If we had to choose one sex tip for having more enjoyable sex it would be ‘forget sex advice’. Here’s why.
We’ve written before about how we’re often asked for ‘ultimate sex tips’ by journalists. We always groan when this happens because what we have to say about sex isn’t really about ‘top tips’ because different things work for different people. However, as we chatted about it we realised that we do have one major tip which is ‘forget sex advice’!
We realise that we spend a lot of our time – as a sex educator and a sex therapist – helping people to unlearn what they’ve learnt from sex advice, because that has to happen before we can suggest anything new.
What we find in Sex Education and Sex Therapy
When Justin goes into schools to teach sex ed he often finds that students are often bored of sex education and suspicious of what it actually entails. They have been taught simplistic messages about sex but with no real advice. For example, ‘get their consent’ with no advice about how you might actually have a consent conversation. Or being shown horrible pictures of STIs to frighten them into not having sex or so that they ‘always wear a condom’. Or constantly being told about the risks of unplanned pregnancy, regardless of the kind of sex they may have or with whom.
In sex education, people are taught that ‘proper’ or ‘normal’ sex is penis in vagina (and that this is risky and not very enjoyable).
A lot of what young people take away from sex education is that it is inherently risky, not very enjoyable and that sex is only about penis in vagina. So a lot of what Justin has to do is to undo the damage caused by poor sex education, before he can even start offering something different. (For an example of better sex and relationships education see the links below).
Similarly (and very much related to this) in sex therapy Meg-John finds that with many clients most of the work is about unlearning the bad messages they’ve received about sex in sex advice, and sometimes from other therapists. For example, people often come in with all kinds of ideas about ‘normal’ or ‘proper’ sex (see above). Or how frequently they ‘should’ have sex with a partner, and how their bodies ‘ought’ to work. All of this adds to their distress and people are often relieved to discover that it’s okay to have sex how, when and if they want to ™ 😉
Giving ‘Sex Tips’ to Journalists
While we’ve been trying to get the word out about our book Enjoy Sex we’ve discovered a similar problem. Journalists (with the exception of Frankie Mullin), editors and programme-makers often don’t seem to realise how important it is to challenge existing ideas about sex, but go straight into giving advice that rests on shaky foundations.
For example, when we were asked to give our best piece of advice for a magazine article we replied that our top tip was to ‘re-think what we mean by sex.’ We explained that we’re all constrained by limited ideas of what counts as sex. So we gave practical advice about how people might expand their understanding and try different things – like a ‘yes, no, maybe’ list.
Most sex advice doesn’t work for most people and actually makes it harder to enjoy sex, not easier.
When the article was published our advice was sub-titled ‘Climax Creatively’. It was presented as ‘rekindling the experimentation of the early days by bringing each other to orgasm in creative ways that don’t involve penetrative sex’. The section presented our version of ‘yes, no, maybe’ lists but contextualised this as a way of ‘trying to climax in a different way instead of falling back on what you know’. As anyone who has read our book or website knows, we strongly challenge this goal-focused approach to sex where it’s all about getting an orgasm. This advice doesn’t work for lots of people and – paradoxically – often makes it much harder to get an orgasm too!
Why You Should Forget Sex Advice
Meg-John researched over 60 sex advice books before we started working together. They found that much of the advice was one-size-fits-all sex positions or techniques. Rather than being about consent and communication advice was about something to another person. The focus was on doing penis-in-vagina sex and getting orgasms rather than opening up different kinds of sex and experiences. This actually puts lots of pressure on people to perform certain kinds of sex in ways that actually make it harder to enjoy sex.
There is no universal sex tip that can work for everyone. So forget sex advice and tune into what kind of sex you may actually want
This is why the starting point of all of our advice is to challenge these kinds of messages. We all have different bodies and experiences, so there can be no universal ‘sex tip’ that’d work for everyone. So rather than writing another book or website about that, we start with you. We want to help you tune into the kinds of sexual experiences that you may actually want to have. Most other sex advice is about telling you about the kinds of sex that you should have. And that is why our top tip is to ‘forget sex advice’.
Don’t Forget Sex Advice From These Folks
There are some people who give really good sex advice, here are a few that inspire us
- Dr Petra Boynton’s advice column at The Daily Telegraph: www.telegraph.co.uk/journalists/petra-boynton
- Cory Silverberg’s About Sexuality www.sexuality.about.com
- Tania Glyde’s blog, for example this piece about the sex escalator:
- Dan Savage’s ‘Savage Love’ column and podcast
- Jo Adams’s book Explore, Dream, Discover. A holistic approach to sex and relationships education (pdf hosted by the publishers is here)
- For younger folk we would recommend www.scarleteen.com and Justin’s own site www.bishuk.com
For really amazing (and free) sex and relationships education head to DO… SRE for Schools. It contains lesson plans and tons of advice for teachers on how to deliver SRE. Justin was one of the lead writers of the materials for this, along with Alice Hoyle with MJ as adviser.
That research that MJ did is for this upcoming publication:
Barker, M. J., Gill, R., & Harvey, L. (forthcoming, 2017). Mediated Intimacy: Sex Advice in Media Culture. London: Polity.
If you like the sound of our sex advice and want to buy our book or zines head over here