Is That All? From Teenage Angst to Breast Implant Removal

Our teenage years are equally revered and reviled in hindsight.

At no other time in our lives do we experience such a maelstrom of changes, both physical and emotional.

Throughout puberty we not only have to contend with our quickly changing bodies, but we are simultaneously thrust into the adult world and must make decisions that serve to define the very course of our lives. At the time we are living through these years each argument, break-up and sleight feel like earth-shaking events. Although they might well seem trivial when recalled years down the line, I believe that it’s really important not to undersell the gravity of some of these earth-shaking moments as many of them can have real wide reaching consequences that can provide you with some real insight into how you act in the present day.

Take for example one of my earliest sexual encounters. Before I get you on edge (or excited…): don’t worry. I’m not about to launch into gory detail about how I lost my virginity in the back of a some teenage dirtbag’s beat-up Camaro (which totally didn’t happen…). I’m about to tell you the story of how my body dysmorphia was born, a condition which would end up costing me thousands of dollars but, more importantly, thousands of hours of my life.

Let’s call him Kevin, because it’s the first name that has come into my head and it’s also a name which I associate with good people (I’m looking at you Kevin Smith!).

Kevin was in my Maths class, he was smart and had kind eyes and is definitely in no way to blame for any of the conditions that I have struggled with in my life, but an experience that we shared when we were 14 years old was enough to trigger a thought process that would still bump around the dusty corners of my mind to this day, leading to voluntarily put myself under a surgeon’s scalped twice: once to ‘fix’ my body and the second time to receive breast implant removal that would return me to my previous state.

‘Is that all?’

Never were crueller words spoken by a teenager. We had spent months building up to this stolen moment behind the school gym. Months of furtive glances from me, whilst I was blissfully ignored by a boy who was too absorbed in his equations to realise that he was the subject of a fiery romantic story that played on repeat in my head whilst I slowly but surely forgot about everything else in my life. He was surprised if anything when I finally cornered him on the way back from lunch, but he was quick to pick up on my rather obvious signals.

Our first kiss was a long, drawn out sloppy affair. I didn’t know what to do with my hands, so I reached up and pulled his head into mine. Of course, like any normal teenage boy his hand lingered very briefly on my waist before rising and groping for a handful of something gorgeous, voluptuous and sensual that he’d seen in magazines, on television and in films. I felt like I was being patted down, searched (in vain) for a phantom smuggled prize that would prove to him my burgeoning womanhood. Suffice it to say, I came up in short in that department.

It took nearly two decades to overcome that initial sleight. Kevin was a good boy, but he was still a boy: tactless and blunt.

Body dysmorphia is an issue that affects thousands of people the world over with a variety of damaging consequences. Find out more about it here.

Sex Talk: 3rd August 2018

More news and more discussion in the second week of our blog looking at the state of sexual health around the world.

Things are changing: people are talking about sex!

There was a time when the idea of discussing sexual health in the news would have caused an uproar, but no longer! We now live in an age of open discussion: journalists, bloggers and readers alike see the value in honesty and the power that it has to change public opinion. Of course, a wide community of writers contributing to this progressive debate is not really enough. In order to continue to push boundaries and change mindsets, we need to take these news stories and question them.

This week we’ve reached out to Bea Oni in Ilorin and Manpreet in Birmingham (UK) to give us their two cents on a couple of sexual health news stories that have been causing a stir here in the UK. Bea and Manpreet have been knocking their heads together over these issues and we can’t wait to hear what they have to say about an unusual treasure hunt in Belgium, cuts hitting Sexual Health services and the possibility of using e-STI testing.

On the hunt for sex toys in Belgium…

There’s the sound of raucous laughter and the trampling of thousands of feet. A stampede is approaching, but the bringers of this carnage aren’t football hooligans or a gang of Incels – in fact they’re quite the opposite. An Easter Egg-style hunt for 800 sex toys buried in the form of tokens in a field in Belgium might sound like a rather strange sexually worrying fever dream, but it’s something that has been hosted on a farm by Nicolas Bustin, founder of Soft Love, for the last decade.

Chasse Aux Sextoys began as a marketing event for Bustin’s range of sex toys. As an odd, commercial novelty event, the first incarnation had little traction with the general public. It wasn’t until Bustin broadened the political scope of his Sex Toy Hunt, turning the simple hunt into an all-day female empowerment festival, that he began to break even on the yearly event. After ten years of expansion the Chasse Aux Sextoys is now so much more than digging up a field for toys; there are pole dancing classes, male strippers, sex clinics and health stalls – best of all, although men are required to dress in drag for the occasion, the event is a family-friendly one.

Manpreet’s take: This is just the kind of positive message that we need to be sending out here in the UK. So much of the dialogue on sex has been kept in the male domain that it’s now become necessary for women to reclaim it for themselves. What I like about this event is the fact that it’s not only a fun experience, but it’s also purposefully breaking down the stigma that many people have about discussing sexual stigmas.

Sexual-health services to be cut in the UK

Recently we’ve discussed how STIs such as syphilis are having a worry resurgence here in the UK and, despite overall diagnoses of STIs dropping by a few percent from 2015-2016, the simple truth is that we are currently experiencing an ongoing sexual health crisis. Although this feels like the right time to be investing more in education and supporting health clinics, a BBC investigation has revealed that the opposite is in fact happening.

