My earliest memory of being exposed to sexual health was when I heard the term ‘period’ in year 4. All I remember was that a classmate had hers and everyone knew about it. I had no idea what it was and what all the fuss was about. However, I decided to just go with what was happening. One night, for some unexplainable reason, I thought it would be a bright idea to ask my mum whether she knew what a period was, thinking I had gained knowledge my mother was yet to attain. The response I received was one I was never going to forget, leading to ZERO conversations around sexual health or anything close, for the rest of my life. Well, maybe not the rest of my life, but I definitely avoided it for a long time.
Throughout Years 8 and 9, sexual health was mainly self-taught through the Dolly Magazine’s ‘Dolly Doctor’ section. I probably learnt more about sexual health from Dolly Doctor throughout these years than I did from my teachers. Dolly Doctor made it seem like I was normal when I felt like I wasn’t. It also helped me realise that not everyone was the same. But let’s be honest, some of the stories were completely whack, which also made me feel somewhat normal as a 12/13 year old.
When I first found out what sex really was I was probably 14. At first I went through the ‘grossed out’ phase, where I couldn’t believe that the method to produce cute little humans could be so horrifying and weird. Then I went through the denial phase, in which I told myself that my family definitely would have used other means to have all their children. Before working with the YEP crew, sexual health was a topic I would only ever aspire to get an ‘A’ grade in, in high school. Outside the four walls of my Year 10 health class, it wasn’t something my friends and I took seriously. If we ever talked about sex it was mostly around pleasure or misinformed gossip we had heard from other people. It wasn’t ever around consequences of sexual health practices, whether that be the diseases you could contract or the mistreatment you could possibly face during sexual engagement. Working with the YEP crew has helped me to finally reach the phase of acceptance, accepting sex for what it was, a means of pleasure, reproduction and anything else people engage in it for.
Joining the YEP team has felt like I have found a treasure chest of sexual health knowledge, exploring topics I never imagined I would ever discuss. I went from cringing at the word ‘sex’ to being able to talk openly about issues and ideas around sexual health. I have been positively challenged against prejudicial beliefs and ideas, to now having well-informed and educated opinions.
My sexual health information journey has consisted of multiple different sources of information, not all being 100% trustworthy, but some being reassuring. Coming from a CaLD background, conversations around sexual health were highly unlikely to occur between me and my parents. However, I made do, and have come to understand so much in just my first few months here with the YEP team.