BY Nina Greenhill

If you attended a school in your life, chances are that what was covered in class in sex ed probably wasn’t complete. 

You probably saw an anatomy diagram that was little to no help because you aren’t planning to be a doctor. Aside from that, if you aren’t a doctor and you see a real set of ovaries, chances are something has gone horribly wrong. I don’t think you’ll be standing and pointing at the open abdomen while telling people ‘look, ovaries.'

The most useful thing you probably learnt was how to put on a condom. And TBH, that’s the cornerstone of preventative measures.

We all left school pretty much on the same page: ‘That can’t have been it. I’m wholly underprepared for the sex roulette that will ensue.’

There are a lot more than 5 things you probably missed out on, but here’s a highlight reel of what you should have learnt in Sex Ed.

I’d like to remind everyone that I am not a doctor and I STRONGLY ENCOURAGE you to speak to one regarding anything to do with your private parts.

1.     How to keep everything hygienic ‘down there’

This is an obvious one. The downstairs region is a bit of a sensitive area at the best of times, and at the worst of times, some of us may wish to be rid of it altogether. So, what soap is the type to use to stop the smelliness or to clean out the gunk that accumulates as a result of being a human being? Furthermore, if engaging in pleasurable activities, is lube a hygienic choice, not just a tasty one?

What happens if you start to get an itch in your nether regions? Or a burning sensation? Something out of the ordinary? When you go to the doctor is it a pill, or a topical ointment/salve? What happens?

Some quick answers include:

For those with a vagina: Unperfumed soap - also the vagina also cleans itself. No mess. Lube can also be toxic to the vaginal area and can have long term reproductive side effects so be sure to check the ingredients as well as researching alternatives.

For those with a penis and balls: For cleanliness, unperfumed soap, there are also creams and powders you can use. Lube also has bad side effects for penises including burning and toxicity. All-natural lubes are something to investigate.

For all: STD’s are commonly treated with antibiotics. Don’t forget to take those pills for the entire course of the treatment and inform your partner/s that they may need to do the same. Please see a doctor. Please take an STD test- it’s just peeing in a cup.

2.     The ramifications of a positive pregnancy test

So, you’ve done the dirty. You notice your period is a little late. You don’t panic because stress and your body have been fucking you over your whole life and regular periods aren’t so regular. You just want to be sure that you don’t have a bun in the oven, so you get a pregnancy test. You huddle in the shopping centre stall, peeing the litres of water you downed at home. You set a timer on your phone and wait for the result. You see the solid lines. You’re not late.

Another perspective: You’re waiting for the news. This may not have been planned. You might be excited about the prospect of being a parent, of stepping up to the plate and taking responsibility. This might be your goal in life, it might not be. It may not be your partner's. You both could be paralysed with the thought of having a kid. You might be the furthest from ready as you could be.

But what if you aren’t the one holding the positive test? Your body is not going to be the one directly dealing with this problem. You get the message of the person perhaps crying in the shopping centre stall. It’s positive. One thing is sure. Your life has changed.

Now both parties have a decision to make. One that is pretty much the person’s who peed on the stick, because it’s their body that will potentially be taken over by a tiny puppet master for, not just nine months, but the rest of their life.

I say pretty much because it’s still difficult to get an abortion in some areas.

This is not a whole list of the options, I’d like to make that clear, this is just some of them.

-        Keep the baby. You will become a parent, and raise a child. This could have career implications, even if you don’t see it. You will spend the next few years of your life changing nappies, feeding the baby goop, coping with every ailment and the astounding amount of pressure to be a super mum. You also have the chance to raise a human that will hopefully contribute meaningfully to the world and do things like reduce, reuse, recycle, eat their vegies and pat lots of dogs.

-        Abort the cluster of cells. It doesn’t have a name, fingernails or any life of its own yet. It’s essentially occupying less space than the burrito you ate for lunch and that’s going to be expelled soon anyway. It’s presented as a tough choice, and if you don’t have the financial means, the time or the ability to properly care for the child, this is an option. Babies cost more money than you could originally estimate, as well as sapping you of strength, energy and a life of your own if you are doing it alone. You don’t have to have a child and bringing an unwanted one into the world can end badly for all parties

-        Grow the sprout and give it up for adoption. This will afford the child a chance that you may not be prepared to give, and allow another family to love a child of their own. There are lots of types of adoption where you can remain in contact, or closed off.

