous zones. Appreciate people in their entirety-- explore, stimulate and delight in people’s whole-beings.

Source: Unsplash

PSA: Virginity is a Social Construct !!

Oh yes, the popping of the cherry. The losing of the V card. Becoming deflowered. 

Why is it that there’s still this unneeded pressure and judgment surrounding one’s first experience with sex, or more specifically penetrative sex?

Traditionally, the concept of virginity is surrounded by the ‘breaking’ of a hymn. However, not every individual who engages in penetrative sex has a hymen to ‘break’. The notion of virginity isn’t even relevant to individuals of the LGBTQ+ populations, as it’s a heterosexual concept rooted in the traditional sexual script. So the concept of virginity really doesn’t work, does it? 

Let’s remove the judgments towards people’s decision on when they went to engage in sex. It’s okay to be sexual AND it’s also okay to NOT be sexual. There are people who wait for an emotional connection to engage in sex and there’s nothing wrong with that. There are also people who enjoy engaging in lots of sexual activity, with or without a connection, and there is also nothing wrong with that either. No one should be judged or stigmatized for how they choose their sex life to be. 

Source: Unsplash

Get to Know & Love Your Body 

It’s important to know how your body looks and feels. By knowing your body, you’re able to know what it’s like healthy. How would you know if something is wrong if you don’t know how your body typically appears or feels to the touch? 

It’s equally important to know how your body works and reacts to sensations. By being aware of your response, you can effectively communicate with your partner(s) what you do or don’t find pleasurable. 

Furthermore, knowing your body can help in times of distress. For example, there’s a stigmatizing expectation of men to last a long time during penetrative sex and can result in distress if this doesn’t happen. However, individuals with a penis engaging in penetrative sex typically last 3-8 minutes before ejaculation. As long as you and your partner(s) are satisfied, that’s all that matters. Additionally, for individuals with vulvas, there’s only a small percentage of people who can orgasm through penetrative sex alone. Additive stimulation is needed to reach this sexual response in most people. 

This is about more than simple knowledge. Knowing your body gives you confidence. It’s YOUR body and part of who YOU are. Being in touch with your body is empowering. Exploring and knowing yourself isn’t embarrassing or shameful, regardless of your gender.

Lastly, every penis and vulva are unique. There are different sizes, colours, shapes, markings, hair or no hair, etc. There’s no ‘perfect’ or ‘inadequate’ look--everyone is sexy. 

 

Source: Unsplash

Porn Literacy

NEWSFLASH: Porn is acting! It’s a fantasy. It doesn’t always reflect real-life sexual experiences.

You click on a video and it starts automatically with a couple(s) getting hot and heavy, you want to know what you don’t see?

  • Actors negotiating contacts and getting paid 

  • Use of medication for birth control or to get and/or keep an erection

  • Getting professionally groomed before and within the performance 

  • Discussion of consent and sexual limits

  • STI testing

  • Water and/or snack breaks

  • Crew members creating the perfect lighting, camera angles, direction, etc.

  • Mistakes, awkward moments, and the outtakes

The scenes you’re being shown are what the directors are wanting you to see. There are edits, retakes, and outtakes--it’s a creation of fantasy. At times, this can give an unrealistic expectation of what sexual experiences are. There’s nothing wrong with an individual's preference to be or not be engaging with porn. However, if so, be mindful to not create misconceptions and judgments based off of what is shown in porn and put an expectation of others to be a recreation without discussion. 

Source: Unsplash

Find the Contraceptive that Works for You

Contraceptives are methods to reduce the likelihood of an individual getting pregnant. There are many contraceptive options other than oral contraceptives (the pill) and external (phallic) condoms. There is the patch, IUDs (hormonal & non-hormonal), NuvaRing, abstinence, etc. 

Barrier methods are the only form of contraceptive that also protects you from STIs. Again, there are many options to choose from, such as an internal condom, dental dams, spermicides, etc.

The question is, how do you choose? There are several factors to consider:

  • Do you want hormonal or non-hormonal?

  • Will you use the method long- or short-term?

  • How easy is it for you to use?

  • What can you afford?

  • Privacy--do your want you method to be known by others?

  • Lifestyle factors (e.g. smoking and use of other medication)

  • Side effects

However, the most important factor for you to consider is finding a method that is comfortable and reliable. Your sexual health is important, and you should feel secure in knowing that it’s being taken care of properly like any other aspect of yourself. 

PSA: Stop by the Sexual Health Resource Centre (in the JDUC) for all your barrier needs! They even have glow-in-the-dark and flavoured condoms!

Source: Unsplash

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships

All healthy relationships include respect, communication, enjoyment and consent.

Respect in a relationship is valuing each other’s feelings and needs, compromising, supporting each other and honouring each other’s boundaries.

Communication is talking openly and honestly with each other, feeling heard when expressing feelings and not criticizing each other.

Enjoyment is being happy with one another, engaging with each other’s love languages and fulfilling each other’s needs.

Consent is ongoing--its partners continuing to give and look for consent, regardless of the relationship status.  

An unhealthy relationship involves isolation, blaming, shaming, abuse (emotional, physical, sexual or financial), and lack of consent.

No one should feel the need to have to stay within an unhealthy relationship. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect, to be heard and loved properly.

Source: Unsplash

Respect Gender and Sexual Diversity

There’s a difference between sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. It’s important to remember that anyone of these things doesn’t automatically govern another. 

Respect how people want to be treated and how they want you to address them.

Respect the way people want to express their love and who they want to share that love with. Respect that we are all human and all deserve to be treated kindly. 

Individuals should be able to exist where all people can openly and visibly express their gender identity and sexual orientation with complete safety and freedom. 

We all have human values, experiences, traits and needs that are shared by all human beings.

Plain and simple, however, I will say it one more time…always respect another.

Source: Unsplash

Always Continue Talking About Sex, Baby!

Sexuality should always be a continuous and open conversation. 

You’re responsible for your sexual health. Dedicate the time and resources needed to be sexually healthy. I am currently taking Human Sexuality (PSYC 333), taught by Dr. Caroline Pukall, and it has given me a whole new perspective on sexuality and informative information on sexual health. It’s amazing what a difference it can make, in knowing more about not only your own sexuality, however about other people’s too!

Ask questions and be curious--your sexuality is an important aspect of who you are. 

Read erotic books, take a hot bubble bath, see where it takes you, and possibly stop by the SHRC and pick up a toy! Your sexuality is a central part of you being human, don’t repress it because society tells you to. Enjoy who you are in all ways possible!