Given this is part three of these posts, I think we can all agree that we weren't taught sufficiently when it comes to sex education (by the way, thank you to everyone who sent me some things to discuss in regards to what you wish you had been taught in your sex education). This should (hopefully) be the final part to these posts, although at the end of this if you believe I have missed some things out, then please feel free to let me know and I will be more than happy to create a part four to these posts.
If you haven't already, please check out parts one and two to these posts (it doesn't really matter what order you read them in, but I would definitely recommend you read all three). Today's post consists of topics such as toxic relationships, different conditions such as PCOS and endometriosis, PMS (premenstrual syndrome), inappropriate sexual behaviours, and building conversations that will eventually lead to sex.
Toxic relationships *TRIGGER WARNING*
Anyone else ever get told that if a guy was being mean to you that that meant he really liked you? Or that you have to treat them mean to keep them keen? Yeah, let's scrap that. Toxic relationships can cover a wide range of things, such as physical abuse, emotional abuse, being controlling, lack of trust and communication, everything being about one person, excessive jealousy, all take and no give, being continuously disrespectful, no support, and constant negative energy. I think it goes without saying that if you are in a toxic relationship then you need to get out of it straight away - but that's much simpler said than done. Due to a lack of education surrounding toxic relationships, it can be very difficult to know when you are in one, particularly as your 'partner' will normally hide these behaviours around your friends and family and they may even sometimes do things to try and show they love you, but more often than not will be displaying toxic behaviour.
I'm not sure how many of you have heard of the term 'gaslighting', however, this is something where someone will manipulate you by making you question your memory, perception, or judgement and this is often done incredibly slowly and gradually over time so the victim will not actually be aware this is happening to them because, by the time it is serious enough for them to realise something is going on, they don't actually realise how much they have been brainwashed and manipulated. The signs of gaslighting include:
1. white lies - for example, your partner tells you that your favourite colour is purple when it is actually orange and you know it to be orange, but they continue to insist it is purple to the point where you begin to believe that your favourite colour is, in fact, purple, even though it is orange
2. denial in the face of truth - for example, you go to the shop and buy a skirt and get a receipt. Your partner sees you wearing the skirt and says they are glad you like the skirt they bought you, but you show them the receipt and say that you bought the skirt. They continue to tell you that you are mistaken and that they bought you the skirt, to the point where you end up confused about whether you actually bought the skirt or if they bought you the skirt
3. manipulate your feelings towards people or things against you - for example, you are incredibly close to three of your friends and they are at yours and your partner's house all the time. Your partner tells you that your friends were talking about you behind your back and when you question them about it they say they weren't. Your partner continues to insist that they said those things and that they are lying, to the point where you believe your partner over your friends and end up breaking up your friendship with them - this is what manipulation in gaslighting is, making you believe everyone else is against you so the only person that ends up in your life is your partner
4. wearing you down over time - for example, you have a pile of sand. Over time, you take a grain of sand out of the pile. When you take the first grain of sand out of the pile, you don't notice anything is missing, however over time, the pile continues to get noticeably smaller until there is nothing left.
5. telling you one thing and doing another - for example, during an election a politician tells you that if you vote for them, they will give a pay rise to NHS workers, but when they are elected they do no such thing. Remember: actions speak louder than words.
Different conditions (e.g. PCOS and endometriosis)
This is something we definitely weren't taught in sex education when we 100% should have been. The different conditions you can get, that may also affect your fertility, such as PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and endometriosis. I am going to be talking about these two conditions and others, however, I don't actually know a whole lot about them so will link the websites I use.
PCOS is a condition that affects how the ovaries work and can cause irregular periods, excess androgen (high levels of 'male' hormones that can cause things such as excess facial/body hair), and polycystic ovaries (ovaries are enlarged and have fluid-filled sacs - follicles - surrounding the eggs). The sacs you get can mean that your ovaries are unable to release an egg each month and therefore do not go through the process of ovulation. Symptoms can include irregular/no periods, difficulty getting pregnant, excessive hair growth, weight gain, thinning hair/hair loss on the head, and oily skin/acne. It is also associated with developing further medical conditions later on in life, such as type 2 diabetes and having high cholesterol levels. Obviously, if you have any of these conditions, you may not have PCOS, but it is always a good idea to go and visit your doctor if you have any concerns.
Endometriosis is where tissue that is similar to the lining of the womb starts growing in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes. Some of the main symptoms include pain in your lower tummy/back, period pain that prevents you from doing your normal activities, pain during/after sex, pain when peeing/pooing during your period, feeling sick/constipation/diarrhoea/blood in pee during your period, and difficulty in getting pregnant. It can also cause you to have heavy periods and may even lead to depression. Endometriosis can be caused by your genetics, retrograde menstruation (womb lining flows up through the fallopian tubes and embeds itself on the organs of the pelvis, instead of leaving the body when you get your period), a problem with your immune system, and/or endometrium cells spreading through the body in your bloodstream/lymphatic system. Like with PCOS, it may not be endometriosis if you have any of these symptoms, but it is always best to visit your GP just to make sure.