A top tip I can recommend is discussing the ‘what if’ scenario with your partner before you have sex. It takes two to tango. If your partner is unwilling to discuss, or uncooperative in this regard, it’s your responsibility to use your judgement over whether you are comfortable with this situation or not. It’s a very real issue that you can face and not one to be pushed aside with a ‘it won’t happen to me.’ Some people practice stealthing, some people poke holes in condoms, sometimes the condom is out of date or breaks. Some people could accidentally miss a day of the pill, some people could take the morning after pill and it still doesn’t work. Any contraceptive implants could have a fault or have stopped working.

I understand that things happen and you may not have the chance to discuss this, whether sex was non-consensual or things escalated quickly. What I can urge you to do is consider your options and if possible, discuss with your partner the ramifications.

3.     Childbirth is not a fun time.

There are SOOOOOOOO many ways it can go wrong and so many things you need to be aware of when growing a human. I probably will have missed some, but that’s because I have flaws and one of them is not being a medical doctor in Obstetrics or Gynecology. This was not covered in my school years and I learnt about things the hard way through family discussion, Call the Midwife, ‘This is Going to Hurt’ by Adam Kay, and my own research.

This process is not like cooking a lamb roast. You don’t throw everything in a tray and cook while hoping for the best. For starters, there’s a long list of foods that the child carrier is not allowed to eat to ensure baby grows properly. This would be my undoing as my diet is 99% soft cheeses and soft cheese is on the list.

Secondly, on the medical side of things, miscarriages are quite serious things on an emotional and physical scale. Hospitalization can be required and that’s not a fun time. There are also gaps in support services and talking to others about the whole ordeal can be difficult.

If you get through the first and second trimester, then there’s still the fact that a baby has to come out of you one way or the other. This is just regarding the baby: it could present in a myriad of ways- premature, cord around neck, cord prolapse, with a developmental issue (which is no one’s fault), stillborn, underdeveloped etc. all of which can pose a risk to the very small life that’s just come out of that tiny hole, or belly that has been cut open and then taken out. The team around you will hopefully be an experienced in-hospital team that can deal with whatever complication happens in the blink of an eye.

On the birth giver’s side, pre-eclampsia is a very serious event that can cause death of both mother and child, not to mention placenta praevia which, if undiagnosed, can pose significant harm. The birth giver’s body gets hijacked for nine months and lots of things affect it. There are previous medical conditions, mental health, situational issues such as living in uninhabitable or abusive households to be considered and stress in general is not good for either party partaking in this evolutionary feat.

Labour can be a damn long ordeal. Not all of us were from start to finish two hours and happy little campers after we were born. Some take days and some come so quick that the birth giver won’t even make it out the door to the hospital.

If the birth giver gets through everything in the nine months leading up to the delivery okay, and has a ‘normal’ labour, there’s still the very real chance that they may need an episiotomy, where the perineum gets an incision so the baby can get out easier. In colloquial terms: The space between your vage and your arsehole gets snipped open cause the baby’s too big to get out. I think I can safely say, not a great feeling, and not one that I’d strive for.

There’s also postpartum depression, which is entirely serious. Some parents feel no connection to their child and end up in a very dark place. It’s a difficult time and can result in a massive gap of connection between the child and birth giver. Help is available. This affects a significant number of people and support is definitely needed.

Pregnancy changes the body more than you could think and, for me at least, knowing all this is definitely an effective method to remember ‘no glove, no love’.

4.     ‘NO PAIN NO GAIN’ is a terrible message.

Pain isn’t normal. It’s the way your body tells you ‘Oi! Stop that. I don’t like it!’

Here’s a quick refresher on what a period is: generally, once a month, those of us with a uterus bleed for 3-7 days. Pain, nausea, and mood changes are common factors throughout it. Uncommon factors are vast and varied. Boomer-led society has drilled it into the brain that these symptoms are to be tolerated and not commented on and not acknowledged because it’s ‘gross and guys don’t want to hear that’. Periods can be early or late depending on levels of stress and weight changes. Some people don’t feel them at all and some feel everything to the extreme. Periods are natural and, in my opinion, very inconvenient, and they affect at least half the population.

