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When I try to remember where I learnt about sex, I can’t pinpoint a moment where I thought “okay, yep, I understand that now, I feel ready”. My sex education was a mix of overhearing conversations at school (confusing), watching sex scenes on TV (daunting) and a sprinkling of awkward PHSE lessons where we looked at a photos of STI symptoms (terrifying). As well as being not comprehensive, it was also entirely focused on cis heterosexual sex. The only time any other sexuality was mentioned was when a girl in my class raised her hand and asked “how do lesbians have sex?” which made our science teacher go red, stutter his words and eventually say “if you want to find that out for yourself, you’ll have to go elsewhere”. So we were left not knowing how lesbians have sex, but what we had been taught was that queer sex was an embarrassing taboo that even our straight-talking (pun not intended), no nonsense science teacher couldn’t even discuss with us. Me and my young queer classmates were left to discover for ourselves what queer sex looked like and how we could keep ourselves and our partners safe.
I didn’t come out until I was 19, and even by then I still hadn’t quite figured out the whole queer sex thing. Rumours and jokes circulated that reduced lesbian sex to scissoring - and yes, scissoring does happen in queer sex (not just lesbian sex!) sometimes, but that’s not all it is! There is so much more to it. There’s also the assumption that if two people who both have vulvas have sex with one another, then they use a dildo to ‘replace’ the penis that’s missing. So let’s get one thing clear, there is nothing “missing” when it comes to queer sex. There is not only one way to have sex, there’s no template or checklist to tick off. People use sex toys because they can feel great and because they’re fun! Some people use dildos or strap-ons because it affirms their gender, others use toys to explore their kinks or fantasies. Whatever the reason, it’s not because they have to try to emulate heterosexual cis sex.
Back when I was 19, I just knew I really wanted to kiss my friend. I figured that the rest would follow naturally if the time was right. I can’t really remember the first time we had sex, partly due to my poor memory, and partly to do with the alcohol that was in my system at the time. The only two things I remember are seeing the sunrise out of the window, and that it felt way, way better, and had lasted much longer, than the sex I’d had with my ex-boyfriend. It wasn’t her first-time having sex with a girl, so she had guided me through it. Whatever she did to me, I did back to her, gradually figuring out worked well, and what didn’t, getting more confident and more comfortable. It was fun, gentle and passionate, and I’m really grateful for that introduction to the world of queer sex.
My main source of queer sex ed was the Pride society at my university. I was given a dental dam as a freebie at freshers fair, and after a Google search, I realised there were other safe-sex options for queer people too! Our school sex ed was so focused on avoiding pregnancy, that anything outside of PIV sex was ignored, with no mention of how to keep yourself and your partners safe when fingering, giving or receiving oral sex, having anal sex or using sex toys. My advice to anyone wanting to explore sex, is to make sure it is with someone you trust, and someone who respects you.
Now I’m several years older, I feel much more informed and empowered about sex. I discovered sex educators on Instagram and YouTube, I found websites, I read books, I listened to podcasts, and I have a fantastic partner who I can explore sex with.
Sex can be awkward, it can be funny, it can be great, it can be noisy, it can be messy, it can be mind-blowing, but it should always feel safe. Consent from you and the person/people you are having sex with is the most important factor, followed by communication. What are your expectations? What are theirs? Have you had a recent STI test? Do you want to use a safe-sex practice? What do you like? What do they like? Talk to your sexual partner to ensure you’re both on the same page. Then take it at your own pace, don’t rush it.
Remember that each partner is different, and they will have different likes and dislikes, different kinks, different experiences; each partner brings with them the opportunity for you to discover more about sex and more about yourself.
Words by a Queer Street volunteer. Queer Street is a charity supporting young LGBTQIAP+ people through education, advice, and pastoral care. Queer Street is currently fundraising to create a community centre for LGBTQIAP+ youth to build community, learn life skills and access counselling. They also have plans for a safe house where homeless or vulnerably housed queer young people can live and receive support to access education, employment, opportunities and mental health support. You can show your support for Queer Street with a 'Living On' tee or tote bag, because despite all that we have been through, we live on. www.queerstreet.org.uk