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Dublin: 7 °C Tuesday 22 May, 2018
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Column: 'Sex resolutions for 2018 to advocate for your own sexual pleasure and health'

Every one of us needs to have a think about how we can make Ireland a more sexually awesome place for ourselves, and each other, writes Shawna Scott.

Shawna Scott Owner, SexSiopa.ie

FOR MANY OF us, myself included, 2017 felt like an absolute trash fire of a year, but I have hope that from the lessons we’ve learned and the cancers we’re cutting out of our culture will come great healing.

Every one of us needs to sit down and have a think about how we can each contribute to making Ireland a more sexually awesome place for ourselves, and each other. Having just arrived into a fresh year, I want to give you five practical tips you can use in 2018 and beyond to advocate for your own sexual pleasure and health.

Practice enthusiastic consent

Consent is not just about saying or respecting the word “no”. It’s as much about communicating the things we like, and that feel good to us, as it is about the things we don’t like.

Because sex education is so hit-and-miss in this country, and pop culture depicts good sex as something that just comes instinctually to both parties without any verbal communication (not to mention women almost always coming from vaginal intercourse), it’s no wonder that laying our cards on the table, and talking openly to our partners about what we enjoy, is so fraught and difficult for many people.

Good sex and good communication takes practice, and one thing you can do is to verbally express the things you really like: “I love when you touch me there…” Also use open questions when trying to find out what a partner likes.

You may be in a long-term relationship with someone and the things you used to enjoy may have changed or evolved. It’s easy to worry that our partner’s feelings might be hurt, or that they’ll think we’re no longer turned on by them. This can certainly be tricky ground to tread.

I recommend rolling out new things to your partner as something you very much want to do together.

Make health screenings a priority 

Make a habit in 2018 to look after your sexual health. If you are the proud owner of a cervix, this means having a look at CervicalCheck.ie to see when you’re next due for a smear test and booking one with your GP if necessary. It’s completely free, so you’ve no reason not to.

In the vast majority of cases it doesn’t hurt; it’s just slightly uncomfortable for a few seconds, but it’s completely worth it when you take into account that 300 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and early detection is key.

The same goes for breast and testicular cancer, so make sure that you’re familiar with how to do a self exam.

Also if you’re sexually active, it’s important to get regular Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) screenings every 6-12 months. If the cost of a screening is what’s putting you off, SpunOut have put together a list of free clinics across the country. If you don’t have time to queue at one of the free clinics, keep an eye on Groupon. Doctors will occasionally do half priced screenings.

Drink plenty of water 

This may sound like good, general advice, but drinking plenty of water is so especially important for your sexual health.

One of the most common complaints I hear about from female friends and customers is Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) from having very frequent or rough sex. Making sure to stay hydrated and using the loo before and after sex can help prevent UTIs from occurring.

Water also keeps your skin and lips from drying and chapping and your muscles from cramping up, and we all know there’s nothing worse than a mid-coital leg cramp to dampen the mood.

Read books, listen to podcasts, and pay for feminist porn 

Make the effort to educate yourself. Read more books about sex. I highly recommend Dr Emily Nagoski’s Come as You Are, which takes all the research done on the female sexual response cycle and translates it for non-academics like you and me. It’s very readable, and often hilarious.

I also love Mating in Captivity, by New York couples’ therapist, Esther Perel, which examines the disconnect between our sexual desires, and our social need to be monogamous.

If you’re looking for 10 years’ worth of weekly podcasts about sex and relationships, look no further than Dan Savage’s Savage Lovecast. It’s a treasure trove of information, and while some of the things he’s said over the years could be considered problematic (for example, his famous disagreement with Lindy West regarding fat-shaming), I love and still listen to the advice podcast a full decade later.

The range of questions taken are vast – sometimes simple, sometimes complex, sometimes hilarious – and they all help to put words to so many things that so many of us feel. It has shown us that no one is alone in their desires, and there is no such thing as “normal”.

If you enjoy porn, start paying for it. Tube sites are killing the industry – you can hear all about it in Jon Ronson’s excellent 7-part series The Butterfly Effect – so do what you can to support ethical, feminist directors and producers.

Erika Lust would be the most famous with her slick production values and commitment to fair wages for all her cast, crew, and office staff. I also recommend indie German producer Lucie Blush of Lucie Makes Porn. She doesn’t have as much content as Erika Lust, but her films are still great quality, and she often features work from other great european directors. For multi-award winning queer and trans films be sure to check out Shine Louise Houston’s Crash Pad Series.

Support a sexual health charity and write to politicians 

Support causes that advocate for our sexual health and freedoms on a systemic level. You might have a charity that is close to your heart, like Gay Switchboard Ireland or a local Rape Crisis Centre. If you currently do not have money to spare, you could volunteer your time with an organisation.

Also one of the most important things you can do as an active citizen is writing to your local TD’s and letting them know what issues are important to you as a constituent. Attend clinics and speak with them face-to-face. Even if what you’re saying to them is not at the top of their agenda at the moment, if enough people express concern about an issue, they will have to respond.

And finally, spend time listening and learning

People’s sexual preferences and tastes can change over time, so the most important thing is to regularly check in with yourself and your partner(s) about what you are into, what you’d like to try, and anything you’d like to avoid.

Shawna Scott is the owner and proprietor of SexSiopa.ie, Ireland’s health and design-focused sex shop.

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About the author:

Shawna Scott  / Owner, SexSiopa.ie

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