Sex Education Panel NISF 2021

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Sex Education Panel NISF 2021

Hello and welcome to the sex education panel at the NI Science Festival 2021, my name is Morgyn and I am a digital media intern at this year’s festival and I thought it would be a great idea to put together this event, , because I think for a lot of people sex is a pretty awkward topic to talk about in public, so I thought let’s just get it out there, we’ll get together a team of professionals, who I am joined with here in the studio and virtually as well, so I’m going to pass across to them just to briefly introduce themselves and then we’ll kind of get stuck into the discussion, so Kate if you want to start us off? Hi it’s really nice to be here thank you so much for having me I’m Dr Kate Lister I am a sex historian so I research sexual assault all throughout history but with the big folks from the 19th century and on sex work, I’m the sex worker that’s my sort of specialist area. I also run the twitter and research account Whores of Yore where I tweet all kinds of historical tid-bits and obscenities, and my book Curious History of Sex came out this time last year and then the world went mad but yeah that’s- but it wasn’t the two things weren’t related- but that’s me Thank you, amazing and over to Elaine then Hello thanks for having me, I’m a physiotherapist and I specialise in pelvic health, so tends to be leaky ladies but sexual dysfunctions falls under that umbrella, and so there’s not much about genitals that I am uncomfortable talking about, which embarrasses my children to no end. And I wrote a comedy show called Gusset Grippers, because nobody wants to talk about this stuff so I thought, well if you make it funny maybe that’ll work, and was in Australia this time last year for the comedy festivals where I won the comedy award. In the best timed comedy tour that there’s ever been, because I landed on the day that they got the bushfire sorted out and I left just before lockdown- so go me- there’s comic timing! That’s incredible, that’s pretty good, and then Leo Hi my name is Leo, my pronouns are he/him/his, I am the sexual health development officer at the Rainbow Project which is one of Northern Ireland’s foremost LGBT organisations I provide free condoms and lube, I do rapid HIV and syphilis testing and once upon a time I also taught our LGBT inclusive relationship and sexuality education program Amazing. So as you can see we’ve got quite the team gathered here together today, so I’m just going to start off with a sort of general question that I want to ask to all of you, and that is- what is one thing you wish you had been told in sex ed class or something that you think should be common knowledge but just isn’t? Well I think that we should be taught about clitoris in sex ed, because female sexual pleasure is sort of glossed over and sex in all, if you look at sex ed in any age range it’s sort of reduced to ‘can you get it’ in there’s a lot of assumptions about heteronormativity. And I have a clitoris to show you – look how cool is that? You can get a 3D printer pattern for a clitoris and my friend’s a tech teacher, he does CDT at school and he got his sixth-year students to make me a clitoris isn’t that good! It’s massive thing so maybe we can chat about that later That sounds good yeah, that actually relates to one of the questions we have later so yeah definitely coming back to that. Kate do you have anything? I think that I would uh sort of lead them from what Elaine’s saying, that I want for more emphasis on the pleasure and fun side of it , because it’s , because we feel inherently embarrassed about talking about sex, and how do we talk about sex? Especially when we’re talking to young people our kids. Our reaction to that tends to be to we’ll go super clinical, we’ll go super super clinical so it’s like a sperm meets an ovum they have a few drinks and then a baby’s made, but there’s very little emphasis on things like masturbation or um orgasm or like things that, that feel pleasurable so and I think that’s such a huge part of sex isn’t it? It’s like vast and to sort of gloss over it in favour of biology and spermatozoons, I think yeah we think we’re neglecting something so pleasure would be something that I’d want to talk about Yeah definitely important I think for me, I love that everyone’s gone for pleasure , because that would have been my first answer but I’ll do something different to be special. I think from my experience of teaching relationship and sexuality education to young people in community centres and youth groups something that seems like it probably is on the syllabus but isn’t getting through to the young people is unhealthy relationships, the red flags for unhealthy relationships and I guess broadly as well- consent. So often I mean young people and adults think of abuse as being only when it becomes physical assault and there are so often many, many ways in which you can see

abusive or unhealthy or toxic traits creeping into a relationship before it gets to that point, and so many young people I would have talked to would have actually been in unhealthy or even abusive relationships and just not even recognised it , because they were told that domestic violence is you know being hit and it’s not um manipulating or controlling or being dismissive or gaslighting them. And I think that’s really important that we kind of let young people know that sex is amazing and it’s really pleasurable and really enjoyable and it’s great way to experience intimacy but it can also be um very difficult to navigate especially if your partner is using it against you in some way Yeah totally that’s touches again on what I’m about to ask as well it’s, in a classroom environment it is a very awkward topic to talk about but it’s also a very important topic, um so you know, and it’s taught from a very sort of biological standpoint rather than a mental or emotional capacity, so how important do you think it is to explore these elements when you’re talking about sex education as well? I think, well it’s just a normal adult function isn’t it? So if the purpose of sex ed is is to educate people about what they can reasonably expect from their genitals, why would you be coy about it? it’s no different from teaching them about a good diet or about the importance of exercise or, or any of the other issues that we speak about in school. I think it’s what just occurred to me another thing I’d like to put on the curriculum it might be there already, uh but porn education I’d I’d want to teach, I want , because we have what you know sex and porn and all these things that when we talk about sex