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What Young People Really Think About Sex...

What Young People Really Think About Sex...

Alexa, play Greatest Love of All by Whitney Houston. Yes, we believe the children are the future - and that means making sure they’re equipped for a healthy, happy sex life.

For almost as long as HANX has been a thing, we’ve been working with the incredible School of Sexuality Education, who deliver age-appropriate, inclusive, trauma-informed relationships and sex education programmes in schools. We’re proud to donate samples of our Condoms and Lubricant for their workshops and are constantly impressed by their dedication to challenging misinformation and helping young people feel comfortable to ask questions, learn the facts and challenge taboos. So much so, their Instagram account was actually deactivated last year for ‘sexually suggestive content’. Thankfully, they’re back up and running - but it’s an indication of the censorship of sex-positive, no beating around the bush content (sorry) on the platform, versus sexually explicit and plain old misinformed ‘advice’ that goes regularly viral.

This Sexual Health Awareness Week, we wanted a real insight into the next generation’s views on sex. Over to School of Sexuality Education, who shared a deep dive into the biggest misconceptions that pop up in their sessions with teenagers...

  • There’s a good/bad or right/wrong way to do sex (which is the same for everyone).
  • Using tampons is dangerous and / or painful
  • The hymen will 'break' when you have penetrative vaginal sex for the first time / that your body physically changes
  • The pull out method is a decent form of contraception 
  • The vulva has one hole
  • People with penises have a higher sex drive than people with vulvas
  • People with vulvas don’t masturbate
  • Any sexuality which doesn’t centre around cisnormative, heteronormative or monogamous relationships is abnormal - and also new. 
  • Getting pregnant, using emergency contraception and abortion are a shameful things. A real Catch 22! 

Our Takeaways:

  • First up: we really need to demystify the vagina. Check out the School of Sexuality Education’s Youth Advisory Panel’s excellent guide for teenagers - and adults alike.
  • We need to challenge the concept that people with vulvas don’t have as high as sex drive as those with penises. The dominant cultural (and sometimes medical) narrative follows that women and those with vulvas have a lower libido than those with penises, and this harmful myth can leave many feeling abnormal if they do have a high sex drive, or consigned to a passive role in sex if they do not. 
  • Masturbation isn’t just for people with penises: a recent study by Womanizer revealed that 87% of people in the UK were not educated about either male or female masturbation in sex education classes, and four in 10 (39%) said they believe masturbation is more accepted amongst men. (Note: this study doesn’t acknowledge more than two genders). Wanking, tossing off, cracking one out: whatever you call it, we all do it - and it’s important to emphasise this.
  • Standard sex education isn’t inclusive - we need - and history, too! English Heritage has a broad array of information about LGBTQ+ figures whose lives were hidden from standard view. From Romans priests with ambiguous gender identities to early 20th century women who subverted gender norms, there is a rich history to be explored. LGBTQ+ experiences aren’t new.
  • Shame needs to be given the shove. The more contraception is stigmatised, the more likely young people are to fall pregnant - and feel stigmatised for accessing the morning after pill or abortion. We believe in no blushes: no topic should be off limit because it feels embarrassing to discuss. School of Sex Ed champions empowerment instead of shame - here's how

School of Sexuality Education

The Down Low on Condoms

Given our nickname in certain circles is “those condom girls”, we definitely wanted to hear how young people view condoms… and the results are shocking too:

  • You can only access them when 16+ 
  • You have to pay for them 
  • They're like 99.9% effective / the most effective form of contraception
  • Surprised when we say they expire

Our takeaways:

  • Although the age of consent in the UK is 16, you can access condoms below the age of 16. The excellent charity Brook offers free and confidential contraception services for people under 25, and look out for local services such as Step Forward, which is also free, confidential and for people aged from 11-25 in Tower Hamlets, East London. Due to COVID precautions, some services are now available via phone or video calls rather than in-person.
  • You don’t need to pay for condoms! Yes, we might be a condom business, but we’re big believers in championing access to contraception, which is why we donate supplies of our vegan, ultra-thin Condoms and Lubricant to School of Sexuality Education (and more).
  • We need to reinforce that no contraceptive is 100% reliable. Condoms are actually 98% effective with perfect use - we need to emphasise that user failure is a big reason for unplanned pregnancies (and contracting STIs). Here’s the HANX guide to putting on a condom properly.
  • Yes, condoms do expire! This isn’t just a lesson for the youngsters (see Bridget Jones’s Baby) - make sure to check the expiry date on the box or foil wrapper of your condom before getting down to it. 

The Future of Sex Education

So what does this mean for the future generation’s perspective on sex? Even with inclusive, boundary breaking TV such as Sex Education and education providers starting to work with external experts to offer a more rounded sex ed, there’s work to be done. Becky Lund-Harket, Head of Public Engagement at School of Sexuality Education says:

“Many of the misconceptions we hear in the classroom stem from how talking about bodies in general and sex in particular is still taboo in our culture. Young people are eager for straight forward, non-judgement information about sex, bodies and relationships. So much learning and unlearning is possible when that curiosity is met with openness."

Have a teenager at home? Are you looking for a young people friendly guide to getting it on - with all the nuance? School of Sexuality Education’s new book, ‘Sex Ed: An Inclusive Teenage Guide to Sex and Relationship’ is officially out on 16th September 2021 and available to pre-order now. Sex Ed is a positive, practical and empowering guide for teenagers, tackling sex and relationships in an inclusive and non-judgemental way - created by the winners of the Pamela Sheridan Award for Innovation and Good Practice in RSE. Get reading, HANX gang!

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