Sex education at my school was as useful as a condom pierced by a pin prick (no pun intended). What I do recall was some outdated pictures showing the inside of the male and female body – if you’d arrived to the lesson late, you could have easily thought it was a Science class.
“Oh man – I thought double Biology was tomorrow….”
Still, I learnt a bit more from school than I did from my parents. That’s because……..we never spoke about it.
Maybe it’s because in England we tend to have a ‘stiff upper lip’ and there are certain things you ‘don’t talk about’?
Not satisfied with the school lesson, I decided to take matters into my own hands. One weekend I had a friend stay over, so that meant a trip to Blockbusters. Man, I loved that video store. Bring back Blockbusters – I won’t go, it’s out of the way, so inconvenient, but oh that place, the memories!
- “Dad. We’d like to rent this one”
- “You can’t rent this – it’s a 15 and it says In bed with Madonna“
- “Dad. That just means Madonna is interviewed on her bed. It’s probably a 15 as it swears a bit. Please”
- “Okay. If you’re sure. I’m gonna look like a right bloody fool getting this. Silly name.”
God bless my Poppa Bear, I knew how to wrap him around my finger.
Silly name indeed! Me and my friend thought it was actually going to be about sex. Instead the ‘lie’ I told my dad, wasn’t a lie at all!
So Madonna couldn’t teach us about sex but that didn’t stop us singing about it! And as I grew up in the 90s, there were a lot of songs with hidden innuendos, others didn’t mince their words – ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ anyone? I was a 12 year old that knew all the words to ‘Come Baby Come’ – remember K7? (videos below to refresh your mind)
Young women’s magazines and ‘Mills and Boon’ books (I’m not sure why but we had several in our book cupboard – so of course I read them) provided an additional layer to my sex knowledge. If anyone wanted to know about ‘burning loins’ or ‘writhing with passion’ then I was your gal.
Because I didn’t know better, I thought I had a well balanced view of sex. In fact, I don’t recall ever looking back thinking that my sex education somewhat lacked.
Until Tuesday Night.
Courtesy of Julia Cameron’s book ‘The Artist’s Way’, I have been going on an artist date – which is a solo date I promise to myself – once a week.
This week I went to an ‘Open-Mic’ night, hosted by Scarlet Ladies*, entitled:
I left my judgement at the door and entered with an open mind, not even trying to anticipate what the night would bring.
The energy that came from the room made me feel calm. The usual: ‘I’m scared, who will I talk to, what will I say’ chatter didn’t occupy my mind. Instead, after the standard “I’m so and so” introductions, the natural progression was to discuss the reason why we were there. The responses below highlight the diversity that was in the room:
I not only felt proud to be in a room full of women from all backgrounds. I also felt pure gratitude that an event like this was in fact possible and fell in love with London that little bit more.
The floor opened, with the question:
“Why do you talk sex and what does it mean to you?”
I sat forward, drinking in every word that came from each and every women’s lips. Confident to ‘just be’ due to the promise that there would be no pressure to speak. I laughed, welled up, nodded in agreement, raised my eyebrows with interest, flushed with comfortable embarrassment and felt so many emotions. I had love for the courageous women who shared their stories, and love for the women listening, respecting, admiring!
About ten women put themselves in the spotlight that evening. Ten very different women – their ages, their backgrounds, their personalities, their stories…..
I can hand on heart confess that the two hours I spent hearing the extremely varied #ITalkSex stories provided the most rewarding sex education I’ve learned in my 36 years on this earth. Strong statement huh?! The reason?
Instead of sitting on the periphery of sex talk, we dived right in: consent, our bodies, the language we use, celibacy, expectations, sexism, education, choices etc. my mind opened as I listened and learned and questioned…..
- Why have I never thought about the words I use?
- Why don’t we talk more like this?
- Why didn’t I know about that?
- Why is sex talk so taboo?
I left the event (after becoming a Member of Scarlet Ladies* – of course) feeling a new type of amazing. Feeling lighter – partly due to the weight and worry of me ‘being single’ shifting. I decided that at this moment in time, online dating is not for me – so I won’t be joining Guardian Soulmates to meet an ‘average mingler‘
I also felt inspired to blog about this to highlight how important I think it is to talk and listen – most importantly listen – about sex. Not just the act of sex but everything that goes with it (as referenced above).
We clearly know it happens. It’s in magazines, newspapers, it’s in songs, on TV and films! And babies! There are so many babies!!
Yet, we still don’t talk about it (person to person). Well not in the way that we could – a way that could make a difference.
To make someone feel less ‘alone’, less like an ‘odd-ball’ – to not feel like the ‘only one‘. To feel strong enough to say ‘That’s not right’, ‘I don’t want that’, ‘This is what I want’ and ‘NO’.
To understand about consent and feel confident to speak about experiences. Take school for example: bra straps twanged, being accidentally
touched groped, being spied on whilst getting dressed in the changing rooms…..ALL which happened to me!
There is so much I could say on this topic, but I will end the post with a quote from a woman admire very much:
“Regardless of who we are, how we were raised or what we believe, all of us fight hidden, silent battles against not being good enough, not having enough and not belonging enough. When we find the courage to share our experiences and the compassion to hear others tell their stories, we force shame out of hiding, and end the silence.”
That right there is what I experienced on Tuesday night and it was beautiful.
p.s. If you’ve liked this or any of my other posts, I would be grateful if you could give them a share.
*Scarlet Ladies is London’s leading community of women committed to opening conversations and breaking down stigma around women’s sexuality. By destigmatising the conversation around female sexuality, we help women grow in confidence, love their bodies and live boldly in all aspects of life, without fear or shame. (words taken from Scarlet Ladies Eventbrite page, here)
**I decided to update some of this post on my lunch, which included the word SEX. Getting back to work, I send my colleague an email with a document to print. Queue squeals of laughter and a shocked “Emma, why does it say sex on this document?”. Testing out fonts I had typed SEX on the document in large bold letters and forgot I had done it before sending her it. We laughed so hard, there was most definitely tears and stomach cramp. Clearly I mean it when I say I want to talk about sex – although I’m not sure how I would have reacted if it was a colleague that didn’t know I blogged about vulnerability!
(Now it’s time to dance……..)