Sex Talk: The Australia Edition 11th September

Each month there are swathes of news stories revealing the sexual health of individuals, as well as entire countries.

We keep an eye out on all of these to gather how the state of sexual health is progressing from an international standpoint, as well as a national point of view.

Sexual health is a constantly changing field that encompasses a huge variety of skills and disciplines to decipher. Mathematics, psychology, education, geography and sociology all play a role in how our sexual health as both individuals and communities develops. This is why it’s really important for us to widen our focus every now and again, in order to get a ‘bigger picture’ look on how particular countries are faring in terms of their approach to understanding and dealing with sexual health issues.

This month in Sex Talk we’ve asked our sole Antipodean contributor, Troy Petty, to take a look at how his very own Australia. He’s spent the last month poring over statistics, collecting some interesting facts and figures. In addition to providing us with the raw data, he’s also been kind enough to supply us with his own reflections on the matter, giving us a great chance to get a fresh perspective on how a country is dealing with sexual health from both a technical standpoint and a personal angle.

Rise in Syphilis in Western Australia due to complacent safe sex attitudes

There are some sexual health issues that are akin to long term infestations of invasive plants. Japanese knotweed is a plant that has, through human interaction and sharing, spread all across the world and damaged every ecosystem that it has touched. Bacteria act in much the same, so just in the way that the earth needs help with removing Japanese knotweed, it appears that Australia needs aid in battling the scourge that is syphilis. The STI has been growing at an alarming rate across West Australia especially in the Aboriginal communities.

Sexual Assault is a problem that is affecting the entire country

In the wake of a growing acknowledgement of wide-spread institutional sexual harassment in all corners of the world, it’s perhaps unsurprising that many smaller communities have been speaking out about how they have been effected by sexual assault. In Australia our universities have become the focus of attention after it’s been discovered that almost half of all students have been a witness to or been the victim of a sexual harassment or assault. Thankfully, young students, more than any other community, have the bravery to stand up and speak out – but should this really have to be the case?

Female genital mutilation is alive in Australia

Australian health experts, legal professionals and teachers have been discovered to be ill-informed when it comes to rising cases of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Australia. FGM is a procedure that can range from ‘nicking’ or ‘pricking’ the prepuce to the complete removal of clitoris, or even the surgical closing of the vaginal opening. This practice predates any biblical text and can therefore not be attributed to any one religion. This is a cultural problem that is endemic to certain immigrant populations, but ending this problem is something that the entire country must take responsibility for. Australia needs an integrated policy that supports health professional and those in positions of authority to intervene when they have the suspicion that FGM is about to take place, or already has.

“As a teenager I struggled with a few sexual health problems. My attitude, coupled with my promiscuity was enough to get me diagnosed with three separate STIs at the same time – that was at a tough point in my life during the 90s. I never received any valuable sex education lessons when I was a kid during the 80s, but I had assumed that post AIDs epidemic Australia had learnt their lessons and that the education system had caught up with the times and was providing young people with a rounded sexual education experience. This news has not filled me with the confidence that I looking for. “

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.

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.’