education we don’t deal with those things and if we’re not talking to young people about porn and explaining to them that this isn’t actually real sex the people in that film aren’t actually they’re even they’re not having sex like that , because if you panned back you’d see like the director and the guy with the boom mic and people drinking coffee and eating sandwiches and you don’t see the cuts and the edits the takes and the consent agreement that goes on around that, but if we’re not talking to young people about porn, porn is talking to them. And they will grow up thinking that the narratives and the things that they see in there that’s completely normal that’s what is sexy sex, that’s what’s pleasurable. So yeah I would if I was in charge I’d definitely put porn education on the curriculum and and going back to what Elaine’s saying you can’t be quiet about it, we can’t let our own embarrassment stop us having the conversation , because at all we don’t want to talk to kids about porn , because they’re already watching it You know there’s quite a lot of evidence that porn’s doing some um harm there’s harmful effects on young male people that , because they’re watching it from a much younger age and , because of the internet and they’re accessing stuff that wasn’t possible back in the olden days when I was at that stage, there’s a spike in a condition called um ‘hard flaccid syndrome’, which is like a pelvic pain syndrome but the young guys are able to get an erection but they’re not able to ejaculate, and so that’s that’s got huge implications for the mental health and their well-being and their sense of self, and um it’s a thing that was really, really rare. It was really unusual, it was tended to just be seen in older men who had diabetes but we’ve got this massive spike now in young guys and it’s entirely related to their sexual development. They’re getting stimulation from watching something on screen that’s got you know three people in a donkey involved it’s quite hard to replicate that in a real life scenario so they think there’s something wrong with them but it’s treatable we just need them to come to clinic but unless it’s spoken about in school they just think that they’re an inadequate person, it’s awful I mean I think from, I think it’s really interesting thinking about sex education and Northern Ireland I would say, overall Northern Ireland is really uncomfortable with sex. I’d say there’s a select few people who are really positive about it and are willing to share their experiences in a really affirming way but I think we’re doing our young people and even our adults a disservice when we talk about sex education in such a stilted biological and awkward manner, like you are meant to be giving someone confidence and comfort in their own body and if you’re not able to have a little bit of a giggle about it, a little bit of joy, a little bit of a laugh about it you’re kind of passing on to the young people that it’s something awkward that it’s something embarrassing and that means that they’re not able to have conversations about sex, that means everything from not feeling able to talk about consent , because it’s embarrassing, ‘let’s just get it over with’ Not being able to ask about STI status , because that’s shameful, that’s taboo, and even you know not even being able to talk about what you enjoy in bed and what you want to do. And that that impacts people long term like the

not being able to feel intimate with someone, not being able to feel comfortable with someone That is such a disservice. At the end of the day sex isn’t just about recreation and making babies it’s about having fun and having that intimacy as well and I think we’re closing off a huge part of someone’s life when we teach it in such a structured manner and it affects people throughout their life. Like um I would uh test people for HIV and syphilis in my day job and so often it is the first time anyone’s ever talked to them about STIs, about navigating sex about enjoying yourself and finding pleasure and being intimate in a way that speaks to them, and you can see the worries and the fears just melt away from them, and I just think if we got people at a younger age we would be able to have healthier sex life but also just better sex honestly Yeah totally and from um the LGBTQ+ sort of side of things as well sex ed in schools is pretty- pretty much non-existent I assume you agree with that. So could you tell us a bit more about your organisation and what you are doing for the community here in Northern Ireland? Well I think yeah the LGBT sex ed in Northern Ireland is essentially non-existent, um I know that a lot of people will say that LGBT sex education is on the curriculum but I would really challenge that. Most young people that I’ve spoken to. and in fact there was an event with common youth and many of their service users talking about how inadequate sex education was in Northern Ireland, so often they’ll bring an outside facilitator to talk about sex ed and they will bring in their own kind of values and issues around sex, and that’s fine, but you’ve got to understand that not everybody is coming at the idea of sex as something that is only between married people or something only between straight people. And not only is that like just horrible as an LGBT person to not even be mentioned in the curriculum, to not even know that you exist, to not even be a footnote in the in the class, but also it contributes to you know our higher rate of STIs, especially among gay and bisexual men. We’re not really teaching young people how to have safe anal sex, we’re not teaching young people to how to do fisting safely, or how to rim safely, or what STIs are kind of involved with those sex acts, and people get really people clutch their pearls when I talk about this, like ‘you can’t talk about that with children, you can’t talk about that with teenagers, that’s that’s very explicit’. Sex is explicit! I don’t understand where we’ve got this idea that penetration um from a penis to vagina is somehow purer and more innocent and okay to talk about, whereas the types of sex that LGBT people might do are explicit and not worth talking about and taboo. I mean I know that when I was growing up um LGBT people did not come up in sex ed and if they did it was in between talking about drug use and HIV, and it’s always painted in a really negative light and I think a lot of uh gay and bae- gay and bae haha? Gay and bi fellas, that I talked to um would say that it put the fear of god into them, because they thought you know ‘if I have sex I’m going to get HIV and I’m going to die’, and that is not harm reduction that is not useful when LGBT