By Olivia Cassano
Growing up we receive so many problematic messages about sex that it’s no wonder we still consider it such a taboo.
Although I consider myself a very sex-positive person now, it took years to unlearn most of what mainstream society taught me about doing the deed.
There’s a lot to be learned about the nuanced experience of sex and I full-heartedly believe that we can never stop learning.
But here are the things I think everyone, young women especially, should know in order to foster a healthy, fulfilling relationship with sex.
Virginity is a heteronormative myth
Almost everything we know about virginity is either wrong or misogynistic.
First of all, it completely excludes same-sex experiences and focuses only on hetero PIV (penis in vagina) sex, alienating gay sex and turning it into the ‘other’.
If we were to take virginity for how it’s taught, technically gay people are all virgins.
See? It makes no sense.
All sex is sex and, ultimately, it’s up to you to define what constitutes losing your virginity, because it’s nothing more than a concept.
Losing your virginity is also somehow simultaneously romanticised and made out to be this horrific, traumatising, painful milestone.
It’s an oxymoron, but your entry point to sex will most likely be unremarkable.
It doesn’t have to hurt and you might not bleed (I didn’t), because another fallacy is that losing your V-card is all about the hymen breaking.
We’re taught that the hymen is like a fleshy roadblock that needs to be crashed into to officially lose your virgin status, but none of that is true.
The hymen is a thin, perforated membrane most, not all, women have, and it can be torn from pretty much anything, like tampons, masturbation and even some types of sport. It’s not proof of your virginity or lack thereof because, newsflash, women don’t come with a freshness seal.
The first time can be uncomfortable and the pain often associated with it most likely comes from nerves and a lack of lubrication.
Relax, lube up and enjoy (once you’re ready of course).
Had I known this before my first time, I wouldn’t have looked forward to it with such dreaded anticipation.
All sex is sex
As mentioned above, society has a tendency to think of sex as intercourse.
Again, this alienates same-sex experiences and trivialises other sexual activities like oral, anal and masturbation.
This way of thinking is so embedded in how we understand and talk about sex that it took me a while to dismantle this way of thinking, but it’s crucial to abandon this hierarchy.
And – lazy, straight men – foreplay is sex. Stop acting like it’s a nuisance you have to quickly get rid of before sticking your dick in us.
Which brings me to my next point.
Sex is not a race
Orgasms feel incredible and provide a wide range of mental and physical benefits, but, that being said, they’re not the only reason we have sex. Sex should be a whole experience and should be enjoyed even though it doesn’t end in climax, especially since the sad reality is that most hetero women don’t come from intercourse alone. Slow down, savour the experience and stop trying to hit a home run straight away. Masturbating is awesome
Women do it too.
It doesn’t make you desperate.
You shouldn’t feel guilty about it.
It’s healthy. It’s amazing.
DIY sex is more than just satisfaction, it’s an act of self-love that reinforces your own pleasure and agency in sex.
Knowing how to please yourself means knowing what you want out of a sexual experience with a partner, if you wish to have one.
STIs don’t make you dirty
Although I was lucky enough to attend a school that offered a sex ed class, all it consisted of was our teacher showing us a slide show of disease-ridden genitalia.
The aim wasn’t so much to spread awareness but rather disgust us into not having unprotected sex.
It reinforced the stigma that people with STIs are dirty and stupid for catching them in the first place, most likely from having sex with a lot of different people.
Yes, we should teach kids to use a condom and get regularly tested – this advice applies to adults too – but we should also be taught how to talk about STIs without judgement or shame.
The easier it is to talk about them without wanting to recoil, the easier it is to approach the subject with a partner should you find out you caught something.
I didn’t get my first sexual health test until six years after being sexually active because I was terrified of knowing if I had anything.
Now I get a routine check every six months even though I am in a committed relationship, and it’s something I look forward to because it’s a way to make sure I’m being safe and keeping my partner safe too.
STIs aren’t something to be happy about, but they’re also not the end of your sex life.
Literally anything about consent
It’s 2018 and most people still don’t have a clear grasp on consent.
Growing up, I had never even heard of consent, because no one taught me.
Consent isn’t just the absence of a ‘no’, it’s a voluntary, explicit and enthusiastic verbal and non-verbal ‘yes’. It can be withdrawn at any point and consenting to one activity does not mean consenting to any future activities.
Sex without consent is abuse or rape, so it’s probably the first and most important thing we should be learning when it comes to sex.
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