As part of RAZZ’s SHAG (Sexual Health and Guidance) Week, Ellie Foulds interviews Dolly Padalia, from Sexplain. Committed to bringing sex and relationships education “into the 21stcentury”, Sexplain “support[s] young people & those working with them to ensure everyone has access to a complete, inclusive and comprehensive sex education.”. Dolly offers advice on a range of aspects to sex and relationships, from breakups to taboos around masturbation and sex toys to what it’s like to work in sex and relationships education. RAZZ appreciates the continued support from Sexplain.
First of all, do you have any advice for those people who might be coming to university single, or who break up with a partner from home while at university, who suddenly find themselves surrounded by new people, many of whom are potential sexual partners? In schools, the dating pool often seems limited, and a lot of the time you already know most of the people around you really well from having spent so much time with them, but university is a completely different scenario, and it can be a bit overwhelming!
University is an exciting time, but it can also be a little intimidating. Take your time settling in, getting to know your surroundings and establishing a routine. As well as making time to meet new people and trying new things, it is so important to make time for self-care. Whatever that may be for you, (reading alone, running, crafts, gyming, watching your favourite show or mindfulness). Explore what that is and then carve out time every day for you. This will help you prioritise your mental health at a time when things can be a little overwhelming. There may be a lot of pressure to be doing things all the time and meeting people – but there is plenty of time for that. You also don’t have to do any of those things if you don’t want to. How you shape your university experience is up to you.
One part of settling in can involve registering with a GP at university, but also finding your nearest sexual health clinic to top up or access any contraception/protection.
Breakups at university can be really difficult. Regardless of proximity, it is so important to try and make sure the breakup is healthy for everyone involved. Making time for self-care (which includes eating, sleeping and getting some fresh air) and surrounding yourself with people who can support you is essential. As well as finding distractions, it is important to deal with break-ups and any emotions attached to that. You can also contact your university for support and counselling services.
Secondly, we’re running a workshop on sex toys and safe use of them as one of our SHAG week events. While society is becoming a lot more open and accepting about safe sex between partners, some things, like sex toys, still remain quite taboo. Conversations around masturbation as well, particularly for those with vulvas, are still quite limited. Do you have any advice for those who may have feelings of shame around enjoying sexual activity that society continues to labels as taboo, despite being safe and consensual? Also, do you have any advice for those who may be interested in participating in sex toy use, but due to lack of education on the topic have no idea where to start?
Explore for yourself what you physically like – some of the ways to do this are through masturbation, porn and discussions with friends. Explore your preferences with others too and aim to: use protection/contraception; make the most of your local health services; ensure your friends know where you are and what your plans are; try to avoid experiences where drugs and/or alcohol make you unsafe.
Communication is essential! Sexual exploration is fun and exciting but only if everyone is enthusiastically on board. Consent is non-negotiable. It is so important for us to try to move beyond the idea that talking about what we want or asking others about their preferences is awkward or unsexy – it can really be the opposite if everyone involved is engaged in the conversation! On a slightly more clinical note, contraception and regular STI checks are a must!
Masturbation is a natural, normal and fun thing to do! As well as physical benefits, masturbation is also a great form of self-care! Did you know that dolphins, squirrels and camels masturbate? In fact, masturbation is a very common practice in the animal kingdom. To help you explore pleasure freely, identify and challenge any feelings of shame by questioning your initial reactions.
Sex toys are an amazing way to explore pleasure, there are lots of sites, such as Kandid, that have a beginners section which is a great place to start! Using water-based lube with sex toys is also recommended!
Taking care of sex toys is important. Store sex toys in a safe, dry place and ensure you clean them before and after use!
Finally, we were hoping for a bit of an insight into your job. What’s it like working in sex and relationships education, and have you experienced any obstacles with delivering this type of education? It would also be great to hear an outline of what a typical day might look like for you – if there is such thing as a typical day.
Delivering sex and relationships education at Sexplain can be really rewarding, fun and empowering. Providing a safe, non-judgemental place for young people and breaking taboos is amazing!
We do occasionally come across difficult situations, including homophobia and internet misinformation can be a real struggle. Building resilience and surrounding ourselves with a wonderful team of unembarrassable facilitators to fight for social justice can make all the difference!
There is no typical day at Sexplain! Every day is different. Our days vary from delivering our inclusive and sex positive programmes in schools or universities, planning sessions, communications and general operations!
Thank you so much for your time and help, it is really appreciated.
– Ellie Foulds