The Daily Telegraph - Saturday

‘You don’t owe men anything’

Maighna Nanu, 25


When I was at school we were taught not to wear PE shorts in case it distracted our male teachers. It was an all-girls’ school. Sex education consisted of a few medical students coming in and simulating putting a condom on a banana in front of a sports hall of 80 giggling girls.

That, and the more biological aspects that were taught in biology class, was about all we had to go on from higher authority. Apart from that sex education was something more learnt from other girls’ experience­s or what had happened to friends of friends. Most, if not all, of the focus was on what boys liked, what boys thought and what was perceived to be normal. Behaving or erring from that was considered “weird” and undesirabl­e, and when you are 17 there is nothing worse than being weird.

When you are young it can feel as if everything that happens at school and what is being spoken about is the single most important thing in the world – to think that your friends could be discussing what you did, or notably didn’t do, with someone feels life-altering.

One of my best friends’ new boyfriends lied about sleeping with her after their second date and that was considered completely normal, or something that she ought to consider a compliment. It can take a long time to unlearn the idea that you don’t owe men things and that subpar behaviour is not okay. Guys pressuring you into doing something or putting you down are red flags – regrettabl­y, I don’t think I even knew what consent was until I was well into university.

I wish that there was more emphasis on the importance of doing what you are comfortabl­e with rather than what you are supposed to do. Ultimately everything to do with dating, sex and love is a realm of trial and error – and what better time to do that when you are young. Now I know the warning signs, and I hope younger generation­s can spot them earlier than I did.

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