people get this in their head that they’re always at risk, that they’re always in danger, that there’s nothing they can do to stop getting HIV or syphilis or any other STI It doesn’t make them more careful it makes them self-destruct more, it makes them feel that it is just the logical conclusion for their life, like obviously I’m going to get an- I’m going to get an STI obviously I’m going to have some issue with sex growing up- whereas if we were able to talk about it with them we would be able to reduce that harm and also build up their self-esteem and their their own confidence and their ability to say what they want out of sex ,and to talk about consent, and also just to be able to chat with their partners. Um sorry for going on ages as well, but I think as well it’s really important to think about trans people recently, um I mean at the Rainbow Project we would talk to LGBT people of all ages and creeds and religions, um but recently I would say that the vast majority of our phone calls and contact is from transgender young people in school and secondary education. And so often they are not just excluded from sex ed but they’re completely written out of sex ed, how can you give how can you take sex ed that is designed for someone who identifies as female who has certain genitalia and apply that to your life as a trans man with a vagina, or as a trans woman with a penis? And I think it’s just, yeah we need to, we need to get ahead of the times. There are more LGBT young people than ever before, they’re coming out younger and we need to be able to provide the support for them and give them information that’s going to help them out in the long run, so we would offer RSE, which is LGBT inclusive, it’s not just for LGBT people- it is for

everybody. It contains everything you need to know about sex, puberty, consent healthy and unhealthy relationships, porn, which is amazing topic to talk about- and it’s available for free for your clubs and community centres, so please get in touch if you would like that Yeah we’ll put all of the links and um website addresses and all that sort of stuff at the end of the video and in the description below as well so definitely check that out if you would like to. And again circling back to the sort of porn and media side of things um, I think as young people today a lot of our first exposure to sex is through media, whether that is social medias or porn or film and tv, and personally I think we see a lot more sex in tv and film than we’ve ever done before, um do you think that, you know well some… I guess is some of this healthy or is it unhealthy? Is it good that we see sex on tv? Is it making it more more of a conversation or is it projecting unhealthy expectations onto us? You go first Kate Okay um I think that like you should never look at something like sex on tv or porn or anything like that and say that’s categorically good or it’s categorically bad, as with everything it is, it is context specific, it is dependent on a variety of factors. If the only exposure that a young person has had to sex is something they’ve watched on PornHub, that’s not going to be …that isn’t teaching them the right things about sex. What you’ve got to have is the conversations around it and the structures with which to interpret and understand that, so I don’t think that the prevalence of sex in our society is a bad thing, but the fact that we have quite a limited view of what sex is and who is having sex, so we’re still quite heteronormative when we think about sex, but we’re also we only think of really like young people having sex. Old people or elderly people are kind of written out of it, or people with disabilities they’re not in part of this. So it’s the… I think that actually there’s been like really groundbreaking films and tv shows that have changed things like um I’ve been watching It’s a Sin over the weekend, that’s definitely gonna have changed things, but uh when he wrote Queer as Folk that was the series that followed uh young gay men through Manchester, I think he was and that had really graphic sex scenes and it really rocked society and everyone was just like ‘oh my god what’s happening, what’s happening?’ but it forces the narrative, it changes it, it makes people talk about it. So it can be a really positive thing to see sex on tv, to have people talking about it, but it depends on the type of conversations that are going on around it Absolutely it does, yeah I agree completely, um I’m a bit tired of seeing lots and lots of sex that’s um seen through the male gaze. There’s an awful lot of, um, it’s such a narrow viewpoint and it completely misses out female sexual pleasure and there’s often violence associated with it as well which just makes me really uncomfortable , because you know some people, if you’re consenting to experience some pain during a sexual act fair enough, but if there’s no consent I am really concerned that that’s presented as a norm and linking back to what you were saying Leo the sort of lack of pleasure and not heterosexual relationships is also something that annoys me , because we have a lot to learn. The hit rate for orgasm in lesbian couples is, according to research, about 84 percent and in heterosexual relationships the female orgasm that’s a hit rate of about 40 percent, so you know we have stuff that we need to learn from our lesbian sisters! Get on the telly! I think um as well like whenever we talk about porn with our young people and even some of our adults as well, like I would always say you know you don’t look at Die Hard for an accurate description of what it’s like to be a New York cop right? You don’t look you don’t watch Die Hard for realism. That’s the same way with porn, there are actors, there are angles, you know sometimes they’re simulating orgasm, sometimes it’s painful and they don’t show you all the little awkward moments in between, like even if you’re having really enjoyable pleasurable sex there are awkward things that can happen during it. You know people’s, I mean I’m getting on in years, your legs get a bit bummed, you can’t do this position you want to anymore, um you know there’s sometimes noises or bodily fluids or saliva things can get messy, and I think that’s one thing I like to talk about when we’re talking about sex in the media and even porn is this idea that it is the glitzy glamour version of it and that there is the reality which is a bit more uh awkward and difficult, but that’s that’s okay. That’s part of the joy of sex is like getting through that ,that discomfort or like that awkwardness and being able to feel comfortable and not feeling sexy sometimes, um but yeah you’re right you’re absolutely right Kate like no one thing can be perfect or awful and I think it’s really interesting when people say like porn is, you know we shouldn’t talk about porn or porn is disgusting or porn is a problem,

