It’s such a pleasure to introduce this week’s guest writer, Petra Pan. We started speaking early on in my blogging days; however, she has been killing it as an adult product/lingerie tester long before the Quean was born. Well, today she brings you the perspective of sexuality from the land of another known Queen – England! As someone who has lived in France, it’s always a treat hearing the diverse attitudes and education of neighbouring cultures.
Growing up in Britain has its ups and its downs. I adore our country in many ways – the diversity of the landscape, our sense of humour, regional dialects and how adventurous we are when it comes to food. Every city these days has a vast array of cuisine on offer to the point where it can take me a while to choose where to eat. Gone are they days when your choice was merely English, Chinese or Indian – now I’m choosing between Turkish, Lebanese or Greek!
But one thing I struggle with is our prudishness. At school, sex eductation started when I was around 13 and was solely focused on heterosexual relations. It wasn’t at all about pleasure, but was focused on ‘the purpose of sex’ – having babies. It also warned about STI’s and how to prevent them so that’s one good thing, but I don’t recall ever being taught about the clitoris, nipples, perinium or any other area that feels pleasurable as those body parts can’t contribute to pregnancy. Gay sex wasn’t touched upon at all, we didn’t look at different body types, so if your anatomy didn’t match the cartoon ones we were shown we would think there was something wrong with us. Consent wasn’t discussed and yet that is a hugely important topic. And there was certainly no mention of sex being natural, normal or fun, it was taught as if it was a means to an end.
This led to total confusion and fear when it came to sex. The internet wasn’t a thing when I was growing up (and I’m not even that old!!), so I had nowhere to go for reference other than my friends, who knew as little as I did. ‘Dirty magazines,’ as they were known then (which is so damaging given then use of the word ‘dirty’ to describe sex and nudity), were on the top shelf of your local newsagents so (a) I couldn’t reach them, and (b) the newsagent knew my dad. So the thought of buying one was terrifying!
Nudity wasn’t seen much either. People didn’t sunbathe topless on the beaches and today that still seems to be the case in most parts of the UK. Whenever I travel abroad I love to be able to sunbathe topless, providing the country is acceptant of such a thing (n.b. Thailand isn’t!). I have to confine my breasts to a bra all bloody year and it’s so liberating to set them free once in a while! I honestly can’t see the big deal with toplessness amongst women. Society has sexualised breasts. Has this contributed to people being embarrassed or even offended when a woman breast feeds her child in public? No wonder a lot of women are uncomfortable doing so, and yet it is the most natural thing to be able to feed your child from your own body. I would never shame anyone for doing so in public and it makes me mad when people do, but is that their fault, or is it down to the way they have been taught?
Changing rooms are the same – when I last went swimming in this country, around a year ago , I stripped off in the changing room and had a shower. But the other women present didn’t, they showered in their swim wear. That’s hardly hygienic and a real faff! I am perfectly comfortable with my body to strip off and shower, I only get uncomfortable when people stare at me for doing so, or seem embarrassed at my nudity. And this is only because being naked isn’t ‘the norm’.
I travel a lot around Europe and I particularly adore Amsterdam. I love that sex shops are in full view on the high street, right next to mainstream shops. It teaches society that sex is normal, natural, and that everybody does it. What impression do we give to our society in Britain when our sex shops aren’t able to display their goods in the window, for fear of offending? Sex shops appear seedy by being located down some steps somewhere with a small sign pointing to a ‘private shop’. It makes you feel dirty or embarrassed to enter.
There is one saving grace – Ann Summers on the high street. Although they have been around for a while we never had one on our high street when I was younger. I remember being in my early twenties and there was a shop in the large town I lived in that, from the outside, looked like a shop selling household bits and bobs. But when you went inside and went up the stairs, they also sold novelty items and sex toys. The only one of its kind, you can imagine how popular it was! People my age in particular used to flock there. Other than that, the only place I ever found to buy sex toys was via a brochure at an Ann Summers party I was lucky enough to be invited to when I was in my twenties. Thank goodness we now have the internet!
TV’s ‘Naked Attraction’ is another saving grace; what a show! They capture a diverse range of people, genders, disabilities, ages, skin colours etc. It shows that everyone is slightly different and that isn’t good or bad – it’s just a thing. I never knew until I was in my thirties that vulvas could look so different! I used to compare mine to those that belonged to porn stars. I also learned about sex primarily from porn, which was hardly beneficial when the porn I used to watch was focused on male pleasure, blow jobs and getting covered in spunk. Oh – and making as much noise as possible to ensure your partner knows you’re enjoying yourself (even though you probably aren’t). What a lot of bad sex and unhelpful thoughts I have had thanks to porn!
I imagine the argument against nudity, sex shops and better, more realistic sex education is that we will be subjecting our children to sex from a young age and therefore encouraging it when we have an age restriction of 16. But do we really want to bring our children up to fear sex, to see it as dirty or seedy? Something not to be discussed, or something that you only do to get pregnant? If I had a choice of my child having happy, consensual and enjoyable sex at 14, or having awkward, uncomfortable sex at 16 that they didn’t enjoy, I know what I would choose. And the fact we didn’t discuss LGBT sex when I was at school is outrageous. Hiding LGBT from sex education is extremely damaging and history has proven that. If you were gay at my school, you were ridiculed and bullied for it. From what I read, I believe things are changing in this respect – finally! But Britain still has a long way to go and a lot more to do.
So, tell me, what was your upbringing around sexuality like both in and outside of the classroom?
Until next time,
Fuck well and educate yo-selves!