Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: It's Not Sex, and It's Not Education

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  • Jackie Clark, in reply to Jolisa,

    It’s amazing stuff, though. Like the bit about how during the fertile part of the cycle, the cervix apparently elongates, softens, opens up and (during orgasm) swoops down like a sort of giant sperm-sucking squid? That’s a cool antidote to the prevailing narrative that the whole arrangement is just a passive, quiet little space, waiting patiently for a willy to come along and rock its world.

    Does it really? Oh I do love that image. I never had any idea about that.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3123 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    We could give all kids all information, with facts and examples and statistics and access to family planning for free access to contraception. Access should help. Knowledge is power. Family planning are available to educate those who need help learning how to use contraceptions but I’m not sure if it’s free now. At least in private, for free, shy, embarrassed, slower types may feel more comfortable. Family planning can help if it all turns to custard too . So sex ed in school, Family Planning Association fully funded for free access to school age. Hell go the whole hog and give it for all ages.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6358 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Sofie Bribiesca,

    So sex ed in school, Family Planning Association fully funded for free access to school age. Hell go the whole hog and give it for all ages.

    Family Planning visits are already free up to age 22 - great resource. I think the problem is clinics are often inaccessible to schoolkids (the Wellington one is right next to the main library, the Christchurch one is way across town for anyone in the northern or western suburbs, etc.) The school visit thing they do for some communities, setting up for a morning so people can come chat, is awesome, but I don't think it's very well-funded or well-received by a lot of parents.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan, in reply to Russell Brown,

    There are ways around that – from trying to find a better-fitting condom (not easy) to discussing other things to do in bed and choosing monogamous relationships – but it’s not a non-issue. It should be okay to talk about.

    I'm not sure anyone is saying it isn't OK to talk about. But, this is something I hold pretty dearly, because, I'm the one who is going to end up pregnant. Frankly, anyone who said to me, "Oh, I can't use a condom, because of X....isn't going to get very far with me. In fact, the one time someone tried it, I threw him out of my house. But I was in my late 20s, not 16.


    I recognise that it makes sex for some men more difficult - though, I'd point out, no men I've ever been with - but protecting your partner, and yourself, is basic respect. It might not be ideal, but as Lucy points out, it's the best we've got.

    Back to the sexy referencing: it turns out that, you’d never have guessed, but people do research on this stuff, and ask people questions about why they don’t use condoms.

    Oh, You. Stop it! (Don't really.)

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    Yep! There’s some debate about the details of (what Wikipedia tells me is unprettily called) the “upsuck theory of female orgasm”, but basically it seems sound.

    Also in the interests of, y’know, not being totally heteronormative or reproduction-centric, I should clarify that whatever the biological origins of the mechanism, in practice of course only some orgasmic cervices at some times are like giant sperm-sucking squids. Others are simply like giant sucking squids.

    (More for the “sentences I have never typed before” file.)

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1431 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Jolisa,

    It’s amazing stuff, though. Like the bit about how during the fertile part of the cycle, the cervix apparently elongates, softens, opens up and (during orgasm) swoops down like a sort of giant sperm-sucking squid?

    Is it not awesome!?

    An episode of Desmond Morris's The Human Animal actually had pictures of just that event. I wrote about it at the time it screened:

    It was the opportunity to see how we all do it that, presumably, bumped up the ratings for Desmond Morris's The Human Animal this week. Yes, it was the wild thing from inside. We switched over to fanny-cam for the replays and it was, indeed, all happening at the Gabba. I was bloody impressed with the sheer athleticism of the cervix under orgasm dipping into a fresh reservoir of daddy-juice like one of those nodding birds you stick next to a glass of water. Who said only boys could do tricks with their genitals?

    And you, too, can see it here on Google Video! Pull the slider over to 44.30 for the cervical action -- or start at 37.50 for the full, fascinating rundown on physical sexual arousal.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I will never look at a dipping bird the same way again. (Perhaps no accident that in my mind they are filed in the 1970s alongside shagpile-carpeted passion pits...).

    Also, this and this.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1431 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Megan Wegan,

    Frankly, anyone who said to me, “Oh, I can’t use a condom, because of X….isn’t going to get very far with me. In fact, the one time someone tried it, I threw him out of my house. But I was in my late 20s, not 16.