and not to generalise but I know full well that those people also watch porn, so quite a lot of it is this sort of pilgrim notion of like ‘that’s terrible can’t do it’, whilst behind closed doors it’s a completely different story. I think yeah being more open and honest about sex in general and then having that to frame how we view porn would only serve people in the long run Totally, and that leads us very well onto one of the questions that our audience members wrote in They say ‘what is an orgasm supposed to feel like? I heard someone say that they’d never experienced one. She said she heard people describe it as a ‘release’ but she only ever gets it to a point where it feels good and then it feels really good and then it’s like ‘oh was that it?’ It might have been it. Not every orgasm is like it is on the telly. Not every orgasm requires lots of um swear words and and shooting stars, um but sometimes that’s one of the things that we need people to know that some orgasms are really overwhelming and a lot of them are just pretty functional , because you’ve got got the job done, tick that box time to go to sleep And if somebody’s consistently not having an orgasm or if their orgasms aren’t satisfying, then sometimes there’s a reason for that, which is part of what physios are doing and it’s not uncommon, particularly in young female people that have got an overactive pelvic floor where their pelvic floor is not relaxing enough and , because an orgasm is in part a flickering contraction of the muscles of your pelvic floor, so if those muscles aren’t functioning properly it’s going to affect the quality of your orgasm So if it’s a problem come and see a fanny physio I think it’s quite difficult to describe, if you’re asked to describe what it feels like that’s quite difficult , because it’s, it’s like trying to describe what colours you see , because you won’t experience it yourself right? But I think that I wouldn’t worry if you don’t have earth-shattering orgasms, you know like the stars come out and the you know the earth moves And the other thing that I’d say is that we do kind of like the chasing after the orgasm, they’re making the orgasm like the grand finale of sex that we’re all racing towards it- that’s the goal, I think that’s something that can be challenged as well. You can have sex without an orgasm, and you know sometimes removing that from the equation of like, if you don’t have an orgasm if/ I don’t have an orgasm then we failed and this was sh*t We need to stop that , because you can have great sex all around that you don’t, it doesn’t have to be the goal of sex, and I think that we’ve kind of set it up as if it’s not amazing then you failed, but it is all right if you’re not going to come to say ‘I’m not going to come, this has been lovely thank you’. But I think that we put a lot of pressure on it to have this earth-shattering orgasm and I don’t I think that that’s something that we could challenge as well although if you’re consistently not orgasming as Elaine rightly says there may be reasons for that If you’re not orgasming on your own as well you know it’s more complicated if you’re with a partner, but if you if there’s something going on that you’re not managing on your own there’s a very good resource actually online it’s an, an app that you… I don’t even know if that’s the right word… it’s an online resource and it’s called OMG Yes and it’s written by, or produced by women for women, and it shows different women using different techniques that they find helpful to reach orgasm. It’s not designed to be titillating, I’m not saying that people don’t find it a pleasurable experience to watch it but , because it’s written in a way that’s not supposed to be pornographic then it’s it’s actually a lot of people find that very helpful Yeah and I think it’s important that people know that these resources are actually out there as well , because I think a lot of young people, I guess people in general, don’t know that they can look for this stuff online and they don’t know that it is perfectly okay to go to your doctor or to a clinic and just ask questions if you think there is something wrong you know? I think it’s quite important to actually go and and get it checked out if you think that there there is an issue, and this leads on to another question here. Another person wrote ‘I nearly always experience pain on penetration. I’ve had it checked out but nothing seems to be wrong. Is there anything I could be doing to help this?’ Yeah that’s um my bread and butter stuff. It’s a huge problem and um it’s particularly a problem for younger women, but you can get there’s lots and lots of reasons for it and sometimes it’s as simple as something like, you were trying to figure out how to use tampons when you were younger and it was difficult to get the tampon to sit in the right place it felt a bit uncomfortable, and then your vagina gets a bit a bit shy of anything going into it and you can get a bit of spasm, which it can be incredibly uncomfortable and it can stop people from having sex altogether or even from seeking sexual experiences. The vast majority of people that have got pain on penetration respond to treatment and there’s a- if you google sensate focus s-e-n-s-a-t-e -it’s a program of sort of um a progression of trying to get yourself to be able

to relax enough to be able to have um penetration, which aside from if that’s what you’re interested in sexual relationship that it matters if that’s part of the sex play that you want to indulge in, when it comes to your health care it’s quite important that you can have a speculum inserted so that when you’re going for your smear test you’re able to do it, and there’s a lot of women don’t attend for smear tests , because of exactly this problem, and so yeah a lot of the time it’s to do with relaxing. Not using lube as well, lube is your friend and I would love to see that spoken about in sex ed, just slap that stuff on and you can be grateful that somebody once said to you try some lube, um it’ll change your life And if it doesn’t settle down, have a google for sensate focus and if that doesn’t help, then come to clinic, there’s lots and lots of reasons for it, you really don’t need to put up with it And can I chime in , because whenever I read that question I immediately thought of anal but that’s you know, that’s the penetration I’d be thinking of, but I think that’s something that always gets asked to me uh especially by people who want to get involved