Raise your hand if you've ever convinced yourself you were dying only to discover you had a UTI, thrush or some other absolutely run of the mill ailment? At age 15 I ran crying to my mother, 100% convinced I had some form of vaginal cancer which turned out to be an ingrown hair. So much worrying and lost sleep over a hair that lost its way to the surface?
Looking back I place the blame squarely on my education, or lack thereof, on personal and sexual health so that's what's up for discussion today.
Sex ed in secondary school for me was a brief run down through the stages of puberty, the biology of how a baby is made and some scary facts about contraception & STI's. The main aim of this chat seemed to have been the typically Catholic; 'sex is bad, don't ever do it or you'll contract AID's or get pregnant and die of the shame.' To be fair, I went to an all girls mercy convent so what else could I have expected? The idea of an adequate and comprehensive education on sexual health would probably make the school board shit themselves. God forbid we arm teenagers with such knowledge!
This post is essentially going to be a compilation of the things I've learned about my body (and just human bodies in general), mostly in terms of sexual health veering a bit into personal health. All the things I wish they'd taught me in school instead of making me learn the hard way that thrush is in fact, not fatal.
I'm gonna try sub-divide things as much as I can but there's loads of over lap with these things so bear with me* while I try get a handle on this!
Give them a little bit of credit. How can you expect boys to mature at any rate at all if we perpetuate this bullshit? What about the boys who don't identify as male? I won't go too deep into this because frankly I don't feel well enough equipped but let's just all agree that the majority of transgender people know from a young age what gender they identify as so I can only imagine the distress this segregation of sexes would put some children through.
Boys need to know about periods too. They'll have loved ones who get periods so why not educate them so it becomes a normal fact of life for them too? Just because it's not happening in their bodies doesn't mean they shouldn't be taught about it. Personally I've never photosynthesised but they made me learn about that shit so why not let boys in on periods? Some of those boys will go on to be parents and there's nothing worse than a dad who's terrified of that time of month.
Same goes for girls learning about what happens to boys during puberty. No need for the hush hush attitude, just lay it all out on the table in terms that an 11 year old will understand et voila, job done.
Any tittering down the back of the class? Tell that kid to shut the fuck up and cop on. Sorted.
Hello darkness my old friend.
I genuinely thought I was on deaths door the first time I had thrush. It was another case of running crying to Mammy & having to book a doctors appointment. I was terrified so I delayed asking about it and it got really bad before I made it to the doctor and I had to get the antibiotics to make it go away. (Sidenote: I am NOT a fan of the speculum. No thanks. Not today Satan. G'way from me.)
Anyway, main point is; thrush is so normal but do they tell you that in school? No. Is that included in any of your sex ed lessons in SPHE? No. Should it be? Obviously.
You feel so gross the first time you get it. You're there thinking; 'shit, do I not shower often enough? How did this happen exactly?' Honey, you did absolutely nothing wrong. Not even close. Vaginas are magical areas that, like every other part of our body, have loads of harmless bacteria. Bacteria that's just doing it's thing, keeping everything healthy & clean. Sometimes there's a spike in population of a particular bacteria (candida) and that's what causes thrush. No correlation to cleanliness, promiscuity or any of that.
On that note, I'd also like to add that 'feminine hygiene' products are bad. So bad. The worst. Actual Satan. Vaginas aren't supposed to smell like flowers so fuck off with your 'feminine douches' and special fucking shower gel. If you use these products STOP. They are so, so bad for your lil lady garden. Vaginas are self cleaning so you don't need any of that stuff I promise you. This is another wonderful example of how the education system fails us all, no one tells you that your vagina just does it's own thing and it's perfectly happy doing so. Just let it be alright?
Perfect segway into this topic, discharge. No one tells you that you it's normal. No one tells you that it's just your body cleaning itself. If your underwear is clean at the end of the day then go visit your GP because that is not healthy my friend.
Typing that made me shudder. I hate UTI's more than anything, they're the fucking worst.
