It’s a sticky summer day. You’ve just spent your lunchtime chowing down on the $2 saussie roll and a Big M from the canteen, and the bell’s just rung.
It’s time for 5th period. It’s time for this term’s Sexual Education class.
wen u realise maths is cancelled
An enthusiastic woman stands at the front of the class armed with an arsenal of bananas and a bucket brimming with Durex.
She starts by explaining the male and female anatomy, followed by describing the bare mechanics of penis-in-vagina sex. We then move onto condoms, why they’re useful and how to roll one down an unassuming banana.
There’s also a bit-part on dental dams, the hottest safe-sex sheath you have never used.
please help me
She moves onto the slideshow bit, where a breathtaking array of STIs in all of their gloriously forms are projected onto the whiteboard. (No doubt the image of ‘blue waffle’ is still burnt into your brain.)
*clicks fingers* And you’re back in the room.
I’d hazard a guess that this clinical, half-baked attempt at a sexual ‘education’ would sound pretty familiar to a lot of young Australians. Yours probably left you with a fair few unanswered questions.
Like… what does sex look like if you’re attracted to the same sex? How do you tell your parents if you’re questioning your sexual identity? How do you properly and smoothly gain consent from a sexual partner? What is that stray hair doing on my nipple?
Enter Savage Love, Bits and Bods & Inside Out – three corners of the internet where you can find an alternative form of sexual learning and/or healing.
Dan Savage has written a sex-advice column for Seattle‘s ‘The Stranger‘ newspaper for the past 25 years.
carrie is a flailing amateur in comparison
And if you’ve never read it, strap yourself in (to some leather harnessing, preferably).
Each week Dan picks a coupla reader questions to tackle – anything from candida infections of the peen, to clit pain, to transitioning, to cock and ball torture and far, far beyond. His advice is direct and delivered in a no-shit tone that has made him such a sensation. He never marginalises or makes fun of anyone who doesn’t deserve it… And it makes for an addictive read.
Since 2006 he’s had a podcast, too – it’s well worth a listen if you want non-judgemental but hilarious take on all things sex.
BITS AND BODS
Bits and Bods is a fresh new online platform housing articles, interviews and art that aims to start an inclusive conversation about puberty, sex and all the awkward bits in between.
It’s the passion project of four young Melbourne women – writers Natasha Gillezeau (23) and Casey Burchell (26), and photographers Bethan Mooney (23) and Isabella Connelley (22) – and they’re setting out to transform our nation’s sex ed conversations from clinical to real.
They started BB in November after acknowledging that their own sex ed was severely lacking.
“We felt that despite growing up in really open households, [comprehensive sex ed] was really lacking in our lives, particularly during puberty,” explains Natasha. “You might only have sex for reproduction once, twice or three times in your entire life – it’s so strange that this is the focus in schools. [Most] people have sex to feel close, to feel good.”
“We want to position ourselves as a big sister, with peer-based information for young people.”
And as soon as they began to post, they quickly realised the demand for information was strong. “We get so many anonymous questions sent to our blog, like ‘how do I go down on a girl?’ and ‘how do I help my friend with anorexia?’. We want to be emotional, involved and subjective towards our readers – that way they don’t feel alone and they feel like they don’t have to be perfect.”
Some of their most popular pieces have been ‘How do lesbians or bisexual women have sex with each other?‘ and ‘Callum’s top 5 Handy Masturbation Tips‘.
Bits and Bods are also placing a large emphasis on LGBTIQ+ inclusion in their work.
“All the kids who were queer in my school didn’t come out until after school. they didn’t feel safe, they didn’t feel they’d be accepted,” says Natasha. “I went to a high school where queer sex literally wasn’t on the curriculum. That means 10% of the class’ desires aren’t even being talked about… all these layers and layers [of exclusion] cause people to suppress.”
A stand out feature of BB is the beautiful images shot by Bethan and Isabella, they aren’t falsified nor do they objectify the female form:
Bethan Mooney & Isabella Connelley (2016).
Natasha uses a particularly on point metaphor for why continuing to learn about sex is so important. “Sex is like cooking,” she starts. “You don’t expect people to teach themselves to cook from scratch, so why would you with sex? You need to go off and practice, learn your own style. Sex should be taught like a life skill. You should be able to get new recipes from your friends.”
Bits and Bods have been busy working on a web series that will be released on November 1st. You can stay up to date via their Facebook page.
And finally, if you’re looking for education that still has some remnants of the traditional, but without the bigotry and heteronormativity… There’s Inside Out!
A New Zealand government initiative, Inside Out is a set of freely available video-based teaching resources which aim to decrease homophobic and transphobic bullying. You can read more about their values here.
They use a norm-challenging pedagogical approach to cultivate critical thinking, perspective-taking and empathy, three values that are often devoid in traditional sex ed. And they do it damn well.
Photo: Mean Girls.