Sex is funny, interesting and every single person does it – so why were we left so unprepared one of the most common human experiences? From memory, sex ed was an awkward human biology class. My teachers had menstruation, puberty, safe sex, and human anatomy pretty down pat. Don’t get me wrong, there is biology involved in sex; but that’s half (if not less than half) of the experience. I certainly knew the names and symptoms of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs); but great help that was when I’m giving my first blow job and am so uninformed of what will happen when the penis owner climaxes. I learned more about sex and sexual health from Dolly Doctor (Melissa Kang – absolute legend). Sex ed classes used fear tactics and slut shaming rather than normalising sexual experiences. Not to mention the extreme neglect of the persons who identity as part of the LGBQTIA+ community. Not all sex involves a penis penetrating. In fact, there is a lot more to sex than sex ed classes had you believe. For one, sex doesn’t begin and end with the intercourse. There is; pleasure; sexuality; preference; expectation; desire; relationships; consent; the clean-up (why doesn’t anyone tell you about this?); genital care and courting rituals (e.g. flirting). Yeah. A lot of gaps in our sex ed classes to say the least.

The focus on fear tactics meant that there was this fixation on pregnancy and STI’s; i.e. things that can go wrong (mainly with heterosexuals). Well, you know, except for lack of consent; respect and communication between sexual partners about desires and sexual needs. A negative-sex focus has opened the wrong dialogue about sex; as in, no dialogue. This fear mongering approach didn’t stop young adults from being sexually active. It just created sexually active adults with unsatisfactory sexual experiences. Sex ed is brought in too late. Conversations about anatomy; puberty and respect should be happening before people are in high school. And then as soon as people are having relationships and experimenting with sex and their sexuality; sex ed has finished, leaving few safe spaces for discussing and asking questions about what they’re going through. There is no sex ed at university or at TAFE or in the workplace. Do we really want people getting their “sex-pectations” and ideas of what positive sexual experiences look like, from porn or the American Pie franchises? Seriously?! Those are our only options?

We were let down by our sex ed classes (you know, just a tad). There was no discussion of consent; debunking of myths and gendered stereotypes surrounding sex (e.g. virginity and sexuality); or conversations about healthy relationships with yourself and others. Where were the stories? The fuck-ups; the achievements; the tales that would make us feel less alone and weird. Not just the horror stories from not using protection and contraception; but from sex in general. Stories can normalise experiences. Being 20, we could all do with a bit of feeling “normal”.

We’ve all been let down by our sexual health education. Exploring and explaining some of the functional stuff that was left out is really in need. I hope by writing some sex-positive articles I’ll be able to get to the bottom of some topics that aren’t fully understood. For example: I still have no idea how the pill and the implanon actually work (or is this just me?). I also hope to shed some light upon unknown safety measures and sexual practices. There were nitty gritty details that were assumed as common sense when we were taught sex ed. But I am assuming that there is a lot that people are unfamiliar with concerning certain sexual health practices and ideas. Along with articles about dental dams; how the pill actually works and whether couples should the split the price of contraception/protection; there will be stories from people about their sexual mishaps; discoveries; change of perceptions and experiences. I hope this can give a fully rounded, inclusive re-education of sex.

Phoebe Tetlow