‘Extreme sex positivity can make people feel ashamed’: sex educator and YouTube star Hannah Wheaton

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‘Extreme sex positivity can make people feel ashamed’: sex educator and YouTube star Hannah Wheaton

Sex educator Hannah WheatonWikimedia Commons

With over 700,000 YouTube subscribers and 100 million views, Hannah Wheaton’s friendly and approachable approach to all things sex and relationships has made her one of the UK’s best-known online sex educators.

Like many sexuality educators, Wheaton’s career stemmed from non-inclusive and incomplete sexuality education in school. In 2020, new policies were introduced to the PSHCE (Personal, Social, Health and Civic Education) curriculum in UK schools, making relationship education compulsory in primary schools and relationship and sexuality education (RSE) compulsory in average. Schools are encouraged to teach topics such as consent, diverse families and relationship patterns, exploitation and mental health. However, due to pandemic-related delays, we are only just beginning to see how these changes are being implemented and what RSE teaching looks like varies from school to school. Witton calls compulsory RSE in schools a “huge victory” but admits “there’s still a lot to fight for”.

Wheaton points out that “there is no mention of pleasure in [new] guidelines’, deeming the support and resources given to schools to be ‘inadequate’. However, Whitten praises the work of individual schools and is eager to promote the efforts of sexual wellbeing charities such as Brook and the School of Sex Ed. Regardless, Witton knows that creating comprehensive sex education for all individuals is a huge task — content creators can’t do it alone. This is why she believes that CPD in school is necessary because there is no guarantee that young people will do their own research to fill in the gaps. “Although online education is mostly free and affordable, not everyone who needs it has access to it […] Sexuality education in schools and at home is vitally important because it allows young people to move backwards and forwards, explore ideas and make it culturally and concretely relevant to them and their needs.

Wheaton does not claim to be an all-knowing sex educator, instead acknowledging her position as an individual with unique experiences and perspectives. “I try to be inclusive in my work in the language I use, but also in the people I collaborate with or have as a guest on my podcast, [Doing It].” Platforming diverse voices is not only critical for sufficient depth and breadth of sexuality education, but also for sexual well-being.

“Make an effort to make all interactions consensual, this helps translate into the bedroom”

Since Wheaton is a staunch supporter of sex-positivity, I ask if she believes she can go too far. “Extreme sex positivity can sometimes make people feel ashamed that they are ‘vanilla,’ asexual, or haven’t had sex yet,” Wheaton admits. “Sex positivity should (and does) include these experiences and allow space to experience sexuality without shame in whatever way is true for you.”

Although many sex-positive campaigns, because of their anti-patriarchal aims, target young women and non-binary people, Wheaton points out that “the assumption that all men are interested in sex all the time” can make many men , who experience weak desire, or are asexual, feel that they do not adhere to the “correct” form of masculinity.

How can we promote positive sex and student safety in Cambridge and beyond? Dating back to her years at the University of Manchester, Whitten advocates a “culture of consent” that transcends sex and relationships. “When I think about my student life, there was pressure to go out, pressure to drink, pressure to just do what the band was doing or ‘down fresher!’ Consent wasn’t thought through. When you start really making an effort to make all interactions consensual, it helps carry over into the bedroom.

Wheaton’s relationship with sexuality changed in 2018 when ulcerative colitis led to her needing an ileostomy (which she affectionately called the “Mona stoma”). “Becoming disabled has certainly made my sex education more inclusive and has also helped expand my definition of sex,” she notes, reminding us that “health and disability is a spectrum and everyone will experience some healthy thing at some point , even if it is aging’ that will affect their relationship with sex.

Whitten also makes it clear that mental health is just as important as physical health. “Mental health can affect our sex life and vice versa. Self-esteem, anxiety, eating disorders, and many other mental health issues affect how we feel about ourselves, how we feel in our relationships, and how we feel and function in sex.

Since Witton is a big fan of personality quizzes, it was fitting to end the interview with a request for a referral. Wheaton encourages readers to find their own personal love language: “The idea is that we all give and recognize love in different ways, so if you find yourself in a relationship where you say ‘you never show me that you love me!'” In fact, you might it turns out they’re showing you in a language other than your own.” The test applies to romantic relationships as well as relationships with friends and family. “It’s really important to be able to speak the languages ​​of love so that you can express your feelings in a way that will be understood and appreciated.”

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