I had tea and cakes with Kiss Curls recently. Well, she had the tea and I had the cake in a labour-saving exercise. Quite apart from the fact that she clearly has the most exciting and varied sex life of anyone I know she reminded me of an important point, which is that I need to book myself into a sexual health clinic and get a check-up. I haven't had one in a while and certainly over the last year or so my explorations have been a little more adventurous than one-careful-owner-monogamous-vanilla-boyfriend. Appointment is booked for this place in Dean Street, based on how much she enjoyed the experience. Yes, enjoyed. Not endured, which is my previous memories of other clinics.
It has pedigree as a clinic. Established originally to treat gay men it has been at the forefront of offering a welcoming service. I'll let you know how my own appointment goes later on, but the outlook is certainly favourable. This got me on to thinking about the attitude of my own generation towards sexual health and particularly the heterosexual viewpoint. Gay men have traditionally been groundbreaking and extremely (rightly) demanding in terms of sexual health, we "straights" have benefited from this, but our own requirements seem to rest solely within the "making and preventing babies" category and even then it is hardly a responsible or reasonable service. A recent survey has shown that many women are on the wrong type of pill and that GPs are handing them out like sweeties without asking the questions or providing the information that might allow people to make an informed choice.
And that's just the part that's in the open. Generally speaking, if it's about fertility then it is at least dealt with on some level, whether it be at school or from parents. But actually sexual education? Not a chance. Sex is still presented as some sort of moral taboo whereby corruption is inherent in the mere discussion, especially with those considered "vulnerable" by society (children, women, working class people...) This is made especially difficult by the fact that representations of sex are everywhere and they are highly unrealistic - pastel pink perfect bodies grinding into each other with choral "oohs" and "aahs". Additionally, depictions of naked, sexualised bodies are almost always female, except for those aimed at the gay market. Girls must grow up with a very strange perception of what male sexuality is like and preserving the mystique of the penis by refusing to ever show the damn things cannot be healthy. A recent example is the lovely ladies at Filament who had a terrible time trying to get a printer to agree to publish their fine works. For some reason, the penis is a protected area, veiled and hidden. Which means that oftentimes, the first point that any of us see one is when we really have to be able to do something about it. And then can't. At best women will be disappointed, at worst totally confused, I know that I certainly needed to get accustomed to the whole thing and a decent amount of preparation would have been very well received.
Basically, there is a gap, a huge gap, between what we know about sex and what we think we know. Part of Kiss Curls' current project is to work on this gap, especially with young teenagers. I couldn't support her more.