in anal, they’re like that’s really painful it’s really sore um how do I do it? How do I enjoy it? I think especially for gay and bisexual men there’s a real pressure to enjoy it all and for that to be something that you do regularly during your sexual experience, and I think if you all hit the nail on the head, you know sex is different for different people, not everybody wants to be penetrated whether that’s through the vagina or in the anus and it’s fine to enjoy you know oral, hand stuff, tongue stuff, that’s all good um but yeah lube is absolutely your friend, that is practically my my slogan as well, I say that every day, um silicone lube is amazing, uh just not with toys , because that can cause some issues with the toy getting messed up, but silicone lube is really slick and it goes forever so you don’t have to reapply, but when it comes to things like anal and I imagine as well uh for vaginal penetration, you know try at home with yourself, either with like a dildo or a butt plug, something small, something that you feel comfortable with doing yourself , because I think especially when it’s in the moment with a partner there’s so much anticipation and so much anxiety and stress that you kind of can kind of zip up a little bit and be really tense and nervous which isn’t really helpful for penetration , because you need to relax. So I’d say you know try stuff at home, use butt plugs, use dildos, you know get used to feeling that stretch and that flexibility and definitely lube up yeah I think it’s definitely very important to be comfortable with your own body as well, and that’s all part of this conversation too is feeling comfortable in your own sexuality and in your own skin, but there’s somebody has written here as well ‘Do you have any advice for someone who has a very low sexual desire?’ , because that’s something that’s not talked about either you know, I feel like a lot of people are expected to want sex and to be sexual but what if you’re not? Well I mean I think it’s important to to note straight off that there is, there is a sexual identity if you will, called asexual, which means that you don’t necessarily experience sexual attraction, or sexual interest and that can, that’s like on a spectrum for different people so some people you know are only interested in sex with partners that they’re very very comfortable with, some people are only interested in sex with certain partners and some people just aren’t interested in sex at all, and that is absolutely okay, um I think it’s really difficult especially if you don’t experience sexual attraction or that kind of, that need, that horniness if you will, um but it’s okay to feel that way. Not everybody in the world actually wants to have sex, there’s lots of people who it’s not really on their to-do list, they’re not really interested. It doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you or that you’re broken or wrong or traumatised in some way, you know people are just built different and that doesn’t mean you know that you’re not going to be able to find love or a partner, there are many people who feel the same way or who are willing to work with you and have sex in a way that makes you feel comfortable, so it’s okay if you don’t experience that kind of sexual attraction, that’s all right Yeah it’s a thing that waxes and wanes with different life stages as well, um and different times of the year too, you know if it’s all grey and miserable outside, then there’s lots of people that their mood is affected by the weather, and once the spring comes the sap rises and things get a bit more perky again. And I see quite a lot of older women in clinic that are coming , because of menopause and they find that the libido has been affected by their hormone state too. If you’re female and you’re you’ve got a menstrual cycle, you’re going to be more interested sometimes the month than others , because you’re tat the mercy of your progesterone your oestrogen. And also for some people they find that a change

of partner can help enormously with the amount of libido that they have going on So yeah and I think that I would say as well is just don’t like there’s so much shame around sex and I think there’s a lot of shame as well around not wanting to have sex, is you know that that’s somehow like a failing or something, and one of the most important things that we can do to help our own sex life is to have conversations with ourselves and to like stop performing sex, stop performing sexually you know, that I’m supposed to be horny everyone’s telling me I’m supposed to be horny, that I’m supposed to be a sex kitten. Stop performing. And you know sit with yourself and and assert your boundaries, which I know is like a big buzzword, but it’s really difficult to do, but it’s also really important that if you’re able to say ‘I don’t want to have sex, I’m not in the mood, I’m not feeling it’, or just to be okay with that. I think that that’s really important and you know sex is such a, it can be such a fundamental part of ourselves, so if you’re finding that that you know maybe if you there are some therapists of people that you can go to that could really help with this stuff, if sex has taken a knock , because of something uh going on in in your life but it can also just be you know, sh*t we’re in lockdown , because I don’t, I don’t want to shag anyone, I can’t -everyone stay away! Don’t feel bad about it, don’t beat yourself up- I I think that’s what I would add to that Brilliant and um Kate, I think um a lot of us like to think that we’re a lot more progressive nowadays in terms of talking about sex and sexual acts and things, but I wanted to ask, are we actually any more progressive and um forward or are we just as prudish as our ancestors have been? It’s a difficult question , because attitudes to sex and sexuality shift and move and slip and change all throughout history from culture to culture and from time to time, and the act of sex has remained pretty consistent all that time, but what we’ve deemed is socially acceptable or unacceptable does change, I think if you like if you go back to somewhere like ancient Rome they obviously had a much more open attitude to sex than we do now, and you can see that from the archaeological evidence, like the erotic frescoes that people just had in their houses, so you know you’d be sat there and having dinner in in the dining room there’s just a massive mural of two guys [ __ ] and that’s completely just like yeah whatevs and there’s dicks all over the place on the pavement and on the walls, so they obviously had a vastly different attitude but that doesn’t mean that it was some kind of sexually liberated utopia