A couple of years ago, a very special 12 yearold left her facebook account open on my computer. Well call it an invasion of privacy, but I decided it was my responsibility to everyone who cared about her- including myself, to just have a little check that she was all safe and happy in cyber space. Unfortunately, my poor innocent mind was instantly subjected to a conversation between her, and a friend of hers (who was on the families radar already) where he asked her to send him ‘dirty images’ of herself that he could… well I had to stop reading at that point. She was 12! I am very proud to say, that due to impeccable upbringing, she denied his request, for the uber cool reason that she’d already got her pyjamas on and couldn’t be bothered. Obviously I’d preferred it if she’d called him a pervert and unpolitely asked him to never speak to her again, but I’m aware that that’s pretty unrealistic and perhaps unfair on his immature decision making skills.
Where did I go from there? I didn’t want to damage our relationship by disclosing that I’d been, ahem, snooping. And I didn’t want to embarrass her by bringing up something so grosssss, and plus, she’d handled it. For good measure I told her a ‘funny story’ about a ‘friend of mine’ who’d been showing people naked pics that a girl had sent him on his phone (this actually did happen, but we were grown ups…) hoping that the hypothetical warning might alert her to some of the potential dangers of sexting. The stories that you read about young girls driven to depression and worse, by bullying from these kind of scenarios were suddenly very close to home. I wanted my young friend to feel supported and safe, not shamed or misunderstood.
But ultimately, how do we protect and guide our little darlings (male and female) through their adolescence, as they become more and more vulnerable through technology. Despite 7 out of 10 kids saying they wanted better sex education at school, the government seems to afraid of a backlash, to step up and answer their questions, and would teachers be the best messengers anyway? Recent studies tell us that most kids have been exposed to pornography by the time they’re 13, I know people a lot older than me who saw their first porno at that age, but it’s never been so readily available before. Porn is good for a lot of things, but when it comes to teaching anxious young minds about sex, it’s definitely not what I would want for my daughter. Because I want her to know about pleasure, that sex should be pleasurable, that it’s not just about what her partner wants or enjoys, its about what she enjoys too. And the way for women to experience pleasure- i.e being asked/ finding out what they find pleasurable, will make awesome sex, but isn’t really going to make good porn.
My sister and I have been making ‘Pleasure Playtime’ accessories for 3 years now, and we’ve just started selling a diffusion range with ASOS. We realised that this would be a great platform to get some really positive messages about female sexual empowerment out to young women (ASOS target audience is 18-25). In July this year, we launched a social sexual responsibility campaign- Ladies Come First. It’s still pretty new, but we’re slowly building a database of posts from personal experiences, and expert researchers, about female experiences of sex, that we hope will fill in some of the gaps that the curriculum is leaving; I’m just doing my research on sexting now, which is particularly relevant with the Jennifer Lawrence scandal- don’t worry teenagers, even a celeb can get caught out!
The next step of the campaign is to take a ‘Guide to the Female Orgasm’ to Universities. You’d hope that by that age you’d be able to trust your daughters peers with your precious princess, but shockingly Cambridge University is considering offering compulsory classes on consent to students after 1 in 3 female students reported sexual assault. And that’s supposedly some of the brightest young people in the country! We really hope that by highlighting the fact that woman can and should enjoy sex, we can start to shift these aggressive attitudes, that seem to be becoming normalised amongst young people.
I don’t want to have to prepare my daughters to always be on the defensive around men, I want them to be relaxed and safe, knowing that their comfort and satisfaction is a priority for any partners they might choose. And I don’t want any of their peers to feel overwhelmed and undermined by the violent messages that they’re being sent about masculinity, I want them to know that sensitivity and respect are part of what is attractive in a real man. It seems like this world is a long way off, but we want to be part of the change.
If you want to join us you can pledge to our campaign at Indiegogo.com here