Again, just some bacteria was doing it's thing but then uh-oh, it goes up your urethra (or peehole, if you will) and makes a bit of a fuss and it stings when you wee. There's also just a lot of discomfort, pain & if left unattended you could get a kidney infection so sort that shit out pals.
Did they tell us about this in school? Fuck no.
Ok so seeing as I went to a Catholic convent for secondary school, there was never going to be an emphasis on sexuality but there should have been. Would I have figured my shit out a lot sooner had I known more about sexuality and the fact that it's A-ok to not be heterosexual? Maybe.
Education should be inclusive so sexuality should be covered insofar as teaching young people about the the vast spectrum of sexual preference. Teach them about the Kinsey scale and how pretty much no one is 100% gay or straight. Save a lot of children an awful lot of emotional turmoil and upset by showing them from the offset that it's perfectly ok to be attracted to whoever you're attracted to. Preach equality and love.
Sexuality should also come into sex ed in terms of teaching everyone how to practise safe sex with a partner of the opposite sex or a partner of the same sex. It shouldn't just be about heterosexual sex.
Also tying into this topic; gender. It should also be taught that not everyone's physical gender matches up with the gender they identify as and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. No one should be alienated for their gender preference or sexuality and how do we breakdown stereotypes, minimise exclusion & misinformation? Education. Everyone deserves to be represented in mainstream sex ed.
This is a big one. Colossal.
Please, please, please take the following points into consideration when you're thinking about consent;
- No means no. There's no reading between the lines. No wiggle room. Not open to interpretation. It is what it is and if you hear your partner say 'no' then you back the fuck off. I don't care if you're just holding hands or if you're in the middle of actually having sex. Back off.
- Rape can happen to anyone so stop with the female focused rhetoric because it's not exclusive and it's bullshit. It happens to men too.
- I don't give a flying fuck what that person was wearing, what conversations have happened in the past, what kind of photos they've sent you, whether or not you've already slept with them. If they don't want to sleep with you, accept it and walk away. Do not harass them. Do not spread rumours. Do not call them a 'prude'. Do not force yourself on them. Walk the fuck away and get your kicks elsewhere.
- If your mates are harassing someone step up and tell them to cop on. Even if you're not partaking in the slagging, you're just as bad as they are for not telling them to shut the fuck up.
If you see something shady then step in and sort it out. Don't be a bystander while someone is being degraded or hurt or if their life is being ruined by some dickhead. Don't be that person.
Little bit more light hearted for the end. I distinctly remember my 'best friends' taking the piss out of me in first or second year for not knowing that I was supposed to shave my pubic hair off. (I hadn't even been kissed at this stage nor had I started shaving my legs so I couldn't have given less of a fuck about pubes to be perfectly honest).
I thought pubes were a sign of being a woman and being all grown up so I was pretty disheartened to hear that they're actually 'gross' and 'unhygienic'.
Anyway, main point here is that pubes are normal, natural & definitely not unhygienic. They're all yours to do with what you wish. I can guarantee no sexual partner worth your time is going to complain about your pubes or lack thereof. (If they do then I'm sorry to say that you're probably about to ride a 12 year old so step away.)
Pro tip; if you do choose to shave, use baby oil afterwards to stop the regrowth from being really prickly & uncomfortable.
Ingrown hairs are also common and if you're as unlucky as me, they could embed themselves deep enough that they wrap around the nerve and cause an abscess (which is the most painful thing I've ever experienced, -35/10, would not inflict on worst enemy). Best way of avoiding these? Going commando. Feels weird at first but then you grow to kind of like it? Just go commando at bed time and you'll see a dramatic drop in the amount of ingrown hairs, it's amazing!
I think I've covered just about everything I can think of for now but I'm open to edits if anyone has anything they'd like to correct or add! Comment below or drop me a line on Facebook bb's :*
*I've always been confused as to whether is 'bear' or 'bare' and I generally lean towards 'bare with me' but I googled it and I've been so, so wrong. 'Bare with me' is apparently an invitation to nudity so I'd be asking you all to undress. I apologise sincerely if I've ever inadvertently told you to get your kit off.