Those were the two main conditions that I got asked to talk about, however, some other female reproductive conditions include uterine fibroids, gynecologic cancer, and interstitial cystitis. Some male reproductive conditions include testicular cancer, penile cancer, phimosis, testicular torsion, erective dysfunction, and priapism. Please take a look at the web pages I've put with these conditions just so you can become more aware of what they are about and, as I said above, if you have any concerns, please visit your doctor.
PMS (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome)
Ah, PMS. An absolutely beautiful (not) experience that all women will go through in the lead up to their period (Ariana said God is a woman. I say otherwise because if God was a woman she wouldn't make me go through all the mood swings, pain, and general shittiness EVERY MONTH SINCE I WAS 11!!!!). Of course, every woman is different, and some may not experience any symptoms of PMS at all, or they will but it's barely there (you lucky devils). Symptoms vary from person to person, but some of the general symptoms of PMS include mood swings; feeling upset/anxious/irritable; tiredness/trouble sleeping; bloating/tummy pain; tender breasts; headaches; spotty skin; greasy hair; and changes in appetite/sex drive. Some of these I experience more than others and some I just experience on a daily basis regardless of PMS. Luckily for me (it's not all that lucky, but hey ho), the symptoms I experience aren't always enough to prevent me from going about my daily activities, however, if your symptoms are, there are things you can do about it. This includes: going on the pill; received CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy); and/or taking antidepressants. If you do experience symptoms like this, try and keep a diary of them throughout PMS/your period before going to your GP (at least 2-3 menstrual cycles if you can) to give the GP a better idea of the pain/types of symptoms you have been experiencing. If your symptoms aren't too bad but still cause you some discomfort (I mean let's face it, they will always cause us discomfort), then there are some things you can do to prevent them from getting really bad, including regular exercise; eating a healthy, balanced diet (not always easy to do during PMS/your period when you continuously have cravings for anything containing lots of sugar/salt); getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep, and taking painkillers.
Inappropriate sexual behaviours *TRIGGER WARNING*
I could make a whole blog post on this topic (which I plan to in the upcoming weeks). Obviously, I can only speak as a woman, but since roughly the age of 13, I have experienced inappropriate sexual behaviours. This includes wolf-whistling (this is my first memory of inappropriate sexual behaviour that occurred when I was 13 and the guy who did it was at least over 17 - he was in his van and no one else was around), inappropriately touching someone (whether you know them or not, if someone doesn't want you to touch them then please don't), talking about sex in an inappropriate manner, making sexual comments/jokes, and explicit sexual behaviour, such as the exposure of genitals (whether in public or in private) and sexual assault. None of this is okay and if you know someone who does any of these things, please sit them down and explain to them why this is not okay. Again, as a woman I can only speak as a woman, women aren't pieces of meat to be sexualised by you just because you like what you see and think she'll find it flattering (spoiler: she won't) (would also like to point out that I am aware this also happens to men, which also isn't okay).
If you have been a victim due to inappropriate sexual behaviours and need to talk to someone, you can call Supportline on 0845 30 30 900 or visit victimsupport.org.uk.
This can sometimes be a difficult one, particularly when you are with a new sexual partner and you are interested in having sex with them but don't know how to bring it up in conversation. I am normally the less dominant one, so it is usually the other person who may start the conversation or initiate something. A lot of the time with people I have been with, one of us would normally initiate something with a kiss and things would often go from there. However, when it comes to sex, it is important to make sure both of you are aware of what each other's limitations are and where your boundaries are; as well as also being aware that these can change on a daily basis. If you start dating someone new, you may, perhaps, take the time to sit down and have a conversation about sex and what your limitations/boundaries are, but also what you may be up to doing at some point in the future. This is always important as not all of your sexual partners are going to have the same limitations/boundaries or kinks and it is always important for you to consider what these are for them, as well as how comfortable you are with this and whether you would be up to the same things as them or whether for you that is a complete no, as this could potentially, in some cases, make/break your relationship.
In terms of building conversations that may/may not eventually lead to sex, at the end of the day it's really up to you what you say. You could maybe tell your partner what you want to do to them (obviously as long as they consent to this). Maybe start discussing a fantasy one of you may have and see whether the other would be interested in making it a reality. There are lots of things you can say/do that can lead to sex, it's really just about knowing yourself and your partner.
Did you learn about any of these in your sex education? Is there anything else you wish you had learnt that I have not discussed in the last three posts? Is there anything I have discussed that you didn't learn but wish you had? Let me know in the comments below.
What do you think needs to be changed about the sex education that is being received by children/teenagers?
Love Beth xx