Regarding periods, we females are taught from our first one and through our life that pain is expected. Everyone gets it and we should just accept that it’s going to be a crappy time while blood flows.

If you take nothing else away from this: PAIN IS NOT NORMAL AND YOU SHOULD SEE A DOCTOR ABOUT IT. If your doctor doesn’t believe you or fobs you off with a ‘eat some ice cream and you’ll be fine’ GO FIND ANOTHER DOCTOR. Find one until one believes you. Being in so much pain that you can’t stand up or do tasks is not good and you don’t have to feel this way.

If you are on Nurofen and Panadol and still are almost doubled over because the ache from your uterus will not go away, you deserve medical attention. You deserve to live life pain free or as pain free as possible. You could have an underlying chronic condition, or underlying condition in general that can be easily managed if you saw a doctor and got the medication you need. It isn’t a weakness to acknowledge the pain and it isn’t ‘being tough’ to ignore the pain. Ask/demand help and get it.

Sometimes you can’t get out of bed and end up vomiting during your period. Sometimes you just want to curl up in a ball and cry until its all over because that’s the most comfortable position.

Seek medical help. Please.

Regarding sex: Pain isn’t normal here either. There could be STD’s in play that you don’t know are there. The sex could be too rough. There could be trauma or negative feelings towards your partner. If you have a vagina, you could have vaginismus, which affects more people than you think. Penis holders, you could have trauma, growths, stones in your urinary tract etc.

Having too much sex can also make you feel raw and sore. There’s no problem with putting on the brakes for a while and trying out different ways to be close to your partner. Intimacy doesn’t necessarily have to mean sex.

For all issues related to pain with periods, or pain during sex, please see a doctor. They know more about this than I do, and they can also provide help.

5.     There’s no shame in discussing sex and all that it encompasses.

Sex is a space where you should have power. As an adult, no one should be making decisions about your sex life but you. No creepy dad that’s guarding your virginity until you are wed, no mother that reminds you to keep your legs crossed at university and certainly no partner who gives you the ultimatum or makes you feel as though you are doing the do under duress. There are obvious examples in which sex is taken forcefully, but that’s what the criminal justice system is for. Go to the police and see that the offender is put behind bars. The majority of assaults and abuse are not reported, meaning offenders still roam free in society. If your decision was taken from you, you have a right to see justice prevail.

Sex is an area where a lot can go wrong or right. By educating yourself and talking about it, people will feel more comfortable asking questions, recognizing something isn’t normal and fixing the problems they face on a medical, emotional, criminal or sexual level.

Open conversations about this breaks down the hush-hush nature of it and allows for actual education and communication about the entire topic. It’s a normal bodily process and it’s not like its new. Humans have been fucking since we learnt what goes where and what else can go there.

Furthermore, there’s an entire industry built around kinks and accessing those things that get you going (within legal means). Got the hots for a fireman? You can hire a stripper to dress up just like the Rural Fire Service calendar you bought last year. Like handcuffs? They come in fluffy and leopard print. Need company for a night but you don’t have a partner? Feel comfortable with an escort who will treat you right. Want to get adventurous? Try couple’s foreplay and dress up with those risqué costumes you’ve got conveniently stashed. Feeling frisky during COVID but don’t feel comfortable getting it on? Dirty texts are one way to get off.

Discussing your likes, dislikes and fantasies with your partner/s is one way you both can get an insane amount of pleasure from the experience. Orgasm for both/all parties is an attainable goal.

There’s no shame in having sex, managing sex, and taking care of your sexual areas. My viewpoint is that if you take care of your squeezebox or anaconda properly and are free of STD’s, practice safe sex and approach sex with mutual respect, that makes you a very desirable partner. Treat yo partner/s right.

Top Tips:

-        If unsure or in pain, go see a doctor.

-        Open and respectful dialogue with partner/s is important.

-        No glove, no love.

-        It takes two to tango.

-        No shame in kinks or experimenting. Just aim for that orgasm.

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