The sexual education many of us received during our schooling years was, plainly, pretty shit. We’ve discussed this a number of times on the site. It’s also a prominent theme in the latest season of Sex Education, suggesting loads of schools are likely still getting this element of learning very wrong.
Speaking generally, the way many of us have been taught about sex tends to focus on three things: procreation (slash heteronormativity), genitals and risk. At least, that was my experience.
What we know about this approach to sex ed is that it results in people leaving the experience knowing very little about sex itself. Consequently, folks turn to porn, their friends and other less-than-credible sources to learn about sex. That approach mostly spreads misinformation; resulting in generations of people feeling less than confident about their bodies and unsure about their relationship with sex.
These days we are, admittedly, incredibly lucky that discussion around this topic is way more common, and we also have more access to genuinely useful resources, but gaps in sexual education still exist. And the team at NORMAL knows that.
This is why the tech start up has teamed up with certified Sex Coach Georgia Grace to develop the sexual education guide you wish you had received years ago.
The Modern Guide to Sex is a 12-part e-course that, per a statement from NORMAL, seeks to “address the woeful sex education within Australian schools”.
To pull this program together, NORMAL used the eye-opening information found in its Big Sex survey – which consulted 1,000 Aussies from Gen Z to seniors – and smooshed it all together with loads of research and the knowledge of Grace to mould this sexual wellness masterpiece.
What to expect from The Modern Guide to Sex
Once you kick off The Modern Guide to Sex, you’ll see the program has been designed to act as an accessible educational tool for anyone and everyone. The course covers the basics of sex and aims to help improve pleasure and comfort by discussing all forms of sex, orgasm and anatomy, along with relationships, boundaries and more.
“We really see The Modern Guide to Sex as the foundations or the basics of sex ed that no one ever got but everyone always wanted and needed,” Grace explained to me when I chatted to her and NORMAL Founder, Lucy Wark, over the phone.
The way the course has been designed, she continued, is that it intends to answer a lot of the questions she covers in session with clients.
“…it is an incredibly huge resource, there’s 15 video tutorials, there’s workbooks, there’s activities, there’s things that you can do on your own or with others, there’s things to read,” she said.
“We’ve kind of created a space that can offer that really supportive useful and needed information around consent, safer sex practices, boundaries, healthy relationships… but then also, you know, it’s really fun.”
And the fun part is important here, not only in the sense that, yeah, we want sex to be a good time but also because it’s helpful to the learning process, Wark explained.
She said that in building The Modern Guide to Sex, she wanted to demonstrate that “you can make really, really high quality, evidence-based, engaging sex education, and it doesn’t have to be dry to be effective. In fact, it’s probably more effective if you actually make it something that someone wants to do.”
Addressing the gaps in education
What NORMAL’s Big Sex Survey brought to light, Wark shared, is that there are significant gaps in the sexual education Aussies are receiving at present.
And those gaps impact more areas of sexual wellness than you might assume. Research indicated that folks were lacking an understanding of everything from “real basics like contraception and pregnancy, through to like, less than a third learning how to discuss consent with a partner, or like less than one in 10 learning the difference between porn and real sex, and almost no one getting any education on safe LGBTQ+ sex”.
She continued to share that risk-based sex education often has holes in it and pretty universally, pleasure-based sex education is completely overlooked. All of this, naturally, is covered at length in The Modern Guide to Sex.
Sex and inclusivity
As Wark highlighted in our chat, the LGBTQ+ community has traditionally been completely underserved in this space. NORMAL is working to address that at every level.
You’ll notice that terminology used throughout The Modern Guide to Sex is super-inclusive, and Grace makes a point of highlighting the need for this in the introductory video for the course.
“We’ve chosen to use this terminology to be inclusive of a range of peoples’ experiences,” Grace says in the video.
“For example, you will hear me speak about ‘a person with a penis’, rather than saying things like ‘man’. Or, ‘person with a penis who has sex with a person with a penis’, rather than saying ‘a gay man’, because we can’t assume someone’s gender or sexuality based on what’s between their legs.”
During our phone call, Wark explained that intentional inclusiveness is “baked into the DNA of NORMAL”.
She said that it’s present in everything from the way the sex toys are named (“we pick androgynous names”), to the language on the website referring to “anatomy rather than assuming kind of sexuality or sort of cis-gendered status”.
“With this course, what we wanted to do is kind of take that approach another step further,” she said.
“So, when we do the overview of different types of sex and how to have pleasurable sex we wanted to make sure we weren’t just focusing on P-on-V, penis on vagina, sex. We included P-on-V, oral sex, anal sex, V-on-V and P-on-P. We sort of wanted to go into those things and treat them with the same amount of importance and weight as we treat the kinds of sex that we see more in pop culture.”
In essence, she shared that excluding communities from this discussion (or any discussion) sends the message that those outside the heterosexual, cis-gendered experience is a “second class citizen, like your right to health is less important”.
This right here is a clear step away from that harmful approach to education.
Where can I find the course?
The Modern Guide to Sex is a robust educational resource that is not only inclusive and fun but one that will actually leave you with a better understanding of the sexual experience than when you started.
If you have questions about consent, confidence, or even just how to give yourself a more powerful orgasm, the tools to help you are only a few clicks away. How incredible is that?
You can find The Modern Guide to Sex on the NORMAL website here. The service is free to university students and available to anyone else who wants to learn for $29.