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My nineteen-year-old niece spent the night in my hotel room recently. She doesn’t have many adults (or even peers) she talks to openly about personal things. She's close with my mother, but my mom hasn’t had sex in a hundred years, so what the fuck does she know...or remember? Therefore I'm a good candidate. But it’s a bit of a hot potato; her parents—her father is my younger brother—are a little conservative. Granted, most of the world seems conservative in a side by side with me. But I love my niece and I wanted to give her solid advise and non-judgmental support. A young woman having someone to talk to about the nitty gritty is important. And sadly, all too rare. My niece knows I'm a photographer and loves my work, but I'm not sure if she knows the rest. My family isn't super close. I may have even blocked her and her brother from my Instagram...but it wouldn't/couldn't stop them from visiting my website. I think she could handle it, but her parents sort of sheltered her.

Anyway, she's having sex—has had sex—but doesn’t know much. She knows the basics, of course, but in talking with her, it reminded me of the conversation my friend and I had in my most recent podcast about sex education in schools not being sufficient. At the time of the podcast I wasn’t sure how sex Ed could be better. But conversing with my niece it occurred to me that there probably are a few things that would be helpful to teach our young teens: information not directly on the radar or in a textbook, yet, abundantly helpful.

For example, we talked about herpes and how you can contract them even if the guy wears a condom. Something I didn’t know until I was into my thirties (no, I didn’t learn the hard way, thank god...knocks on wood). Even if you can’t see a visible breakout, the day or so before a breakout can be a contagious period. So it’s up to that person to know their body and refrain from activity during this time. I'm not a doctor, but I know it's possible to date someone with genital herpes without getting them...if the person is in tune with their body. This also requires/helps if the person is honest in the beginning, giving the other party an option as well as sharing knowledge and information; which hopefully the person with, has. Granted, not an easy feat considering how stigmatized herpes is, but much appreciated and perhaps could help destigmatize the STD. Herpes is a fact of life. It's manageable. I've known people with it who rarely breakout. They're not living in a cave with lepers. It behooves us all to be up front about it. I'm personally scared to death of the herp...mostly due to my profession. Meaning, I'd have to find another line of work.

We also talked about UTI’s. She, like myself, got a super bad one early in her sex experience and didn’t realize it, now making her prone to them. I told her to take probiotics with acidolphilus every day and to pee immediately after intercourse. EVERY TIME. No matter how many times you fuck in one night or how unromantic it seems, if there's a break in between intercourse, get the fucker off you and go to the bathroom. Even if only one drop comes out. You need to clear the urethra. Intercourse pushes stuff up there. Especially with “mashers”: men who like to be fully inside and lots of rocking (less in and out). Just get up and pee. I told her even if you don’t feel like it, just remember the pain and get your butt up. Run your hand under cold water if you have to. We laughed and she said she’d try. This is such an easy thing. Why couldn’t someone have told me this when I was fourteen?

We even broached the subject of orgasms. Orgasms may not be appropriate for a sex Ed class, but maybe it is. I’m not a parent, so perhaps this topic falls on the parents. I didn’t talk about orgasms (at length) until I was a stripper. And even then, I was in my late thirties when I began to have truly in depth conversations about them. We talked about our minds getting in the way. I told her about my pillow trick: that she put a pillow over her head when she’s trying to come. It may seem silly, but it helps me quiet my mind. I can concentrate on what I’m feeling and not what the guy is seeing or thinking. She mentioned her ex getting pissy and rude when she couldn’t always reach an orgasm. I explained that it’s often an ego thing for men. Bruised egos—no matter how ridiculous the catalyst—are a fragile business. But the trick is to recognize their reaction for what it is and not internalize it. Not let the person make you feel faulty because you couldn’t come, or if it’s not easy for you to. Not to mention the near impossibility of coming once you know a man is judging you—or has a track record of being snarky. This is most likely a time when young women first start faking it; a horrible habit for so many reasons. It says the girl's orgasm isn't as important, and she's putting his needs before hers. A partner who’s shitty about a woman’s struggle to come should be kicked to the curb. It’s nerve-wracking enough being a woman (it’s also rad as fuck) without the worry that us not coming is going to upset a man’s ego. Having said all that, orgasms aren't the end all, be all, but if I woman wants to come, lets champion that!

As a forty-five-year-old woman, it’s easy to forget how challenging certain things were early on in life. Especially intimate relationships. One of the things I love most about getting older is the “I don’t give a fuck” factor. As well as the self-confidence and general calm that comes with living, and living through shit. Less sweating of the small stuff. It’s too bad everyone has to go through the muck to get here. Maybe sex workers should teach sex education. Our up and coming (both genders) would be prepared on so many levels.


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