where everyone’s you know asserting their needs and their boundaries and being respectful and consent is really important, it was a society built on slavery so I think that I probably would say that the most enlightened and sexually progressive time and culture is probably our own. And I say that knowing that we are miles away from from achieving equalities, there’s so so many issues and still around the world today you can be put to death for being gay, but the fact that we can have conversations like this, the fact that uh we have better understandings of biology, and people willing to talk about these things and pleasure, I think that t does mark us out as a very progressive time, which is good even though we can still be a bit sh*t, but yeah I suppose we’ve got to get to take those little victories and run with them Take the victories yeah Yeah we’ll keep going from there, and Elaine, as young people in our sort of teens, 20s, and across all age groups as well, um how important is the pelvic floor? Should we start working on it now? Oh yes please yes if I could get that into the sex ed curriculum I’d be very very happy Yeah if we could have young people leaving education knowing what they can reasonably expect from their genitals and what normal peeing and pooing is then I would be out of the job, and that would suit me. And if we got young people knowing that having a good pelvic floor that contracts properly and relaxes properly enhances their orgasm then, they’re more likely to do their pelvic floor exercises. And we also know the vaginal prolapse when the whole thing’s not supported properly and you can get organs shifting, if you have a good strong pelvic floor that has a preventative effect for prolapse for female people, so it’s really important that we get people doing that before they ever get pregnant, because at the moment the system is set up that you get your pelvic health education and your first antenatal classes with your first pregnancy, which kind of misses out anybody who’s never pregnant, and, so yeah, I would have it started off at school as part of just looking after yourself and an understanding that if you’ve got pain if you’ve got leaking these things are not normal, and there’s help available. And I would do that with the boys as well yeah , because I mentioned earlier that an orgasm is in part a flickering contraction of your pelvic floor and that counts for both sexes, so if a young man is told, or a young male person is told this is going to make your erection stronger for longer, they tend to be interested in that I find, and be much more dedicated to doing the pelvic floor exercises

Brilliant, and what are the pelvic floor exercises, just so that we can all start doing them immediately? I have a model to show you, look Amazing! A little pelvis, it’s a female pelvis, it’s got a big old vulva on it, and so your pelvic floor muscles all that they’re doing is filling in the hole in your pelvis to stop you know your liver from falling out, that’s their job, and when they’re working they create a squeeze and a lift, so you know if you are, you’ve got a really big fart brewing and you know it’s going to be nasty , because you had a kebab in the way home last night and it’s going to be horrible, you’re not going to want to let this out, so that action that you do to hold the fart in where you squeeze your bum hole tight shut and you’ll feel it lift up a bit- that’s you working your pelvic floor So you want -to do that a squeeze and a lift but keep breathing at the same time, and hold that bum hole shut for a count of 10 seconds, and then let it go. And then you do 10 quick flicks in a row, like that, so you’re going to squeeze and lift and then relax, squeeze and lift and relax, and the reason for that is, because your pelvic floor needs to be able to squeeze and lift to support the neck of your bladder when you’re running or exercising or sneezing and coughing but it also has to coordinate itself so that it’s doing those things at the right time, and it has to be able to let go and non-relaxing pelvic floor is far more likely to cause pelvic pain and sexual dysfunctions, like pain and penetration or problems with erections, if it doesn’t get better you do those exercises three times a day every day for about three months, and if it doesn’t get better come to clinic , because there’s loads and loads we can do. You don’t need to put up with it I first met Elaine at a talk on valentine’s day a couple of years ago, but ever since then I’ve done my pelvic floor exercises every day. I have a vagina like a bulldog clip now so thank you I can tell you I will be starting to do that as well honestly , because you just it’s one of these things that you don’t know, I was never told that in in class or in in life, you know it’s just you meet someone and they’re like, you know, ‘are you doing your pelvic floor exercises’ and you’re like ‘uh should I be?’ and they’re like ‘yes, yes! Please do.’ Totally, well I’ve thought we’ve, we’ve got, like a world where it kind of it normalises urinary incontinence, it’s it’s one of my absolute bug bears is all the adverts about having incontinence pads in your knickers when you go to the gym or it’s completely normal , because these ones are pink and they look nice and blah blah, you don’t have to put up with it! You don’t! It’s …yeah sorry, I went off on one then, but yeah sister preach it Another thing that I think for me, was one of the things that I definitely wanted to have been told in sex ed class, but wasn’t, and it was just we were sitting in an art study um in between classes and one girl says that she has a really bad urinary tract infection, and one of the other girls says well do you pee after sex? And she went ‘no why? And she was ‘You have to pee after sex!’ Could you maybe talk talk about that wee bit? Yeah so that’s , because um in female people the bum hole is awfully close to your urethra where your pee hole is, so you’ve got your anus, vagina and then urethra , because there’s not a lot of space between them, if there’s any sort of shenanigans going on, bacteria can get moved up and can travel up into urethra which causes urinary tract infections So she’s absolutely right, peeing after sex is really important and particularly if as you get older , because when women as we age and start to become premenopausal and menopausal, you start to lose your oestrogen levels, so the tissues become much drier and thinner so you’re far more prone to getting urinary tract infections. And that’s also true of people that are transgender or non-binary that are taking testosterone , because it also has a thinning effect on on the genitals, so it’s really makes a big difference if you can just get up and have a pee , because it just flushes all the bacteria out and reduces the prevalence of infections Yeah and I suppose just in general, being sanitary after sex is, again not something you ever really see in uh media, you know, you have everyone has a great time and then they just you know they roll over and they fall asleep, or you know, that’s kind of it. It’s sort of romanticised, like the after period – you never see the cleaning up I don’t think anyway, and I think that’s again something that you know kind of needs to be talked about as well, it’s not, it doesn’t just end with the act there is an afterwards you know, do you I mean? I was, I know Kate mentioned uh It’s a Sin which I haven’t finished yet , because I’m terrible at my job Oh I won’t spoil it for you, oh I cried, oh it’s so good I watched the first episode, one of my absolute favourite scenes was when um Ollie Murr’s character goes to have sex for the first time with another lad, the guy looks at him, gets him all

undressed and goes ‘you need a shower’, pointing at his his butt. And I think that was really funny, and just um so really true, and realistic, like that’s another thing you don’t get taught really is how to clean yourself And particularly for people who maybe really do want to do anal sex , you’re not really told how you’re meant to clean your anus before you start, or any of those things you just pick it up from other people or someone will kind of correct you along the way And I think um I think it would be good for us to know that sort of stuff as well and it’s not just for for gay or bisexual people, like you know everybody loves anal, that’s Everybody Loves Raymond, but everyone loves anal instead. Everyone enjoys you know whether they’re they’re cis, or gay, or whatever, um and I think we are doing a disservice when we don’t tell people how to have that like hygiene moment um , because you know I think we’re also we’re, we were so reluctant to talk about normal body functions if they don’t serve some kind of biological purpose. We’re fine with talking about sex when it involves making babies, but everything else is explicit and off the table and not necessary. And I think it just makes people ashamed of their own bodies, like I’ve heard people say oh when I have anal sex you know stuff is dirty when it comes out and I you know I felt so ashamed and so embarrassed, and now I you know clean myself like crazy, um and I think you know it’s good to know that you know bodily fluids happen Sex can be messy from time to time you know we all we all do it no one has a perfect butt so I think it’s just good sometimes, to know those things and to not feel like there’s something inherently wrong with your body and how to look after it , because you know it’s normal and okay Totally um and coming back to sort of the start of the talk, um you could bring back like the model of the clitoris , because somebody has asked ‘what is the clitoris? Where is it? What does it do?’ It’s clear evidence that there is a female deity that’s what I reckon it is. I’ll talk about the physical bit and then you tell about the history stuff Kate , because in her book there’s a very good chapter, an entire chapter, which is really useful. So the problem with clitorises is that they’ve not really been investigated from a medical approach. It wasn’t until 1996 that anybody looked at the clitoris in an MRI scanner- go figure. And what they found was that it’s a big, big structure, so there’s a little bobbly bit that you’re kind of familiar with, you know the small area, but underneath it’s got this great big carry on with these legs that go down to, go down around the labia and then to go around the vagina. So whatever’s in the vagina is basically getting a wee hug from your clitoris, which is very female, and so they think that perhaps the g-spot isn’t technically a you know, it’s a different type of anatomy from anything else that you’ve got on your chuff, so if you’ve got a friend that’s been trying to find your g-spot for 30 years you can probably call off the search , because probably what’s happening is just that whatever is in your vagina is is getting stimulating your clitoris from the inside up the way and um rather than somebody doing some fancy manoeuvre on you to try and find it, it’s a much more interesting structure than porn or classical literature or um art would have you believe , because it just doesn’t feature it’s a really fascinating new structure Yeah and the the history of it is, it’s quite a dark history really, it’s um it’s and quite troubling, like from the earliest written records that we’ve got of the clitoris go back to um the ancient Egyptians, they’re talking about clitorectomies, they’re talking about cutting out the clitoris to reduce women’s libido basically, and this uh genital mutilation and clitorectomy they were still being performed up until the 19th century in the UK, this idea that um an oversized or overlapped, or um excessive clitoris would cause lesbianism was that was the fear. Often , because they kept it was often likened to a mini penis, and thought to be responsible for making women more masculine and aggressive in their sexual desires, so they would become over sexed it might encourage lesbianism and all these kind of strange ideas have been swirling around it for centuries And the net result of that is like clitorectomies being performed, lots of shame, lots of uh weird medical texts arguing about that. There’s one medical text in the 17th century where this doctor is swearing down he’s operated on a woman whose clitoris is as long as a goose’s neck, like that just didn’t happen, I don’t know, I just I don’t know what he was doing But they, even when we get into the 20th century,

