As a young woman when it came to sex, I was clueless. So were my friends. Sexual pleasure and exploration for girls was taboo.
Our sex ed sucked, some of us had strict upbringings, and on top of it all, growing up as women we felt a lot of pressure to act reserved and embarrassed towards sex. Because of the shame and stigma around women and sex, it took me longer to find out how much fun fucking was, and how okay it was to explore sex, sexualities and a range of sexual activity.
While the boys at school were praised for having sex, the girls were supposed to be in the dark about it. Being sexually active wasn’t really a thing for girls. Conversations about sex wasn’t about the fun of it. It was about protecting yourself so when you had it, you didn’t get yourself pregnant.
I still think that today, many young women don’t and won’t openly explore all kinds of sex due to the fear of being judged, shamed or stigmatised.
I went out into my early sex life knowing close-to-nothing about enjoying and exploring sex. Now I know, it’s a lot of fun! Here’s five things about sex I wish I’d known when I was younger:
1. Your voice is important.
I’ve learnt communication with my partner/s about the sex I want is key. If I want to enjoy sex to its fullest, I can’t expect my partner to be a mind reader. I wish I spoke up a lot more when it came to sex when I was younger, especially about the hard questions like current sexually transmitted infection (STI) and HIV tests/status as well as voicing my wants, needs and boundaries.
I wish I knew I could be in complete control when it came to having sex. Being pressured to do anything you don’t want to do or are not completely comfortable with, is not okay. It’s also okay to change your mind at any stage in any sexual situation you are in. If you’re not feeling into it, you don’t have to go along with having sex just to please someone else. I wish I’d learnt earlier to prioritise what I wanted and needed in bed. Today, I make sure I tell my partner/s what my likes and dislikes are as well as what are my boundaries. My needs are just as important as theirs.
2. There’s no shame in enjoying sex.
I’ve learnt, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying sex, whether that be lots of it or even with yourself. When I was younger there were almost no examples of how sex can be and feel for women. Instead I believed that women don’t or can’t enjoy sex as much as men. I heard all the time, girls don’t fuck lots of people, girls don’t masturbate, girls don’t carry condoms or girls who do are slutty. Some of my girlfriends did get pregnant, but I also heard bullshit like, getting pregnant was all her fault and lastly, I heard that girls definitely don’t get STIs. This was all so wrong.
Today I know sex is normal, exciting and great. I am more empowered by sex-positivity and know there’s no place for shame and embarrassment towards sex.
3. It’s OK to explore.
Curiosity is normal. Exploring what you’re into is important for a full enjoyable sexual life. Whether that means exploring with yourself, one-person, multiple people, opposite sex, same sex or whatever. I’ve learnt there’s no shame with exploring sex and sexuality. It’s also okay to not enjoy sex or go through phases where you just don’t want to have sex.
Today I know women can enjoy things like porn, sex work, masturbation, hook-ups and one-night stands, sex toys, fetishes and kink etc.
4. Safe sex isn’t just about not getting pregnant.
While we’re taught in school about how to avoid getting pregnant, I wish I had also known more about STIs. I’ve learnt about the importance of testing for STIs, what they are, how they’re shared, and how to treat them. STIs can be anything from crabs to HIV.
The first time I went into my GP to ask for the pill, I felt so embarrassed, nervous and uncomfortable. He was an older male and I felt like I was doing something wrong, or something I wasn’t supposed to be. When he took my blood pressure he asked me if I was feeling okay, because my heart was beating so fast. I wish I’d known about sexual health clinics and where to find them, especially ones targeted at young people or super-friendly LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, queer/questioning) focused ones. These clinics are not only free, comfortable and approachable, you don’t need a Medicare card or even need to use your real name. They aren’t going to tell your parents or judge you.
Looking for a sexual health clinic in NSW? You can find a list here.
Want trustworthy info on STIs? You can find a good resource here.
Or you can call the Sexual Health Infolink for free on 1800 451 624 and they’ll answer all your questions anonymously
5. Stay in charge of your sex life
I wish I hadn’t worried so much about comparing myself to others and what they are doing, especially when it comes to having sex for the first time or “losing your virginity.” Fucking must be on your own terms, at your own pace and comfortability and in your control. Another thing I wish I’d known sooner, was how subjective the boxes of sexuality and identity are. If these labels don’t work for you, you don’t have to use them, or you can change them at any time. How you want to identify your sexuality is up to you and you only. If you sleep with someone of the same sex it doesn’t mean you have to “come out” if you don’t want to. Be you on your own terms. Don’t let anyone tell you what’s right or wrong when it comes to your sex life. In saying that, if you are comfortable with labels, I do know many young people have found belonging and acceptance through embracing LGBTIQA+ communities (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, queer/questioning, asexual and many other terms).
These are just some of the things, I wish I’d known growing up as a woman and entering the fun, exciting and sometimes confusing world of sex. Every woman’s experience will be different. We are all sexual human beings and that should be fucking celebrated. Instead of allowing these damaging taboos and misconceptions to overshadow future generations of young women’s confidence and empowerment, lets challenge the stigma and openly promote sex education, knowledge and enjoyment for young women.
This article was inspired by Stephanie Barnes article for Huffpost ‘What 6 Women Wish They’d Known About Sex When They Were Younger’.