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.