It’s about time we spoke about sex! For something that’s such a normal and important part of life, we don’t talk about sex nearly as much as we should. And when it comes to sex, there’s always something new to know.
Think of this as a little pocket guide to sex education. This article is in no way the be all and end all of sex, it’s a stepping stone to leap into a world of new experiences and ways to keep you and others safe. So sit back and enjoy the ride (no pun intended).
Firstly, I want you to think back to your experience of sex ed classes in school. I’m positive we all share the experience of a teacher putting a condom on a banana (or in my case a health nurse putting a condom on a sex toy and telling us you don’t get bruises on your knees from praying) and being told that if you have sex you’ll immediately get pregnant and get every STI under the sun. And if you went to a catholic school you probably gained some catholic guilt when it comes to sex as well.
I know we share this experience from conversations I’ve had with friends over the years. Out of the 100 people that voted on the poll on my Instagram story, 98% felt like they didn’t receive a proper education when it comes to sex. For safer and more pleasurable sex we have to keep educating ourselves, through podcasts, articles and the myriad of sex positive Instagram influencers that have been popping up of the past few years.
Remember everyone’s sexual journey is different, be kind to yourself even if it’s your first time learning about sex or your 100th time. Take a deep breath and get ready to learn!
1. Once, Twice, Three Times a Lady
Not only is that an absolute banger by The Commodores (love you Lionel Richie), it’s something to keep in mind when it comes to the most important part of any sexual experience, consent. If it’s a new partner or someone you regularly have sex with it’s important to always ask for consent, emotional safety is so important. It’s okay to ask for consent multiple times throughout a sexual experience. Check in on your partner and make sure that they want to keep going.
Sex education activist, Milly Evans, explains that it’s “not just asking, do you want to have sex?, it’s informed consent where you've talked about what you do and don't want to do, what your boundaries are and what precautions you'll be taking to protect yourselves and each other against pregnancy and STIs”.
2. Get to know yourself!
We are the only person we’ll spend our whole lives with, so get to know your body. Understand what’s normal for you and what isn’t. Sex shouldn’t be painful and if it is that’s usually a sign that something isn’t right, and you should get in contact with a sexual health nurse or your local GP.
Solo sex (or masturbation) is also important in getting know what you enjoy and what you don’t enjoy. Solo sex is also a great way to introduce sex toys into the experience before using them with a partner.
3. Let’s talk about sex.....ual health baby
Sex ed advocate, Milly Evans, gives some really great tips on staying safe during sex. She recommends regularly getting tested for STIs. Even if you don’t notice any issues it’s important to get tested as STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhoea don’t display any physical symptoms. The best way to prevent the spread of STIs is through barrier methods like dental dams and condoms. (Dental dams are used to create a barrier between a mouthand a vulva or anus). Milly recommends cutting open a regular condom to use as a dental dam if you don’t have one to hand. Remember to use barrier methods when having oral sex, as STIs can spread that way as well.
Alongside barrier methods, hormonal contraception prevents pregnancy. Hormonal contraception can be prescribed for a variety of different health reasons. If you want to see if hormonal contraception is right for you contact your local GP.
STIs tests can be arranged through the HSE. They are now offering home testing kits for certain STIs. You can visit sexualwellbeing.ie for more information on getting tested for STIs.
Remember to always wash your hands to avoid infection. Any dirt under your nails or sharp nails can cause pain and infection for your partner. If you want to you can use gloves as well.
For people who would be in high-risk groups for HIV, Milly recommends looking into PrEP. PrEP (which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis) is taken to prevent HIV.
“HIV treatment has really moved on in recent years.Someone who has HIV who is on effective treatment has the same life expectancy as someone who doesn't have HIV, and they can't pass on the virus.”
PrEP is available in Ireland with a prescription and is available free to those who meet the clinical criteria. For more information on this visit, HIVIreland.ie.
4.Ways to keep on educating yourself and others
Instagram is a really good resource for sex education. Milly Evans is a highly engaging sex ed advocate and journalist. Her Instagram is so fun and is always full of up to date information.
Ruby rare is an incredible resource when it comes to sex and body positivity. She also does regular online workshops for a variety of topics surrounding sex.
BISH is a brilliant website (bishuk.com) for people over the age of 14. They have so much information and even have an Ask Brook tool for any questions you might have. Milly also recommends What’s My Body Doing, sexplainations and sex positive content on YouTube.
Hopefully this guide will have been of some help to you in some way. Remember that we can never stop learning, there’s always something new for us to know. Before you go here’s some final advice from Milly Evans:
“Remember that sex and relationships are supposed to be enjoyable, so if they're not, stop and take some time to think about what you want. We all deserve to have healthy and happy sexual and romantic experiences and educating yourself means you'll be more prepared to know what you want and need when the time comes”.