"Sex isn't 'polite conversation' is it?"
This is one of the first questions that The Good Sex, a sexual education initiative for women based in the United Kingdom, asks upon entering its website. It also works to debunk this mentality. With a blog, a podcast, and an ever expanding platform, the women behind The Good Sex want to expand the conversations other women are having about sex, looking to put ladies first in the discussion.
Through email, I spoke with founder Helen Alison about how The Good Sex came to fruition, its mission, and its future.
What inspired the beginning of The Good Sex?
The Good Sex began out of personal struggles with sex and there being a lack of space and resources to support with this. After an unsuccessful time in sex therapy I turned to the women around me for support and I found speaking about sex openly helped me move forward. I wanted to bottle these conversations up and share them with other women who I felt might need to hear them. There's this idea, especially when it comes to British women, that we're very uptight and secretive about sex and actually I don't think that's always the case; I think this idea can often be projected onto us. With The Good Sex we wanted to create a space which gave women the opportunity to engage in this conversation, to learn from it and explore what sexuality actually means to them.
You and the other two women who work with you on the project all come from very diverse backgrounds. How do you think your various perspectives benefit the information The Good Sex provides?
I think it's hugely beneficial to have a variety of voices feeding into The Good Sex because one person cannot speak for all of the female experience. And, actually, we're very aware that our three voices cannot speak for every female out there and that's why we extend an invitation to anyone who identifies as female to join us. Sex, like with everything, is often monopolized by a certain voice — and it's the voice that sells most ——so it was definitely in our aims to give space to every and any female voice in an effort to talk about the whole female experience of sexuality. It's a big aim though!
Helen Alison of The Good Sex
The Good Sex is focused on creating a dialogue around being female and where sexuality fits into that and so both the podcast and the blog work to build that dialogue. Initially we started with the podcast because it was important to us for people to be able to actually hear our voices; to physically hear women speak about these topics. We added the blog because we found that after the podcast we had more to say, and some subjects we couldn't voice out loud but we'd put pen to paper and it'd flow. So, we now use these two mediums for the same aims but they're different ways in which someone can share and access the conversation.
The blog section of your website encourages women to provide you with stories and advice. In the last few months of reading these submissions, what have you discovered about the way that women think about and talk about sex?
One of our biggest discoveries, and one we now take forward into our content creation, is that for women sex links to every part of their lives. We learned pretty early on in the project that whenever you talk to a woman about sex she'll bring up something seemingly completely different — like her children, her relationship with her friends, her weight or the cancer scare she had last year. Every part of a woman's life is linked and sex is one of those parts; this means segregating sex into a conversation of its own is pretty useless. That's why in our conversations we talk about sex in the context of the woman; of her mental health, her body image or status as a survivor. The Good Sex isn't really about sex, it's about looking at the whole woman and asking, "Where does sex fit in?"
You're based in the U.K. I'm based in the U.S. How do you think the conversation around women and sex differs between the two countries?
I don't think it's a particularly easy conversation to engage in in either countries. Although there's an audience willing, there's many who try to quell the conversation from starting or won't acknowledge it's needed on both sides of the Atlantic. However, one of the main reasons I created The Good Sex was because most of the resources I initially found online were American or Australian; the conversation around women and sex isn't as available in U.K as it is elsewhere. This doesn't mean it isn't happening, it just means it's hard to find and being 2017 I don't think accessibility should be the problem it is. The stereotype of British women just lying back and thinking of England rather than actually enjoying sex has been stretched so far that it affects what's created and what support is readily available. We wanted to change this.
What is your hope for the future of The Good Sex going forward?
We hope to keep creating content that is informed by our audience and in turn continue expanding the conversation around women and sexuality. We're working on getting into British Universities over the next year in order to create physical space for the conversation to happen and we'll be creating some online resources, too. I really believe the combination of sex and technology is going to bring some great opportunities for women to own and explore their sexuality and we're excited to be a part of that.