Sexuality covers a broad spectrum of things! There are different types of sexuality, and it can take time to figure out what fits right for you.
We know that someone’s sexual health and wellbeing is intrinsically linked to their overall mental health, and we were super excited to dive deeper into the topic with sexologist Aleeya Hachem.
We had so many questions for Aleeya around the topic of sexuality, consent, social pressure and talking to your loved ones about the matter. She had so many useful tips, and we can’t wait to share them with you.
If you wish to listen to our conversation with Aleeya, visit our podcast episode here, or if reading is more your jam, you can check out our conversation with her below.
Our series, New Year Same You is all about focusing on our mental wellbeing at the start of 2022, and prioritising self love and self care. I think sexuality is such a big part of our mental wellbeing, would you agree?
Absolutely! When I was studying my psychology degree I primarily focused on quality of life and what it meant in terms of sexual functioning, which is a sub-scale of all quality of life measures. That in itself demonstrates how integral it is to our identity as well as our mental health. Sexuality is an umbrella term, there are so many different aspects of sex, including sexual health (contraception and STIs), sexual identity, and sexual relationships, all of which can have an impact on us at different points in our lives.
Why do you think it is that sexuality is a topic that we are still so afraid of or feel so much shame for?
As much as we like to think we are progressive in today's day and age, sexuality remains a taboo topic. To normalise and become more comfortable with the subject, you must engage in conversations, educate yourself, and get more familiar with the terms. We are also seeing a shift in this generation now as there are a lot of resources our parents didn't have.
What are some of the ways people can get more comfortable with their sexuality?
I believe that education is the most important factor, and I'm not talking about sex education at school, which mostly focuses on contraception and STIs. In a broader sense, sexuality and sex revolve around pleasure, communication in relationships, and the various sexualities and gender identities that exist. There are now resources such as podcasts, sexologists, Instagram, books, and television shows like Sex Education that expose and allow us to discuss sexuality in a larger manner.
Sexuality can be so confusing for so many people. There are a lot of labels out there! What would you say to people who are struggling to work out what their sexuality actually is and what labels they feel they actually identify with? How can someone know?
We talk about sexuality as a spectrum, where LGBTQIA+ and that 'plus' element encompasses so much more of what exists. It acknowledges that there are other categories that exist outside of that; and it is important to know that it's okay if you don't ‘fit’ in a certain box. As humans we grow, we are not the same as we were five years ago and that can exist in relation to sexuality as well.
Of course we understand that these days you don’t necessarily have to ‘come out’. But what would your advice be to people who are wanting to have a conversation with their loved ones about their sexual identity but don’t know where to start? What would be your advice to them?
Having a conversation about sexuality or even gender to begin with can be quite difficult. In terms of the logistics regarding that conversation, do you want to tell the person in a public space? Do you want to tell them at a family event? Be prepared for them to be confronted as they might not have all the answers which is why it is important to have no expectations so they can go away, reflect on what you have said and come back to support you.
When it comes to being the one receiving the information, it's crucial to keep in mind that they're bringing you privileged information and to be respectful. You're not there to give advice or say anything; instead, you're there to be there for them.
We all know how important consent is in a sexual relationship, but a lot of the time people feel as though it can feel like consent is a little bit of a mood killer, or maybe a bit abrasive to actually practice in the moment. What are some ways that people can incorporate consent into a sexual scenario in a way that makes it less awkward?
There are many ways to talk about consent before you engage in sexual activity before and during. Knowing your sexual boundaries before entering a sexual experience and what you are and aren't comfortable with, can make it a lot easier to enter into a sexual experience. "I'd like you to do this to me," for example, "but we might not be able to touch this place". Asking questions and checking in with your sexual partner doesn't kill the mood, on the contrary, it shows that they care about you, when you're in that moment you will appreciate that.
There is a lot of pressure from our social environment to be sexual and enjoy sex, and I think this can be intimidating for a lot of people who are really yet to explore this part of themselves. I think there is a lot of shame that goes hand in hand with not being sexually active by a certain age. What would your advice be to people feeling pressure in this way?
You are your first sexual partner.
There is a lot pressure to be sexually active by a certain age but we know that penetrative sex is only one aspect of sexuality. Education can extend towards understanding anatomy, female pleasure or trying new things. For example reading erotic fiction can allow you to not only become familiar with sex but also provide insight into what you might want to explore in the future. Having this backlog of richness in education that you can bring to future relationships is just as important and it shows you do the work as well.
What advice would you give the parents of today when it comes to how to educate their children around topics of sexuality and sexual health?
Being aware that your child is exposed to different elements of sexuality than you may not be exposed to.
Keeping an open mind, avoiding shame in the house, and creating safe settings to have conversations are important. A sex positive framework is established by having literature about sexual pleasure or shows like Sex Education.
If you want to hear more from Aleeya make sure you check out our interview with her here on After 20. You can also follow her on her instagram @great.sexpectations for more information on these topics!
And don’t forget, for the entire month of January, tbh Skincare is donating 10% of all revenue to ReachOut Australia to support the mental health of young Australians.