    And fair enough too. I never, ever refused to use one. Ever.

    But, to pick a number, I'd say it diminished sexual pleasure by about 50%, and that's not insignificant. I think sex ed should confront that and say, well, if that's the case, here's what you can do. I don't think there are many young men who'd say no to a nice hand job.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I think sex ed should confront that and say, well, if that’s the case, here’s what you can do. I don’t think there are many young men who’d say no to a nice hand job.

    Isn't that the argument we've been making for about five pages now? Although admittedly I was using language like "explore other sexual options", rather than "nice hand job".

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I don’t think there are many young men who’d say no to a nice hand job.

    Not in my experience, no.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Megan Wegan,

    “Oh, I can’t use a condom, because of X….isn’t going to get very far with me.

    So that is as simple as it should be. You don't like that ,don't do it. I liken it to a choice for a vaccine like the meningicocal one when if had, can protect a whole country but people want choice on vaccines basically rendering those who want them useless and some people have different reactions making choice understandable. We allow the choice for that, don't we?
    I think if one engages in sex with someone, why can they not express themselves vocally about preference and that is when the respect should come into play. And if you wanna drink and become too drunk to know what your vagina is doing, shouldn't we be thinking a little deeper about that? Anyhow add to my list, make a selection of sizes widely available at the Family Planning Association for free.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6358 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    pictures of just that event

    I remember being so amazed by that video that I don’t even have to look at it now, because it is firmly etched in my mind, sperm-sucking squid styles.

    Oh, You. Stop it! (Don’t really.)

    Lucy, I think you might be making us all a bit… flustered.

    ETA:

    Isn’t that the argument we’ve been making for about five pages now?

    Perhaps we should have been saying something like "hooray for handjobs!" instead.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3669 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I don’t disagree that the general message to young people should be “try to wear a condom as much as possible, it substantially reduces your chances of some sexually transmitted diseases”. But there’s danger in refusing to acknowledge the problems with condoms. The obvious danger is that they will simply not be used when the problems arise.

    It feels like a message of 'try' leads to your conclusion.

    There’s some debate about the details of (what Wikipedia tells me is unprettily called) the “upsuck theory of female orgasm”, but basically it seems sound.

    And all this time men have been presented as the sexual predators.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6227 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    My six year old ought to read this thread, 'cept for a few words used are a little beyond Extension 2.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2239 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Actually, now I've raised the issue, there are + and - sized condoms available by mail order locally, if not at retail, and some good advice about using them.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg,

    Pft, prêt-à-porter condoms are so yesterday. I get mine bespoke. The fitting process is half the fun.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 798 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Russell Brown,

    But, to pick a number, I’d say it diminished sexual pleasure by about 50%, and that’s not insignificant.

    OK, but as a gay man of a certain age I can quite happily introduce you to HIV-positive chaps whose sexual pleasure is significantly more diminished by passion killers like rolling mauls of opportunistic infections, chronic diarrhoea, pneumocystis pneumonia and severe side effects from drug cocktails (which, despite dangerously magical thinking from some quarters, is no kind of cure).

    You know something else: I can't make up my mind whether stories like this still appearing in 2011 make me more angry or sad.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12073 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to Martin Lindberg,

    Artisanal condoms! They're the next big thing.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3669 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa, in reply to Martin Lindberg,

    I keep thinking it's only a matter of time before the craftsters turn their attention to bespoke products for gents (along similar lines to the DIY menstrual gear). Linen, oiled silk paper, tortoise shell... but don't expect a run on the ones made from animal intestines.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1431 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa, in reply to Danielle,

    Snap! Er, well, hopefully they wouldn't.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1431 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    In retrospect, my six year old shouldn't read this thread, not just 'cause of the last few posts incidentally; I might just go back to the well recommened book upthread.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2239 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Jolisa,

    don’t expect a run on the ones made from animal intestines.

    There used to be an outfit in Ferry Rd that made those. Quite a market among those with allergies to latex, apparently!

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3494 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Sacha,

    instead of saying "condoms suck" you are saying "here are some things to try to improve your condom-using experience".