Local councils are planning on cutting spending to sexual health clinics all across the country. The vast swathe of changes due to be made in the course of the next year vary from reducing opening hours of clinics to ‘restricting’ free access to contraception, some popular sexual health clinics are even getting permanently closed. In real terms these changes make it that much harder for people in the UK to get checked up on and receive treatments. With the recent emergence of what has been touted as ‘super-gonorrhoea’, this reduction in services could not have come at a worse time.

Bea’s take: As a developing country, we here in Nigeria look to the UK for inspiration in terms of sexual health policies and attitudes. When I heard about this, I have to admit I was confused. When you have the money to support bank bailouts and corporations how can you not have the money to ensure that your people do not suffer from sexual health crises? Perhaps I am not well enough versed in UK politics, but this feels like a determined backward step, rather than the actions of a progressive state.

Constructing Nigeria’s Future: From Sex to Masculinity

I live in a country with the 7th highest population in the world.

Compared to more developed nations, who are more likely to have a significantly older population, the demographic makeup of our country is skewed heavily towards the youth.

It’s been estimated that a third of our country’s population could be classed as ‘young’: aged 19-24 years old. The lives of these young people; their education, upbringing and the socio-economic environment that they grow up in will determine the future of Nigeria.

Unfortunately, ours is a society that has been at the mercy of immense poverty, rigid proto-religious belligerence and an uncaring government – so what can be done to ensure that the millions of young people in Nigeria not only live to reach their potential, but also have a chance to form healthy, balanced sexual relationships?

I believe that a concerted effort has to be made to invest in sexual health services in order for our country to not only survive, but prosper throughout this century and the next. So, what does this investment look like? Unlike other countries who have well structured health systems with employees from a culture with healthy attitudes to sex; Nigeria’s health system is managed and worked by people who have little or no understanding of the importance of education.

It’s important to note that before we invest money in the architects, levels, land surveyors, planners and doctors needed to construct the clinics required to teach and treat these young people, we need to drastically alter the way that our entire country perceives sexual practices and behaviours.

I grew up in Ilorin, a city known throughout Nigeria as ‘the Home of Peace’, however my adolescent years as a woman in this city were anything but peaceful. From the age of 12, I’ve had to guard myself from the eyes, hands and genitalia of the men of this city. I’ve done this through various means. I’ve dressed in shapeless clothes, avoided populous areas and spent many evenings inside my home; this isn’t because all men in this city wish to rape me, it’s because there is an underlying culture in our country (and throughout Africa) that encourages male-dominated relationships and discourages female empowerment in all of its forms.

The notion of masculinity in our country has not changed for centuries and is defined by strength, a desire for sex and the subjugation of women in all its forms. Whilst developed Western countries are certainly not free of this kind of ‘toxic masculinity’ (as it is described today), it is the backbone of our male psyche here in Nigeria. Planning, building and opening a sexual health clinic is an easy task compared to the daunting challenge of changing the way that an entire country thinks.

Attitudes, habits and behaviours do not change overnight. They are not changed by with a single pamphlet, or a TV advert, or a celebrity-endorsed billboard. I know that it will take time for significant

Sex Talk: 04/06/18

In this semi-regular series of blogs our writers are going to take a look at what’s been going on in the world of sexual health.

The way that we view sex and sexual health is constantly changing and with the internet providing a continually expanding blank canvas for the thoughts of millions.

We thought it would be interesting to take a couple of recent news stories related to sexual health and gauge the reactions of our culturally diverse writers. This week we’ve asked Max and Ziva to cast their eyes over the Sexual Health news stories from around the world: there’s a lot been going on, from STIs on the rise to social breakthroughs in Ireland…

Dublin University introducing Sex Programme

Open frank discussion of sex in Ireland has always been something of a taboo. In a state where 78% of the population identify as Roman Catholic it is perhaps unsurprising to discover that many young people, living with one foot in a sexually repressed past and the other in a brave new world of gender-norm shifting, have been seeking answers to questions that their parents simply do not have for them. Enter Dublin City University who are due to launch their first ever educational course entirely based around sex and sexual health.

The course will focus on a wide range of topics from the contraction of STIs to the social issues facing the LGBT community. The move comes after a strategy revealed a number of alarming truths about the state of sexual health in both narrow and broad sexually active groups of Irish people.

Max’s take: ‘I’ve always had a certain affinity with Irish people. I believe there’s a lot that we have in common in terms of cultural perceptions; although I feel, despite these similarities in our religious backgrounds, Italians are much more relaxed when it comes to attitudes towards pre-marital sex and LGBT rights, obviously the variables at play here are far reaching, but this course should go a long way in reshaping perspectives.’

STIs on the rise in England

Statistics arguably don’t get much more worrying than this, especially if you’re a sexually active individual with a penchant for unprotected sex. The number of reported diagnoses of syphilis rose by 12 percent between 2015 and 2016 , rising to 5,920 – the highest it has been since 1949. Public Health England, who released the full report recently, noted that a large portion of these cases could be attributed to transmission between gay and bisexual men.

420,000 separate diagnoses of STIs were recorded during 2016, a 4% decline compared to 2015, but still a worryingly high statistic that is said to have the largest effect on heterosexual individuals between the age of 15 and 24, black minorities and men who have sex with other men. PHE have described the current situation as an ‘ongoing sexual health crisis‘ – but is it one that is beyond control?

Ziva’s take: ‘I spend a great deal of my time working with young people, with some of our courses focusing exclusively on carefully educating young people on safe sex. It can be too easy to wag your finger and tell them that unprotected sex is wrong, but shaming or scaring this young demographic doesn’t help the situation. In my groups I’ve found that frank discussion to break down these sociological barriers.’