Freud and his buddies come along and although they’re not cutting out clitoris anymore, they start, they set up this debate between vaginal orgasms and clitoral orgasms arguing that the only one that is appropriate and acceptable and mature was the word used is a vaginal orgasm, and they completely demonise and shame the clitoral orgasm, and that’s set up like so many different sexologists and people and women feeling horribly ashamed , because they can only come, they can’t come through penetrative sex and then as Elaine rightly points out the whole thing was utterly ridiculous anyway , because the vaginal orgasm is a clitoral orgasm. So it’s it’s a really checkered and troubled history of just a sexual pleasure, denying sexual pleasure Yeah that’s something really interesting as well, like you mentioning like clitorectomies and stuff , because people often think that you know that kind of genital mutilation doesn’t happen in the 21st century, but yeah, exactly but it still does, especially to intersex people So if you’re not aware and you’re watching this, an intersex person is someone who has mixed sex characteristics so that could be a slightly larger clitoris, or a slightly larger slightly smaller penis, they could have internal testes, or differences in their chromosomes or DNA and oftentimes there’s really no, there’s really no reason to, but a lot of health practitioners will pressure parents and carers of that intersex infant to undergo kind of cosmetic surgery on their genitalia, both as like to normalise them to like make them fit into the two wee tiny boxes of male and female, um but also , because they’ll make up things about it having like long-term health impacts such as cancer, which isn’t always um evidenced and correct. And I think it’s just really interesting that stuff still continues today, and that we so rarely, we still rarely talk about it and it’s so interesting in regards to the kind of rhetoric or anti-trans, uh anti-trans rhetoric we have at the moment where people are really distressed and concerned about young people um altering their genitalia, which they can’t do before they’re 18. Yet we are absolutely okay with doing it to intersex infants who are absolutely too young to consent just , because their genitalia is slightly different than other people’s, even though you’re just as likely to be born intersex as you are to be born a natural redhead, and we we don’t get rid of redheads – unless by bullying- I think so it’s just it’s interesting , because people think this stuff is so in the past and gone, but it is still happening today ,and um yeah it’s really interesting stuff I don’t think that there’s surgery done now on infants that are born with identifiable intersex disorders in the UK now, so that um I agree that it’ll still happen in some places but we do know more about it, and often with intersex disorders of sexual development they’re not apparent until puberty as well, so often the the external genitalia look just exactly like anybody else’s, it can take a while for these things to become apparent often in female people it’s , because they don’t menstruate and it’s not until they’re sort of 15 16 that it’s picked up at all Yeah and I just quickly I don’t mean to like- I would challenge you on using the term ‘female people’ just , because um as a trans man myself I don’t really like being- like I understand that a vagina for most people is is a female body part and I understand that that is the norm for most people but generally the terms we use now is like ‘people with vagina’ or ‘people with penises’ , because that’s gender neutral and includes everybody, whether they are a trans woman who’s had lower surgery um a trans man who hasn’t had surgery or just you know a cis woman um , because that sort of stuff like that language is really important for people, especially when you are teaching sex ed to young people , because you know if a trans person is in your class very often those words could cause them to have their gender dysphoria triggered make them kind of disconnect from the class and not be able to pay attention to the great information that’s been given to them Okay but in the context I’m talking about if you’re talking about intersex disorders, people who are intersex do have the sex they are either male or female, they have a disorder of that development – so I take your point about in a sex ed context, but for that population then they are the narrative that’s coming from that community is that they are you know they’re not a third sex, yeah they’re either male or female Yeah I guess it’s uh there’s like female or male dominant with intersex and that’s I suppose slightly different, but just generally if, it’s a good thing for uh practitioners watching at home just to think if you’re gonna say female that doesn’t always mean someone with a vagina if you say some male that doesn’t always mean someone with a penis, and it’s only it’s a small thing you can do to just make people feel more more included and they’re you may not think that there are trans people in your class or in your in your school but trust me there are, there are Yeah totally, um so I guess we’re kind of coming to the end of the questions that I

have lined up but if any of you have anything else that you wish to add anything you think that is important or that we’ve missed over please do, you know just anything anyone has I would just say that if something doesn’t feel right and it’s not working for you properly, then go and speak to your GP, because you don’t need to put up with it, there’s lots lots of things that we can do to help Brilliant I suppose I would, yep, I would echo that and I would say um you know learn about your your body, learn about the history as well, the history frames everything it provides context, absolutely everything we only understand, where we are now from where we’ve come from, so I would, yeah I’m really all for that I think that knowing the history will really help us move forward to where we want to be And I would just say that if you are someone who is teaching sex ed or you’re a teacher professional who is involved with young people or adults and you feel ill-equipped to talk about sex ed especially LGBT sex ed please contact the Rainbow Project we can do sexual orientation and gender identity awareness training which is really eye-opening um unless you know about the kind of inequalities that we expect we experience to this day, and as well if you are someone who works youth club or community centre please contact us for LGBT inclusive RSE for completely free, it is an amazing program and the young people really benefit so please give us a shout Amazing. So yeah, thank you all for joining me I think this has been really successful and very happy to have been able to have such a candid and open conversation, and hopefully we’ll be able to continue this on further in all of our different communities. So as I said earlier we will be putting up the links and all of the websites and things that everyone has mentioned here in this talk, I’ll put them in the description below the video, so if anybody feels like they need to reach out or they want to do any more research or look into things -please follow those links and as we’ve said if you have any serious problems or you think anything’s wrong please do contact your GP, it is what they’re there for. So thank you all for joining me, and I hope that all of you audience members have enjoyed, and thank you for sending in questions and stay tuned for more with the NI Science Festival this year! Thank you!