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One thing you may not know about Eve Medical is our unofficial office policy: the further you can delve into a topic related to sexual health, the better. This has the unfortunate side effect of causing many of the Eve staff to forget that not everybody else overshares about all things sex and health all the time. We try our best to reduce stigma anyway, and we try to make these conversations as fun and approachable to as many people as possible.
This time, we interviewed the sister of one of our staffers, who's now not so little anymore but will always be this Eve staffer's baby sister. Somehow, the entire conversation was more awkward than when we were calling up our moms.
What was sexual health education like for you?
The most vivid memory I have is when I was in grade 6, and during gym class, the boys got to go outside and play soccer. Meanwhile the girls had to stay inside and they passed around pads for everyone to look at.
Oh, and then in grade 9 health class, I think, there was a condom contest. To see who could put a condom on the fastest. Only one girl volunteered to do it though. At that time health class was always part of gym class too, and it was also split up into girls and boys.
What else do you remember about your health classes?
I remember my gym teacher -- she was a good gym teacher -- but I remember when she was teaching the health portion, she got really serious. She was very neutral when she explained everything. I think that she presented the course content in a very non-opinionated way. But also I don’t totally remember what she taught us about STIs.
Oh, there is definitely one thing I remember about health class. “The only way you’ll never get STIs…” They showed the different forms of birth control and how to have safe sex, but they weren’t pushing abstinence as the policy. They were just like, “There’s no way to guarantee you won’t get pregnant unless you just… don’t… have sex.”
But it wasn’t like the teacher was recommending abstinence, she was more just like, “Be aware that the pullout method is very ineffective, condoms are not 100%, birth control pills are not 100%, so… don’t be surprised if you get pregnant! I hope you have the facts and that you remember this when you become sexually active, and you’re just aware of them.” Although she did deliver it in a very serious way. She didn’t want to be joking around about it, because I think people can get kind of giggly in class.
Were people paying attention in class?
I think they were paying attention, but I don’t know if they took the learning to heart. For a lot of them, STIs were so far removed from their understanding of their daily lives. Our school was pretty conservative, and I don’t know how many people were actually sexually active at 14. I don’t know if anyone was truly curious about STIs, and having safe sex and stuff, because a lot of people weren’t even seeing people, casually or non-casually.
Do you think there’s a more appropriate time to teach it then?
No, that’s the thing. I don’t think you should wait too long, because… it might just have been the area we grew up in. I think it was good to provide as a reference point, because they were definitely -- well, maybe not definitely, but probably -- not talking to their parents about it. About STIs and the consequences of different STIs and… you know, who knows if their parents have even seen a condom in real life?
Where do you think people do the actual bulk of their sex education then?
Online. If they really want to know something about STIs or becoming sexually active, I think they would just look it up on the internet. Just go on incognito, or something.
Was there ever something you wanted to talk about with friends?
I don’t know if they could teach this in school, but I would want more conversations with friends about what makes a healthy relationship. We learn in school about sexual health and the, biology, of it, but…
I don’t know if this is something that in school they should teach, or if it’s just something that I want to talk about more with my friends in general: “What are the signs of an unhealthy relationship?” I think the reason they may not be able to teach it in school is because it may be hard to standardize, “What are the five points that make a bad relationship? Or, a good relationship?”
Oh, so you never learned anything like, signs of abuse in a relationship?
No, no. They never talked about any type of abuse. I think the closest they would get to discussing relationship dynamics in school would be in English class, depending on the literature that you’re looking at.
I read The Color Purple in high school and I was looking it up on Wikipedia and seeing what other people had thought about the novel, and it seemed like there were different interpretations of Celie and her relationship with another woman. I was saying that, “Oh, it seems like maybe she’s coming out,” or something like that, “and also, the men in her life had been horrible to her,” but I distinctly remember that my teacher disagreed with my interpretation of Celie’s relationship with another woman and said that, “It’s not necessarily that she’s gay.” And other people online have said that her relationship was “homoerotic.” In school I think that was the closest it got to talking about relationship dynamics.
Anyway, in The Color Purple there was definitely abuse, and we sort of, write about it, but we don’t think about how it might impact our own lives.
I feel like I got a handout at some point, I don’t know if it was in high school or at a workshop or event after I was in university, but it was about, like, financial abuse, emotional abuse, recognizing it, and examples.
Oh, I never did. I guess it varies a lot in different schools or classes. Also, history and geography classes, which are more discussion-based, where you can talk about this kind of stuff, versus, in math class.
When I was in grade 9, I didn’t have a great understanding of the world. And I don’t think that I do now, but I have maybe a better understanding?
What’s something you’ve learned about sex or sexual health since then that shocked you? Or that you had to talk to other people about, or take time to process.
I mean, the first thing that comes to my mind is, I had no concept of what was a large penis and what was a, like, a regular-sized penis. I mean, is there such a thing as a regular-sized penis? Isn’t that just a person’s penis? Anyway, I distinctly remember having to ask you, like, “What’s-- like, is this normal?” because I wasn’t sure.
It was very different for me, but before, um, I had never explored the physical aspects of my own body? Myself? It seems like kind of a late age to not have done that… I think it meant that I didn’t know my own body when I became more intimate with my ex. So… it wasn’t as enjoyable. I was like, “This is supposed to be fun?”
You were like, “This is just weird and awkward?”
Yeah, I was like, “Am I supposed to be…?”
After we broke up, I made it my mission, like, “Goal: for this year, become more in tune with my own body.” But even now, it’s still a very slow journey. It’s like… mentally, I don’t feel ready for a lot of things. I think that my experience will be very different from other people’s experiences.
So, yeah. In terms of shocking, just… that moment of intimacy.
How have you done the learning since then?
I talked to some friends. Friends that I had had more honest conversations about sexual health or I knew where they stood on certain issues, and things like that. So it wasn’t unfamiliar, but it was awkward, a little bit. I would ask for advice on their experiences and how they became more in tune with their bodies. There were some really good, honest conversations.
And then… watching porn. But with that I had to take a step back and realize that it wasn’t realistic. I had to remind myself that this is not necessarily what a real life situation will look like, and I shouldn’t expect that.
When they say that it’s bad for boys to learn from porn, I think that sort of applies to everybody. Because, when you go on a lot of sites, you see so many categories, to serve different kinks and whatnot, and for me… I think it’s important for me at this stage in my life to only be watching ones that are obviously consensual. That’s just for me, it won’t necessarily work for other people, but I feel like if I educate myself based on situations that don’t indicate a healthy relationship dynamic, then my sense of what a healthy relationship would look like might become a bit distorted. I think that’s what I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.
Enjoyed this interview? Consider gifting the sister figures in your life with an Eve Kit. Or, if you want to try to ease into those conversations first, start with something from our merchandise collection! Something nice, cute, subtle and caring, that lets them know how much you value them. Like this clitoral hood blanket.
Clitoral Hood Blanket. Available on the Eve Kit store.