“What on earth are you doing going to a sex class – you know how to do sex.” That was a friend’s reply when I mentioned my genitally-focused weekend plans. It’s true – I do know sex. I can also boil an egg, but that doesn’t mean I’d turn down a lesson from Jamie Oliver.
Today’s sex classes are nothing like what you learned nothing from at school – there are no birthing videos or bananas – nor do they involve actual re-enactments. No, this class is cool. It’s in London’s hipster district, Shoreditch, and my host, my sexual Jamie Oliver, is . She’s Director of Education at , a Berlin sex boutique that’s so stylish – there’s fresh flowers, candles and free tea – you could take your mum.
But it’s the class’s aim that’s the game-changer: not to make you squirm, but to undo all the sexist BS we’ve been told about women and sex. Pussy grabbing might steal the headlines, but inequality in sexual pleasure runs much deeper, and silently. To put it simply, what I learned below is more important than any tip you’ll ever read about blowjobs.
Sex isn’t gross and weird, it can be chill
By the time we formally learn about sex, we already think it’s gross and weird. Our vulvas – sorry, front bottoms – are so gross and weird that we’ve been told to call them by a different name, and definitely don’t touch them. Then education steps in and tells us to find The One and gift him (obviously, him) with our virginity. In return, sex will hurt (gross), we might bleed (weird) and there’s disease (gross and weird). This negativity masquerading as education spawns negative labels – slut, frigid, prude – which, notice a theme, are all for women. Cue Kitty May’s mission for Sex Positivity. Being Sex Positive isn’t about saying yes to everything sexual that comes your way (unless that’s your bag). Rather, being at peace with the concept of sex. “Knowing that everyone has the right to make, and feel great, about their own sex choices,” she says. Basically, it’s sex, the way you want, without shame. Hurrah.
There is no ‘best’ orgasm
“Oh, so your orgasm is just clitoral?” your friend says with a tone of OH MY GOD I FEEL SO BAD FOR YOU. We’ve become very Mean Girls about orgasms – “orgasm evangelists” as May calls them, with a one-upmanship for pleasure that’s deeper, longer, multiplied, better. But this breeds expectation, frustration and self-doubt, and is why May prefers a less O-centric view. A better marker of sexual enjoyment isn’t two orgasms, but simply two sets of underwear on the floor. Sexual pleasure doesn’t always end in -gasm.
It’s OK if you don’t know what you want in bed
Five sex words we all secretly fear: “Tell me what you like.” Oh course, it should be an opportunity to slay our prescription for sexual enjoyment. But when we’ve never even been given the right vocabulary (I’m looking at you, front bottom), or an incentive for self-exploration (obviously dirty), how on earth could we know what we like? So, enough with the pressure and embarrassment. “There’s an idea in sex that you’re just supposed to know, but no one knows. No one knows!” laughs May. “We all make it up as we go along.” Phew.
Do push through the fear of talking about sex
The awkwardness of sex chatter is one of the reasons why May thinks we’re so orgasm obsessed. “If you have an orgasm, the other person knows the sex was 'successful', so they don’t have to actually talk about sex,” she reveals. It likely explains why we feel awkward for taking a while to climax. Instead of thinking, ‘Woo hoo, 45 minutes of pleasure for me’, we fret, ‘Oh god, I’m taking ages, they’re going to ask questions.’ “But go through the fear,” May encourages. “Everybody is different and every body is different. Talking about sex changes the world. Once you’ve done it with one partner, they’ll feel more open with their next partner.” It creates a new cycle of sex openness – not shame.
Masturbation tells you more than any partner can
“Masturbation is so important because no one can give you a manual on your own body,” admits May. “This is it.” So what’s standing in our way? Not (just) body squeamishness, but squeamishness about the very idea of pleasuring ourselves. We’ve been taught that pleasure is selfish – probably by the same person who told us that partnered orgasms always happen at the same time. But it’s GOOD to do something because it feels good for you. It’s a simple concept, I know – but it’s one that we’re only just starting to hear about in sex.
, a collaboration between sex brands Je Joue and Bijoux Indiscrets, returns to London’s Shoreditch from 19-23 December. Find the list of free classes .
Have a sex question or topic you'd like to know more about? Gemma would love to hear from you. Email her at [email protected]