The Daily Telegraph - Saturday
‘The mechanical reality of gay sex’
As part of the first generation to grow up with the internet, perhaps it was inevitable that my sex education didn’t speak to the digital age. What could Johnny Condom, a singing anthropomorphic prophylactic in a video we were shown repeatedly, have known about Pornhub, sexting, social media and revenge porn?
But for me that was just a small part of the problem. As we were taught about how our bodies would change in puberty, where babies came from and how to use condoms, I started to realise that only one half of the sex-ed curriculum was interesting to me.
By the time I had any notion that my knowledge of periods and pregnancy would be of no use, we’d moved on. Sex education was covered once, in my second year of high school, and never touched on again. With no education and nowhere else to turn, I went to the internet.
Much has been written about the ways porn is troublesome around areas such as consent or respect for performers and rightly so, but part of me wishes more attention was paid to its mechanical inaccuracies. Rarely did I see porn actors reaching for a condom or a bottle of lubricant. No one ever requested a breather to psych himself up to be penetrated.
Beyond that, I soon learned that socially, sex between men was far beyond anything I’d learned in school. The power dynamics are different, hook-up culture is far more prevalent, as is chemsex, the use of drugs when having sex, maybe group sex, too. There is baggage that comes with having a sex life as a gay man that I wish I’d been prepared for.
I know some parents fear that if these subjects are broached in front of their children it will change them. That acknowledging gay sex will make their child gay. If that is the case, how would I have known I was gay despite never being taught about gay sex?
Not being taught about gay sex was a symptom of a bigger problem with my education. Sex, as far as my teachers were concerned, involved one man and one woman and was performed to make babies. Perhaps something about “missionary with the lights off ” was also mentioned, but the details are hazy.
There was no notion that sex could be for anything other that procreation. Sex for its own sake, gay or otherwise, was never mentioned. Pleasure? Fun? Connection? None of those came into it.
I have the utmost sympathy for adults who have to talk about sex with young people. The last thing you want to think about is how they might use that information, and the last thing they want to ponder is how much of the information you’re sharing comes first-hand.
But until we get over our squeamishness, our terror of even speaking words like “porn”, the only lesson they’ll take is that they shouldn’t ask and might as well continue getting it wrong.