    Indeed, although I also think quite different approaches should probably be used for men and for women. For starters, it might help if there were a lot more male sex educators.

    Happened to you, or happens to a lot of people? Those are different things, and you're not showing any evidence of the latter. Just a lot of repetition of the former.

    Do you have any statistics to the contrary? Show me the statistics on why it is that condoms don't get used, and in particular when it results from male lack of interest. Show me that you've done any research into the matter at all. All you've done is repeatedly deny my experience is of relevance.

    I've searched for research on the subject and it's not easy to find - always the questions are about the level of sexual education of the subjects, rather than their reasons in their words. In other words, they've prejudged the relevance of the reasons. But here's one interesting one.

    That would have been useful to me to have known in the mid 90s. I had thought that it was quite uncommon what I was going through. Now I understand that unsatisfying sex in a large number of instances is exactly what condom use is all about. Good to know. I feel like less of a freak.

    No-one is arguing for teenagers to not be told things.

    Um, when you said:

    Does that mean we have conversations with kids about relative risk and how seatbelts don't always stop you dying? No. We don't. Our public education message is that they need to wear a seatbelt. If they dislike seatbelts so much it makes them not want to go places, then we teach them to ride a bike or take the bus.

    you appeared to be arguing that kids should not be told things. I'm not entirely sure what you meant in this analogy by riding a bike or taking a bus, however, because it seems to be suggesting that I should have been taught simply not to have sex, or perhaps to have it only with my hand, or the girls hand, or only when I'm already somehow in a committed relationship. Can I ask you to elaborate on what you meant by this?

    You have a very odd definition of "low", when it comes to disease risk.

    I worked out from your article that the chances of harm from chlamydia was around 3 in 10,000 for men and about 1 in 1000 for women. I couldn't be sure in the case of women whether I should have multiplied in 5% once again since their statistics for the main kinds of serious damage were based on multiple occurrences of infection. I'd thought it was much, much higher than that, but it's good to get the evidence, thank you. I may be misreading it though - it's not clear to me what the base rate of people who have been infected at some time during their lives was - the data seemed to be saying how many are infected now. Any insights from your scientific mind would be helpful.

    How would you slow the increase in STDs in New Zealand?

    Easy one. More screening, and education about getting screened. Screening should be free, and easy to get, and treatment would ideally be free too. Particularly at-risk communities should be targeted - in NZ Maori and PI have very high rates.

    Sex education should continue, obviously. More is better. Simple un-nuanced messages are OK as a start but I think we can do better now. More males doing it might help too. I've got no real opinion about mass education for the gay, though, that seems fraught.

    And research continues into alternatives, many of which are promising. Powerful spermicides would seem to be a possibility. Better condom technology continues - it's been a long time since I tried one.

    Lastly, conversations just like the one we've been having here. I'm sure these continue apace, but I guess I'm saying that education is as much about listening as dictating message bites. It's not easy, and I have a lot of respect for good teachers.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8737 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    Happened to you, or happens to a lot of people? Those are different things, and you’re not showing any evidence of the latter. Just a lot of repetition of the former.

    Do you have any statistics to the contrary? Show me the statistics on why it is that condoms don’t get used, and in particular when it results from male lack of interest. Show me that you’ve done any research into the matter at all. All you’ve done is repeatedly deny my experience is of relevance.

    I kinda have to agree here. “Show me evidence” seems like a dismissive response to the honest sharing of experience. I’d also be interested in hearing from male readers who don’t suffer a loss of pleasure or function with condom use.

    I’ve searched for research on the subject and it’s not easy to find – always the questions are about the level of sexual education of the subjects, rather than their reasons in their words. In other words, they’ve prejudged the relevance of the reasons. But here’s one interesting one.

    It is. But it does point to some of the things we’ve been discussing here – proper fit, and skill in application included.

    Seeing as I'm calling for experience reports, the symptoms of a too-small condom are pain, lack of sensation, difficulty in reaching orgasm -- and the fact that the member just looks so fucking stupid.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg,

    the fact that the member just looks so fucking stupid

    Did you have to bring up McCully again?

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 798 posts Report Reply

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